This past January, my family and I visited Equinox, a restaurant in Washington, DC to celebrate my birthday. We carefully prepared our research prior to the celebration in order to fully appreciate and value our experience. We wanted to ensure that our meal would be healthy, nourishing, as well as satisfy our physical and spiritual selves. Similarly in Kabbalic literature, “the diner in the Zohar consumes food of the material world as an avenue to uncovering mystical heights that lie behind it” (Hecker, 1996). In the following essay, I will briefly look at one aspect of the Zohar having to do with the concept of food as an allegory for the shekhinah with a primary focus on the imagery of food and hospitality.
Fruit Imagery in Lech Lecha
As children we are constantly reminded to eat our fruits and vegetables. These foods are nourishing, healthy and provide us with crucial nutrients in order to survive. It is only natural that the authors of the Zohar would use the image of an apple to represent the shekhinah, the famle presence within the divine, in 1:85a. As Rabbi Eleazar engages in Torah in the evening, he explains his actions to Rabbi Hezekiyah as follows: “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. In his shade I delighted to sit in, and his fruit is sweet to my mouth (Song of Songs 2:3). Although many Talmudic scholars have viewed this passage as overtly sexual (Veenker, 1999), the authors of the Zohar have interpreted it as a “love song between God and the Assembly of Israel” (Matt, 2004). Matt sees the Assembly of Israel including the Shekhinah, so the poem is a celebration of love between God and man as well as a celebration of Tiferet and Shekhinah.
The sefirot of Tiferet is known as the “Blessed Holy One,” “King,” “Sun,” and the biblical representation of Tiferet is Jacob. Tiferet is also referenced to as the masculine presence of the divine. Tiferet is...