The Cabala, by Bernhard Pick, , at sacred-texts.com
The Book of Splendor.--The titles of the Zohar vary. It is called "Midrash of Rabbi Simon ben Jochaï," from its reputed author: "Midrash, Let there be Light," from the words in Gen. i. 4; more commonly "Sepher ha-Zohar," from Dan. xii. 3, where the word Zohar is used for "the brightness of the firmament." The title in full is: Sepher ha-Zohar al ha-Torah, me-ish Elohim Kodesh, hu more meod ha-tara R. Simon ben Jochaï, etc., i.e., "The Book of Splendor on the Law, by the very holy and venerable man of God, the Tanaite rabbi Simon ben Jochaï, of blessed memory."
The editio princeps is the one of Mantua (3 vols., 1558-1560) and has often been reprinted. The best edition of the book of Zohar is that by Christian Knorr von Rosenroth, with Jewish commentaries (Sulzbach, 1684, fol.) to which his rare Kabbala Denudata (1677-1684) forms an ample introduction. This edition was reprinted
with an additional index (Amsterdam, 1714, 1728, 1772, 1805, 3 vols.). Recent editions. of the Zohar were published at Breslau (1866, 3 vols.), Livorno (1877-78, in 7 parts), and Wilna (1882, 3 vols.; 1882-83 in 10 parts, containing many commentaries and additions).
The body of the work takes the form of a commentary of a highly mystic and allegorical character extending over the entire Pentateuch; but the Zohar is not considered complete without the addition of certain appendices attributed to the same author or to some of his personal or successional disciples.
These supplementary portions are:
1. Siphra di Tseniutha, i.e., "The Book of Secrets" or "Mysteries," contained in Vol. II, 176-178. It contains five chapters and is chiefly occupied with discussing the questions involved in the creation. In the second and third chapters the prophet Elijah communicates the secret which he learned in the heavenly school, that before the creation of the world God was unknown to man, but made known his essence after the creation of the world. The history of the creation is represented under the figure of a scale, which adjusts the opposite aspects of God before and after the creation. This portion has been translated into Latin by Rosenroth in the second volume of his Kabbala Denudata (Frankfort-on-the-Main,
[paragraph continues] 1684; Englished by Mathers, loc. cit., pp. 43-108).
2. Iddera Rabba, i.e., "The Great Assembly," referring to the community or college of Simon's disciples in their conferences for cabalistic discussion. These discussions are chiefly occupied with a description of the form and various members of the Deity; a disquisition on the revelation of the Deity, in his two aspects of the "Aged" and the "Young," to the creation and the universe; as well as on the diverse gigantic members of the Deity, such as the head, the beard, the eyes, the nose, etc., etc.; a dissertion on pneumatology, demonology, etc., etc. This part is generally found in Vol. III, pp. 127b-145a, and has been translated into Latin by Rosenroth, loc. cit., and Englished by Mathers, pp. 109-257.
3. Iddera Zuta, i.e., "The Small Assembly," referring to the few disciples who still assembled for cabalistic discussion towards the end of their master's life or after his decease. It is to a great extent a recapitulation of the Iddera Rabba, and concludes with recording the death of Simon ben Jochaï, the Sacred Light and the medium through whom God revealed the contents of the Zohar. This part is found in Vol. III, 287b-296b, and from the Latin of Rosenroth (Vol. II of the Kabbala Denudata) it has been Englished by Mathers, pp. 259-341.
To these three larger appendices are added fifteen other minor fragments, viz.:
4. Saba, i.e., "The Aged Man," also called "Saba demishpatim," or "The Discourse of the Aged in Mishpatim," given in II, 94a-114a. "The Aged" is the prophet Elijah who holds converse with Rabbi Simon about the doctrine of metempsychosis, and the discussion is attached to the Sabbatic section called "Mishpatim," i.e., Exod. xxi, l-xxiv. 18.
5. Midrash Ruth, a fragment.
6. Sepher hab-bahir, i.e., "The Book of Clear Light."
7 and 8. Tosephta and Mattanitan, i.e., "Small Additional Pieces," which are found in the three volumes.
9. Raïa mehemna, i.e., "The Faithful Shepherd," found in the second and third volumes. The faithful shepherd is Moses who holds a dialogue with Rabbi Simon, at which not only the prophet Elijah is present, but Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Aaron, David, Solomon, and even God himself make their appearance.
10. Hekaloth, i.e., "The palaces," found in the first and second volumes, treats of the topographical structure of paradise and hell.
11. Sithre Torah, i.e., "The Secrets of the Law."
12. Midrash han-neelam, i.e., "The Concealed
[paragraph continues] Treatise," in which passages of Scripture are explained mystically. Thus Lot's two daughters are the two proclivities in man, good and evil (I, 110). It also discourses on the properties and destiny of the soul.
13. Raze de Razin, i.e., "Mysteries of Mysteries," contained in II, 70a-75a, is especially devoted to the physiognomy of the Cabala, and the connection of the soul with the body.
