Rabbi Yehuda addresses the question of why Abraham and Isaac had to experience starvation and famine in their respective lifetimes.

Come and see, at the time when the Holy One, Blessed be He, wishes to shine into the soul of a person, He strikes the body [to weaken it] in order that the soul should rule over it. This is because as long as the soul is [equal in power] in the body, the soul cannot be in control of it. When the body is broken, the soul rules over it. When the body is broken, the soul rules over it…

This is the hidden reason behind sickness in a person's life and tragedy at a national level. It is the manner in which G‑d causes the elevation of the spiritual over the physical. It also explains the higher spiritual powers of the handicapped and explains why fasting and ascetic practices have the same effect.

This is as written, "G‑d tests the righteous; but the wicked and he who loves violence, He hates his soul" (Psalms 11:5). What is the meaning of the words "The G‑d tests the righteous"? This is as is written elsewhere: "Behold I lay a foundation stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation" (Isaiah 28:16). [Thus "tested" means especially strong]. This is the same as the testing of the righteous. G‑d strengthens him to become like that tested stone that is a precious corner stone and this is the meaning of the words the "G‑d tests the righteous".

These stones were actually the center stones of the arches. They had to be especially strong because the arch holds up the roof, and the center of the arch is the focal point for all the pressure. The translation "corner stone" can sometimes be misleading as one thinks of stones at the corner of a wall, instead of the stone at the center of an arch.

And [the second part of the verse reads] "…the wicked and he who loves violence, he hates his soul". What is the meaning of the words [literally] "he hates his soul"? Remove any thought you might have that the soul of G‑d [who is all-merciful] hates the wicked. Rather that level that all souls are dependent upon [the Shechina] hates the soul of he who loves violence and is not at all willing to have Her cleave to him, either in This World or in the World to Come. This is why it is written that the wicked and the lover of violence [in Hebrew, "hamas"] hates his soul, meaning His soul [the Shechina]. The righteous… have to withstand the violence of the wicked…

The holy Shechina is repelled from the violent, who have become a vehicle for the forces of the "other side". When they die their violent death they continue to be spurned by the holy as a result of having spurned the Shechina in their lifetime. There is even a terrorist group that uses the name "Hamas" and performs violent acts and yet believes they go heaven! Here we learn that the opposite is the case.

Another interpretation of the words "He hates - his soul" is that it means His soul [the Shechina] hates the soul of the wicked. This is as is written: "The Lord G‑d has sworn by His Soul [in Hebrew, nafsho] (Amos 6:8).

All oaths are in the sefira of malchut, which is called "Nafsho". This means that malchut, also known as the Shechina, is the Nefesh of Him, where "Him" or "His" in the quoted verse, is Zeir Anpin. Thus the Nefesh of G‑d is the Shechina; His Ruach is Zeir Anpin. The word "nafsho" hints at the unity of the two. This unity is totally absent in the soul of the wicked.

That is why the righteous are tested [because they have to withstand the violence of the wicked in order to show the righteousness of G‑d].

Based on Zohar, parashat Toldot, page 140b; translation & commentary by Simcha-Shmuel Treister

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