The Ramak in his commentary Or Yakar on the Zohar uses the phrase "ישמעאל לבן הארמי" (Yishmael Lavan Ha'Arami) twice (from what I can tell), as though both names are that of one figure. Here are the two sources:

לזה אמרו הבה נלבנה כאומרו זקף לבנה, והוא סוד עבודה זרה מצדו של ישמעאל לבן הארמי, ונשרפה לשרפה מצד עשו הרשע מצד אש גיהנם כדי להדבק בשני חלקים אלו..." (Zohar Noach)

"ועכ"ד נטירו דקב"ה וכו', מפני שאין החצוני שולט בת"ת, שאינו יונק מקו האמצעי לעולם. שיש לו שמירות וקמיעין, מן הימין החסד מגין שממנו יונק ישמעאל לבן הארמי, ומן השמאל גבורה עשו אש השורף ינק ואל הת"ת לא יגיעו, ודומה לזה היה יעקב הגשמי." (Zohar Vayishlach).

I have two questions:

  1. What does the phrase mean, i.e., why does the Ramak refer to the two as one?
  2. Was he basing himself on earlier sources?
  • In the context of your two quotations, Ramak does not appear to be using לבן as a personal pronoun there, but as a verb. In that context, ארמי is like it is explained by Rabbi Yaacov Tzvi Yolles in Sefer Kehillat Yaacov. That ארמי is referring to the external aspect of Klipat Nogah. You may find the discussion Yishmael there helpful. It is all based on Zohar, section Raya Mahemna.: hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=44143&st=&pgnum=136 Commented Apr 17 at 16:12
  • @YaacovDeane could you please suggest an English translation for one of the quotes so that I can understand in what way לבן is a verb?
    – Harel13
    Commented Apr 17 at 16:59
  • The phrase, "לזה אמרו הבה נלבנה" is taken directly from Bereshit 11:3. That נלבנה לבנים is the verb for "making bricks", meaning mixing water, mud, straw and pouring it into a form. After that action, one has to fire (ונשרפה) the brick, baking it in order to make it usable for construction. Commented Apr 17 at 17:49
  • This is also the meaning of the nest phrase, "כאומרו זקף לבנה". That Radak to Isaiah 57:6 says: "בחלקי נחל. כשהיו מוצאין אבן חלקה ויפה באבני הנחל היו עובדים לה, על דרך שאמרו רבותינו זכרונם לברכה זקף לבנה והשתחוה לה: ". Commented Apr 17 at 18:02
  • Just to clarify what Radak is describing, the raw, sedimentary stones are placed into a container with water and various grits of sand and then turned, meaning rolled inside the container. This causes the raw stone to become polished for final sale. That expression "זקף לבנה", is again a verb. Both cases suggesting some kind of processing and finishing action. So "ישמעאל לבן הארמי" should be thought of in that sense that Yishmael is doing to Arami. Commented Apr 17 at 18:14

1 Answer 1


He seemingly is referring to both as one unit. The Shem Mishmuel (Vayetze 3, a later source, not earlier) writes explicitly that Esav is from the "left side" and Yishmael is from the "right side", once Yishmael passed, Lavan took his spot.

היינו טעמא דמת ישמעאל באותו הפרק כדי שלא יהי' צירוף לשניהם, ומ"מ נשאר לבן הארמי במקומו של ישמעאל שהוא ג"כ מצד הימין ומראות נגעים [שהוא לבן בטומאה] שבעים ושנים גמטריא חסד דקליפה

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