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thekabalist

1 Nephi Chapter 3

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Alright folks here's chapter 3. Tell me what you think. :)

1 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, returned from speaking with the Lord, to the tent of my father.

Nephi had been speaking with the Lord. There's nothing in the narrative that indicates that Nephi had a vision so this conversation must have happened with a direct manifestation of G-d to Nephi. So Nephi was in G-d's presence - ie. the Shechinah (שכינה). One of the words used for tent in Hebrew is the word mishkan (משכן) which is comes from the very same root. This word-play cannot be coincidental. The Shechinah is also a main theme in the feast of Tabernacles, thus continuing the theme of the previous chapter.

2 And it came to pass that he spake unto me, saying: Behold I have dreamed a dream, in the which the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem.

In Jewish literature the past is often the verb tense used for future prophecies. One of the reasons given by the sages for this is the manifold nature of some of the prophecies. The prophecy that Lehi gave to Nephi may refer not only to the event in which they went back to recover the plates of Laban, but also to an event in the future where the descendants of Nephi and his brethren would return to the people of Israel.

3 For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass.

Name etymology: Laban (לבן) literally means the white one.

Brass plates: Brass in Judaism has a deeper spiritual meaning. In Job 6:12 it is used to demonstrate endurance. In Daniel 2:32 it is used to mean brilliance.

In ancient Kabbalah, brass belonged to the manifestation of G-d's foundation. The foundation is connected to the word of G-d.

Therefore we can conclude that on a deeper level this prophecy indicated that Lehi and his decendants would have an enduring and spiritually bright future based on the foundation of G-d's word.

4 Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records, and bring them down hither into the wilderness.

The importance given by Lehi to his genealogy suggests that indeed he was from a prominent family. Israelites of prominent family - especially royal and priestly - are known to have esteemed their genealogical records highly. We can see from the narratives of exile returnees that the genealogies were carefully preserved.

5 And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.

6 Therefore go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured.

7 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I aill go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

There is an interesting imagery used by Nephi here. The Hebrew word for sin is the word Het (חטא) which literally means "to miss the target" and was literally used for when an arrow strayed from its course. Nephi says that he will obey because G-d will prepare the way whereas his brothers "missed/strayed from the way" (sinned).

8 And it came to pass that when my father had heard these words he was exceedingly glad, for he knew that I had been blessed of the Lord.

How could have Nephi already been blessed by the Lord if he had not acted upon his faith yet? A little secret lies on the word "blessed" which in Hebrew is the word "baruch" (ברוך). This word comes from the same root as the word "berech" (ברך) which means knee. The root literally means "to bring down". In ancient israelite culture to be blessed meant to be able to bring down upon the earth the will/power of heaven. Therefore when Nephi decided to go he became an instrument for the will of G-d to be manifested upon the earth.

9 And I, Nephi, and my brethren took our journey in the wilderness, with our tents, to go up to the land of Jerusalem.

The expression "to go up" (aliyah - עלייה) is a typical expression when one affirmed they were meant to go to Jerusalem even if geographically they came from the north (in Nephi's case he did come from the south). The reason is that Jerusalem was considered to be the place where G-d manifested Himself upon the earth and therefore to go to Jerusalem would be literally considered to ascend spiritually. This expression is still used with this connotation to this very day.

10 And it came to pass that when we had gone up to the land of Jerusalem, I and my brethren did consult one with another.

11 And we cast lots—who of us should go in unto the house of Laban. And it came to pass that the lot fell upon Laman; and Laman went in unto the house of Laban, and he talked with him as he sat in his house.

Casting lots: The Hebrew word for "lot" is goral (גורל) means both share and fate. Jewish literature (see the Mishnah in Yomah 4, 9 and 37a) the process of casting lots was done with either engraved stones or sticks. Lots were used when differences arose and were cast four times in order to ensure that the will of G-d would be manifested by the majority of results.

12 And he desired of Laban the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, which contained the genealogy of my father.

13 And behold, it came to pass that Laban was angry, and thrust him out from his presence; and he would not that he should have the records. Wherefore, he said unto him: Behold thou art a robber, and I will slay thee.

Why would Laban consider this a theft? Most likely because Laban and Lehi were somehow related. The fact that Laban owned such registry would indicate that he was a prominent citizen.

Every seven years in Israel the land returned to the families they originally belonged by birthright(see Deut. 15). Without the genealogy records, Laban could be riskying his wealth. The fact that Lehi wanted the records could be interpreted by Laban not as merely losing a valuable artifact but that Lehi intented to take away his possession when the year of remission came and the genealogy records were consulted to verify each one's birthright.

14 But Laman fled out of his presence, and told the things which Laban had done, unto us. And we began to be exceedingly sorrowful, and my brethren were about to return unto my father in the wilderness.

