Post: In Zohar on parashat Mishpatim, we read:
515. Rabbi Chiya said, is the proof from here? IS IT NOT from there which is the principal, MEANING THE PROHIBITION OF IMAGE, as it is written: "and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man" (Yechezkel 1:26), again, it writes "like the appearance of man," not "the appearance of man," EVIDENTLY 'LIKE THE APPEARANCE' IS NOT SIMILAR TO 'THE APPEARANCE'. Rabbi Yitzchak said: it is written, "Like the apple among the trees of the wood" (Shir Hashirim 2:3), meaning, "like the apple," but not 'the apple', to be understood, like the apple is recognizable by its colors, and unified through its colors, AS THE UNITY OF THE HOLY ONE, BLESSED BE HE, IS THE SECRET OF THE THREE COLUMNS BEING THE SECRET OF WHITE, RED, AND GREEN AS EXISTING WITH THE APPLE, TO BE UNDERSTOOD AS CHESED, JUDGMENT, MERCY. Rabbi Yehuda said, if I came only to hear this, it was worth it.Based on the description as recognizable by its (many) colors, as white, red, and green, this refers to the apple. And this is not some gloss, which we can claim is a late interpolation. This is Rabbi Yitzchak and Rabbi Yehuda speaking. According to this Zohar, Chazal themselves understood tapuach to mean apple.
However, contrast this to what Rav Soloveitchik said about the tapuach which was to go in charoses. From Rabbi Howard Jachter:
A second explanation is that the Charoset serves to remind us of the Tapuchim (apple trees) in Egypt. Rashi and Rashbam explain that the Jewish women in Egypt would painlessly and quietly give birth beneath the apple trees so that the Egyptians would not discover that a Jewish male was born.
We should note that the second explanation is the source of the practice of Ashkenazic Jews to use apples to make Charoset. Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, (cited in Nefesh Harav pp. 209-210) however, argues that the word Tapuach refers to a citrus fruit such as an Etrog (see Tosafot Taanit 29b s.v. Shel Tapuchim, which supports Rav Soloveitchik's argument). Based on this point, Rav Hershel Schachter places a citrus fruit in his Charoset instead of apples. This practice is supported by the Gemara (Pesachim 116a), which mentions that since the Charoset serves as a reminder of the Tapuach, the Charoset should be acidic. Citrus fruits are distinctively acidic but apples are not.You can see the gemara, and Tosafot, on Taanit 29b here. And look up the gemara in Pesachim as well. More reasons to think that tapuach (as used throughout Tanach) really refers to a citron can be read here. It is quite convincing.
And Rav Hershel Schachter was convinced enough by this to modify conduct, in practice.
We now should stop and take stock. We have two options. We can reinterpret the gemaras, and / or the Zohar to make them accord, because we like to harmonize, because we don't want to modify established practice, or because we are uncomfortable with the conclusion.
Alternatively, if we are convinced that tapuach was indeed intended by Chazal to mean the citron, and that tapuach as used by named Tannaim or Amoraim in the Zohar means an apple, then we have an explicit machlokes, or contradiction. And this is not a legitimate, run of the mill machlokes between members of Chazal. This is as to the meaning of a common word, in common use! We know the gemara was from Chazal. We don't know this to the same degree for the Zohar (with apologies to Rav Tzadok HaKohen). It is the Zohar which suddenly was "discovered" in the late 13th century, with serious questions as to its legitimacy and as to whether it was forged.
If the author(s) of the Zohar made a crude mistake in the meaning of a word Chazal should know, this should indicate that the Zohar is a forgery. And as noted above, this is not some late interpolation, since the rabbis are named. It would be a deliberate forgery.
Note: Not intended halacha lemaaseh.
Update: See also this Zohar, from Acharei Mot:
Also, see the commentary of the Sullam on this, page 112 in the pdf: