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The Essential Zohar: The Source of Kabbalistic Wisdom

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The Essential Zohar

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The Essential Zohar
The Source of Kabbalistic Wisdom
By P. S. Berg
Harmony, 2004, 288 pages
ISBN 10: 0609807315
ISBN 13: 978-0609807316

Reviewed by Israel Drazin - March 8, 2010

This volume tries to show that some Zohar notions are reasonable by ignoring the vast majority of the book and by mistranslations. Many mystics, including the author of this volume, insist that the Zohar was composed by Rabbi Simeon bar Yochai around the year 130 CE. However, scholars recognize that Moses d'Leon, a Spaniard living in Granada, wrote it around 1286, that parts of the book were added by others after his death, and that the work is a pious forgery.

Zohar means "luminous" and alludes to the notion that God illuminates the people through mysticism. But while ostensibly dealing with enlightenment, the Zohar is usually very difficult to understand and many of its ideas are not rational. Therefore, Berg needed to cut and mistranslate it.

The Zoharís basic teaching is the doctrine of the Sefirot, "numbers," ten divine entities that function in ten different ways. The lowest entity is shekhinah, also called malkhut, which mystics see as the anthropomorphic feminine part of God that interacts with humans.

The mystics feel that the ten parts of God are not combined together and that humans have a duty to help God become one with all his ten disjointed parts reassembled, like putting Humpty Dumpty together again. When this is done, the messianic age will arrive.

Scholars have assembled a host of proofs showing that the Zohar was not an ancient document. The following are some of the many proofs.

In summary, the Zohar is the most prominent book of Jewish mysticism and is considered holy by many people. It contains the majority of the most important notions of modern Jewish mysticism. However, the book is not what it claims to be, its ideas are at best obscure and incomprehensible, its concept of God is curious and polytheistic, and it gives people wrong ideas about Judaism, and it encourage a passivity that stifles people from intellectual and emotional growth.


Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of seventeen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides. The Orthodox Union (OU) and Yeshiva University publish weekly chapters of Drazin and Wagner's book Let's Study Onkelos on www.ou.org/torah and on www.yutorah@yutorah.org. His website is http://booksnthoughts.com.

The views expressed in this review/article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jewish Eye.
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