14. Midrash Chazith, on the Song of Songs.
15. Maamar to Chazi, a discourse, so entitled from the first words, "Come and see."
16. Yanuka, i.e., "The Youth," given in III, 186a-192a, records the discourses delivered by a young man who according to R. Simon was of superhuman origin.
17. Pekuda, i.e., "Illustrations of the Law."
18. Chibbura Kadmaah, i.e., "The Early Work."
The body of the work is sometimes called Zohar Gadol, "The Great Zohar."
Authorship of the Zohar.--Who is the author of this remarkable book, which has continued to be a text-book up to the present day, for all those who have espoused the doctrines of the Cabala? We have anticipated the answer, but let us see which reasons were adduced by modern scholarship to prove that the Zohar is a forgery of the thirteenth century.
Now the Zohar pretends to be a revelation from God communicated through Rabbi Simon ben Jochaï to his select disciples, according to the Iddera Zuta (Zohar III, 287b). This declaration and the repeated representation of Rabbi Simon ben Jochaï, as speaking and teaching throughout the production fixed the authorship upon Rabbi Simon, an opinion maintained not only by Jews for centuries, but even by distinguished Christian scholars. On the other hand it has been clearly demonstrated by such Jewish scholars as Zunz, Geiger, Jellinek, Graetz, Steinschneider, and a host of others, that the Zohar is not the production of Rabbi Simon, but of the thirteenth century, by Moses de Leon (1250-1305). 1 Simon ben Jochaï was a pupil of Rabbi Akiba; but the earliest mention of the book's existence occurs in the year 1290, and the anachronisms of its style and in the facts referred to, together with the circumstance that it speaks of the vowel-points and other Masoretic inventions which are clearly
posterior to the Talmud, justify J. Morinus (although too often extravagant in his wilful attempts to depreciate the antiquity of the latter Jewish writings) in asserting that the author could not have lived much before the year 1000 of the Christian era (Exercitationes Biblicae, pp. 358-369). This later view of the authorship is sustained by the following reasons:
1. The Zohar most fulsomely praises its own author, calls him the Sacred Light, and exalts him above Moses, "the faithful Shepherd" (Zohar III, 132b; 144a), while the disciples deify Rabbi Simon, before whom all men must appear (II, 38a).
2. The Zohar quotes and mystically explains the Hebrew vowel-points (I, 16b, 24b; II, 116a; III, 65a), which were introduced later. 2
3. The Zohar (II, 32a) mentions the Crusades, the temporary taking of Jerusalem by the Crusaders from the Infidels, and the retaking of it by the Saracens.
4. The Zohar (III, 212b) records events which transpired A. D. 1264.
5. The doctrine of En-Soph and the Sephiroth, as well as the metempsychosian retribution, were not known before the thirteenth century.
6. The very existence of the Zohar, according to the stanch Cabalist Jehudah Chayoth (about
[paragraph continues] 1500), was unknown to such distinguished Cabalists as Nachmanides and Ben-Adereth (12351310); the first who mentions it is Todros Abulafia (1234-1306).
7. Isaac of Akko (about 1290) affirms that "The Zohar was put into the world from the head of a Spaniard."
8. The Zohar contains passages which Moses de Leon translated into Aramaic from his works, e.g., the Sepher ha-Rimmon, as Jellinek has demonstrated in his Moses de Leon and sein Verhältniss zum Sohar," Leipsic, 1851, p. 21-36; (see also Graetz, Geschichte der Juden, VII, 498; 2d ed., 1873, p. 477 et seq.).
These are some of the reasons why the Zohar is now regarded as a pseudograph of the thirteenth century, and that Moses de Leon should have palmed the Zohar upon Simon ben Jochaï was nothing remarkable, since this rabbi is regarded by tradition as the embodiment of mysticism. There was also a financial reason, for from the Book Juchasin (pp. 88, 89, 95, ed. Filipowski, London, 1857) we learn that when his wife asked him why he published the production of his own intellect under another man's name, Moses de Leon replied "that if he were to publish it under his own name nobody would buy it, whereas under the name of Rabbi Simon ben Jochaï it yielded him a large revenue."
With the appearance of the Zohar we find also a Zohar School, which is a combination and absorption of the different features and doctrines of all the former methods, without any plan or method; and we must not be surprised at the wild speculations which we so often find in the writings of the post-Zohar period. In Spain especially the study of the Zohar took deep root, and found its way to Italy, Palestine and Poland.
50:1 See my article s.v. in McClintock and Strong. Professor Strack, who is entitled to a hearing in matters of Rabbinic literature, says: "He [Rabbi Simon] has long been regarded as the author of the Zohar; but this main work of the Cabala was in reality composed in Spain by Moses ben Shem Tob de Leon in the second half of the thirteenth century, as has been proved especially by Jacob Emden, in Mitpahath Sepharim, Altona, 1768.'--Einleitung in den Talmud, 4th ed., Leipsic, 1908; p. 93.
51:2 See my article "Vowel-Points" in McClintock and Strong.