Sefer ha-Zohar (The Book of Radiance) has amazed readers ever since it emerged in Spain over seven hundred years ago. Written in a lyrical Aramaic, the Zohar, the masterpiece of Kabbalah, features mystical interpretation of the Torah, from Genesis to Deuteronomy.
We know that the many Books of the Zohar were compiled by Moses de Leon in the 13th century Spain, but did fragments of this mystical Aramaic Text exist in Galilee at the Time of Jesus ? Are these Mystical books that Jesus would have studied under Gamiel or Menahem the Essene, other Jewish mystics or gnostic teachers ?
The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, translated with commentary by Daniel C. Matt, cover more than half of the Zohar's commentary on the Book of Genesis (through Genesis 32:3). This is the first translation ever made from a critical Aramaic text of the Zohar, which has been established by Professor Matt based on a wide range of original manuscripts.
The extensive commentary, appearing at the bottom of each page, clarifies the kabbalistic symbolism and terminology, and cites sources and parallels from biblical, rabbinic, and kabbalistic texts.
The translator's introduction is accompanied by a second introduction written by Arthur Green, discussing the origin and significance of the Zohar. Please see the Zohar Home Page for ancillary materials, including the publication schedule, press release, Aramaic text, questions, and answers. Further information on the Zohar: Sefer ha-Zohar, "The Book of Radiance," has amazed and overwhelmed readers ever since it emerged mysteriously in medieval Spain toward the end of the thirteenth century.
"Written in a unique Aramaic, this masterpiece of Kabbalah exceeds the dimensions of a normal book; it is virtually a body of literature, comprising over twenty discrete sections. The bulk of the Zohar consists of a running commentary on the Torah, from Genesis through Deuteronomy. This translation begins and focuses here in what are projected to be ten volumes. Two subsequent volumes will cover other, shorter sections.
The Zohar's commentary is composed in the form of a mystical novel. The hero is Rabbi Shim'on son of Yohai, a saintly disciple of Rabbi Akiva who lived in the second century in the land of Israel. In the Zohar, Rabbi Shim'on and his companions wander through the hills of Galilee, discovering and sharing secrets of Torah. On one level, biblical figures such as Abraham and Sarah are the main characters, and the mystical companions interpret their words, actions, and personalities. On a deeper level, the text of the Bible is simply the starting point, a springboard for the imagination. For example, when God commands Abraham, Lekh lekha, Go forth... to the land that I will show you (Genesis 12:1), Rabbi El'azar ignores idiomatic usage and insists on reading the words more literally than they were intended, hyperliterally: Lekh lekha, Go to yourself! Search deep within to discover your true self. At times, the companions themselves become the main characters, and we read about their dramatic mystical sessions with Rabbi Shim'on or their adventures on the road, for example, an encounter with a cantankerous old donkey driver who turns out to be a master of wisdom in disguise. Ultimately, the plot of the Zohar focuses on the ten sefirot, the various stages of God's inner life, aspects of divine personality, both feminine and masculine. By penetrating the literal surface of the Torah, the mystical commentators transform the biblical narrative into a biography of God. The entire Torah is read as one continuous divine name, expressing divine being. Even a seemingly insignificant verse can reveal the inner dynamics of the sefirot―how God feels, responds and acts, how She and He (the divine feminine and masculine) relate intimately with each other and with the world."
Did Jesus study such Mystical works under Gamiel the Elder ? (/ɡəˈmeɪljəl/; also spelled Gamliel; Hebrew: רבן גמליאל הזקן; Greek: Γαμαλιὴλ ὁ Πρεσβύτερος) or Rabban Gamaliel I, was a leading authority in the Sanhedrin in the early 1st century AD. He was the son of Simeon ben Hillel, and grandson of the great Jewish teacher Hillel the Elder. Gamaliel is thought to have died in 52 CE (AM 3813).He fathered a son, whom he called Simeon, after his father, and a daughter, who married a priest named Simon ben Nathanael. In some Christian traditions, he is said to have converted to Christianity and is venerated as a Saint along with his second son, Abibo (also Abibas, Abibus). In the Christian tradition, Gamaliel is recognized as a Pharisee doctor of Jewish Law.The Acts of the Apostles chapter 5 speaks of Gamaliel as a man, held in great esteem by all Jews, who spoke to not condemn the apostles of Jesus in Acts 5:34 to death, and as the Jewish law teacher of Paul the Apostle in Acts 22:3. Gamaliel is a Hebrew name meaning reward of God.
