Monday, June 27, 2011

The Chasam Sofer's position that the Zohar is a forgery

Summary: He deliberately veils his words, but if you know the specifics of Rav Yaakov Emden's Mitpachas Sfarim, then the Chasam Sofer's position becomes clear.

Post: We find the following astonishing statement in Shu"t Chasam Sofer, volume 6, siman 59.

In plain text:
ומ"ש שהרב אמר משם אמ"ו זצ"ל לא שמעתי מפיו ואולי התיר הרב לעצמו ע"ד שאמרו חז"ל רצית להחנק תתלה באילן גדול ואל תאשימהו עבור זה הנה נמצא בשכונתך ס' מטפחת ספרים למהריעב"ץ תמצא שם כי  דבר גדול דבר הנביא ז"ל בענין זה הלא ישתוממו רואיו וד"ל.
"And that which you wrote, that the rav said in the name Adoni, Mori v'Rabbi {=my teacher} zatzal, I did not hear this from his mouth. And perhaps this rav permitted for himself based on that which Chazal said {Pesachim 112a} 'If you wish to be strangled, be hanged on a large tree'. And don't condemn him for this. Behold, the sefer Mitpachat Sefarim is found in your neighborhood, from Moreinu HaRav Yaakov ben Tzvi {=the Yaavetz, Rav Yaakov Emden}, and you will find there that the prophet za"l said a great thing in this matter, which will cause astonishment in those who see it, and it is sufficient to the wise [ודי לחכימא / ודי לחכימא ברמיזא]."
To make this a bit more explicit, Rav Yaakov Emden's sefer, Mitpachat Sefarim, is about how the Zohar is a forgery, written by an author much later than Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. (If I recall the specifics, that the vast majority of Zohar are later, and that the Raya Mehamna and Tikkunim of the Zohar is an absolute forgery.) The Chasam Sofer is telling his correspondent that just as this rav falsely attributed the position he wanted to the rebbe of the Chasam Sofer, so too a kabbalist (Rav Moshe de Leon, or perhaps many kabbalists and copyist adding their thoughts?), who wanted his ideas to gain greater weight falsely attributed his ideas to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, or else to the various Tannaim and Amoraim who appear in the Zohar. And at the very least, he is endorsing the conclusions of Rav Yaakov Emden, as he states: דבר גדול דבר הנביא ז"ל בענין זה.

(To see Shadal's summary of some of Rav Yaakov Emden's Mitpachat sefarim, see here and then here, where he speaks of additions, forgery, and Rav Yaakov Emden telling over the famous story from sefer haYuchsin of Rav Moshe de Leon forging the Zohar and granting credence to the story.)

Note also that the Chatam Sofer takes care not to say this explicitly, but rather hints at it, for those who would look up the relevant sefer and read it. And he ends וד"ל, either ודי למבין, or ודי לחכימא. That is, he won't say more, but the hints he has given is sufficient. Presumably this is because he is trying to avoid backlash from those who would strike out at him for taking such a controversial position. And he succeeded, for the most part. It is one passing cryptic paragraph in the midst of a teshuva, among many other teshuvot. Who would really notice this?

This is rather straightforward reading of this paragraph in this teshuva, I think.

The Chasam Sofer's student, Rabbi Eliezer Lipman Naizatts, writes in sefer Mei Menuchot, page 43a:
"אילו היה יכולת ביד אדם להעמיד מדרשי רשב"י על טהרתן, לברר מהם מה שנתחבר אליהם מחכמי הדורות שאחריו, לא יהיה כולו רק ספר קטן כמות מאוד, מחזיק דפים מעוטים" 
"And of the haggadot of Chazal in this {meaning demons}, behold it is already known their approach za"l in holiness, to hide their inner meaning within allegory, flowery phrases and riddles in their haggadot, za'l. And the hidden midrashim of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai in which come many discussions of demons and spirits, behold it is known that these midrashim are hidden, with their extremely deep inner meaning concealed and encrypted. 
And also, it is known to all who knows, that many [and perhaps the vast majority] of the statements in those midrashim came from the mouths of the generations after him, and clung in there. And this is as I explicitly heard from the holy mouth of Adoni, Mori veRabbi, the Geon Yisrael, Kedosh Yisrael Mechubad, Moreinu HaRav Rabbi Moshe Sofer, zecher tzadik vekadosh livracha, av bet din verosh mesivta of the holy community of Pressburg, that he said before many of his students: if there were the human ability to establish the midrashim of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in their pristine state, to pick them out from that which was attached to them from subsequent generations, its entirety would only be an extremely small sefer, taking up few pages."
Still, for something as earth-shattering as this, it is helpful to have others citing this material, and saying similar things. And so, I will seek company in the assertion that the Chasam Sofer held that the Zohar (or most of it) was not from Rashbi.

Here is Rabbi Berel Wein in a speech about the authenticity of the Zohar, speaks about the Chasam Sofer as someone who disbelieved that most of the Zohar was from Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. It starts at 2:58, with Rav Yaakov Emden; Chida's defense at 5:40. At 6:07, he speaks about Chasam Sofer and quotes this teshuva, in favor of Rav Yaakov Emden (though he leaves out the introductory remarks). And then he skips to the other statement, from Mei Menuchot.


