Zohar, the Book of Enlightenment

By Daniel Chanan Matt | Go to book overview

ZOHAR

Notes to Page 43


How to Look at Torah

Torah "Teaching," the first five books of the Bible.

ordinary words Aramaic, millin de-hedyotei. Millin has several meanings in this passage: words, things, matters. Hedyotei means "common, popular, ignoble." The phrase may be translated: "everyday matters." Cf. Zohar 3:149b, where the phrase refers to secular, ignoble stories of the Torah, in contrast to millin qaddishin, "holy words, holy matters."

better than all of them! than all the stories of Torah, or than all its ordinary words; see next note.

rulers of the world Aramaic, qafsirei de-'alma. Qafsir is a neologism. Elsewhere in the Zohar it appears to mean "ruler"; see 1:37a, 177a, 243a; Shim'on Labi, Ketem Paz on 1:37a; cf. Aramaic, tafsera, "royal dignitary," and Zohar 1:243b. The neologisms of the Zohar often contain the letters t and q; see Scholem, Major Trends, p. 166. In 3:36b the word means something else, perhaps "pieces." In his Be'ur miqat millot zarot she-be-Sefer ha-Zohar ("Explanation of Some Strange Words in the Zohar") Labi comments on this phrase: "Rulers have many stories and chronicles from which they learn wisdom and ethics, such as Meshal ha-Qadmonim and the like." Meshal ha-Qadmoni ("The Fable of the Ancient") is a collection of fables and homilies written in 1281 in Guadalajara by a friend of Moses de León, the poet and kabbalist Isaac ibn Sahula. Noted for its beautiful Hebrew, this book was modeled on popular works such as Kalila and Dimna, a collection of moral fables supposedly compiled for the king of Persia from all the books of wisdom that could be found. Ibn Sahula wanted to show Jews that they need not rely on foreign material, that Jewish works were equally edifying and entertaining. He describes his fables as "secular things based on the purity of holiness" (Meshal ha‐ Qadmoni [Tel Aviv, 1952], p. 6). In his book Isaac quotes one passage from the Midrash ha-Ne'elam (the earliest stratum of the Zohar), paraphrases another, and refers to the work obliquely several times; see Scholem, Tarbiẓ 3 (1932): 181-3; Baer, A History of the Jews in Christian Spain 1:436-7, n. 17; idem, Toledot ha-Yehudim bi-Sefarad ha-Norit, pp. 508-9, n. 61a. Is Moses de León returning the favor and alluding here to Meshal ha-Qadmoni, written by his friend? The neologism hides more than it reveals. Tishby (Mishnat ha-Zohar 2:402) renders the phrase: "Booklets [quntresim] of the world," which he takes to mean secular compositions. He rejects the interpretation "rulers" and translates according to the context.

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Zohar, the Book of Enlightenment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Zohar - The Book of Enlightenment *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Preface xiii
  • Foreword xv
  • Introduction *
  • How to Look at Torah 43
  • Zohar on Genesis *
  • The Creation of Elohim 49
  • The Hidden Light 51
  • Adam's Sin 54
  • Male and Female 55
  • After the Flood 57
  • Abram, the Soul-Breath 60
  • Abram's Descent into Egypt 63
  • Openings 65
  • An Offering to God 69
  • The Binding of Abraham and Isaac 72
  • Jacob's Journey 75
  • Joseph's Dream 80
  • Seduction above and below 84
  • Jacob's Garment of Days 91
  • Zohar on Exodus *
  • The Birth of Moses 99
  • Moses and the Blazing Bush 102
  • Moses and His Father-In-Law 105
  • Colors and Enlightenment 107
  • Pharaoh, Israel, and God 111
  • Manna and Wisdom 113
  • Is There Anyone like Moses? 117
  • All of Israel Saw the Letters 119
  • The Old Man and the Beautiful Maiden 121
  • The Gift of Dwelling 127
  • The Secret of Sabbath 132
  • The Golden Calf 133
  • Zohar on Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy *
  • Qorban and Olah, Drawing near and Ascending 145
  • Guests in the Sukkah 148
  • God, Israel, and Shekhinah 153
  • Threshing out the Secrets 163
  • The Rabbis Encounter a Child 170
  • Miracles 177
  • The Wedding Celebration 182
  • Notes *
  • Foreword & Introduction 193
  • Zohar 204
  • Appendix *
  • Glossary 303
  • Bibliography 307
  • Index to Zohar Passages 311
  • Index to Preface, Foreword, Introduction and Notes 313
  • Index to Text 316
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