Sunday, January 25, 2015

Teva, and the Authenticity of the Zohar

Summary: Is the use of teva to refer to nature unique to Zohar, or is there precedent in the Talmud Bavli? Continuing to debunk the debunking of the debunking of the Zohar. Here are some earlier posts responding to the article on the basis of Rabbi Yesa, Rabbi AbbaCappadociaKefar KanyaArcheih, Yellow, and Guardians, as mentioned in the Zohar.

Post: To continue analyzing Rabbi Moshe Miller's attack of the analysis of the Zohar's language by Jewish scholars, we turn to consider what he says about the word tava. 


To cite from his article,
The claim is that Hebrew expressions first used in medieval times were used by the author of the Zohar, showing that it must have been compiled by someone [i.e., Moshe de Leon] during this era. As demonstrated below, many of these expressions are also found in early sources, contrary to the skeptics' claims.
But what does he mean by "found in early sources"? Let us say that some text X uses bulb to mean light bulb. This would indicate that it was written fairly late, after the invention of light bulbs. If I show that an early text uses bulb to refer to tulip bulbs or garlic bulbs, this other usage does not demonstrate that bulb has early use and thus text X can similarly be early. This, even if light bulbs were not a fairly recent invention, but even if the application of this lexical item to an existing concept was not in use until recently. This was the case for "yellow", as we saw earlier.

Here is another example. Rabbi Moshe Miller writes:
Tava (Zohar Chadash, Midrash HaNeelam maamar Tadshe 2) in the sense of "Nature." But this is also obviously the sense of Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5 ("HaKadosh Barchu tava kol adam b'chotmo"). See also Niddah 20b ("Tava d'bavel garma li"); several more occurrences of the word are found on that same page.
Consider that Mishna in Sanhedrin. It appears in Sanhedrin 37a. (Hebrew; English) The Mishna reads:
ולהגיד גדולתו של הקב"ה שאדם טובע כמה מטבעות בחותם אחד כולן דומין זה לזה ומלך מלכי המלכים הקב"ה טבע כל אדם בחותמו של אדם הראשון ואין אחד מהן דומה לחבירו לפיכך כל אחד ואחד חייב לומר בשבילי נברא העולם
IF A MAN STRIKES MANY COINS FROM ONE MOULD, THEY ALL RESEMBLE ONE ANOTHER, BUT THE SUPREME KING OF KINGS,42  THE HOLY ONE, BLESSED BE HE, FASHIONED EVERY MAN IN THE STAMP OF THE FIRST MAN, AND YET NOT ONE OF THEM RESEMBLES HIS FELLOW. THEREFORE EVERY SINGLE PERSON IS OBLIGED TO SAY: THE WORLD WAS CREATED FOR MY SAKE.43
But tava there comes in context of matbei'a. Consider the expression matbaya shetavu bo Chachamim. This appears in Yerushalmi Berachot, 62b:
אמרו לו אין לך רשות להוסיף על מטבע שטבעו חכמים בברכות

'Coining', whether by blessings or body and facial structure, is being used as a metaphor. This does not mean that Nature is the meaning of the word טבע, in the time of Chazal.

Yet this is the closest Rabbi Miller gets to his desired meaning. Yes, he wrote that:
 See also Niddah 20b ("Tava d'bavel garma li"); several more occurrences of the word are found on that same page.
with the implication that 'Nature' is the meaning of those several more occurrences. If we actually examine them, we find:
אמר רבי זירא טבעא דבבל גרמא לי דלא חזאי דמא דאמינא בטבעא לא ידענא בדמא ידענא למימרא דבטבעא תליא מלתא והא רבה הוא דידע בטבעא ולא ידע בדמא כל שכן קאמר ומה רבה דידע בטבעא לא חזא דמא ואנא אחזי

Or, in English:
R. Zera remarked: The Babylonian coinage was the cause of my refusing to examine blood; for I thought: If I do not understand the coinage system would I understand the nature of blood? This then implies that capability to examine blood depends on an understanding of the coinage; but did not Rabbah in fact understand the coinage system and yet did not understand the qualities of blood? — He was really drawing an inference a minori ad majus: If Rabbah who understood the coinage system refused to examine blood, should I2  examine it?
Thus, it means its meaning we already knew, "coin" or "coinage". Why does Rabbi Moshe Miller think this makes for good proof?!

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

In the Gemara in Niddah, which is discussing *colors* of blood, the comparison to "coinage systems" is not immediately obvious. Why should inability to follow the coinage system lead to an inability to distinguish between colors? If you would accept it to refer to his ability to distinguish between coins, or to tell which coins were counterfeit or decomposed, it would make more sense. If I knew anything about Babylonian natural sciences, I could assess the veracity of that interpretation.

Anonymous said...

YeZ

joshwaxman said...

http://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/53052/source-of-the-word-teva-for-nature

joshwaxman said...

One can argue one way or the other, I suppose. (Tel Torah in that linked answer said that the coins were similar to one another.) One could say that it refers to the relative complexity of the systems. (So, Soncino, it seems.)