And here is Rabbi Natan Slifkin, in his article on Shiluach HaKen, (available for purchase via donation, and download here) who writes:

Footnote 55, to document this statement I underlined in red, refers us to this very teshuva of the Chasam Sofer: Responsa Chatam Sofer, 6:59, s.v. U'ma sheKatav sheHaRav. Indeed, that is how I first encountered this statement.

Both Rabbi Wein and Rabbi Slifkin do not discuss deliberate forgery. Rather, it is just that most of the Zohar is not from Rashbi. This could be from simple latter accidental accruing, perhaps.

While this a pretty shocking statement in and of itself, I would note that I would say further than this somewhat tamer statement, and think the text in the teshuva implies deliberate forgery and not just later authorship. After all, the context in the teshuva is someone falsely attributing to the Chasam Sofer's rebbe, and the Chasam Sofer's partial excuse of this on the basis of a statement of Chazal. And his citation of Rav Yaakov Emden comes by way of example of this deliberately false attribution. And Rav Yaakov Emden in fact makes such a statement about deliberate forgery and false attribution.

I would also note that believing the Zohar to be a forgery does not mean one must disbelieve all of kabbalah. Rav Yaakov Emden, who authored Mitpachat Sfarim, was a great kabbalist, even after his discovery. Indeed, it was what empowered his discovery. Similarly, even if the Chasam Sofer thinks that a good portion of the Zohar is not from Rashbi, and is indeed a forgery, that does not mean rejection of the truth and/or value of kabbalah in general. The specifics of how this can work out will be left for another post, b'Ezras Hashem.

43 comments:

Garnel Ironheart said...

"if the Zohar conflicts with the Talmud"

It's amazing when you considering how many movements are out there that differentiate between practising "al pi halacha" and "al pi kabala" and hold that the latter is definitely preferred and that if the Zohar says "assur" and the Shulchan Aruch says "mutar" then once must follow the Zohar to practice at the highest level.

Chanokh said...

Josh, don't you think the word "forgery" is a bit strong? Surely neither the Chasam Sofer nor the Yaabetz who, as you wrote, were staunch kabbalists themselves, would say that the Zohar is malignantly misleading its readers. I mean, the CS even relies on it halacha le-maaseh (granted, once it has become an established custom, but still). The Yaabetz, bim'chol kevodo but everyone more or less agrees on this, got a bit carried away in his zeal against Sabbateans who wanted to "prove" their claims with quotations from the Zohar: he was essentially saying that you can't prove anything from the wording of the Zohar since its status as a tight-knitted text from the period of the Mishna can be disproved. But on the other hand, he also argued that it was impossible to think that Rambam, the immortal author of the Yad, could have authored such a compendium of apikorsus as the Moreh Nevukhim...
Anyway, the authorship of the Zohar, in the eyes of the kabbalists, is not the big issue the maskilim make it to be. Many kabbalists, both pre- and post-Arizal, would readily admit that some parts were put to writing in the time of the Geonim. The Komarno rebbe, who is rather not a maskil - you'll be hard-pressed to find a more mystical and esoteric chassidic master than him -, wrote that of course the Raya Mehemna was written by an anonymous author who had visions of Moshe Rabbeinu, Eliyahu haNavi, Rashbi, etc.
The modern notion of Rashbi as the author of the Zohar, it seems to me, is the product of four factors:
1. R. Moshe Cordovero took the various parts of the Zoharic corpus and worked to smoothe the inner contradictions so as to make "the Zohar" the definitive authority against which the various kabbalistic theories produced since the Ramban were to be tested. In Pardes rimmonim, he even argues against a theory of R. Moshe de Leon because, he show, R. M. de Leon misunderstood a Zohar!

2. Following on this, the relatively nascent printing business needed to publish the Zohar as one book with one author.

3. The Beis Yosef intended to defend the Spanish tradition of basing minhagim on the Zohar against, sometimes, the majority of Rishonim by insisting on its meta-halachic function as a Tannaitic text.

4. Last but not least, it was the Arizal who explicitly insisted that the whole of the Zohar was the sole work of Rashbi, against all internal evidence. But this assertion need not necessarily be interpreted as a litteral, historical statement. It could very well mean that "whoever was holding the pen, the real author, from a mystical point of view, was Rashbi" - as, lehavdil elef havdolos, a shiite mullah once explained to Henry Corbin about the disputed authorship of Ali's Nahju-l-balagha.

To sum up, this debate is not unknown to kabbalists, it is not for them an essential debate, it is much more complicated than just "who was holding the pen", and there is no real continuity between those who discussed it from within the framework of tradition (rabbinical and kabbalistic, because for them the two could not be separated) and those who argue it from the outside like Tishby, Liebes, Scholem and, yes, Shadal.

Once again, I hope you do not take my remarks badly; it's just that, if you are a historian, you cannot just "side with Shadal" and dismiss the historical fact that, like it or not, kabbala, the Zohar, gilgul, etc., have been part of the rabbinical tradition for many, many centuries. Maybe there are legitimate reasons for it.

