Monday, April 04, 2011

// // 15 comments

Is the Zohar Authentic?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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      A highly-respected historian rabbi recently went on record (via a public video) “proving” that the Zohar is not authentic, or at least that the vast majority of it is not. He quoted a number of well known scholars from years ago who said such things as, “It was not written by Shimon bar Yohai as is believed,” and, “It is filled with mistakes, additions, [and] anonymous comments.” He quoted Reb Yaakov Emden from the 1700’s who said that not only is the Zohar “not authentic”, but that “everybody added to it, the printers, the copyist added to it,” and although “some of the ideas are Shimon ben Yohai’s, they are not as we have it.”

     He also quoted the famous Chatam Sofer who said, “If we could sift out what is not of, or from, Reb Shimon it would be a very thin book, only a few pages.” And the proof is that “there are people listed there who were born way after Reb Shimon Bar Yochai lived,” so obviously, the book is “not authentic.”

     Frankly, I wonder what his purpose was in having given this talk. He seemed to be belittling a holy book! But the real question is: is he correct? Are his sources and arguments valid? Was the book written by someone other than Reb Shimon? Are there additions, corrections, and comments by unknown copyists and printers? Is the Zohar authentic, or not?

     The lessons of the Zohar form the very background for virtually all Jewish mysticism. There are thousands upon thousands of lessons contained in this book. Each of its teachings is a treasure that can change your entire life, if you can really understand it, and if you take it to heart.

     For instance, the Zohar teaches that, just as G-d put Adam (the first man) in the Garden of Eden then, “So does G-d do now [put man in the Garden] when he repents of his sins and occupies himself with the Torah.”[i]The Zohar is showing us that the Torah is an ongoing explanation of our very lives. It is not merely a history book, nor a book of morality. Of course, the Torah is historically true, and of course it contains moral teachings, but the Torah’s greatest value to us is that it is actually talking about us in the world today. It teaches us how to live a proper spiritual life.

     Now, is this an authentic teaching? The greatest Torah scholars we have ever known--from all streams of Orthodox Judaism--certainly have said that it is legitimate. For instance, the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Moshe Cordevero (aka the Ramak, who was the primary authority on Kabbalah before the Ari), and the Ari (the most famous of all Jewish mystics) all taught Kabbalah based on the Zohar.

     But what if it was not written by Reb Shimon? What if there have been additions throughout the ages, and even printers’ errors? You could certainly ask these very questions about every page of the Gemora (Talmud). And in fact, frequently the Talmud “changes its mind” and says, “Rabbi So and So could not have said it that way, he must have said it like this,” and it changes what the Talmud had previously said that the Rabbi had said. But, is anyone suggesting that the Talmud is not authentic? Sure, lots of Jews do not believe that theTalmud is authentic.

     Attacking the authenticity of sacred books is not a new thing. Not only has the entire Talmud been challenged, but there are Jews today who claim that the Torah itself, the Five Books of Moses, were not written by Moses! “Religious” Jews are saying such things as, “The story of the Exodus from Egypt [the Passover story] is not literally true. It never happened!”

     The Chazon Ish, one of the greatest rabbinic legal authority during the early years of the last century, was known to be a non-mystical, no-Kabbalah rabbi. He said, “Some of the most beautiful teachings of our Sages come from the Zohar.”

     It would be very difficult to understand the proper mystical teachings of the Torah without the Zohar’s explanations.

     The test of the authenticity of a holy book is not only who wrote it. It is whether it helps the Jewish People to grow spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and even physically.


[i] Zohar, Genesis 27a

15 comments:

Boruch said...

Tzadikim like the Ari, Baal Shem, Ramchal, the Gra, Baal HaTanya etc. etc. were all fooled in to excepting the Zohar!? R. Chiam Vital and others have expl. as to how latter day sages appear in the Zohar (like Tehillim (Al naharos Bavel). Can this Rabbis "brillance" match theirs, with all his quotes.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that Yaakov Emden also said that the Rambam didn't write the More Nevuchim. So lets call a spade a spade.

Anonymous said...

Some of these guys also followed the false messiah shabbatai tzvi secretely . I trust 2 people make it 3 chaim vital the gra and the lubavitcher rebbe menachem mendyl to them the zohar is authentic beyond a doubt !

Anonymous said...

Id like to add the ramchal besht baba sali and yaakov abuchatzeira to the list of people I trust / and I trust there mystical knowledge that the zohar is the authentic torahs of rashbi as taught to him by his teachers rabbi akiva and elijah the prophet of blessed memory .

joshwaxman said...

where can we see this video?

thanks,
josh

Crazy Smade said...

In Yitzhak Buxbaum's book, "The Light and Fire of the Baal Shem Tov," one reads the following (p. 5):

Many miracle tales are told about the Baal Shem Tov, and a person may wonder; "What should I believe?" The Rebbes were not so simple-minded as to naively believe any story they heard.

Rebbe Mordechai of Neshkiz said, "I don't give much credence to the miracle stories told about the tzaddikim, because many of the stories are fabricated, and others are riddled with errors - except for the stories told about the Baal Shem Tov, may the memory of a tzaddik be a blessing for the life of the World-To-Come. For even if a story about him never actually occurred, and there was no such miracle, it was in the power of the Baal Shem Tov, may his memory be a blessing for the life of the World-To-Come, to perform everything."

