Monday, January 30, 2017

Uber meets R. Shimon bar Yochai?

A ZOHARIC SAGE IN MODERN MYSTICISM: Jared Kushner and the White-Haired Mystic Whose Dad ‘Got a Ride’ From a Dead Sage (Josh Nathan-Kazis, The Forward).
Jared Kushner’s family charities have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to a mystical Moroccan rabbi who some followers claim has miraculous powers.

The rabbi, David Chananya Pinto, is little known in the United States but has a coterie of wealthy backers. Two separate Kushner family foundations on whose boards Jared Kushner serves have given over $210,000 in grants to Pinto’s New York City study center.


Stories of the miracles that his father and grandfather worked, and the belief that they can continue to influence daily events, appear to play a major role in Pinto’s religious message. In a May 2016 lecture delivered in Mexico City and available online, Pinto told a story about his father getting picked up on the side of the road in 1968 by the purported author of the Zohar, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who lived roughly 2,000 years ago.

According to Pinto, his father, Rabbi Moshe Ahron Pinto, lived 40 years in prayerful seclusion in his home in Morocco, and then, in 1968, sought the permission of the dead sage bar Yochai to move his family to Israel. Moshe Ahron Pinto traveled to Ashdod, then took a taxi to bar Yochai’s crypt in Meron. He finished praying late at night. A disciple who had accompanied him thought they would be stuck near the crypt until dawn, but as soon as they reached the road, an Israeli-made station wagon, an Autocars Sussita, appeared. The driver took them to a house in a nearby village.

“My father went out [of the car], [the disciple] closed the car, and suddenly there was no car,” Pinto said.

Pinto said his father told the disciple that the driver was bar Yochai, and that if he told anyone of the miracle he would die.

The second-century CE sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Yohai) is the traditional writer of the Zohar, although it was actually written by Moses de León and his circle in the late thirteenth century. Celebrations occur annually at R. Shimon's tomb on Lag B’Omer. And he has sometimes come up at PaleoJudaica in various other contexts (start here and follow the links). This sort of miraculous manifestation of R. Shimon is new to me, but in rabbinic and kabbalistic tradition ancient sages (often Elijah; see, e.g., here and links and here) do show up for all sorts of purposes.