Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Guardians and the Authenticity of the Zohar

Summary: 'Guardian' / Gardin appears in the Zohar, and Scholem asserts that it is of Spanish origin. This post considers the claim of Rabbi Moshe Miller that in fact it is of Aramaic origin, and appears in the gemara and in Yalkut Shimoni. Here are some earlier posts responding to the article on the basis of Rabbi Yesa, Rabbi AbbaCappadociaKefar Kanya, Archeih, and Yellow, as mentioned in the Zohar.

Post: It has been a while since I have put one of these up. Not for lack of material, though. Indeed, there are a number of posts on this subject still in the queue. But this back and forth in the comment section of the famous article came to my attention.

A commenter writes:
Dear Rabbi Moshe Miller:
Will you tell me why Spanish found its way into the Zohar? The earliest mention of the Spanish language used verbally or in written form was that it was an ougrowth of Vulgar Latin in the Fifth Century, or that it became a "language" in the 9th Century around the time of Charlemagne, and Rabbi Shimon and his colleagues apparently "wrote" the Zohar in the second century when hiding from the Romans, and were living in an area far, far away from Spain -- across the Mediterannean Sea, I believe. Thank you. 
And Rabbi Miller responds:
I know of no Spanish in the Zohar at all, other than the very dubious claims to the Spanish origins of a couple of words (no more than that!) that Scholem makes in his Major Trends p. 165.

One of those words Scholem believes is spanish in origin is “gardin” (see Major Trends p. 165 footnote 43). How then does he explain the existence of the word in Masechta Avoda Zara 26a and Yalkut Shimoni Vayishlach remez 133 which have the same meaning there as the word in the Zohar eg. Vol. 3 63a? Perhaps Scholem was no expert in the Gemara or in Midrash but he could at least have checked in a Concordance! ...
It is surprising that he does not know of Esnoga, such. Perhaps this is a way of restricting the examples to ones he is comfortable dealing with? Or perhaps he really was not familiar with this famous issue.

Proof from the Yalkut Shimoni seems rather silly, given that Yalkut Shimoni is a late midrashic work, from about the same time of the Zohar. Thus, to cite Wikipedia:
All the proofs advanced by Rapoport have been refuted by A. Epstein, who inclines to agree with Zunz that the author of the Yalḳuṭ flourished in the early part of the 13th century. According to Zunz, the work was written by R. Simeon Ḳara, who lived in southern Germany at that period, and the title "ha-Darshan" was bestowed upon him probably at a later date. It is certain that a manuscript of the Yalḳuṭ, mentioned by Azariah dei Rossi, existed in 1310 (comp. Zunz, G. V. pp. 295–303); but despite this, there is scarcely any allusion to the work during the 14th and 15th centuries. 
Still, if we actually look up the Yalkut Shimoni he refers to, we discover that it is simply a citation of the gemara. This is a trick Rabbi Miller has used on more than one occasion, of multiplying sources and given the impression that a term is widely used, by referring separately to various sources which not just have the word but a repetition of the entire statement.

Let us look up Scholem's claim in Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism and see if Rabbi Miller is representing it accurately. In Major Trends, we read:

Thus, the claim is on the word gardina, that it means guardian. We would need to look up the word in the Zohar to confirm that that is what it means, in context?

What of the gemara (and parallel Yalkut Shimoni)? In Avodah Zarah 26a:
חד גירדנא דלא אתא לשרויה שמתיה אכלי' אריא היינו דאמרי אינשי גירדנא דלא טייזן שתא בציר משני תא חזי מה בין גנבי בבל ולסטין דארץ ישראל:
Or, in English:
Now there was among them one weaver who did not come to have his ban annulled, and he was devoured by a lion. Hence the popular saying: A year's scanty earnings will alter [improve] a weaver if he be not a proud fool.3
Rashi defines it as a weaver:
[גרדנא - אורג]:
גרדן דלא טייזן - עניו סתם גרדן אין לו בושת פנים:
This should make us suspicious. Rabbi Miller has, several times in the past, misrepresented the meanings of words that he claims are parallel. (For instance, yellow; or his path / he smelled him.) Here, Scholem explicitly links the word to 'guardian', yet in the gemara it means 'weaver'. It certainly refers to a human being, even if Rashi is incorrect!