Eliyahu said...

Thank you Chanokh, for your detailed reply. I was under the assumption that the Ari confirmed the Zohar was from Rashbi, but I didn't know he insisted the entire corpus was from him. Do you have a source in the kitvei Ari for this?

By the way josh, have you seen the sefer taam leshad? Any thoughts on it?

S. said...

On the other hand, the Chasam Sofer is alleged to have wished that Kunitz had written Mitpachas Sefarim and Emden Ben Yochai. See here pg. 5 http://goo.gl/dqEcA

Anyway, the bottom line is that outside of academic discussion the debate cannot be divorced from matters of faith and tradition, so I think we must realize that almost no traditionalist rabbis will ever really speak their mind on the subject so long as they think the loss could be greater than the gain. Even Shadal says that he didn't publish his Vikhuach for 25 years precisely because he didn't want to undermine faith, until he was persuaded that the gain was greater than the loss.

Chanokh

>But on the other hand, he also argued that it was impossible to think that Rambam, the immortal author of the Yad, could have authored such a compendium of apikorsus as the Moreh Nevukhim...

This is a very clever trick in the arsenal of the anti-anti-Zoharists. I'm not saying that you are being clever, but this is what you hear all the time. However, it's meaningless because there is no reason why the Yaavetz can't be right about one and wrong about the other. It's not so much an argument from authority (the Yaavetz) as from the content of his arguments themselves. Secondly, in other places he appears to accept the correct authorship of the Moreh. This probably indicates that he was using highly exaggerated language to express his disapproval of the Moreh. You can't say the same thing about Mitpachas Seforim because it consists of arguments which stand or fall on their own merits.

That said, you are probably right that the pro-Zohar's side was not helped by its simpler presentation as entirely the work of Rabbi Shimon. Yet that is how it is presented and perceived, so that becomes a fair target.

joshwaxman said...

"Josh, don't you think the word "forgery" is a bit strong?"

not at all. it might be a forgery with the best of intentions, but a forgery is still a forgery. and muted language causes people to miss the point.

within the realm of halacha, it is especially troublesome. putting on tefillin on chol haMoed, e.g., is a machlokes Rishonim in how to understand the gemara. but then the Zohar says, in the name of a Tanna, that whoever puts on tefilin on chol hamoed is chayav mita. as people who follow the masorah, we should be appalled at this no less than we are at Besamim Rosh.

and this is not the only forgery within the realm of kabbalah. for instance, the teshuvot of Rav Hai Gaon confirming kabbalah. of the purported shalshelet hakaballah which is falsified. or kabbalistic texts purportedly from the Rambam, showing that he retracted at the end of his life. it is part of a troubling pattern of ziyuf.

meanwhile, kabbalah is supposed to be a *received* tradition. what sort of masorah is it if they make stuff up?

yes, i am aware of other explanations of this from kabbalists. they are not *popularly* known, though. and many people would not be as impressed if they heard it. and when there is contrary evidence that this diverges from the teachings and theology of Chazal -- there is one in Chukas, about the meaning of tumah and taharah, cited in Midrash Rabba -- then we have to evaluate whether we will pay heed to our masorah or to the (possible) dreams or delusions of medieval rabbinic figures.

kol tuv,
josh

joshwaxman said...

"would readily admit that some parts were put to writing in the time of the Geonim..."

is a very different statement than that it was put to writing basically in the time of Ibn Ezra. (such that it is the Zohar citing Ramban, rather than Ramban citing Zohar.)

especially when you couple it with a gap in the kabbalistic tradition.

kol tuv,
josh

joshwaxman said...

regarding taam lashad, i had planned on presenting and analyzing it after presenting the vikuach, but i never finished with the vikuach. same for mitpachat sefarim.

kt,
josh

joshwaxman said...

would say that the Zohar is malignantly misleading its readers

what do you mean by this? is 'malignantly' the qualifier here? would you agree that the Chasam Sofer held that the author of the Zohar was indeed misleading its readers, even for the best of intentions? and is that not a forgery? the same regarding Yaavetz.

DC said...

Well, if you use the term "forgery" for a work of religious inspiration in which statements are understood to have been attributed to specific persons, based on historical/philological evidence, then you might as well call a number of books of N"CH "forgeries." And Kal V'Chomer late midrashic compositions, parts of Heikhalot, etc. VD"L.

The fact that the Zohar is the most recent and influential shouldn't matter.

You also elide the difference between a kabbalist and a rabbi who was of course familiar with kabblistic texts and used them in various ways.

joshwaxman said...

Well, if you use the term "forgery" for a work of religious inspiration in which statements are understood to have been attributed to specific persons
not 'understood', but deliberately written by the author in order to mislead. That is what the Chasam Sofer and Rav Yaakov Emden say. in other words, equivalent to Pseudopigrapha.

this is not the same as other people attributing Kohelet to Shlomo HaMelech, if you disagree with that attribution.

Late midrashic compositions, such as Bemidbar Rabba, were never intended by their authors to mislead. Targum Yonasan on Torah is not a forgery, but a misattribution. If the hamon am err, that is a different matter.

kol tuv,
josh

Chanokh said...