15 But behold I said unto them that: As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us.

Oaths were taken very seriously in Israelite society (see Numbers 30) and still are. In Nm. 30 the breaking of an oath is defined as an avonah (עונה) which unlike the chet (חטא) is a willful disobedience and not something one can simply blame the weakness of the flesh for. Therefore, to break an oath was a terrible offense.

16 Wherefore, let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; therefore let us go down to the land of our father’s inheritance, for behold he left gold and silver, and all manner of riches. And all this he hath done because of the commandments of the Lord.

17 For he knew that Jerusalem must be destroyed, because of the wickedness of the people.

18 For behold, they have rejected the words of the prophets. Wherefore, if my father should dwell in the land after he hath been commanded to flee out of the land, behold, he would also perish. Wherefore, it must needs be that he flee out of the land.

In Leviticus 26 we learn that the punishment for an avonah (עונה) would be exile and the loss of material blessings. Therefore, Nephi reminded his brothers that it was useless to think about their father's property without considering the risks of committing the sin of breaking an oath. He knew that if they did so they would be as guilty as the rest of the city of Jerusalem.

19 And behold, it is wisdom in God that we should obtain these records, that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers;

Ancient Judaism considered a deaf person to be a kind of second-class citizen. Jewish law wouldn't accept, for example, the witnessing of a deaf person. The reason is that by being deaf the person would not be able to hear the word of the Torah-Law of G-d. Therefore, such a person could not be expected to live a life that was in agreement with the precepts of G-d. Now consider this: Nephi didn't know where they would be going or how hard it would be to write down the words of G-d's Torah-Law. If he did not take the records - which certainly would have included a copy of the Scriptures, then his descendants would not be able to read them. Even if they did transmit the Law orally, Nephi feared that people would forget the language and become like the deaf - unable to discern the words of G-d. This also shows that Nephi expected that one day his descendants would reunite with the rest of the people.

20 And also that we may preserve unto them the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets, which have been delivered unto them by the Spirit and power of God, since the world began, even down unto this present time.

In ancient Judaism there were certain books which were only allowed to be studied by the more learned among the people. The Apocryphal book of 2 Esdras says that by the time of the return there were 70 books which were concealed from the average folk. Most of these books referred to prophets of old, before the revelation of the Sinai. Some of these books came up in the caves of Qumran in the Dead Sea, such as the Book of Enoch. But most of such books are now lost. Such books contained wisdom teachings that were far beyond the religious life of the average folk.

21 And it came to pass that after this manner of language did I persuade my brethren, that they might be faithful in keeping the commandments of God.

One could wonder why after so much murmuring of Nephi's brothers these simple words would have persuaded them. However, to an Israelite there was no greater treasure than the pride in their identity. This can be clearly seen in the revolt of the Maccabees. Whenever the identity of Israel was threatened, the Israelites would respond quite boldly. Therefore, even being wicked in their hearts, the brothers of Nephi still had their sense of pride.

An alternative explanation for this reaction would be that without the records of his father the brothers would have no right to claim his property once he passed away.

22 And it came to pass that we went down to the land of our inheritance, and we did gather together our gold, and our silver, and our precious things.

Gold and silver: In Judaism, gold and silver have a spiritual meaning. Gold symbolizes justice and the learning of the Law of G-d. Silver symbolizes redemption.

There is therefore a deeper meaning into this verse: Nephi believed that by following the justice of the commandment of G-d they would be redeemed from the dangers that were ahead of them.

23 And after we had gathered these things together, we went up again unto the house of Laban.

24 And it came to pass that we went in unto Laban, and desired him that he would give unto us the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, for which we would give unto him our gold, and our silver, and all our precious things.

Lehi certainly was more wealthy than Laban. The reason Nephi was persuaded that he could convince Laban was because their gold and silver would exceed any property Laban would lose for not having the proper records.

25 And it came to pass that when Laban saw our property, and that it was exceedingly great, he did lust after it, insomuch that he thrust us out, and sent his servants to slay us, that he might obtain our property.

26 And it came to pass that we did flee before the servants of Laban, and we were obliged to leave behind our property, and it fell into the hands of Laban.

27 And it came to pass that we fled into the wilderness, and the servants of Laban did not overtake us, and we hid ourselves in the cavity of a rock.

Nearly every cave is in some sort of rock? Is there a reason for this apparent redundancy?

In ancient Hebrew, the word "cave" or "cavity" would be a euphemism for frustration and a feeling of inability. Nephi makes an brilliant wordplay by contrasting the cave with the rock. In ancient Hebrew, the word "rock" would be a euphemism for assurance and protection and is commonly associated with G-d. Nephi is describing how in their frustration they turned to G-d for assurance.