Rebbe Yaakov Yitzhak, the Seer of Lublin, said, "If someone would come and tell me that he saw the Baal Shem Tov go up on a ladder into heaven while alive, bodily, with his clothes on, I would believe him. Because it's fitting to believe everything told about the Baal Shem Tov."

Rebbe Shlomo of Radomsk said, "Whoever believes all the miracle stories about the Baal Shem Tov in Shivhei HaBaal Shem Tov (i.e., the Earliest Collection of Legends About the Founder of Hasidism) is a fool, but whoever denies them is an apikoros (i.e., non-religious Jew)."

Rebbe Naftali of Ropshitz said, "All the miracles people tell about the Baal Shem Tov were certainly in his power to do, and even many more, but in actuality, most of them never happened."

Yet something profound may be learned even from a miracle story that never happened, for the tale can send a ray of holy light into our soul to elevate and enliven us.
===========

Couldn't one say the same of the Zohar?

Shiloh said...

Of course it's authentic, an authentic work of medievel dating. Anything outside the written Torah I take with a huge grain of salt. That does not mean there is not incredible wisdom there, it's just not the Torah of Moshe. Simple.

The Zohar is Authentic said...

Not to mention that the Zohar is also constantly referred to in Halacha. Ex: the Mishneh Bereurah bring it down several times.

joshwaxman said...

"Not to mention that the Zohar is also constantly referred to in Halacha"

that does not prove that it is authentic. it just shows that the Chofetz Chaim, and other poskim, held that the Zohar was authentic. but you cannot pasken reality.

i'd like to see, rather, a good and convincing response to the numerous points raised by these Jewish scholars. for one example of many, how can Rabbi Abba be a contemporary of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai? Answer all these difficulties, and we can start to talk.

kt,
josh

yitz.. said...

R' Yitzchak Isaac [Yehuda Safrin] of Komarna said (I believe in a later part of his Netiv Mitzvotecha) that pshat in the Zohar (and known to all the serious students of the Zohar, ie. BeSh"T,ARIZ"l, etc) is that it wasn't written by Rabi Shimon but was written by R'Abba (in the Zohar) who is Rava of the talmud who was 'channelling' (for lack of a better word--I don't remember whether he used the language of 'ibbur' or something else) Rabi Shimon.

which means (at least according to the Komarna Rebbe) that all the proofs of the scholars only confirm what the students of the Zohar already knew to be true.

Ben Yochai said...

Its clear that the Zohar Hakadosh has its roots in the Bais Hamedrash of Reb Shimon.

Most parts dont say amar Rabi Shimon. Many times he comes into the conversation.

Its the Baal Davr himself who will create confusion about the Zohar Hakadosh. Because its passed down that That with this Holy Book Alone will the Jews come out of Exile in Mercy.

Only somebody who is riddled in Azus Detuma can speak against the Zohar. Nobody said that Reb Shimon said all these things but clearly the revealed started from him.
It is sad that to see that some Rabbi will speak against Ruba Deruba of Klal Yisraels Tzadikim and talk down against the Holy Of Holies. This person has know emunas Chachamim.Im suprised he is a abbi at all.

joshwaxman said...

yitz:
indeed, that is a good answer that has been offered.

but it does not answer to many other difficulties. these scholars did not only assert about Rabbi Abba. there are plenty of other irregularities and anachronisms. to choose another from the many, at random, it seems like the Zohar mistakenly believes Cappadocia to be a place in Eretz Yisrael! This being written by Rabbi Abba does not help, for Rabbi Abba (=Rav) would surely know this basic fact about his world.

Ben Yochai:
I don't believe ad hominems, even mystically based, are the way to go here.

"Most parts dont say amar Rabi Shimon."
right. but he converses with Rabbi Abba, such that they must be contemporary. and there are several other such anachronisms, of Tannaim / Amoraim who were not contemporary, responding to one another, something not found in the gemara. So one solution might be that this was written at a later date, channeling these different rabbinic figures. But the question itself is not a bad one, when you look into the details of these scholars' argument.

If it IS a forgery, then it may be 'azus' to speak out about this, but it is perhaps an obligatory azus, to try to maintain the integrity of the masorah.

kol tuv,
josh

yitz.. said...

R' Josh,

It's questions like this that make me wish my father in law was still alive. I have only indirect support (and shaky at best) from my brother-in-law (who seems to recall that he once asked his father) that [R'] Meir Benayahu was in the "Zohar is authentic" camp.

That would have held significant academic sway. (sigh)Sadly, it's one of many things I never got to discuss with him. (maybe I'll uncover something he wrote about it sometime)

Yitz..

Anonymous said...

There are two questions here:

1) Did Rashbi write the Zohar, at all, or in it's entirety?

2) Is the content that is contained within the Zohar emes?

The two questions are not mutually exclusive. Even if Moses de Leon authored the Zohar he was inspired by Ruach haKodesh and the sefer is no less holy because of it.

Shiloh said...

Annon, prove he was inspired by the Ruach haKodesh. Just because something is put in ink does not make it holy or true.

See what Rav Kapach has to say about it.

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