Rabbi Abba of the town of Tiberias went on a visit to his father-in-law, accompanied by his son, Rabbi Jacob, to attend a meeting of novitiates of the Hidden Wisdom. On arriving at the village of Tarsha, they decided to stay there for the night. The keeper of the inn, when Rabbi Abba asked him whether there was a "Tarnagula" on the house (a cockbird) replied, why do you ask such a question? In order, said Rabbi Abba, that at time of midnight I may not fail to rise and engage in the study of the secret doctrine. Let that not trouble you, rejoined the inn-keeper, for we have an alarum in the house that never fails to strike and ring at the hour of midnight. It was the invention of an old man who used to stay here. He was an esoteric student and most punctual he was in rising at midnight to study.
Said Rabbi Abba: "Blessed be the Merciful One who guided us hither."
When midnight arrived, the clepsydra or alarum sounded and was heard throughout the house and awakened Rabbi Abba and his son who, on rising, heard the inn-keeper, seated on the threshold of the door, saying to his two sons: "It is written, 'At midnight I will rise and give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments' (Ps. CXIX. 62). Why did David say 'midnight' (khatzoth lailah) instead of 'at midnight' (bekhatzoth lailah) I will rise, etc. It was because that by this word (midnight) he denotes and distinguishes the Holy One Himself."
Then spake the two sons and said: "Did David really call upon and address Him thus?"
"Truly he did," replied their father, for at the exact hour of midnight the Holy One enters the garden of Eden to enjoy intercourse with the souls of the righteous."
Said Rabbi Abba to his son, Rabbi Jacob: "If we go92b and join them in their study, the presence of the Schekina will most certainly be with us." They went and sat with their host and said, repeat the words you have just spoken, for they are excellent. Who was your teacher?"
He replied: "The old man that formerly stayed here. He also told me that during three hours before midnight angels, deputed to take record of the deeds of men that judgment might be pronounced upon them, fly through the world and return at the exact moment when the Holy One enters the garden of Eden. All the judgments that befall men and the sentences decreed in the world above thus become operative. Where do we learn this? From the history of Abraham, of whom it is written, 'And he separated the night for them' (Gen. XIV. 15), and also from what is said regarding the plague of the Egyptians, 'And it came to pass that at midnight, the Lord smote all the first born in the land of Egypt' (Ex. XII. 29). In many other places of scripture the old man taught me the esoteric meaning of the word midnight, of which David himself was well aware, and knew that his royalty and sovereignty depended on "Midnight" and therefore he rose at that time and composed psalms and called the Holy One by this term, in order as he says, 'to praise thee for thy righteous judgments' which descend from on high at the division of day and night. David knowing that his occupancy of the throne depended upon the divine 'Midnight,' he rose as we have just said to sing praises and give thanks to the King of Kings."
Said Rabbi Abba, as the host ceased speaking: "True are the words thou hast spoken and blessed he the Lord who has directed our steps and guided us hither." He then embraced him and said: "Observe that night is the time of judgment everywhere, as we have learned from Rabbi Simeon."
One of the inn-keeper's sons here asked the question: "If," said he, to his father, "what you have learned is true, why did David say, 'In the middle of the night?'"
The father replied: "Because, as we have stated, at that time the rule and sovereignty of the Holy One makes itself felt by everyone."
Said the son: "There is another explanation which has been imparted to me."
p. 373 92a
Said Rabbi Abba: "Speak, my boy, and give it forth as I think the Voice of the SilenceVoice of the Lamp--Soncino has spoken unto thee."
The boy spake and said: "Night is the time when judgments are decreed and determined upon, and during night they are executed in all places above and below. Why David used the term 'middle' was because the night is divided into two periods; the first of judgment, the other of mercy that causes the faces of all to become radiant with feelings of joy and delight."
Said Rabbi Abba, placing his hands on the head of the boy and blessing him, "I have always thought that wisdom was only to be found with those worthy of receiving it, now I see that in the life time of Rabbi Simeon, children are able to become possessors of heavenly wisdom and light. Blessed art thou, Rabbi Simeon. Woe to the world when thou goest hence." Until daybreak they continued their studies of the Secret Doctrine.