p. 350 82a
IT is written, "And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him and they sent him away and his wife and all that he had." Note that the Holy One is the protector of the upright that they may not fall under the power of evil and suffer injury from men of the world. Thus he delivered and saved Abraham and his wife. The Schekina remained with Sarah during the whole night. Each time that Pharaoh approached her, an angel obeying the commands of Sara struck him. Abraham, however, trusted in his Lord and rested assured that He would suffer no one to do her violence and had no apprehension of any evil befalling her, as it is written, "the righteous are bold as a lion" (Prov. XXVIII)Prov. 28:1 and in the hour of trial and danger, remains steadfast and faithful and trustful in the Holy One.
Said Rabbi Isaac: "Abraham went down into Egypt without first obtaining permission from the Holy One, who, however, did not forbid or prevent him going thither, as He knew that after the trial of his faith and steadfasteness the world would have no occasion to say that though God had sent Abraham into Egypt, he did not preserve and save him from enduring trouble on account of Sarah. It is further stated, 'The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon' (Ps. XCII, 12). What does this comparison mean? This, that as the palm owing to pruning takes a long time ere it begins to bud and bear fruit, so when a righteous man departs out of the world, a long time elapses before a similar one appears and takes his place. This comparison may be further extended, for as the male palm must be planted near a female of its own species in order that fructification may take place, so is it with the upright, who are always joined and linked with an upright wife, as was the case with Abraham and Sarah. 'As a cedar in Lebanon.' As the cedar tree rises higher than all other trees that grow beneath its branches, even so the righteous in their moral spiritual life exceed all others, to whom they are a protection. The world subsists and endures only by
the presence in it of the righteous, as it is written, 'The righteous are the foundation of the world' (Prov. X.25) and by the Just One was it brought into existence.
Said Rabbi Jehuda: Are we not taught that it is based upon seven columns, as it is written, 'Wisdom hath built her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars' (Prov. IX. 1)."
Said Rabbi Jose: "That is very true, for the Just One upholds the seven pillars that sustain the world. He it is that waters it and nourishes it and to him the scripture refers, 'Say unto the Righteous One, it is good,82a-82b for they shall eat of the fruits of their doings' (Is. III. 10), and also 'The Lord is good to all and his tender mercies are over all his works'." (Ps. CXLV.)Ps. 145:9
Said Rabbi Isaac: "The words, 'And a river went forth out of Eden to water the garden' refer to the pillar on which the world stands. It is the river that watereth the garden of Eden and causeth fruits to abound that nourish and sustain the world, that also establish the secret doctrine and bring forth the souls of the just who are the fruits of the works of the Holy One, and because they are such, they arise each night and ascend on high, and at midnight the Holy One rules the garden of Eden to delight himself in their midst. It may be asked, whose souls are they?"
Said Rabbi Jose: "With all the souls of the just, whether yet living in the world below or those residing in the heavenly mansions in the world on high, He rejoices with all of them. Observe, the world above must first receive an impulse from the world below and when the soul of a just man ascends into the celestial regions it becomes garbed with a halo of light transcendently bright, which observing, the Holy One is pleased, for such a soul is the fruit of the divine operation within. For this reason such souls are called 'Israelites,' holy children, sons of God, as it is written, 'Ye are children of the Lord your God' (Deuter. XIV. 1)."
Said Rabbi Jose: Soncino: R. Yesa "How does the Holy One delight in souls living yet in the world?"
