Monday, April 11, 2011

Yellow, and the Authenticity of the Zohar

Summary: The Zohar uses Tzehivin to refer to a yellowish hue, a usage not found in Chazal. Does Rabbi Moshe Miller's rebuttal to this anachronism work? Here are some earlier posts responding to the article on the basis of Rabbi Yesa, Rabbi AbbaCappadocia, Kefar Kanya, and Archeih, as mentioned in the Zohar.

Post: In a lengthy article attempting to debunk evidence of late authorship of the Zohar, Rabbi Moshe Miller writes:
The words in bold print are from the Zohar that Scholem and his colleagues claim are unique to the Zohar or are invented or misunderstood. Let the reader compare for himself: 
The following is a list of "new" expressions (new in form or root) listed by Tzvi Kedari in Dikduk HaLashon HaAramit shel haZohar (p. 145-6). In several cases the word or expression is found only once in the entire Zohar. How one can generalize from a single occurrence to unusual usages in the original is difficult to understand.
I'd have to see Kedari inside to determine whether he is using these as "proof" of late authorship, or rather simply writing a dictionary and grammar, in which noting novel usage for a different Aramaic is entirely appropriate. Since from the limited information we are given, "new" includes "new in form", many of Rabbi Miller's debunkings are not debunkings at all. For example,
Tzahivin (Zohar II 73a). A similar expression is found in Moed Katan 24b (m'tzhivin). Also in the sense of "glow" in Pesachim 113b;Zevachim 19b, Menachot 68b (tzahavu). The expression "panav tzohavin" is found fairly often: Ketubot 103b; Nedarim 49b; Menachot 18a etc.
So? These are similar expressions, not exact expressions? Meanwhile, Rabbi Miller left out a whole bunch he wasn't able to find in a Bar Ilan search. So we are not evaluating all of the evidence - not by a long shot. Besides these sources he mentioned, he neglected Vayikra Rabba which has tzahivin.

Also, explain to me clearly what the word / expression means in the Zohar, and what it means in all these cases. Thus, in Zohar, we read (Zohar on parashat Yitro):
עיינין צהיבין ירוקין, שגעונא אית ביה, ובגין שגעוניה איהו פום ממלל רברבן, ועביד גרמיה כבר נש רב ברברבנו
90. IF his eyes are yellowish-green, he has madness about him, and because of this madness his mouth speaks in a bombastic manner, and he carries a self-importance about himself, and whoever attacks him, conquers him. He is not worthy of the Torah secrets, since in his heart he can not keep silent about such secrets, AND HE REVEALS THEM TO OTHERS so that through them he can make himself seem a bigger MAN. This is the mystery of the letter Hei, which is only included in the letter Zayin, and is removed from the letter Samech. It is because he conducts himself with pride that he is far removed from the letter Samech and can not approach it. When he speaks, he produces many wrinkles on his forehead.

So, we are speaking here of a yellowish hue. Yellow appears as an adjective, to refer to a color, and in this particular form. What about Rabbi Miller's examples?

Well, he leads with matzhivin, in Moed Kata 24b:
ר' שמעון בן אלעזר אומר היוצא במטה רבים מצהיבין עליו אינו יוצא במטה אין רבים מצהיבין עליו
As Rashi explains there, this means "pained":
מצהיבין - מרגישין ומצערין:

This does not mean yellow at all. That the same three letter root in different form appears, meaning something entirely different is no rebuttal at all. But until we actually look it up, we don't see what nonsense Rabbi Miller is spouting. He writes "Let the reader compare for himself", but probably assumes that the reader is only going to rely on his summary. His other examples -- we can trust him that they exist -- are of panav tzohavin, and the like, which, as he writes, carries the meaning "glowing". That is also not the same as yellow.


He should have explained clearly that in the Zohar it means 'yellow', so that the reader could indeed compare for himself. Instead, he deliberately or accidentally conceals this information, so that the reader is left confused, though strengthened in his emunah.

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