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Torah vocabulary and ideas...

Other Claims and Responses (Continued)

Other Claims and Responses (Continued)

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Other Claims and Responses (Continued)
Torah vocabulary and ideas...

3) Medieval Hebrew expressions (Kedari p. 148)

The claim is that Hebrew expressions first used in medieval times were used by the author of the Zohar, showing that it must have been compiled by someone [i.e., Moshe de Leon] during this era. As demonstrated below, many of these expressions are also found in early sources, contrary to the skeptics' claims.

Achal inun kacha l'asot ra (Zohar I, 137b) This is simply a paraphrase of the verse Yesh l'el yadei l'asot imchem ra (Gen. 31:29) - exactly the subject being addressed in the Zohar! What ignorance on the part of Dr. Kedari!

Shituf (Zohar I, 22b, 136 b etc.) This a concept meaning "partnership", in which various gods or angels participate in running the world. Permitted by Torah to non-Jews (as opposed to idolatry), but forbidden to Jews. [See Sanhedrin 38a ("Tzadokim omrim shtuf haya lo…"); See also Sanhedrin 63a; Sukka 45b:  "Amar lo Rebbe Shimon ben Yochai, h'lo kol hamishatef shem shamayim" for exactly the same idea. See also Bereishit Rabba 1:3, 3:8, 43:7, 78:14 etc. as well as in Tanchuma, Midrash Tehillim etc.]

Archeiha, meaning "manner" or "way" found many times in Zohar. Also found in Niddah 20b. This is also written many times as orcheiha in Zohar and in Shabbat 11b, 123b, Eruvin 42a, 68a; Rosh HaShanah 15a; Ketuvot 31b, etc., etc.

Tava (Zohar Chadash, Midrash HaNe'elam ma'amar Tadshe 2) in the sense of "Nature." But this is also obviously the sense of Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5 ("HaKadosh Barchu tava kol adam b'chotmo"). See also Niddah 20b ("Tava d'bavel garma li"); several more occurrences of the word are found on that same page.

L'minda khi (Zohar I 30a, 103b, 117a etc. and in numerous other places) L'minda is found in Targum Yonatan to Gen. 3:5, 19:26, and 24:21; to Deut. 4:35, 29:3. Khi is a very common expression in Targum and in Talmud.

Lait taman. Found in Targum Yonatan (Judges 21:9) and Kings II 7:5, 7:10) Onkelos (Ex. 12:30) separated by a few words; found as taman lait (Bava Metzia 86b, Yerushalmi Yoma 18a, Yerushalmi Bava Batra 22a) and separated by other words in several other places e.g. Yerushalmi Rosh HaShana 20b (Lait kol ama taman).

4) Medieval Concepts found in the Zohar (Kedari p. 143)

Another claim of the academics is that concepts found in the Zohar are clearly of medieval origin, and are not found in earlier Jewish literature. This proves, according to the academics, that the Zohar was written at a much later date than the era of Rashbi.

The terms in question are found in many other early sources besides the Zohar…

It must be pointed out in general that this is a very weak proof, for the exact reverse could also be argued - that these medieval works borrowed the terminology of the Zohar, rather than vice versa. Pursuit of this argument is unnecessary, since, in any case, many of the terms in question are found in many other early sources besides the Zohar. A comprehensive list of all the concepts in question is not included here - but let the majority suffice. Note that here the concept is the important element and not the grammatical structure.

Istakluta (Zohar II 76b) A similar term is found in a number of places including: Targum Onkelos Bamidbar 23:21 (istaklit); Targum Yonatan Bereishit 4:15 (b'istakluti), 12:11, 19:26; Targum Yonatan Psalms 119:6 (b'istakluti); Yerushalmi Shabbat 79b, 15a; Megillah 15a, 24b; Sanhedrin 53b (istaklit).

L'pum shata, in the sense of "for a while" or "temporarily." The exact same form is found in Avot d'Rabbi Natan chap. 2, mishna 1; Megilla 29a; Moed Katan 8b; Yevamot 90b; Sotah 21a; Avoda Zara 74b etc. etc.

K'din, as an expression of time, meaning "then, afterwards". Exactly the same usage and meaning is found in numerous places. See Targum Yonatan, Gen. 10:18 (translation of v'achar); ibid 11:7, 18:5 (v'achar t'avru), ibid 27:19 (in the sense of az, achar kach). Ibid. 48:16; etc etc. See also Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 29a, 52b.

As in Gemara, the styles of sages from different generations are brought together...

5) Biographical and chronological errors

In general, as anyone who has studied a chapter of Gemara knows, the style of the Talmudic discourses is such that sages from different generations are brought together in the discussion. Moreover, several of the misconceptions entertained by Scholem and Tishby and their ilk can be explained by the fact that the Zohar was written over a period of several generations, as mentioned above. Nevertheless, let us examine some of the "chronological errors" cited, from Mishnat Ha-Zohar p. 59, by Tishby:

Rabbi Abba's name appears scores of times in Midrash Rabba

In Tishby's words, "the prominent Tanna called Rabbi Abba, who is one of the leading figures in the group, is otherwise completely unknown. The earliest figure who could possibly be identified with Rabbi Abba is the famous amora Rav, whose name was Abba Arika." Strange indeed that Rabbi Abba is mentioned in Tosefta Beitza chap. 1; Tosefta Sanhedrin, chap. 8; Tosefta Chulin chap. 6. (The Tosefta are beraitot slightly less authoritative then Mishna and are from the same era). In addition, Rabbi Abba's name appears scores of times in Midrash Rabba.