Said Rabbi Jose in reply: "At midnight, all truth-loving and seeking souls arise and engage in the study of the secret doctrine, and hymns of worship. It has already been stated, that the Holy One and all the souls of just men made perfect residing in the garden of Eden on high, delight to listen to their voices of praise and observe the blessings that
accrue to such on the day that follows after their nocturnal studies, as it is written, 'The Lord will command his loving kindness in the daytime and in the night I will sing' (Ps. XLII. 9). All worship at this time is therefore true and perfect worship. Observe when the Holy One caused the first born in Egypt to be smitten, the children of Israel were safely enclosed within their houses chanting and singing praises unto him throughout the night. King David used to rise at midnight, for it cannot be imagined or supposed that he sang praises and composed psalms in bed. He therefore said,82b 'At midnight I will arise to give thanks unto thee' (Ps. CXIX. 62). For this reason his kingdom will abide and he will reign even when King MusiahMusiah = Messiah comes, who, his tradition states, will be called by his name whether David be yet alive or dead at the time of his coming, in expectation of which he always rose at midnight and sang, 'Awake up my glory, awake psaltery and harp, I myself will awake early' (Ps. LXII. 8)Ps. 57:8. Observe that during the night Sarah was in Pharaoh's house, the angels on high sang praises and worshipped the Holy One who commanded (them to go and afflict the great ones in Egypt, and him I intend visiting in the future, as it is written, 'And the Lord plagued Pharaoh with great plagues.' After this it is stated, And Pharaoh called Abraham.' How did he come to know that he was the husband of Sarah? It was through a dream, as was the case with Abimelech, to whom the Lord spake and said, 'Now, therefore, restore the man his wife, for he is a prophet'." (Gen. XX. 7.)
Said Rabbi Isaac: 'We read, 'The Lord plagued with great plagues Pharaoh and his household, because of Sarah, Abraham's wife.' Pharaoh, when the plagues first struck him, heard a voice saying, 'Because of Sarah, Abraham's wife.' Though God spoke the same words to Pharaoh as to Abimelech, yet he learned from what was uttered, who Sarah was, and therefore, as scripture states, 'And Pharaoh called Abraham, and commanded his people concerning him, 'in order that no injury should be done unto him.' And they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had; that is, they led him to the boundary or frontier of Egypt. The Holy One said unto Pharaoh, 'Thou wilt in likewise deal with Abraham's descendants'."
Said Rabbi Abba, "Why was Abraham subjected to such
a disagreeable and unpleasant incident, and why did the Holy One suffer it to befall him? It was in order that the names of Abraham and Sarah might become magnified and known throughout the world, and especially amongst the Egyptians, who at that time were regarded as magicians par excellence, yet were they inferior to Abraham, as it is stated, 'And Abraham went up (va-iaal) out of Egypt' or ascended higher in Egypt. In what direction? In or towards the south, or in other words, the higher and diviner mysteries."
Said Rabbi Simeon: "In the words, 'Abraham went down into Egypt,' and 'Abraham went up in Egypt,' is contained an occult reference to the mysteries of the Hidden Wisdom, for though Abraham descended into Egypt to be initiated into the occult science of that country, yet he suffered himself not to be seduced and deluded thereby, but remained faithful and steadfast in the faith and worship of his divine lord and master. In this he was unlike Adam, who, notwithstanding the divine command, allowed himself to be deceived by the serpent, and thus caused death to enter into the world. Neither followed he the example of Noah,83a who succumbed to evil as it is written, 'And he drank of the wine and was drunken and he was uncovered in his tent'Gen. 9:21 (oholoh) this word with a final meaning, Noah appeared naked in the tent of the Schekina. With Abraham it was otherwise, as it is written, 'And he ascended in Egypt.' That is, after learning the occultism or secret meaning of evil, he turned from it and abused not occult science for sensuous gratification and purposes, owing to the Hidden Wisdom he had previously acquired. It is stated that Abraham in ascending from Egypt went into the south (hanegebah), alluding to the high degree in the knowledge of the mysteries he had attained before his descent into Egypt. If Abraham had not gone down thither and been put to the test, he could not have manifested his faithfulness to the Holy One. Also, his descendants, unless they had been tried and disciplined in Egypt, would never have come forth distinguished as the only nation that the Holy One chose for his own portion. Also, if the Holy Land had not been inhabited by the Canaanites previous to the entry of the children of Israel into it, it would not have been the land under the rule and governance of the Holy One. In all these instances the same occult principle and purpose prevailed."