I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Etrog and the Immaculate Heart in the Zohar: A Hebrew Catholic Reflection



I was in the Succah of some Orthodox Jewish friends last week and we performed the Jewish ritual of waving the four species for Sukkot- the Jewish festival of Tabernacles. They had a diagram showing how the different species symbolised different parts of the body. The lemon or citron is called a etrog or esrog and is considered feminine and represents the heart and also the breast due to its shape.  During the ritual one holds the etrog in a manner which reminds one of those pictures of the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart in which Jesus and Mary hold their heart in their right hand.


However for me as a Catholic Jew I perceived the etrog as symbolising the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady rather than the Sacred Heart of Yeshua to fit with its feminine meaning in Judaism. Of course in a sense all our hearts and souls can be seen as feminine. One of the most beautiful of literary icons is Jesus describing his loving heart as a Mother Hen gathering its chicks under its wings. These wings invoke the imagery of the wings of the Shekhinah (female Presence). In fact there is a mosaic icon of this literary icon at the Dominus Flevit (The Lord Wept) Church on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.


 In the past I have written much on the opening line of the Zohar referring to the Song of Songs 2:2 about the Mystical Rose (Shoshanah) among the thorns. Imagine my delight in reflecting on Zohar 3: 38a which also mentions this verse about the mystical Rose in a mystical commentary on Leviticus 9:11 "It happened on the eighth day".  In the preceding section Rabbi Eleazar asks "Who is the eighth day?" and as the text unfolds it reveals that the eighth day is Binah (Understanding or female Wisdom the Celestial or Upper Mother) who fills and encompasses the lower 7 Sefirot (attributes or emanations or energies) which are linked to the seven days of creation and the seven days of priestly ordination. Binah is the 8th Sefirot when counting from below to above. The seventh Sefirot when counting from Binah to below is Shekhinah/ Malkhut the lower Mother.  The Upper Mother (Maiden) fills the Lower Mother (Maiden) and together they are Kneset Yisrael (The Lady of Israel who is the Community or Assembly of Israel). This Lady of Israel is also Mother of the Ecclesia (Church/ Kehilla). Lady and Mother referring to the Celestial Upper Mother Binah and Israel and Ecclesia referring to the lower earthly Mother Shekhinah. Of course the Upper Mother can also be referred to as the Upper Shekhinah. This alludes to the mystery of Our Lady and Luisa in the Kingdom of the Divine Will.


The idea of the rose lily among the thorns represents the concept of the Immaculate Conception and Heart. This Immaculate Heart is represented by the Etrog. 

 וְעַל דָּא שְׁבָחָא דְּקוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא דִּמְשַׁבַּח לָהּ לִכ"י, כְּשׁוֹשַׁנָּה דְּאִיהִי בֵּין הַחוֹחִים, דְּאִיהִי מְעַלְּיָא וְסַלְּקָא עַל כֹּלָּא. כַּךְ כְּנֶסֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל בֵּין שְׁאָר אוּכְלוּסִין, בְּגִין דְּהִיא סַלְּקָא וּמִתְעַטְּרָא עַל כֹּלָּא. וְדָא שׁוֹשַׁנָה בֵּין הַחוֹחִים, וְאֶתְרוֹג בֵּין הַחוֹחִים, לְאַחֲזָאָה שְׁבָחָא דִּכ"י, עַל כֹּלָּא.   "Thus, the praise offered by the Blessed Holy One to the Lady of Israel: Like a rose among the thorns - which is the finest, transcending all- so is the Lady of Israel among all of the legions, for She ascends and is crowned over all. Surely a rose among the thorns and an etrog among thorns, showing the praise of the Lady of Israel above all." (Zohar Shmini 3:37b-38a) 

The etrog or lemon is a bitter-sweet fruit which represents the bitter sorrows and joyful sweetness of the Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart of Miriam (Bitter sea).

It is important to remember that the mystical interpretation of Scripture has 70 faces and we could look at this passage from the Zohar from different alternative perspectives. For example we could read this passage from a Marian perspective and see the Upper Mother representing the Holy Spirit and the lower mother Our Lady or the Upper Mother seen as Our Lady's role in the Celestial realm and the lower Mother as Our Lady's earthly mission. A Trinitarian reading could see the Essence or Ousia (Atzmut) of God as the Upper Mother and the Holy Spirit as the lower Mother. Or we can see the Upper Mother as Our Lady and the lower as Luisa or Nukvah (parztuf called Female), or the Upper Mother as Our Lady and the lower mother as the Church or Israel.We see this further on from our passage in the Zohar where the mysterious boy called Yeisa gives a number of alternative mystical interpretations of Scripture verses from the Creation account in Genesis1. 

Of course there are certain limitations in reading mystical interpretations which differ for the Orthodox Jew and the Catholic. The Catholic interprets Scripture and other writings in the light that the Messiah has come as the God-Man Jesus in the incarnation and limits ones interpretations within the framework of the infallible teachings of the Church on faith and morals. The orthodox Jew interprets them within the accepted consensus of the Rabbinic authorities teachings. 

It can be very spiritually dangerous for a person that is not submitted to the practical disciplines and moral teachings of their faith to delve into the mystical realm. We see this in the case of the Gnostics and Sabbateans who end up departing from the laws of God and open themselves up to the Other Side (Sitra Ahra) and sexual immorality. Instead of the true Mother they serve the demonic substitute and mockery of the feminine called Lilith.  This section of Zohar warns us of this in regards to the fate of Nadab and Abihu the priestly sons of Aaron who were not espoused to the Shekhinah in their service and they instead evoked alien fire (esh zara) which the Zohar reads as alien woman (ishah zara) of Proverbs 2:16 as the Lilith demoness.

Many Christians find Leviticus rather hard going and boring to read. However if one studies it from a mystical perspective as taught in the Zohar then they would have a much richer and thrilling experience of the text. However I am one of those strange people who have always enjoyed Leviticus on the literal historical level even before I learnt how to read it at the mystical level. But then I have always loved the genealogies in the Bible too and find them fascinating. Ah there is sure to be something for everyone as the Scriptures (Torah) are alive and the living fire of the mystical and Divine Heart (Oral Torah).