So many points to discuss... I hope you'll excuse my brevity, as well as the relative approximativeness of my references, since I'm writing from memory.
Regarding paskening like the Zohar, there is a double aspect to it: following it because it is purportedly a Tannaitic source, and following it because it is kabbala. The second aspect in particular is extensively discussed by the first Acharonim like the Reem, the Radbaz, the Beis Yosef and his uncle, the Maharshal, all the way up to RMF. This is the essence of "ein lanu esek ba-nistaros", meaning that we don't really know what is the true way of reading kabbalistic discourse and Zoharic discourse in particular, whereas he know how to pasken from the Gemara. But of course in practice many times the Talmudic source is not so clear and the Rishonim have various readings, whereas the Zohar is unambiguous. The typical case being tefillin on chol ha-moed. (BTW, anyone wanting to give an informed opinion on this subject is obligated to study the Avnei Nezer on the question, where he proves the Zohar's stance from a gemara in Kerisus.) This whole argument of the obscurity of kabbala vs. the clarity of Talmud is further complicated when you take into account Safed and especially Lurianic kabbala, that allows for a methodic reading of the Zohar. The Sefardim and the Ashkenazim have over time developed different and sometimes opposed shitos, but it's a complex debate deeply entrenched in the meta-halachic realm and not just an ideological debate of "mytsics" vs. "rationalists". For anyone interested in a more complex analysis of these sources, you can email me at juldarmon at yahoo dot fr : I'll send you my PhD thesis provided you can read French.

Regarding the quotation form the Arizal regarding Rashbi's authorship: I think it's in RH Vital's haqdama to Etz Chaim, where he exposes the Lurianic view on history of kabbala.

Regarding "forgeries": I don't know about the teshuvot of Rav Hai Gaon (I've never understood why it was so clear they were forgeries, beyond the circular argument that "the Zohar is post-Geonic so these teshuvot are forgeries"), I don't know what you mean by "the purported shalshelet hakaballah which is falsified", and I know of no "kabbalistic texts purportedly from the Rambam". It is true that some kabbalists affirm that the Rambam knew of kabbala at the end of his life, but this is more folklore than anything else. "Serious" kabbalistic stance on the Rambam is either that he never had anything to do with kabbala (e. g. Arizal) or that he spoke of the same things in other terms (RA Abulafia, the Rama, the Leshem, etc.)

Chanokh said...

Regarding "putting to writing at the time of the Geonim", please be so kind as to let me rephrase it as "many kabbalists would not mind saying that although the whole Zoharic knowledge existed at the time of Rashbi, some of the 'sugyos' were formulated as late as the Geonic period and put into writing at an even later time". I'm very careful with the language because no kabbalist today would dare argue with the Arizal that after the Ramban true kabbalistic mesora was lost until G-d caused the Zohar to surface, and even then it remained a "message in a bottle" until the Safedian period. But really, the doxa that the Zohar is entirely or even predominantly the product of post-Ramban kabbalistic forgers in Spain seems to me very caricatural. The Ramban himself was a very conservative figure that followed an esoteric mesora through and through, so if you find something in the Zohar that seems to be taken from the Ramban it can as well be drawn from a much more ancient source. The same thing goes for all the kabbalists of Provence from the time of Raavad II, that is before the Rambam.

As for the chronological gap, why should it bother you? Do you have any historical witness to the existence of Chazal and their teachings before the Mishna? Or even any trace of Torah shebikhtav before the Septuagint? I'm not saying this to shock you: just that this kind of argument is hardly compelling, especially when you're dealing with hidden lore.
Anyone eager to argue about the "classical" arguments against the antiquity of the Zohar would well profit from reading RMM Kasher's classical essay on it: http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/kitveyet/sinay/hazohar-2.htm

joshwaxman said...

i agree there is a double aspect.

and even if zohar is proven correct, this should be by weight of argument, if our halachic masorah is to be preserved and not be a ziyuf.

in terms of rambam, yes, the famous retraction bit, but besides that, see here:
http://www.koshertorah.com/PDF/rambam.pdf
second page, para 'i started my research'.

re shalshelet, see here:
http://parsha.blogspot.com/2008/04/authenticity-of-kabbalah-pt-ix.html

and the post before and after. (change the roman numerals to get there.)

"Do you have any historical witness to the existence of Chazal and their teachings before the Mishna?"
yes. mmt scroll.

kt,
josh

joshwaxman said...

re:
unbroken tradition, see here:
http://parsha.blogspot.com/2008/04/authenticity-of-kabbalah-pt-viii.html

para: The matter is not as you have said. For the kabbalists do not say that their wisdom is a tradition in their hands from the Amoraim and Tannaim. Rather...

kt,
josh

DC said...

Well, I suppose if Pseudopigrapha are "forgeries" then zohar is as well. However, no one with any sense of the history of esoteric writing thinks that they are "forgeries."

For the Zohar most scholars now see the chevraya as projections of the spiritual lives of de Leon and his chug. Not some guy sitting in his study thinking about how to get fewer people to wear tefillin on Chol Ha'moed. (I know, I'll attribute everything to tannaim!")

The mystic does not see a closed cannon which cannot be tampered with. Rather, the Zohar was for them the Oral torah which had not yet been fully revealed, and therefore an expression of the same strata of interpretive exegesis as that occupied by the tannaim.

Again, it's not as if this mode of writing was invented then either. You have much of Hekhlaot literature doing the same thing. Not to mention the entire literary enterprise of aggada in the Bavli which, whatever cores they may have been based on, were often very carefully constructed literary works. Now you can parse the difference between an aggada about an amora that took shape 200 years after he lived, (or much later for something like the passage in Ber. 7a) or a work like Tanna D'Bei Eliyahu, and the Zohar but, the criteria which would find one to be a forgery and the others creative midrash is strained at best.

The only internally consistent criterion would distinguish between halakhic writing where there was a guiding norm to preserve and transmit statements accurately, and aggadot in general where no such norm appears to ever have been applied.

If not for the Zohar's reception and influence no one would have bothered calling it a forgery. But those grounds clearly have little to do with form or intent and simply reflect an entirely retrospective evaluative norm.

S. said...

>For the Zohar most scholars now see the chevraya as projections of the spiritual lives of de Leon and his chug. Not some guy sitting in his study thinking about how to get fewer people to wear tefillin on Chol Ha'moed. (I know, I'll attribute everything to tannaim!")

That's great, but for the religious Orthodox Jew the idea that the Zohar really represents the spiritual subconscious of de Leon and his chug is shocking, and if true, also a betrayal. You can call it what you want (forgery or not), but this is not what anyone meant by "the Zohar Hakadosh." Nobody dances around fires singing paens to de Leon, and no one but academics would have ever been interested in his inner spiritual life.

I find the academic-post-modern defense of the Zohar to be just as irrelevant to traditional circles as attacks on it purportedly are.

In any case, as I suggested above, in a religious context you can't simply separate it from the idea of kabbalah, received tradition, in a fairly literal sense. It seems to me that on that level, talk of forgery is wholly appropriate, should it be judged that the gain is greater than the loss to call attention to the issue.

joshwaxman said...

i'll just add to what S. said immediately above to say that while I might well grant the position of those scholars, who 'see the chevraya as projections of the spiritual lives of de Leon and his chug' -- indeed, I've suggested a similar defense in the past -- the question began with whether it was appropriate to call it that from the perspective of Chasam Sofer and Rav Yaakov Emden. and they do hold it to be a deliberate forgery, rather than 'projections...'

kt,
josh

S. said...

Chanokh

>To sum up, this debate is not unknown to kabbalists, it is not for them an essential debate, it is much more complicated than just "who was holding the pen", and there is no real continuity between those who discussed it from within the framework of tradition (rabbinical and kabbalistic, because for them the two could not be separated) and those who argue it from the outside like Tishby, Liebes, Scholem and, yes, Shadal.

Also, I don't think it's fair to say that Shadal was outside the tradition. If by that you mean he was not mekubal, then you can say the same thing about Yaavetz. Who was his rebbe in Kabbalah? Or the Gra for that matter. Who was his rebbe in - anything?

If you mean that Shadal was an academic type, well so was Benamozegh, and I doubt that you therefore would invalidate his defense of the Zohar. Similarly, if Shadal has written a tract in defense of the Zohar I can't imagine that someone would hold his lack of initiation into the Zohar against him. Instead you would probably value his valuable insights.

Furthermore, it could be argued that he was a kind of initiate. The Zohar was not only learned by mekubalim, but regular literate Jews. It was widely studied in Italy. This was the milieu in which Shadal's father learned the Zohar, and he learned it with his son. The fact that he, as a teenager, became convinced of its inauthenticity doesn't mean that he came from outside the tradition like Scholem et al. who were not raised as and did not live their life as traditional Jews.

If you simply mean that no one studying it from inside can conclude that its false - well, that's obviously just irrelevant.

DC said...

I really don't get it. Basically all of the critics of the Zohar's authenticity apply modern critical distance and philological analysis, no matter how traditional they were. Once you are applying modern categories to a text like this (by which I mean creative aggada, accepted as authentic) ayn ladavar sof. You don't need to be that bright to figure out that aggadot in the bavli are not simply traditions passed down and that Tana D'bei Eliyahu (to take one of many examples) was not taught by eliyahu. So you need a framework to understand why there is a long tradition of this kind of literature that is part of our tradition.

but for the religious Orthodox Jew the idea that the Zohar really represents the spiritual subconscious of de Leon and his chug is shocking, and if true, also a betrayal.

It's only a betrayal if you are willing to apply modern categories but then dispense with a modern understanding of how these texts work. All it takes is a shift from naive credulity. Anyone who can grow past the understanding of chumash they picked up in 4th grade that every midrash is the literal meaning of the text, or realize that Artscroll histories are not very historical, or that gedolim don't have superpowers--anyone who can get past those "betrayals" can wrap their heads around the idea that Zohar was not written by RaShBY. Saadyah Gaon got past the fact that Sefer Yetzirah, despite a longstanding tradition otherwise, was not written by Avraham Avinu--he even got past the fact that he didn't think it's cosmogeny was authoritative--and still thought it valuable and wrote a commentary on it.

If you can't accept that way of thinking then all religious truth reduces to its historicity, which is a far more destructive idea.

S. said...

>It's only a betrayal if you are willing to apply modern categories but then dispense with a modern understanding of how these texts work.

I never claimed that Jews of the 21st century aren't usually modern, even if they think they aren't and even if others think they aren't.

Yes, it's a crisis and a disconnect with the past. People say that you're asking the wrong questions if you're trying to understand why Spanish words are in Rashby's magnum opus. Nevertheless it is a question that all modern people raised on the idea of the Zohar Hakodosh will want to know. Maybe the yechide segulah, the premoderns and the postmoderns, are cool with all of it, but where does that leave the masses? All the more reason why rabbonim who are knowledgable about these issues see it as a faith problem. In fact the Sabbatian issue wrt Yaavetz is a great case in point. People who bring it up don't realize that if what they are saying is true then what actually happened was that Yaavetz made a cost-benefit analysis and chose revealing the truth that it is a forgery was better for the faith than concealing it, which is what most rabbis who realize it do ("What, me? What do I have to do with the esoteric?").

In any case, you actually think that most Orthodox Jews can "get past" the idea that tradition is invented along the way in general, and that the esoteric tradition is in particular?

As an aside, I don't know why you are compating Rav Saadya to the hamon am.

DC said...

In any case, you actually think that most Orthodox Jews can "get past" the idea that tradition is invented along the way in general, and that the esoteric tradition is in particular?

Well, the Orthodox Jews worth talking to. But in all seriousness, I do think there are some things worth fighting for as not merely a take it or leave it possibility because the hamon am can't wrap their heads around a fuzzy middle ground.

Jr said...

This is a very troublesome issue.
How does this not shatter one's emunas chachamim when contemplating how much of our tradition and Halacha system is influenced by the Zohar ONLY because it was believed to be a tannaitic source.
Please please adress this issue also in the follow-up post.

joshwaxman said...

bli neder, i'll try.

in the meantime, i'll just note that it did not shatter the emunas chachamim of Rav Yaakov Emden or the Chasam Sofer.

kt,
josh

S. said...

>Well, the Orthodox Jews worth talking to. But in all seriousness, I do think there are some things worth fighting for as not merely a take it or leave it possibility because the hamon am can't wrap their heads around a fuzzy middle ground.

DC, Jr is a case in point for what I said. Surely your're not going to insult him for seeing this as very troublesome?

Maybe you're right that there should be a middle ground, but maybe to get there we need a little bit of popularizing the historical issues. Raze the building a little bit before building it up. The alternative is to just ignore it all and forever patronize Orthodox Jews, all because the mystical mind of de Leon and his chug managed to work its way into the heart and soul of Judaism, which managed nicely for 2000 years without it. Yes, we know that we can't really extract the Zohar from Yahadut, and the Talmud also wasn't around for a very long time. But the Talmud has a much less problematic provenance. And what happens when people find out about the Zohar, which they will always continue to do?

Chanokh said...

Even if one were to prove that there is nothing in the Zohar that can be traced back to historical authorities from the time of the Tannaim, it would only undermine it status as a Tannatic source. But the Zohar is not just that, it's not even primarly that. It is the most encompassing compendium of an esoteric discipline that was fully accepted, before the Zohar, by such authorities as the Raavad and the Ramban, while also integrating elements of traditions that were integrated in the culture of Rashi and the Baalei haTosfos before finding their way into the traditions of the Chasidei Ashkenaz. Moreover, when one knows how to read it (through prelurianic or Lurianic tools), it is no a random collection of "revelations" but a coherent system of discourse which, although it should not supercede talmudic logic, can legitimately supplement it when it reaches a teiku or a machlokes Rishonim.
If someone wanted to get rid of the esoteric influences on halacha not conforted by a historically ascertained mesora, it is not just the Zohar that one should repudiate, but also the whole of Ashkenazic and Provençal traditions of Sod, that also have a bearing, maybe not on pure talmudic discourse, but certainly on consolidated halacha le-maaseh that includes, even in Ashkenaz, many esoteric materials. One would end up with a "pure" Talmudical Judaism that has never been attested historically.

Ahavas Emmes said...

Now that our Scholar in residents brought to the fore front two of our Holy Rabbis opinions.

Please be as bold to produce a full list of our Holy Rabbis who hold that it is part of our Torah.

Your arm will surley tire from typing so long.

So please stop being so intellectually biased and present the full argument.

You will come to conclude that
99% of our Tzaddikim and scholars will claim that the source of the Zohar is Rabban Shimon.

Josh you will not be the first nor the last but your conclusions cut you off from the Klal.

The Chasam Sofer and Rav Yaakov Emden have weight to pull.

But You...............?

joshwaxman said...

"So please stop being so intellectually biased and present the full argument."