Another claim Tishby makes is that there is a great gap in time between Rashbi and Rabbi Chizkya. Furthermore, "this Rabbi Chizkya is not known from any other source, but his father's name shows… that he belonged to the amoraic period." Hmmm. Yalkut Shimoni, Gen. chap. 8, remez 61 states clearly that Rabbi Chizkya was born during the era of the last of the Men of the Great Assembly and lived into the generation of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Shabbat 24b, 133a, Pesachim 83b, Ketubot 33b and 38a, Sanhedrin 37b etc., etc., mention beraitot (i.e. Tanaitic teachings) in the name of Bei Chizkiya (Rav Chizkiya's yeshiva). See also Bava Kama 15a: "D'bei Chizkiya and Rabbi Yose the Galilean taught in a beraita…"

Similarly, according to Tishby, (Mishnat Ha-Zohar p. 57-8) the only Rabbi Yesa known to us was a disciple of Rabbi Yochanan and lived in the fifth generation after Rabbi Shimon. However it is clear from Yerushalmi Berachot 24a that there was also a Tanna named Rabbi Yesa: "Rabbi Yose the Galilean said in the name of Rabbi Yesa…" (Rabbi Yose the Galilean was a Tanna and is mentioned numerous times in Mishna, including Berachot 7:3, Shevi'it 4:6, Bikkurim 1:10, Eruvin 1:7 etc., etc.). See also Yerushalmi Kilaim 30a: "Tani machlif Rebbe Yaakov bar Ada b'shem Rebbe Yesa b'matnitin".

Again according to Tishby, (ibid. p. 61) Rabbi Chaggai was only known as an amora. But see Yerushalmi Yevamot 83b: "R. Chaggai said to R. Yehoshua ben Levi…" Now R. Yehoshua ben Levi was clearly a Tanna, as he is quoted in Mishna Avot 6:2 and Mishna Uktzin 3:12. See also Gemara Pesachim 26a: "We learned in a beraita - Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi said in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi…"

Although there are definitely some surprising matters in the Zohar, a little research will usually reveal that they are not as surprising as they first appear, as shown above. In addition, some of these anomalies can be attributed to the hands of copyists.

The Zohar As A Source Book

For earlier sources than Rabbi Moshe de Leon (e.g. the Gaonim) who quote or rely on Zohar, see Rabbi David Luria's Kadmut Sefer HaZohar. In addition, see Dr. Chaim David Chavel's article Sefer HaZohar k'makor Chashuv l'Pirush HaRamban and Rabbi Reuven Margolis's article HaRambam v'HaZohar. Also, the latest academic opinions disagree strongly with Scholem; see Prof. Moshe Idel's "Kabbalah, New Perspectives". One of the areas Prof. Moshe Idel examines is the Zohar as a source of Christian mysticism, proving the opposite conclusion of earlier academics such as Graetz (who believed that Christian Gnosticism influenced the author of the Zohar).

Moshe Miller, a guest teacher at Ascent when he lived in Israel, was born in South Africa and received his yeshivah education in Israel and America. He is a prolific author and translator, with some twenty books to his name on a wide variety of topics, including a new, authoritative, annotated translation of the Zohar. He currently lives in Chicago.
The Zohar is a basic work of Kabbalah authored by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his students (2nd century CE). English translation of annotated selections by Rabbi Moshe Miller (Morristown, N.J.: Fiftieth Gate Publications, 2000) includes a detailed introduction covering the history and basic concepts of Kabbalah. Volume 1 (36 pp.) covers the first half of the first of the original’s three volumes. It is available online from our store, KabbalaOnline Shop.
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Discussion (4)
February 9, 2014
Matronita
The word "Matronita" is found in many places in the Midrash, as well in the Talmuds. See, e.g., Jerusalem Talmud Yevamot, 83a (16:3).
Anonymous
October 3, 2013
zohar
very glad for this string of articles on the Zohar. professor Matt also said that because the word matronita is found in the Zohar, that this shows its medieval origin. Matronita is supposed to be a Latin word for a woman-perhaps married.I may have spelled it wrong but my point should be clear. Appreciate it if anyone can shed light on this word and if its found elsewhere outside of the Zohar.
w.craig harvey
January 6, 2012
RE: eshnoga
Rabbi Miller replied, but I am not able to reproduce it accurately here because of certain technical problems. If anyone wishes a copy of his response, send an email to:
webmaster@KabbalaOnline.org
Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles
kabbalaonline.org
October 12, 2011
Authenticity of the Zohar
What about the Zohar's explanation of the apparently Ladino word "eshnoga"?
Jesse
Toronto, Canada
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