28 And it came to pass that Laman was angry with me, and also with my father; and also was Lemuel, for he hearkened unto the words of Laman. Wherefore Laman and Lemuel did speak many hard words unto us, their younger brothers, and they did smite us even with a rod.

29 And it came to pass as they smote us with a rod, behold, an angel of the Lord came and stood before them, and he spake unto them, saying: Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod? Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you, and this because of your iniquities? Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again, and the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands.

The angel uses a wordplay here between rod (מקל - makel) and ruler (מלך - melech). Also notice how the angel holds them accountable for their iniquity (avonah), because clearly they had no intention of keeping their words and thus were guilty before the Law of G-d.

30 And after the angel had spoken unto us, he departed.

31 And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to amurmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?

The use of the number 50 is not incidental. In gematria, this number is associated with hardship. Here are some words with this numeric value:

אדמה – adamah - it means "soil" but can also figuratively mean something hard or rough.

גזם - gazam - "cut off".

גמז - gamaz - "hard".

It's also associated with a period of slavery, as the slaves are freed every 50 years, in the year of Jubilee. Evidently, for that very reason it is also associated with redeption. Unfortunately, Nephi's brothers were unwilling to look at the bright side of the situation. The use of the number 50 only in a negative way teaches us a lesson: One of the possible roots of sin is to neglect looking at the positive aspects of life.

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Why would Laban consider this a theft? Most likely because Laban and Lehi were somehow related. The fact that Laban owned such registry would indicate that he was a prominent citizen.

It is believed they were distantly related.

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In tha first part right in teh beginning of the Bom you tell about a wordplay with the word scribe ; ספר (sofer - scribe) and the ספירות (sefirot). Please can you tell me what the sefirot means? Gods mysteries or something else?

I find this very interesting.. :)

What is Targum?

Edited by Maya

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I'm thoroughly enjoying reading your commentary, thekabalist, and very much looking forward to more. Thank you for sharing with us from the Jewish perspective. It's not only extremely interesting, but I must say (and I'm sure I'm not alone) it will add a very appreciated depth to my reading and study.

Thanks!

:)

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In tha first part right in teh beginning of the Bom you tell about a wordplay with the word scribe ; ספר (sofer - scribe) and the ספירות (sefirot). Please can you tell me what the sefirot means? Gods mysteries or something else?

I find this very interesting.. :)

What is Targum?

The sefirot or the enumerations of G-d are how we call the ways in which G-d continually manifests Himself to the creation. It is believed by Jewish people that to understand the hidden mysteries of G-d would mean to understand the sefirot and their relationship not only with creation but with each other.

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2 REALLY interesting the possibility of reference to it that the reminding of Lehi would one day be together with Jews.

Interesting what you say about scriptures and the lists of family. I can see why they were important and for Lehi maybe the scripture part of it was important but for Laman and Lemuel… the part that proved their belongings. Since they did not have these lists before so it may even be that Laban had taken over something that actually should have been theirs.

Het… interesting it gives sinning a kind of new way to look at it. People who sinn they really miss the aim as the sinn is not the aim, but to be able to come back to our Hevenly Father.

About Jerusalem. What would land of Jerusalem mean to you? It is interesting that you always go up to Jerusalem. Like the Temple of Lord will stand on a Mountain… that could be both metamorftically and real.

Yes Laban and Lehi were family. Lehi found it out when reading the scriptures his sons tok back to him.

How do Jewish feel about the books of Enoc as they were found and now they are open to everyone? I bet they too have a lot of stuff that if a Jew would read, he could read more in them than someone who has not the wisdom of Jews.

About the identity and the importance of it. We LDS also think that is a VERY important thing as we believe we have our own free will and we are to use it and not go after a group or a leader.

Sometimes I wonder from all the metaphorics that are in the scriptures how much of it is ONLY metaphoric and how much real and how much both??

I am probably a bit daft but I cant understand the wordplay on 28-29…

I sighn that anytime that one of the reasons of sinnis negativity!!

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2 And it came to pass that he spake unto me, saying: Behold I have dreamed a dream, in the which the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem.

In Jewish literature the past is often the verb tense used for future prophecies. One of the reasons given by the sages for this is the manifold nature of some of the prophecies. The prophecy that Lehi gave to Nephi may refer not only to the event in which they went back to recover the plates of Laban, but also to an event in the future where the descendants of Nephi and his brethren would return to the people of Israel.

That is kind of spooky that you mention this. (Spooky in an acceptable way.) Because the LDS believe that the descendants of Lehi (Lamanites) will eventually return to the Church, which of course the LDS would see as returning to Isreal in a spiritual sense.

That may not be what you were indicating, but I thought it was interesting amyway.

:)

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3 For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass.

Name etymology: Laban (לבן) literally means the white one.

Brass plates: Brass in Judaism has a deeper spiritual meaning. In Job 6:12 it is used to demonstrate endurance. In Daniel 2:32 it is used to mean brilliance.