What is the use Rabbi Miller refers to, in Zohar, chelek 3, 63a?
וההוא יומא לא שכיח דילטורא (ס"א פטרא) למללא בהו בישראל. כד מטא האי שעירא לגבי טורא כמה חידו על חידו מתבסמין כלהו ביה וההוא גרדינא דנפיק אהדר ואמר תושבחתא דישראל קטיגורא אתעביד סניגורא.

Here is what it means:

118. We have learned that numerous bands of demons are ready under the authority OF THIS GOAT, prepared to spy out the land against all those transgressing the Torah, but on that day, YOM KIPPUR, it is unable to find words of slander against Yisrael. When this goat OF AZAZEL arrives at the mountain, multiple joys burst forth from it to all. Even he who pursued Judgment that emerged, NAMELY THE SUPERNAL GOAT, recants and speaks praise of Yisrael. The prosecutor has become the defense attorney, MEANING THE SLANDERER HAS NOW BECOME THE CHAMPION SPOKESMAN FOR YISRAEL.

'He who pursued judgement.' From the context, where it is in the plural, we see that this is a specific type of spirit. Follow the link and search for 'spirit' on the page, and you will see what I mean.

Meanwhile, I will remind you that Rabbi Miller wrote about the word in Avodah Zarah and Yalkut Shimoni:
which have the same meaning there as the word in the Zohar eg. Vol. 3 63a
Does this strike you as having the same meaning?!

He concludes his comments on this word with:
Perhaps Scholem was no expert in the Gemara or in Midrash but he could at least have checked in a Concordance!
It seems that Rabbi Miller is not expert in the gemara or in Midrash, and is not one to be leveling insults. He presumably did check a Concordance, but no further. If he did actually check the gemara, then it seems to be worse.

In the same comment thread, another commentator take him to task for using such harsh words about individuals. He writes:
You are right; I could have used more measured tones. Attribute that to the passion of youth. 
I can see where harsh tones are called for. If Scholem and Tishby did commit the errors Rabbi Miller accuses them of, then they should rightly be scolded. The problem is that, time after time, these are not errors on Scholem and Tishby's part. Rather, they are either embarrassing ignorance on Rabbi Miller's part, or deliberate lies to mislead his readers. That I would not excuse as simple passion of youth.

I would have expected him to tell us what Scholem claims the word means, and how he interprets the gemara and Yalkut. He does not, in many of his misleading examples.

This reflects poorly on the authenticity of the Zohar, if its defenders feel compelled to resort to deliberate distortions.


S. said...

The late authorship of Yalkut Shimoni was not only known to moderns. As an example, R. Nosson Adler of Frankfurt was known/ considered to be a descendant of R. Shimon Kara, as was the Adler family in general. The Chief Rabbis Adler of England were aware of and mentioned their descent.

In fact, putting the term adler +yalkut into Google yields "Nathan Adler was descended from the 13th century Frankfurt sage, R. Simon Hadarshan-Ashkenasi, the author of Yalkut Shimeoni" and "adler — Family of Kohanim originally from Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, 18th cent. The name is derived from the eagle on the signboard over the family's house. Tradition traces the family to Simon, author of Yalkut Shimeoni" among others.

Anonymous said...

"This reflects poorly on the authenticity of the Zohar, if its defenders feel compelled to resort to deliberate distortions."

I would not necessarily be so quick to make that conjecture.

After all, I seriously doubt that the Zohar asked Rabbi Moshe Miller to defend it. :)

Anonymous said...

I wonder.... who have irat chamaim ?


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