315. Rabbi Shimon said, There is a great and strong, tall supernal tree, WHICH IS ZEIR ANPIN. Those above and those below are sustained through it. And it is bordered by twelve DIAGONAL border-lines, WHICH ARE THE FOUR SFIROT - CHESED, GVURAH, TIFERET, AND MALCHUT - EACH ONE CONTAINING THREE COLUMNS. It is strengthened by the four directions of the world - WHICH ARE CHESED, GVURAH, TIFERET AND MALCHUT - that are attached to their place. And seventy branches, WHICH ARE THE SEVENTY PRINCES THAT ARE APPOINTED OVER THE SEVENTY NATIONS OF THE WORLD, rise in it and are nurtured by it. From the center of its roots they nurture from around. And they are the branches that are found in the tree.
316. When the time of dominion arrives for each branch, they all want to completely destroy the trunk of the tree, which is the mainstay of the branches, that rules over the people of Yisrael who are joined with it. And when the domination of the trunk of the tree reaches them, which is the portion of Yisrael, it wants to guard them, and to arrange peace among them all. For this purpose, seventy oxen ARE OFFERED during Sukkot (the holiday of booths) to bring peace among the seventy branches in the tree, WHICH ARE THE SEVENTY PATRON ANGELS OF THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD.
317. Pertaining to this, IT IS SAID, "Who is like You among the mighty (Heb. Elim), Hashem." What is the meaning of "Elim?" 'Tree,' as it is written, "For you shall be ashamed of the sacred oaks (Heb. eilim) on which you set your desires" (Yeshayah 1:29). For they worshipped an image that was engraved on this tree. "Who is like You," to do as You do and have Mercy upon all. "Who is like You," throughout the surrounding of the tree; even though He dominates, He guards everything, He guards all the rest and does not desire to destroy them completely, AS THEY WANTED TO DO WHEN THEY DOMINATED. "Who is like You, glorious in Holiness," MEANS THAT IT IS GLORIOUS with the supernal power, which is called 'Holiness.' Verily, it is glorious in Holiness, WHICH IS THE MOCHIN OF BINAH and is called "the strength of Hashem," and, "the pleasantness of Hashem." And we have hereby expounded on the words.
318. "Who is like You among the mighty, Hashem." Rabbi Yosi opened the discussion with the verse, "I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind" (Kohelet 1:14). HE ASKS, How could King Solomon, who was greater in his wisdom than all other people of the world, say that all the works are vanity and a striving after wind? Is it possible that the deed of righteousness IS ALSO VANITY AND A STRIVING AFTER WIND? Is it not written, "And the work of righteousness shall be peace" (Yeshayah 32:17)? HE ANSWERS, We have already established that it is written, "All the works that are done under the sun," but the work of righteousness is different, for it is above the sun.
319. "And, behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind." HE ASKS, What is its meaning? If, "all is vanity (Heb. hevel)," MEANS, as we established, being in the secret of Wisdom - as is said, "'Vanity of vanities,' says Kohelet" (Kohelet 1:2), and these vanities are the sustenance of the upper and lower world - then what can be said of this verse here, "And, behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind?"
320. This is the way we explained it, and this is how it is. Come and behold, when deeds in the world are good, and one strives to be occupied with the service of the Holy King, the good deed that he does turns into a breath (Heb. hevel) above. And each and every breath from which a voice ascends above, becomes a defense counselor before the Holy One, blessed be He.
321. All these works that a person is occupied with which are not in the service of the Holy One, blessed be He, become a breath, which goes and flies about the world. And when his soul departs, that breath rolls him through the world, like a stone in a sling, as it is written, "And the souls of your enemies, them shall He sling out, as out of the hollow of a sling" (I Shmuel 25:29).
322. HE ASKS, What is the meaning of "shall He sling out?" AND HE ANSWERS, That breath rolls it around in the world. Then all the things that are done and are not in the service of the Holy One, blessed be He, turn into a breath, which is the breaking of spirit, for this breaks the spirit that goes up and down and rolls throughout the world. This is what is meant by, "vanity and a striving after wind (also: 'spirit')."
323. But that thing that is in the service of his Master ascends to a level above the sun and becomes a holy breath. This is the seed that the person sows in that world. And what is it called? Righteousness, as it is written, "Sow for you by righteousness" (Hoshea 10:12).
324. This leads the person when his soul leaves him, raises him to the place of glory above, and is present to bind him in the bundle of life. This is what is meant by, "And your righteousness shall go before you" (Yeshayah 58:8), in order to lead you and to raise you to the place that is called 'the glory of Hashem,' WHICH IS MALCHUT, as it is written, "the glory of Hashem shall be your rearguard" (Ibid.).