Posted on the Donmeh mail list
[NOTE: I reccomend that everyone read this post carefully. It presents some very pertinent ideas from the Zohar and the life of St. Francis of Assisi about our current discussion of making Tikkun in the Realm of Animals. -- Yakov Leib]
EYLON ISRAELI WROTE OF THE ZOHAR:
For example, Rashbi's hiding in the cave, for fear of his life, and his communication with select few using written notes delivered by birds, resembles the tradition of the Shii 12th Imam, who went into Occultation for fear of his life and who communicated with the Bawbs (gates) using written notes as well.
SHOSHANNA WALKER ASKED:
The tradition is that Rabbi Shimeon Bar Yochai and his son lived in this cave, in solitude, in the Galilee for 13 years, sustained themselves on carobs from a tree nearby, and wrote the Zohar.
But where is the tradition of the birds from, as I have never read this in any of the Jewish sources or books about Zohar.
EYLON ISRAELI ANSWERS:
The story about the note-carrying bird is from the Zohar itself. Perhaps one of the people here with a more extensive library than I can help us with a reference here. (Eitan, Could you take a look at our notes from last year? It should be there somewhere...)
As for other bird-sources: Dr. Ronit Maroz from Tel-Aviv's university, which was my 'introduction to Zohar' teacher, mentioned St. Francis of Assisi's famous "Sermon to the birds" [Quoted below as a tie-in with the 'animals' thread. You can check the on-line entry in the Catholic Encylopedia on St. Francis at http://www.knight.org/advent/cathen/06221a.htm , where his attitude toward animals and nature in general is much praised. Note that St. Francis actualy preches directly to, and not about, animals!]. It seems the Mendicants were quite a hit in at the time & place of the Zohar's emergance. Birds and animals appear actualy quite a lot in the Zohar and show often (in a similar way to Bilam's donkey) more spiritual awareness then would be expected. Hence, for example, a bird can find Rashbi in occultation, while his friends and disciples can't.
Eylon. ---------- Taken from http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/saintfran.htm/ (a dubious source I'm afraid):
"My little sisters, the birds, much bounden are ye unto God, your creator, and always in every place ought ye to praise him, for that he hath given you liberty to fly about everywhere, and hath also given you double and triple rainment; moreover he preserved your seed in the ark of Noah, that your race might not perish out of the world; still more are ye beholden to him for the element of the air which he hath appointed for you; beyond all this, ye sow not, neither do you reap; and God feedeth you, and giveth you the streams and fountains for your drink; the mountains and valleys for your refuge and the high trees whereon to make your nests; and because ye know not how to spin or sow, God clotheth you, you and your children; wherefore your creator loveth you much, seeing that he hath bestowed on you so many benefits; and therefore, my little sisters, beware of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to give praises unto God."
Saint Francis of Assisi - c 1220