Notes to Page 43
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 miqẓat 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-Noẓrit, 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.