Something else [explaining the verse "The buds appeared in the land" (Songs 2:12)]: "the buds" - these are the Patriarchs, that arose in thought [Abba], and ascended to the World to Come [Imma], and were hidden there.

As at first, the buds were explained to refer to chesed, gevura and tiferet. Throughout the Zohar, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are understood as the human embodiment of these sefirot. Abraham's outstanding quality was loving-kindness, or chesed, as the Torah tells of his outstanding care to bring in and serve guests (Gen. 18:2); Isaac was known for his great fear of G‑d (see Gen. 31:42), which comes from and corresponds to the attribute of strength and severity, or gevura; Jacob was known as a dweller in tents (see Gen. 25:27) where he learned Torah, which manifests the harmonious combination of the previous two traits, known as "tiferet".

The divine flow…descended to chesed, gevura and tiferet, but in a concealed way….

Here, when the Zohar mentions "ascent", it refers to the awakening of "feminine waters" from the level below (here referring to chesed, gevura and tiferet of Zeir Anpin) to the levels above (in this case Abba, from the sefira of chochma, which is called "Thought", and Imma, from the sefira of bina, from which comes the delight of the World to Come).

The partzufim of Abba and Imma, literally "mother" and "father", parent the partzufim directly underneath them, Zeir Anpin and Nukva, their "children". Just as when children go to their parents, the parents are roused to give them food and supply their needs, so does the ascent of Zeir Anpin and Nukva awaken a flow of light and life from Abba and Imma.

And from there they left [the upper] concealment and were concealed within the true prophets [netzach and hod].

The divine flow transmitted from Abba and Imma descended to chesed, gevura and tiferet, but in a concealed way. This was arranged by G‑d in order to prevent the husks from seeking to be nourished from this flow.

Chesed, gevura and tiferet passed the divine gift along to netzach and hod. They are known as "prophets" throughout the Zohar because from them originates the prophet's inspiration (see Shaar Ruach Hakodesh pg. 11). Their physical expression is in the two cherubim upon the ark of the Holy Temple. From them emanated the voice of prophecy to Moses (end of Exodus).

Joseph [yesod] was born, and they [the lights of the Patriarchs] were hidden in him.

Joseph is identified with yesod, which receives the life force from above and does its job of giving over and reproducing. This actualization of its potential is called "being born".

Joseph went into the Holy Land [malchut].

At the time the rainbow appears then they are revealed….

Malchut is the last level within the sefirot. There yesod stands firmly with all the flow received from chesed, gevura, tiferet, netzach and hod, enabling yesod to establish this in malchut.

There they stood up firmly. And then they appeared in the Land and were revealed there.

Once these lights of the Patriarchs (chesed, gevura and tiferet) come to malchut, they come to fruition and manifest in the world as G‑d's sovereignty through these qualities.

And when do they appear? At the time when the rainbow is revealed in the world. Because at the time the rainbow appears then they are revealed.

The beaming colors of the rainbow represent the shining of the attributes chesed, gevura and tiferet into the world.

And at that time [when the rainbow appears], "The time of song has arrived" (Songs 2:12) [implying] the time to cut the wicked from the world [i.e. "shir" in Hebrew can mean either 'song' or 'cut'].

Through singing to G‑d, the powers of evil are annihilated….

Through singing to G‑d, the powers of evil are annihilated. The best way to do this is through praising G‑d and singing to Him, ridding evil from one's own heart.

Why will they [the wicked] be saved?

The sins of the wicked in the generation of the Flood caused destruction. What prevents this from re-occurring?

Because the buds appear in the land.

Because the lights of chesed, gevura and tiferet shined down and sweetened the judgments caused by the sins.

And were it not that they [the buds] appeared, they [the wicked] would not be left in the world, and the world would not endure.

Children … generate such merit as to justify the world's endurance, despite its sins….

And what makes the world endure and caused the Patriarchs to be revealed?

What awakening from below, in this world, caused the drawing of these spiritual lights from above?

The voice of the children who speak words of Torah.

Being below the age of maturity, children are not responsible for their deeds, and are therefore free from sin. The words of Torah emanating from their pure lips therefore generate such merit as to justify the world's endurance, despite its sins.

And because of these youths of the world, the world is saved. Relating to them, the verse states, "Doves of gold we will make for you" (Songs 1:11) for these are the children, the youths, the lads, as it is written, "And you shall make two golden cherubs." (Ex. 25:18)

The children's' melodious chanting of words of Torah is likened to the sweet song that the doves sing….

How do we know that this verse refers to the children? Rabbinic tradition teaches that the faces of these cherubs, or angelic figures, in the Holy Temple were like that of children. and were made of gold. (Chagiga 13b) From this we can deduce that the gold mentioned in the aforementioned verse hints to children. These are allegorized in the Song of Songs as "doves of gold", because the children's' melodious chanting of words of Torah is likened to the sweet song that the doves sing.

Also, the dove is known throughout the words of the Sages as being always loyal to its mate. Children are similar in that they are always loyal to G‑d. The cherubs also have the faces of children because angels share with children the quality of being free of sin. And the Torah hints to us the connection between the two verses specifically through the word "gold", because this exalted quality is rare like gold.

In terms of the verse in context of the Song of Songs, the Jewish people are expressing their love for G‑d by telling how we have our children sing the words of Torah to Him.

[This series became the basis for the recently compiled "Zohar - translation and commentary" by Peretz Auerbach. Part One is available as an e-book, "Zohar, the Book of Splendor".]