Thursday, February 11, 2010

Charoses and the authenticity of the Zohar

Summary: If named Tannaim or Amoraim mentioned in the Zohar think the tapuach is the apple, but according to true Chazal the tapuach is the citron, then how could the Zohar be anything other than a forgery?

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:

27 comments:

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Is this anachronism your own discovery? Nice.

joshwaxman said...

thanks.
yes and no, i guess. i had heard the thing about citron for charoses, and separately i think i've seen the zohar cited, where the simple implication was that was an apple, based on the various colors. i put two and two together...

kt,
josh

joshwaxman said...

looking now, i see that the New York Times contrasted Rav Soloveitchik and the Zoar, without explicitly noting that this would then form an anachronism.

see here and here.

joshwaxman said...

and come to think of it, i was reading avakesh about apples a few days ago (about apple tossing), so it was probably sparked by reading that post. and so i don't think i get very much credit for making the associating. oh, well.

:)

kt,
josh

Garnel Ironheart said...

The very unripe orange is sometimes green. The pith surrounding the fruit is white. And Chazal worked in primary colours. Hence red, white green.
On the other hand, some apples can be really acidic.
Might that be an alternative?

joshwaxman said...

orange works out, and i was indeed thinking something along those lines. the problem is that it seems that the orange and lemon were not available in Chazal's area at that time, nor does it possess all the Biblically ascribed features. so the link above.

ditto about the apple (such as a granny smith), about the features of the tapuach tree (aside from possible acidity, in some cases). i would, however, note that apple *blossoms* can also be quite fragrant. but it would not work if we simultaneously want to hold like Rav Schachter and Rav Soloveitchik, about the identity of the tapuach.

as i noted in the post, it might be possible to harmonize. but i would treat these as harmonizations, rather than the most likely, straightforward interpretation.

kt,
josh

joshwaxman said...

"so the link above." should read "see the link above." where I write "really refers to a citron can be read here." it discusses and dismisses oranges...

JS said...

Where in the Aramaic do you see these words

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,

joshwaxman said...

great point! you don't, in this particular quote. the capitals are copied from the commentary. a good point, where the commentary got this from -- another zohar, or elsewhere, which seems likely. i'll see if i can research. here are some sources for this:
The Zohar (Acharei Mot) says that the apple has healing qualities: Just as the apple heals all, so the Holy One, blessed be He, heals all.

The Zohar continues: Just as the apple has various colors (white, red, green), so the Holy One, blessed be He, has various supernal colors (white, red, green, corresponding to the attributes of chesed [loving-kindness], gevura [might], and tiferet [beauty]),
(Zohar, Acharei Mot; Ziv HaZohar, VaEtchanan).

if it is not, it leaves greater room for an answer. it could be these colors were intuited from colors associated with particular attribytes.

kt,
josh

joshwaxman said...

even so, i don't think the citron is particularly famous for having multiple colors. an associations with particular colors make for a better peshat in that other Zohar...

E-Man said...

I agree with JS here, It seems like the translator got the Aramaic translation wrong. All I see is that the real translation says that "Like the apple is separated by its colors, but those colors are still one thing."

E-Man said...

Oh, sorry I posted before I saw your new comments. You might want to add this other Zohar here just to show that it is the Zohar that says the apple has these different colors. Just a suggestion.

JS said...

But we need to see the other Zohar to see if that is an accurate translation.

joshwaxman said...

i'll try to track it down. though again, i think that zohar won't say it explicitly, which makes it a great point / potential teretz.

kt,
josh

joshwaxman said...

a further clarification -- it was not the NYT who made the connection, but only avakesh who juxtaposed the two...

joshwaxman said...

update: i updated the post with the zohar in acharei mot.

joshwaxman said...

update: also, the commentary of the sulam. this appears to be the standard understanding of the zohar.

Devorah said...

Apples can be considered acidic.
They contain Pectin:
Pectic acid, also known as polygalacturonic acid (C18H26O19) is a water insoluble, transparent gelatinous acid existing in ripe fruit and some vegetables. It is a product of pectin degradation in plants, and is produced via the interaction between pectinase and pectin (the latter being common in the wine-making industry).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pectic_acid

Yosef Greenberg said...

IIRC, apples ARE the more acidic than citrus fruits. They have a lower PH.

The reason why they aren't so sour is because it contains more folic, rather than citric, acid.

joshwaxman said...

interesting. but i don't think Chazal in Pesachim 116a were referring to acidity in the scientific sense. rather, i would expect they were referring to the actual taste. after all, Abaye refers to sourness, rather than acidity:

מאי מצוה רבי לוי אומר זכר לתפוח ור' יוחנן אומר זכר לטיט אמר אביי הלכך צריך לקהוייה וצריך לסמוכיה לקהוייה זכר לתפוח וצריך לסמוכיה זכר לטיט, where לקהוייה means to give an acrid taste.

if the taste of apples is not distinctively acrid, but rather sweet, we would not expect this to be the requirement. make it sweet instead! (and how would those hearing the statement in those days make sense of it, would it refer to apples?) i can see how this, combined with the Tosafot in Taanit, would convince Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Schachter that this was a citron.

indeed, i see how Point by Point Summary copes with this:
"(Abaye): Therefore [to fulfill both opinions], it must have [apples, which give a tinge of] sourness, to commemorate apple trees; and it must be thick, to commemorate mud. "

This seems rather forced, especially when we have Tosafot elsewhere promoting citrons.

kt,
josh

E-Man said...

