There are three who cause harm to themselves, two [harm themselves] in this world, and one in the other [spiritual] world. And these are: [1] one who curses himself, as we have learned; an official is appointed onto man [to constantly supervise his deeds and he goes up and reports Above] and when a man curses himself this official together with his seventy appointed subordinates take that word and respond 'amen,' (to affirm that the curse should be fulfilled) and they raise it up on high and judge it. And [if it is held to be proper that this curse be upheld] he [this official] follows him until he makes it happen and so completes that very curse [that the person cursed himself with].

Who do we have as a better example than Moses, who said: "and if not, blot me, I pray you, out of Your book which You have written." (Ex. 32:32) This he said as a necessity [for the sake of Israel], and although G‑d fulfilled his wish [and forgave Israel], nevertheless he was not spared punishment, for it has already been noted that [his name] is not mentioned in the Torah portion of Tetzave, but has been blotted out from there. And this has already been taught.

And who do we have that is greater than King David, who said: "I said: I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep a curb on my mouth, while the wicked is before me." (Psalms 39:2) What is the meaning of "while the wicked is before me"? This refers to that official who is appointed over one
[who curses himself] and takes that word to harm a man.

And [2] another one [who causes harm to himself] is a person who throws bread, or breadcrumbs, onto the ground, having no respect for it, as we have learnt. [He causes a lack of respect for his own “bread winning”, deflecting Divine beneficence from himself.] These two [receive their punishment] in this world. And [3] one [who causes harm to himself] in the other [spiritual] world is a person who kindles a candle towards the end of the Shabbat, before Israel recite the "U'va L'Tzion" prayer [in the ma'ariv prayer on Saturday night]. And he is considered as having profaned Shabbat because he causes the fire of Purgatory to be kindled before its time.

There is a special place in Purgatory for those who profane Shabbat. There is an appointee who is responsible for igniting the fire of purgatory on the exit of Shabbat, and he lights that fire first in the place reserved for the person who lit a fire before the proper time at the end of Shabbat. He says that this place is reserved for this named individual [who lit fire before the proper time]. And all the wicked ones who are in Purgatory help him to light up that spot, and that official calls out, saying: "Behold, G‑d will thrust you about with a mighty throw, and will seize you firmly." (Isaiah 22:17) And the wicked who are in Purgatory respond: "He will violently roll and toss you like a ball into a large country: there shall you die" (Ibid. 22:18) because he caused them [to have their rest cut off and their fire] to be kindled before the proper time. This makes three who cause harm to themselves, as we have learnt.

BeRahamim LeHayyim: Why did the Ari and Chida include this section? What do they want us to learn?

Me, Me, it's all about Me! This theme of the above Zohar appears to to tie together the three who cause harm to themselves. One who curses himself no doubt has gotten angry, and anger is termed by the Sages as idolatry, for at that second one is worshipping his own self-righteousness: I am hurt, I am injured, I demand recompense, I, I, I...So, therefore I curse myself (G‑d forbid!) As the saintly Chofetz Chaim has taught, one can slander oneself too.

The tossing of bread shows a complete disrespect for the bounty received from G‑d. "Hey, it's my bread, I can do with it what I want! Who cares about the tiny crumbs, right?! WRONG, the above Zohar says.

The final problem relates to a sensitivity concerning Shabbat and the prohibition of lighting a fire. For when one lights a fire before Havdalah time on Saturday night, they cause the fires of Purgatory to be ignited, and causes all those who rest from their purging/purification to return prematurely from their day of rest. If one was sensitive to the ramifications of one's deed, and the concomitant pain caused by such an action, one would certainly wait until the 3 stars came out. Here again, is the trap of the Me: I want a fire now regardless of its spiritual repercussions. This Me-focus is the cause of self-harm. The cure: the second leg of Hillel's trio: If I am for myself only, what am I?

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
Copyright 2003 by, a project of Ascent of Safed (// All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.