I obviously know this, as does any reader.

are you, by the way, the same person who posted so obnoxiously in the past, calling me a liar, over here? your writing style in quite similar.

i have an answer, but it would be wasted on you.

truth in hashkafa and historical fact is not determined by majority. and no majority COULD be allowed to build when one side is consistently calling the other side kofrim, effectively suppressing them. even the Chasam Sofer took care to hide his position in this teshuva, so that hardly anyone knew of it; and so that this could not influence others to consider the weight of the evidence.

i don't think this about the Zohar because the Chasam Sofer thought it was so. if i think it so, it is based on proofs one could bring, which you would likely dismiss, favoring personality over analysis.

kol tuv,
josh

Anonymous said...

Chatam Sofer O.C.36
For someone who thinks the Chatam sofer thinks the the Zohar is a.........

joshwaxman said...

please choose a pseudonym, as i request.

are you afraid to say "forgery"? is it nivul peh?

how would you interpret the present teshuva?

bli neder, i'll analyze this one. a cursory review of it does not seem to introduce any problems. see the teshuva here:
http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=794&st=&pgnum=30

and see my last paragraph of the post. one can think it is a forgery and still think there are good ideas in there.

Jr said...

S.
My specific issue is with emunas chachamim. I would be willing to "take the middle ground" but why are so many of our leaders clueless about the truth of the Zohar to the point of considering nonbelievers to be kofrim, and even open- minded gedolim like RSZA.
Of course, the whole Slifkin affair brought this question up also, but the Zohar is something more fundamental and includes the majority of our leaders for the last few hundred years. In fact, as you know, the number one response you'll get from the hamon am is that the gra considered it authentic, so case closed.

If something so huge, like this, was misjudged by so much of our leaders, what are we supposed to think about other areas. The steipler wrote in the introduction to the chayei olam that all the heretics started out with losing emuna in the chachamim - referring to the maskilm I believe.

Other issues in our mesorah, like astrology, demons, or
who wrote koheles didnt affect observance and minhagim,
so they stand out less.

But again, if you could think that the Zohar is a forgery without the majority of gedolim thinking you a heretic, it would be a lot easier.

S. said...

You can of course choose to cast your lot with them and believe it.

If you can't do that, then you have to cast your lot with the Yaavetz. It's not like you'll be floating alone.

While no one wants to be considered a heretic, unless they are lehachis, just remember that many unquestionably great people were also considered heretics by others. Your sisters or daughters probably went/ go to Bais Yaakov. The Minchas Elazar referred to Bais Yaakov yeshivas as "Beis Esav." Can you live with that? I bet you can.

Jr said...

S.
Thank you for your response, but my concerns are no so much about being called a heretic - after going through shadal's vicuach, Scholem's chapters and various other things I am pretty much convinced and cast my lot with the yaavets etc. - as much as with my conclusions in general about emunas chachamim. If so many for so long got it so wrong, you lose your trust in other areas also. It's hard to practice Judaism without emunas chachamim, for me at least.
Thanks for that interesting tidbit from the minchos elazar, but I don't really have a problem with fights that gedolim had. However, something like the Zohar issue, presents serious flaws in our mesorah.

In other words, I could "get passed" the fact that Rashbi didn't author the Zohar. I cant get passed that most of the gedolim missed out on it and totally changed the face of judaism from previous times. I also guess that if I could be convinced of the truth of the Zohar and Kabbala in general, regardless of who made it up, it would be a lot easier to deal with.

S. said...

Well, like Galileo didn't really say, "And yet, it moves."

Anonymous said...

Regarding the authenticity of the Zohar, check out what the frumteens moderator writes:

http://classic.frumteens.com//topic.php?topic_id=8946&forum_id=13&Topic_Title=kabbalah&forum_title=Basic+Judaism

http://classic.frumteens.com//topic.php?topic_id=1654&forum_id=21&topic_title=Nistar+is+torah%2C+or+rational+logic%3F&forum_title=&M=1

http://classic.frumteens.com/topic.php?whichpage=1&pagesize=15&forum_title=&topic_title=important+questions&forum_id=21&topic_id=480 (starting with "(2)For whatever reason...")

and his new website:

http://www.jewswithquestions.com/index.php?/topic/328-kabbalah/

joshwaxman said...

Thanks.

Do you think that what he writes needs a rejoinder? (Personally, I think that the responses are rather obvious...)

kol tuv,
josh

Anonymous said...

"Do you think that what he writes needs a rejoinder? "

Yes, I think it does. Please post a response on his site, refuting what he says:

http://www.jewswithquestions.com/index.php?/topic/328-kabbalah/

joshwaxman said...

I waste too much time as it is with pointless back and forths, especially with people who would *never* be convinced. I've likely addressed most of his points already in other posts (including Shadal's Vikuach). I don't need to create a counter-site or seek out arguments with everyone who holds differently. Also, going to a site that someone else controls and moderates means that my replies might not show up. This is something that has happened to me more than once.

What precisely does he write that he finds convincing?

yekki said...

Shut maharsho No. 78 says God forbid to say that rashbi didn't wear teffilin on chol hamoed etc.

Patrick said...