But certainly, where the entire meaning of the gemara is in question, it is not at all solid to say that this one unique place it means something (nature) where we find no other instance except for the a much later usage, among the Rishonim, and then use this shaky ground to categorically reject those scholars (as unknowledgeable of gemaras) who read the gemara otherwise.

sam spade said...

In an article published in Sinai, 1958, R' Menachem Kasher writes at length attempting to prove the antiquity of the Zohar.He quotes manuscripts from R' Hai Gaon indicating that they had an edition of the Zohar available.

Can you comment on this? Are there responsa from the Geonim indicating knowledge of the Zohar?

joshwaxman said...

sam spade:

Unfortunately, kabbalists falsely ascribed all sorts of kabbalistic writings to Rav Hai Gaon.

For a discussion of this, see this question and my answer at Mi Yodea, currently downvoted at -2 because they downvote based on ideological disagreement.

kol tuv,
josh

Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

Shalom,
This is Rabbi Moshe Miller, whose article you quoted. A friend reads your blog and mention to me that you had some issues with my translation of טבעא so I hasten to reply.
I'm not sure why you use the Soncino translation davka. It is not known for its faithfulness to the text. Had you looked in the Art-Scroll translation (Niddah 20b), which is a lot more reliable imho, you would see the following: "R. Zeira said: The extensive knowledge of natural [science] prevalent among scholars in Babylonia caused me not to examine niddah blood, for I said to myself -- if I am not acquainted with the natural science of things, how can I possibly be acquainted with the art of examining blood." (actual translation of the text is in bold in the Art-Scroll with explanatory/linking words in regular type, something I can't do here).
The מתיבתא edition of the Gemara also understands it that way -- 'הטבע של ארץ בבל'
Although I did not look at the Art-Scroll or the Mesivta when I wrote the article (I don't think they were published yet), this is the authoritative understanding, according to (הגהות יעב"ץ (ד"ה טבעא.
Although although there may be other interpretations of this piece they seem to be out of context (and beyond logic).
In addition R. Zeira's view (Baba Kama 97b) as to differences between Israel's coinage and Bavel's seeems to be accepted as authoritative (-- hence he must have known about Babylonian coins. See also Yerushalmi Sh'vuos (6, 1 p. 28b) and other places.
See also Megillah 14b where the word טבעך is used to refer to a person's nature or good name.
If you have any further questions pls email me at ravm.icja@gmail.com

joshwaxman said...

sure. my questions are not just on teva, but on a number of other issues, as well. for instance, you said:

"Archeiha, meaning "manner" or "way" found many times in Zohar. Also found in Niddah 20b."

But in Niddah 20b, it means "he smelled it", from re'ach. Why would you use this as proof, if it an entirely different shoresh?

joshwaxman said...

the hagahos yabetz, by the way, as well as the artscroll, was already discussed at the link above.

joshwaxman said...

"In addition R. Zeira's view (Baba Kama 97b) as to differences between Israel's coinage and Bavel's seeems to be accepted as authoritative (-- hence he must have known about Babylonian coins. "

Instead of a bald reference to the gemara, how about explaining what exactly Rabbi Zeira says in Bava Kamma 97b. http://halakhah.com/babakamma/babakamma_97.html

"Said R. Zera: This is no difficulty, as the latter statement refers to the time when Israel had sway [in Eretz Yisrael] over the heathen whereas the former referred to a time when the heathen governed themselves"

How in the world does this show that Rabbi Zeira had an in-depth familiarity with the specifics of the complex system of currency in Bavel?!

Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

If you read the discussion in Bava Kama you will note that the subject is chillul maaser sheni (redeeming maaser sheni on a coin to be used later in Yerushalayim for those who lived at a distance). One obviously had to know the value of the coins when redeeming one's ma'aser or one could be transferring more maaser value than the coin was worth etc.

Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

The archaei question I answered at the appropriate point in your blog, as well as the eshnoga question.

joshwaxman said...

Rabbi Miller:

"If you read the discussion in Bava Kama you will note that the subject is chillul maaser sheni (redeeming maaser sheni on a coin to be used later in Yerushalayim for those who lived at a distance). One obviously had to know the value of the coins when redeeming one's ma'aser or one could be transferring more maaser value than the coin was worth etc."

I have indeed read the discussion in Bava Kama, and it is still utterly irrelevant to the topic at hand.

Nothing in the gemara says that Rabbi Zera was engaged in redeeming maaser sheni, or that he was paskening practical halachah for people who were redeeming.

Rabbi Zera is explaining a seeming contradiction in Tannaitic sources about the validity of Babylonian currency in general. And he shows how there is no contradiction.

This has nothing to do with intricate knowledge of the coinage system of Babylonia and how to distinguish between one coin and another.

This response seems to be of the same kind as your article. You talk in generalities and perform some hand-waving, but an actual examination of the cited source reveals that it does not show what you claim it shows.

joshwaxman said...

"See also Megillah 14b where the word טבעך is used to refer to a person's nature or good name."

