Monday, March 31, 2008

The Authenticity of the Zohar -- pt xiv

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest now puts forth that peshat was primary for Chazal, and the Geonim and then medieval commentators advanced it. But now, due to kabbalistic influence, the knowledge and study of peshat is degraded and neglected, in favor of nonsensical commentaries involving gematriot and the like. Thus the study of the Zohar has not brought about "redemption," as had been promised. The text of the Vikuach continues:

The author: "You have overstepped your bounds, for I see that you repeat your wrongdoing, for ten times I have told you to stop it up within you, for I do not want these. And now, let us go to the house of Hashem."

And we went to the house of prayer together, and we sat together in that house, and we returned to the food to eat, and it was at the table that the man spoke up and said: Our early Sages only relied on the peshat of
Scriptures, and only it did they expound mostly, and if they said explanations which could not work based on the peshat, they only said them by way of support {asmachta} to make it easier to remember {=a mnemonic device} or to impose awe upon the ignorant, so that they would not disparage the few edicts which were only in truth words of the scribes {=Rabbinic}.

And if they said as well many things of aggada, they did not make it primary, and they explicitly said that it was not reliable, and they did not disparage one who did not engage in them.

And after a time, at the end of the days of the Geonim, the Sages of Israel began to deepen the investigation in settling the Scriptures according to their simple meaning.

Rashi z"l pushed off the aggada many times, when he found that it did not sit wall on the language of the Scripture, and so too after him did Rashbam his grandson, and Ibn Ezra and Radak and the Ramban. And before this, Rabbenu Saadia Gaon, Rabbenu Chananel, Menachem ben Saruk and Dunash ben Labrat, and after them Rabbi Yehuda Chayyuj, Rabbi Yonah ben Janach, Rabbi Moshe haKohen, and Rabbi Yehudah ben Bilaam, all of them great pashtanim, who shone a great light on the simple meaning of Scriptures, and they returned the crown of the Torah to its former glory, and these were the heads of the commentators both in time and in significance, and there is not found by them a mention or hint to the remazim and sodot and acronyms and gematriot, and all the other dreams and nonsenses which they appoint.

And the first who began to speak about these, behold it was the Ramban, who was the last of all of them chronologically, and he also speaks fairly little about these matters. But after the sefer haZohar was revealed, immediately the lamp of wisdom was extinguished {/faded} from amidst Israel, and the knowledge of the peshat of Scripture continuously degraded, and the love of the truth went missing, and men of intelligence are despised and considered repulsive, with their heads covered up and choosing absolute silence for themselves, and the earth is filled with faulty derashot, and the Torah is girded with worn out rags, and they abuse it not in its normal way, men who are honored with its disgrace and the disgrace of its Giver, may He Be Blessed. And upon it arise {?} a multitude of their nonsenses and dreams, and the thoughts are garbled, the hearts are spoiled, the eyes are blinded, darkness it placed to be light and light to darkness, and whoever increases in relating the going out from the peshat, he is praiseworthy. { A play on lesaper biytziat mitzrayim.} This is the first "redemption" which the sefer haZohar has brought us.

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