Monday, August 04, 2014

The Zohar

ZOHAR WATCH: Print puts the Zohar in reach of the masses. Controversy still surrounds the foundation text of Jewish mysticism, which was first printed in 1558 and written nearly 300 — or 1,400 — years earlier (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz). A nice little summary of the history and reception of the Zohar. Excerpt:
Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Jews during the period of the Second Temple (leading to endless arguments over which language Jesus actually spoke), and the language in the Zohar has been described as an “exalted” form of the language. But based on the form of the Aramaic used, latter-day academics believe de Leon wrote the books himself, which to some detracts from their sacredness and authority.

That hasn’t touched its standing among today’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, which takes its writings with deadly seriousness. It is sometimes quoted in daily life, for instance when raising money for charity. The Zohar has also been used as a source for hexes, and is often wrongly associated with being the source of the infamous “pulsa denura” (“whip of fire”) curse of death. The Zohar mentions the curse, but no more.
Zohar specialists seem to think it's more complicated than Moses de León writing the Zohar all by himself, but they agree that it was produced in his time and he was involved in a central way. For much more on the Zohar, especially Daniel Matt's new edition and English translation of it, see here and links. Also, there's lots more on the pulsa de-nura curse rite here and links, and on the golem tradition (mentioned later in the article) here and links.