Wednesday, December 15, 2021

More on the Zohar

Within Orthodox Judaism the traditional view that Shimon bar Yochai was the author is prevalent. R' Menachem Mendel Kasher in a 1958 article in the periodical Sinai argues against the claims of Gershom Scholem that the Zohar was written in the 13th Century by R' Moses de León.[29] He writes:

  1. Many statements in the works of the Rishonim (medieval commentors who preceded de León) refer to Medrashim that we are not aware of. He writes that these are in fact references to the Zohar. This has also been pointed out by R' David Luria in his work "Kadmus Sefer Ha'Zohar".
  2. The Zohar's major opponent Elijah Delmedigo refers to the Zohar as having existed for "only" 300 years. Even he agrees that it was extant at the time of R' Moses de León.
  3. He cites a document from R' Yitchok M' Acco who was sent by the Ramban to investigate the Zohar. The document brings witnesses that attest to the existence of the manuscript.
  4. It is impossible to accept that R' Moses de León managed to forge a work within the scope of the Zohar (1700 pages) within a period of six years as Scholem claims.
  5. A comparison between the Zohar and de León's other works show major stylistic differences. Although he made use of his manuscript of the Zohar, many ideas presented in his works contradict or ignore ideas mentioned in the Zohar. Luria also points this out.
  6. Many of the Midrashic works achieved their final redaction in the Geonic period. Some of the anachronistic terminologies of the Zohar may date from that time.
  7. Out of the thousands of words used in the Zohar, Scholem finds two anachronistic terms and nine cases of ungrammatical usage of words. This proves that the majority of the Zohar was written within the accepted time frame and only a small amount was added later (in the Geonic period as mentioned).
  8. Some hard to understand terms may be attributed to acronyms or codes. He finds corollaries to such a practice in other ancient manuscripts.
  9. The "borrowings" from medieval commentaries may be explained in a simple manner. It is not unheard of that a note written on the side of a text should on later copying be added to the main part of the text. The Talmud itself has Geonic additions from such a cause. Certainly, this would apply to the Zohar to which there did not exist other manuscripts to compare it with.
  10. He cites an ancient manuscript that refers to a book Sod Gadol that seems to in fact be the Zohar.