Very nice Josh. I wonder if this tiyuvta will remain permanent or whether someone will give a logical and reasonable answer.

Now, are you saying that Rav Moshe Deleon was trying to trick us into thinking that this was written by RSBY or that he must have not written it either?

joshwaxman said...

thanks.

in terms of what R' Moshe de Leon was trying to do, i am not absolutely certain.

my own pet theory is that these are actual accounts of contemporary (to Rav Moshe de Leon) discussions about kabbalah, where Rabbi Chiyya, Rabbi Yossi, Rabbi Yehuda, etc., are pseudonyms for contemporary kabbalists. We see this in other kabbalistic works.

or it could be a way of arranging his own kabbalistic ideas. or it could be a pious invention, to grant the ideas greater credence. there is a troublesome gemara in which Rav Pappa (iirc) falsely attributes a position to someone to give it greater credence. and see here:
"Some codifiers have suggested that in order to assure the acceptance of his decision, a decisor may falsely attribute his ruling to someone greater than he, provided he is absolutely convinced of its correctness. This is known in the halakhic literature as "le-hi-talot be-ilan gadol" (Eruvin 51a; Pesahim 112a). See Magen Avraham, O.H. sec. 156, no. 2; Tosafot Yom Tov and Tiferet Yisrael, Boaz, no. 2 to Avot 5:2 s.v. "veAl ma she-lo shama shamati"; Birkei Yosef, Y.D. sec. 242, no. 29; Sefer Beit Aharon, IX, "Im bikashta lei-hanek, hi-tale be-ilan gadol," pp. 606-607, and supra, Addendum, Part 3b; Niv Sefatayyim, kelal 7; R. Abraham David Horowitz, Resp. Kinyan Torah beHalakha, VII, Y.D. sec. 74; R. Ovadiah Yosef, Me'or Yisrael, II, Eruvin 51a; R. Aryeh Kaplan, "The Structure of Jewish Law," The Aryeh Kaplan Reader (New York: Mesorah Publications, 1983), pp. 211-224-see especially p. 217 and footnote 105. R. Moses Jehiel Weiss, Beit Yehezkel, p. 75, suggests that this is permitted only to prevent others from sinning. In any case, this does not necessarily mean that it is permitted to lie about the reasons for the ruling, merely its attribution. (This distinction is, of course, rejected by the posekim cited above who argue that the dispensation to modify the truth in order to maintain peace applies to misrepresenting halakha)."

of course, if we believe the purported testimony of his widow, he did it for the bucks.

kt,
josh

thanbo said...

The capital-letters interpolations are translations of the Sulam commentary. So if there's an anachronism, it's in R' Ashlag's not realizing that tapuach for chazal was an etrog.

So I don't see it as necessarily a forgery-proving anachronism.

joshwaxman said...

indeed, in terms of the capital letters. such that the capital letters aren't in and of themselves an anachronism.

but i would guess that rav ashlag is correct. see in the second zohar i cited, where its flavor is described as sweet. and an apple more readily strikes one as having multiple colors, the part about the particular kabbalistically meaningful colors notwithstanding.

kt,
josh

Anonymous said...

I stumbled onto this post and was a little disappointed. First of all, concerning theories for the identities of the tannaim and amoraim involved, no matter what you say, it touches on the sensitive issue of the Zohar's authority. The reason forgery is so controversial is because it at least calls its authority into question. If you attribute ideas to medieval authors as a way of addressing problems in content, then you didn't solve anything. Such a theory helps with textual difficulties (like medieval Spanish syntax), but it doesn't help with the drashas themselves. Second of all, whatever you might say about other drashas in the Zohar, this one is not as problematic as you make it out to be. The article you quoted itself says that some claim that tapuach is a generic word similar to Latin malum (with a variety of implied species), though it seems not to like the idea. While I would agree that in strict mikra, it means an esrog, the gemara Yerushalmi Kilayim 1:2 unambiguously compares tapuach with Greek 'melon.' Thus we know with certainty that in Chazal the word carried this ambiguity, and you know better than most how many drashas in Chazal derive from application of contemporary connotations to the text.

joshwaxman said...

thanks for your comment.

i have definite views on the rest, though i am not entirely sure what you are trying to say here.

but in terms of that "gemara Yerushalmi Kilayim 1:2 [which] unambiguously compares tapuach with Greek 'melon'", that gemara is far for unambiguous! it is a statement that a certain species is *kilayim* because it is a blend of two different seeds of two different species, one of which is a tapuach and the other a sort of melon. see here: אדם נוטל מעה אחת מפיטמה של אבטיח ומעה אחת מפיטמה של תפוח ונותנן בתוך גומא אחת והן נתאחין ונעשין כלאים.

that does not mean that both are melons! this alleged kilayim from seed is the muskmelon, called melo+pepon. See also here and here.

kol tuv,
josh

joshwaxman said...

unless you mean that the etymology is melo+pepon, corresponding to tapuach+avatiach. that, i grant, is stronger. but still far from unambiguous. they are speaking about a specific fruit, certainly, for this grafting of seeds, in R' Yehuda's statement! (besides that we put it out of order.) that the greeks would call our tapuach by the more generic term melon does not imply the reverse. it need not be a reflexive property.

the gemara i referened, and not just scriptures, takes tapuach to be an item with acidic taste, which i don't think they would have done based on the shir hashirim prooftext had tapuach shifted to the more generic.

and the zohar doesn't take tapuach as generic either! it is specific! just different from this other specific.

see also the discussion here, for some good counter-proofs. i haven't responded there yet.

kt,
josh

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