Roads to Utopia: The Walking Stories of the Zohar

Roads to Utopia: The Walking Stories of the Zohar

Roads to Utopia: The Walking Stories of the Zohar

Roads to Utopia: The Walking Stories of the Zohar


As the greatest book of Jewish mysticism, the Zohar is a revered and much-studied work. Yet, surprisingly, scholarship on the Zohar has yet to pay attention to its most unique literary device-the presentation of its insights while its teachers walk on the road. In these pages, rabbi and scholar David Greenstein offers the first examination of the "walking on the road" motif.

Greenstein's original approach hones in on how this motif expresses the struggles with spatiality and the everyday presented in the Zohar. He argues that the walking theme is not a metaphor for realms to be collapsed into or transcended by the holy, as conventional interpretations would have it. Rather, it conveys us into those quotidian spaces that are obdurately present alongside the realm of the sacred. By embracing the reality of mundane existence, and recognizing the prosaic dimensions of the worldly path, the Zohar is an especially exceptional mystical treatise. In this volume, Greenstein makes visible a singular, though previously unstudied, achievement of the Zohar.


Studying the Zohar: a Unique Book and a Unique Motif

The Zohar is a work of radiant illumination and murky mysteriousness. It is unarguably the most precious and significant work of Jewish mysticism, but it has undergone periods of both prominence and obscurity. As Gershom Scholem noted, its “place in the history of Kabbalism can be gauged by the fact that alone among the whole of post-Talmudic rabbinical literature it became a canonical text, which for a period of several centuries actually ranked with the Bible and the Talmud.” Yet, from the beginning, it has encountered skepticism and opposition as well as homage and reverence. Its very origins are disputed. Even the most traditional view sees the Zohar as a text that was lost or hidden for over a thousand years before it miraculously reappeared in late thirteenth-century Spain. and the Zohar went into another period of eclipse during the modern period, only to enjoy a renewed upsurge of devoted attention and study, by various groups and individuals with varying interests and agendas, in our own time.

We are privileged to live at a time of flourishing scholarly attention to this great work. the Zohar is being studied for its theosophical teachings, its literary qualities, its approach to mystical experience and thinking, its psychology and anthropology, its hermeneutics, its halakhah, and its historical references. It has been or is in the process of being translated and retranslated into Hebrew, European languages, and English. No other kabbalistic classic has elicited so much devoted and intensive study.

The purpose of this book is to focus on a unique feature—for a kabbalistic work—of this unique composition: it introduces its teachings with statements such as: “Rabbi a and Rabbi B were walking along the road. Rabbi a opened:…” What follows is the disclosure of the zoharic teachings that . . .

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