The Zohar is the crowning peak of Jewish mysticism, and is in many senses the cornerstone of kabbala – the place from which it emanates and to which it returns. The depth of its conceptual, psychological and religious ideas, which arise from its splendid homilies and from its dynamic stories, have made the Zohar one of the pillars of Jewish culture for hundreds of years. The Zohar entered the Jewish canon alongside the Talmud and the books of the Bible (in fact, more manuscripts of the Zohar have come down to us than of the Talmud, which indicates its circulation and centrality in the pre-print age). But for the contemporary reader, hundreds of years after the coalescence of the Zohar literature, the tension between revealed and concealed has been determined; regretfully, this canonical composition is sealed with secrecy for the average reader by three “locks.”This is a long and very informative article on the new Zohar translation, perhaps the most informative one I have seen. But it is also quite accessible to nonspecialists.
Herein lies the great marvel of the latest edition of the Zohar, whose 15-year process of publication has now been completed by Stanford University Press under the title “The Zohar: Pritzker Edition” (referring to the family that funded the project). Its 12 volumes constitute a monumental enterprise that sets out to cope with the three hurdles mentioned above, which separate the contemporary reader from the Zohar. Over two decades of painstaking labor, Prof. Daniel Matt, who headed the project, translated the Zohar, line by line, into English. He has also provided continuous, accessible annotation of the Zohar’s symbolism and homiletics, and refers the interested reader to additional commentaries, Zohar parallels, ancient sources in the rabbinic and kabbalistic literature, and in some cases to the research literature as well. (Three of the volumes, which contain discrete Zoharic texts, were translated and annotated by Joel Hecker and Nathan Wolski.)
This is also a Haaretz premium article. You can access six of these for free per month with a free registration. My experience is that the registration isn't particularly easy to use and seems to malfunction a lot. But that may be me rather than Haaretz.
If you are interested in the Zohar and the new Matt translation, this article is worth a registration and a read.
There are many, many PaleoJudaica posts on the Zohar. Start here and just follow those links. Many of those have to do with the Matt translation, whose progress PaleoJudaica has been following since 2003.
Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.