222. On a visit to Rabbi Yosi, Rabbi Chizkiyah saw a piece of meat drop FROM HIS POT into the fire. As a result of the dripping of the fat, smoke rose up. He said to him: Had the pillars of smoke from the offering risen from the altar like this smoke, there would have been no wrath upon the world and Yisrael would not have gone into exile from their land.
223. Rabbi Yosi answers by quoting the verse, "Who is this coming out of the wilderness like columns of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?" (Shir Hashirim 3:6) WHAT IS THE MEANING OF, "Who is this coming out?" HE REPLIES, Come and behold. When Yisrael were walking in the desert, the Shechinah went before them. They followed, as it is written, "And Hashem went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; that they might go..." (Shemot 13:21). Therefore, it is written, "Thus says Hashem; I remember in your favor, the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, when you did go after me in the wilderness" (Yirmeyah 2:2). THUS, THE SHECHINAH WENT BEFORE THEM, AND THEY FOLLOWED. THIS MEANS THAT THEY RECEIVED FROM HER BACK, AS WILL BE MENTIONED SHORTLY.
224. The Shechinah advanced with all the clouds of glory about Her. When the Shechinah would go, so would the children of Yisrael, as it is written, "And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Yisrael journeyed" (Bemidbar 9:17). When She ascended, the cloud rose high, and all the people of the world saw and asked, "Who is this coming out of the wilderness like columns of smoke?"
225. The cloud in which the Shechinah was seen was made of smoke. Why? Because the light kindled by Abraham and Isaac, his son, clung to Her and never left Her. Whenever the fire seized Her, smoke would rise up.
226. Moreover, She was "perfumed with myrrh and frankincense." By "perfumed," it is meant that She was attached to the other two sides, MITIGATING AND ENVELOPING ONE ANOTHER, Abraham's cloud on the right and Isaac's cloud on the left. The "powders of the merchant" refers to Jacob. THIS MEANS SHE WAS CONNECTED TO THE THREE COLUMNS, "MYRRH" IS THE RIGHT COLUMN, ABRAHAM; "FRANKINCENSE" IS THE LEFT COLUMN, ISAAC; AND "ALL THE POWDERS OF THE MERCHANT" IS THE CENTRAL COLUMN THAT CONNECTS BOTH, THIS IS WHY IT IS CALLED A MERCHANT WHO HOLDS BOTH TYPES OF FRAGRANCE IN HIS HANDS.
227. Another explanation is that the "powders of the merchant" refers to Joseph the Righteous, for his coffin (lit. 'ark'), YESOD, traveled by Her. He was called a merchant (Heb. rochel; also: 'talebearer') because he slandered his brothers (Heb. rechilut) before his father. According to another explanation, he was thus called because, just as a merchant possesses all kinds of bundles of incense and perfumed herb powders, so Joseph maintained the Torah. This is so, since all the precepts of the Torah are connected to keeping the Holy Covenant, WHICH HE DID.
228. Another explanation connects the powders with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, who had one and the same image. This is the meaning of the verse, "These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph" (Beresheet 37:2). Thus, the words, "with all powders of the merchant" refer to the source from which the river is drawn and flows, YESOD, WHICH IS JOSEPH. Everything is watered from it and the faces of all are illuminated.
229. Come and behold, when Yisrael dwelt in their land and offered sacrifices, they approached nearer to the Holy One, blessed be He. When the sacrifice was offered and the smoke rose straight, they knew that the smoke from the altar lit the candle worthy of being lit; all faces shone and the candles were burning.
230. Since the Temple was destroyed, not a day passes without wrath and anger, as it is written, "and an El who had indignation every day" (Tehilim 7:12). Joy was banished above and below, and Yisrael went into exile under the dominion of other Elomin. Then, the verse is fulfilled, as it is written, "Aand there you shall serve other Elohim" (Devarim 28:64).
231. HE ASKS, Why DID YISRAEL DESERVE all this? HE ANSWERS, As it is written, "Because you would not serve Hashem your Elohim with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things" (Ibid. 47-48). HE ASKS, What is the meaning of "the abundance of all things?" HE ANSWERS, Here, there is "the abundance of all things," and there, "want of all things."