Or did he study under Shammai ? (50 BCE – 30 CE, Hebrew: שמאי) was a Jewish scholar of the 1st century, and an important figure in Judaism's core work of rabbinic literature, the Mishnah. Shammai was the most eminent contemporary and the halakhic opponent of Hillel, and is almost invariably mentioned along with him. Although they were contemporaries, Hillel was nearly sixty years old at the time of Shammai's birth in ~50 BCE. Shammai founded a school of his own, known as the House of Shammai, which differed fundamentally from that of Hillel; and many of Shammai's direct sayings are thought to be embodied in those handed down in the name of his school.
Perhaps with ... Menahem the Essene : Prominent teacher of the Essene faction in the time of King Herod, about the middle of the first pre-Christian century. He was renowned for his prophetic powers. According to Josephus ("Ant." xv. 10, § 5), he was distinguished also for the saintliness of his life as well as for possessing knowledge of the future. Legend has it that when he saw young Herod going to school he clapped him on the back and addressed him as king, announcing to him that he would reign successfully, but without displaying the love and justice he ought toward men or the piety due to God, and that therefore his end would be one befitting his crimes. When afterward in the zenith of his power Herod recalled this strange prediction, he sent for Menahem and asked him how long his reign would be. As Menahem did not immediately answer, Herod urged him, asking whether his reign would last ten years; whereupon Menahem replied: "Yes, twenty; nay, thirty years." Pleased with this answer, Herod dismissed him with a clasp of the hand and thenceforth bestowed special honors upon the Essenes. This Menahem has been correctly identified with the one mentioned in the Mishnah as ab bet din and head of a school in association with Hillel ha-Nasi and as Shammai's predecessor; but the duumvirate of ab bet din and nasi is probably due to a misconstruction of history when the real issues between the Hasidæan or Pharisean and the Sadducean or Boethusian factions were no longer understood. A dim reminiscence of the relation of Menahem to Herod, however, has been preserved in a baraita, quoted in Ḥag. 16b, which states that "Menahem went out to join those serving the king, and eighty pairs of disciples attired in silk robes went with him." Another tradition is that he became an apostate (Yer. Ḥag. ii. 77d). The two traditions have been confounded and appear in two other forms also: according to one, Menahem was forced to leave the Pharisaic school, and when seen with his eighty pairs of disciples was told that they no longer had a share in the God of Israel; according to the other, he went from one degree ("middah") to another until he became a Gnostic (heretic?). See, however, Grätz, "Gesch." iii. 213.
And finally this week we have the final Volume of this most ancient Aramaic text translated into English available for our research and study :
The twelfth volume of The Zohar: Pritzker Edition presents an assortment of discrete Zoharic compositions. The first two chapters contain different versions of the Zoharic Heikhalot, descriptions of the heavenly halls or palaces that the soul of the kabbalist traverses during prayer.
Piqqudin, or Commandments, is a kabbalistic treatment of the mystical reasons for the commandments.
Raza de-Razin (Mystery of Mysteries) is a diagnostic manual for the ancient and medieval science of physiognomy, determining people's character based on physical appearance.
Sitrei Otiyyot (Secrets of the Letters) is a mystical essay that maps out the emergence of divine and mundane reality from the tetragrammaton, YHVH.
Qav ha-Middah (Line of Measure) is another mystical essay that describes the divine instrument used by God to gauge the mystical overflow to the ten sefirot.
The commentary on Merkevet Yehezqel (Ezekiel's Chariot) interprets the details of the prophet Ezekiel's chariot-vision. Beginning with the description of the four creatures, the Zohar demonstrates how Divinity and the cosmos comprise a series of quaternities that pervade all Being.
The last main chapter includes Zoharic commentary to various portions of the Torah. The volume closes with a short appendix of passages that printers have labeled Tosefta despite their not fitting into that genre―a suitable end to the Zohar whose parameters and composition will remain ever mysterious.
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The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, Volume Twelve http://amzn.to/2q2U6TB