Just as a rose, which is found amidst the thorns, has within it the colors red and white, also Knesset Yisrael has within her both judgment and loving kindness. (Zohar I, Intro. pg 1)

"Just as a rose…": Here, the Zohar compares Knesset Yisrael to a beautiful rose. She is surrounded by thorns representing the kelipot (i.e. the powers of evil). This root in the spiritual worlds brings about the present state in which the innate holiness of our world is concealed by kelipot. Our service of G‑d can be likened to a gardener who takes care of his garden and prunes away the thorns…

Our service of G‑d can be likened to a gardener who takes care of his garden and prunes away the thorns. Only with constant vigil against the encroaching weeds and thorns is the gardener able to maintain his garden. In our spiritual gardening tasks, we must prune away the husks from every aspect of Creation, allowing the divinity within to flourish and bloom forth in shining revelation. On a personal basis we must constantly strive to perfect ourselves in thought, speech, and action. And in the same way we must remove the kelipot from the way we treat our fellow.

A bad action against G‑d, like desecrating the Shabbat or against one's fellow, i.e. stealing, creates kelipot, causing a concealment of the divine light. Conversely, when someone withholds from such desecration, he removes a kelipot and causes revelation of the divine light.

"…which is found amidst the thorns": This parable for malchut - being surrounded by the kelipot - is a further allusion to the Shechina in exile. There are times in history when the Shechina dwells among us, for instance when the Temple was standing. These periods can be followed by periods of spiritual exile where G‑d's imminence is not perceived. This is on the macro-level of history. This, however does not abrogate our responsibility of spiritual labor, as on the micro-level; we can still bring about divine revelation through good deeds and acts of kindness. Learning Kabbala gives us the inner fortitude to endure in exile…

By starting with the lesson about the Shechina in exile, the Zohar hints to us that learning Kabbala gives us the inner fortitude to endure in exile. And furthermore, this learning is an integral part of the remedy.

"…has in it the colors red and white": Knesset Yisrael corresponds to the sefira of malchut. This attribute is composed of both the powers of loving-kindness and judgment. Each person, according to the nature of his soul root above, will tend to be drawn towards one more than the other. This is why some people are inclined to see the world in a strict, judgmental way and others are inclined to see things in a kind, loving way.

"…both judgment and loving-kindness": In this statement, the Zohar introduces the right-left dynamic of judgment and loving-kindness. The word in the Aramaic text for "loving-kindness" is "rachmai" whose Hebrew equivalent would seem to be "rachamim", which always means "mercy". However not every Hebrew word has an exact Aramaic equivalent. Therefore, this word "rachmai", depending on its context, can be used to mean either "loving-kindness" or "mercy". Here the connotation of "rachmai" is "loving-kindness", which is on the right side of the sefirot, opposite judgment, which is on the left. Malchut, here represented by Knesset Yisrael, is one of the middle sefirot which receives from both sides.

Let us now look at the deeper meaning of the comparison between the colors of the rose on the one hand, and the concepts of judgment and loving-kindness within Knesset Yisrael on the other. If one tries to describe the beauty of a Beethoven symphony to a person who cannot hear, there will never be the right words to convey the emotional content. Try explaining to the same person the concepts of justice and fairness and he will surely be able to attain a grasp of their nature. Knesset Yisrael (the Upper Rose) is within the realm of Concept, and therefore her attributes are judgment and loving-kindness. The Lower Rose expresses in malchut the sefira of actualization - and therefore of experience, hence her attributes express themselves as colors.

[This series became the basis for the recently compiled "Zohar - translation and commentary" by Peretz Auerbach. Part One has just become available as an e-book]