In ancient Kabbalah, brass belonged to the manifestation of G-d's foundation. The foundation is connected to the word of G-d.

Therefore we can conclude that on a deeper level this prophecy indicated that Lehi and his decendants would have an enduring and spiritually bright future based on the foundation of G-d's word.

I think this symbolism is beautiful. A bright foundation built on the word of the Lord. Awesome.

:)

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this is one of my favorite things to do is read the kabalist. I have came to this sight before but never signed up or read much. Thank you I have read the Book of mormon countless times and could have never gotten this. I will ponder the brass and all you have wrote a lot.

cori

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Kabalist:

So Nephi was in G-d's presence - ie. the Shechinah (שכינה). One of the words used for tent in Hebrew is the word mishkan (משכן) which is comes from the very same root. This word-play cannot be coincidental. The Shechinah is also a main theme in the feast of Tabernacles, thus continuing the theme of the previous chapter.

Kerry:

Niiiiiiiiice! Wow, I have been reading the BofM for years.....YEARS..... and you have this kind of insight I have never thought of. I like this very much also! Thank you for your ideas kabalist. The Zohar also has MUCH to say about the Shekhinah that ties in interestingly with your very good insight here.

Edited by KerryShirts

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Sefer Haqqomah 155–164 reads:

And (the) angels who are with him come and encircle the Throne of Glory. They are on one side and the (celestial) creatures are on the other side, and the Shekhinah is on the Throne of Glory in the center.

A partial quote from Dr. Andrei Orlov's research. Divine Manifestations in the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, Supplement Series to Scrinium. Revue de patrologie, d’hagiographie critique et d’histoire ecclésiastique

ORIENTALIA JUDAICA CHRISTIANA CHRISTIAN ORIENT AND ITS JEWISH HERITAGE; 2009 by Gorgias Press LLC, p. 193

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Andrei Orlov also noted about the theme of the 40 days of fasting Moses underwent, as well as Abraham in the Apocalypse of Abraham, and other righteous men that the role of the Shekhinah is powerful. Here is the reason why. Is this not just fascinating or what?!

David Halperin elaborates this tradition of the unusual nourishment of the patriarch and its connection to Moses’ feeding on the Shekhinah attested in some later rabbinic accounts. He notes that “...Moses also discovered that the divine presence is itself nourishment enough. That is why Exodus 24: 11 says that Moses and his companions beheld God, and ate and drank. This means, one rabbi explained, that the sight of God was food and drink for them; for Scripture also says, ‘In the light of the King’s face there is life’.... We may as- sume that the author of the Apocalypse of Abraham had such midrashim in mind when he wrote that ‘my food was to see the angel who was with me, and his speech — that was my drink.’” Halperin, The Faces of the Chariot..., 111. (as found in Andrei Orlov, ESCHATOLOGICAL YOM KIPPUR IN THE APOCALYPSE OF ABRAHAM: Part I. The Scapegoat Ritual)

Orlov also noted that:

Indeed, as many scholars have already noted, some motifs found in the Apocalypse of Abraham appear to reflect the peculiar details sur- rounding the reception of the Torah on Sinai by the great Israelite prophet. One of the distinctive hints here for establishing the connec- tion with the Mosaic traditions is the theme of Abraham’s forty-day fast.

This motif is first introduced in Apoc. Ab. 9:7, where God orders Abraham to hold a strict fast for forty days.21 It is noteworthy that, as in the Mosaic traditions, so in the Slavonic apocalypse this fast coincides with the promise of a divine revelation on a high mountain:

But for forty days abstain from every food which issues from fire, and from the drinking of wine, and from anointing [yourself] with oil. And then you shall set out for me the sacrifice which I have commanded you, in the place which I shall show you on a high mountain.

The theme of the forty day fast on the mountain receives an even more distinctly “Mosaic” shape in chapter 12, where it coincides with another cluster of Mosaic traditions, including the reference to Horeb (a name for Sinai in some biblical passages) and information about the nourishment of a seer through the vision of a celestial being:

And we went, the two of us alone together, forty days and nights. And I ate no bread and drank no water, because [my] food was to see the angel who was with me, and his speech with me was my drink. And we came to the glorious God’s mountains—Horeb.

Scholars often see in this passage an allusion to Exodus 34:28,24 which reports that Moses was with God forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai without eating bread or drinking water. The refer-ence to alternative nourishment through the vision of a celestial being again evokes the cluster of interpretive traditions associated in Second Temple and rabbinic literature27 with the figure of Moses.

Kerry notes that the reason now this is so interesting, is because in later tradition, Jesus Christ himself took the role of the ***nourishing*** Shekhinah, and in fact, in the New Testament declared Himself to be the Bread and Water of life!

Edited by KerryShirts

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