So the Rashbi wear tefilin on chol hamoed.Did he wear tefilin on moussaf roch Hodech ? Can someone tell me when started the "minhag" not to wear tefiline on moussaf Roch Hodech ?
Thank you.
Patrick
caradiam strudel netvision point net point il

thenutgarden said...

The author of the later work Ra'aya Meheimna alludes to the fact that Rabbi Moses deLeon was like the unfaithful raven. See here: http://thenutgarden.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/the-raven-and-the-dove/

Let's not forget that Rav Emden attacked the Guide of the Perplexed as a forgery too. Rav Emden couldn't accept that one and the same other penned Mishneh Torah and the Moreh Nevuchim.

The problem is we still think that Zohar is a book (a book normally has a single author); Zohar is no more a book than the Talmud is! The essence of Zohar may truely be from Rashbi, like a Mishnah. The rest is layers of commentary, like a Gemara (only Zohar was compiled over a shorter time-span than the Talmud).

We know that the Arizal wrote very little and that his scribe was Haim Vital. But no one doubts that the source of Vital's writings was the Arizal (there are manuscripts of Vital's which pre-date his becoming a pupil of the Arizal).

joshwaxman said...

thenutgarden:
thanks for commenting.

a few thoughts:
"Let's not forget that Rav Emden attacked the Guide of the Perplexed as a forgery too."
Indeed. Though I don't hide behind rabbinic personalities and say X is a forgery because (Rav Yaakov Emden, Chasam Sofer, Rashdal) said so. Rather, I read and evaluate their arguments, and see if they are convincing. Rav Yaakov Emden could be wrong about one thing and right about something else.

"Zohar is no more a book than the Talmud is! The essence of Zohar may truely be from Rashbi, like a Mishnah. The rest is layers of commentary, like a Gemara"
The problem with this analogy is that there was no time that the Talmud, as a book, was hidden/non-existent, and then introduced by someone saying 'look at this ancient work I have discovered'. Once someone makes a sudden claim that a book is ancient, and there was no (or scant) evidence of its existence beforehand, then these later layers could (and should IMHO) be taken as evidence of bad faith, such that I won't believe that it was discovered.

Also, proposing that there are multiple layers of commentary does not answer invented Tannaim who never existed, or conversations between Tannaim who did not live in the same lifetime as one another.

And what is the shorter time-span than the Talmud? Within the Tannaic period? How does that account for the consistent use of an invented Aramaic, with misuse of terms pulled from gemaras, put into the mouths of Tannaim? Or for darshening the shape or nikkud and trup, when the written nikkud and trup did not exist in the time of Chazal? Or darshening a Ladino word (Esnoga as Esh Noga)? This is evidence of forgery, not of a layered text. Especially for a discovered text. One it has been put forth by a confirmed liar, I no longer believe his testimony about even a core portion not being invented.

But anyway, the point of this post is not to argue about the authenticity of the Zohar.

It is to discuss the beliefs of Chasam Sofer regarding the Zohar.

Anonymous said...

Rav Yaakov Emdens proofs, many of them are very hard to argue with. The famous Eshnoga comes to mind. 2 issues bother me about the non Rabbi Shimon authorship proposition:

1. The Gaon of Vilna. He held it was completely authentic, that Sefer Dezniuta was like the "mishna" of the Zohar and upheld the Ari zals system.

The gaon was both a abnormal genius and a expert i manydifferant discplines including philoogy... If one believes even half the stories that R Chaim of Volozin writes about him, youd half to conclude he almost super human in intellect and erudition. Many of the problems with the Zohar are apparent, he definately saw them....whos to say hedidnt have an answer???

Simon

joshwaxman said...

That seems like one question, not two. And it is an old objection, which I have heard raised many times before. Here is my take on that objection.

Given that the Vilna Gaon did not address the issue head-on, we don't know (a) THAT he noticed any of these problems, or (b) what he would answered, or (c) whether we would agree with his answers.

While the Gra was indeed extremely smart and clever, I don't agree with every answer he has given. (Nor btw do many posekim, for his many halachic positions.) For instance, the Vilna Gaon makes a brilliant textual emendation to a gemara in Berachot 53b that solves a number of problems. But I disagree with his textual emendation because I know that the **Samaritans** had precisely the Torah text darshened by Chazal in that gemara. And the Vilna Gaon appears to have been a flat-Earther, rejecting the scientists of his day. Though I don't know his reasoning and refutations, having seen images from space, I can feel confident that those refutations were incorrect.

It is not so clear that these difficulties with the Zohar were obvious to every brilliant observer in the 18th century. Some of these rely on specialized fields. Some of these rely on accumulated evidence, and if one is not a "kofer" actively looking for such evidence, anything which looks awry can be easily dismissed, in isolation, as a scribal error, or a different Cappodocia, or a demonstration of what Talmudic words or ideas meant. It is only when one builds the full picture that this becomes compelling.

And there is an idea, expressed by Chazal: אין חבוש מתיר עצמו מבית האסורים. A person cannot release himself from prison. And this applies to conceptual prisons as well. When one's entire religious framework is based on kabbalah, as integrated with the rest of Torah, it is extremely difficult, even for someone as brilliant as the Gra, to extract oneself and think about it in a different way.

kol tuv,
josh

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