Come and see, as long as that holy soul cleaves to man, he is beloved of his Master. He is well guarded from every direction, he is marked for good Above and below and the holy Shechinah rests on him.

When he deviates in his ways [by sinning against the ways of holiness], the Shechinah leaves him and the holy Neshama does not cleave to him. A spirit that roams and walks the world, from the side of the harsh, evil serpent which rests only on a place supernal holiness has departed from, is aroused [to rest upon him, in place of the spirit of holiness which had rested upon him previously]. That man is then defiled and is blemished in his flesh, in everything, and in his countenance.

Come and see, since this living nefesh [from bina] is holy and supernal, when the holy earth draws it [from bina] and becomes included within it, it is called neshama. It is that which ascends and speaks before the Holy King and enters through all the gates with no one to detain it. It is therefore called 'a speaking spirit' since every other [part of the] soul has no permission to speak before the King except this one.

The Torah therefore proclaims, saying, "Keep your tongue from evil..." (Psalms 34:14) and, "He who guards his mouth and his tongue..." (Proverbs 21:23) since if his lips and tongue speak evil things, these things ascend Above, and when they do everybody declares, 'Be gone from the proximity of the evil speech of so-and-so, give way to the path of the harsh serpent'. The holy Neshama is then removed from him. It is gone and he cannot speak, as it says, "I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, and had no comfort." (Psalms 39:3)

That Neshama rises in shame, shoved aside by all. It is not given place [to ascend] as before. Of this it is written, "He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps his Nefesh from trouble." Surely his Nefesh who used to speak [i.e. the Neshama now] is silent because of that evil speech. Then the serpent comes [to receive the evil speech] since everything returns to its place. [The evil speech's proper place is with the serpent.] When the evil speech rises through known paths and rests before the harsh serpent, many spirits are aroused in the world and a spirit descends from that side, and finds that this man aroused it through evil speech and that the speaking spirits left him. Then it [that evil spirit] rests on him and defiles him and he then becomes a leper.

Just as punishment is afflicted on man because of evil speech, so is he punished if he could have pronounced good words but did not. For he blemished that speaking spirit, which is prepared so as to speak Above and speak below, and all is in holiness. It is even more true if the nation walks the crooked path and he can talk to them and reprove them yet he is silent and does not speak. As I said, "I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, and had no comfort, and my pain was stirred up," stirred up by plagues of impurity. This is why it was said that King David was plagued1 and G‑d turned away from him, as written "Turn You to me, and be gracious to me." (Psalms 25:16) What is "Turn You to me"? It resembles the words, "And Aaron turned." (Num. 12:10) Rabbi Hiyya and Rabbi Yosi got off their donkeys and kissed him. They went together all that way. Rabbi Hiyya said of them, "But the path of just men is like the gleam of sunlight, that shines ever more brightly until the height of noonday." (Proverbs 4:18)

BeRahamim LeHayyim: Why is this revealed to you now? What does it mean for you?

The Aramaic translation to the Bible translates the verse, "man became a living soul" as "man became a speaking soul." G‑d created us to be communicative beings. That said, how much trouble does our mouth get us into! We rarely hurt others physically, but through speech, constantly! If we could only ponder the above spiritual reasons for restricting our tongue, what a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful world it would be! This Zohar is not preachy, it is explanatory of the supernal damage caused by our earthly gossip and defamation.

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
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