Nope. That is an interpretation you are reading into that gemara.

The citation there (Megillah 14b) reads:
מורד במלכות הוא ולא צריך למידייניה אמרה לו עדיין שאול קיים ולא יצא טבעך בעולם

That is, David said that Naval was a rebel against the king such that he does not require a trial, and Avigail (the wife of Naval) responded that Shaul still exists, and meanwhile your teva (David) has not gone out in the world.

If it meant "nature" or "good name" (as an extension of "nature"), as you assert, that hardly has much to do with the power of kingship. Avigail is telling him that because his teva has not gone out, he does not have the status of king.

Rather, it means power, as an extension of coin. If one's coin passes, then one's authority is recognized. יצא טבעך. Jastrow says to compare with מוניטא, (~ monetary item = power). For instance (I would offer), in Bereishit Rabba on Noach, כל מוניטא של מצרים אינה אלא בים.

Even if you wanted to say renown or fame, that does not mean the same thing as "nature". Compare Avoda Zara 2b, ומנלן דחשיבא דכתי' (דניאל ז, כג) ותאכל כל ארעא ותדושינה ותדוקינה אמר רבי יוחנן זו רומי חייבת שטבעה יצא בכל העולם. Rashi says it means שמעה, its fame. Jastrow claims it means power, again as its currency passing. But it does not mean "nature" and it certainly does not mean "good name". It is something that renders it chashuv.

joshwaxman said...

I'm not sure why you use the Soncino translation davka. It is not known for its faithfulness to the text.

I use the Soncino translation in the general case because it is available online, so I can link to it and copy text at will.

In this case, Soncino is not deviating from the text because of faithlessness, as you allege here. Presumably, they are listening to the modern scholars, who know that (a) "teva" arose as meaning "nature" among the Rishonim, and (b) it DOES make sense in context, and (c) to say this is a unique instance of the word with no other early usage is dochak, and so they wouldn't leap to this when a ready explanation as coin exists and works.

Why Artscroll and Mesivta arrived at a meaning of coin? Firstly, they will not necessarily accept the scholarly consensus, especially as it touches on the authenticity of the Zohar. Second, there is a relative silence of Rishonim on this matter, and there is an Achoron -- Hagahot Yaavetz, Rav Yaakov Emden -- who weighed in. So naturally they will gravitate to the explanation they can source in an Acharon.

That does not make Rav Yaakov Emden's opinion "authoritative".

Indeed, you don't consider him authoritative when he questions the authenticity of the Zohar!

Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

R. Yaakov Emdin is certainly an authority compared with the authors of the Soncino Talmud. (And of course even without comparing him to soncino).
As for his questions on the Zohar ("stolen" by Scholem et al, or at least without acknowledgement of the source in most cases) he himself did not reach the conclusion that the Zohar was not authentic. In fact, there is some evidence that he accepted its authenticity in large part. However, this is not the current topic.

joshwaxman said...

incorrect as to Rav Yaakov Emden's conclusion.

but "an authority" which you now write is not remotely the same thing as what you wrote earlier, that "this is the authoritative understanding". One Acharon saying something does not make it the authoritative understanding. You are moving the goalposts.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rabbi Miller
It's great to have you here.
You frequently refer to Targum Yonatan on Torah.

L'minda khi (Zohar I 30a, 103b, 117a etc. and in numerous other places) L'minda is found in Targum Yonatan to Gen. 3:5, 19:26, and 24:21; to Deut. 4:35, 29:3.

How does it suppose to help your case when that Targum is clearly midieval.

Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

Medieval?? Where are you getting your info from??

מסכת מגילה ג א: "יונתן בן עוזיאל אמרו מפי חגי זכריה ומלאכי ונזדעזעה ארץ ישראל ארבע מאות פרסה על ארבע מאות פרסה יצתה בת קול ואמרה מי הוא זה שגילה סתריי לבני אדם עמד יונתן בן עוזיאל על רגליו ואמר אני הוא שגליתי סתריך לבני אדם . ."

joshwaxman said...

Hi rabbi miller.

If you read that gemara carefully you will see that it mentions Targum on Neviim and Ketuvim but not on Torah. More here on the authorship of what we now call Targum yonatan on torah.

http://parsha.blogspot.com/2011/07/targum-yonasans-prophecy.html

Kol tuv,
Josh

Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

JW said: ...that "this is the authoritative understanding". One Acharon saying something does not make it the authoritative understanding...

I see that you make light of scoffing at an important acharon, something that leads me to question your motives. Let's put it this way: As I said before, I certainly count Yavetz as a greater authority than the translators of the Soncino Talmud, and he is certainly a better proof of the meaning of the text than the soncino. As I pointed out the Artscroll and Mesivta editions both read it that way, as probably many other scholars do. So it seems to me that to support your reading the burden of proof is on you to show from elsewhere that R. Zeira had no idea of the coinage in Bavel and that this is indeed the meaning of the passage.
ובדרך צחות י"ל (על יסוד מימרא דר' זירא)
אם ‏האחרונים כמלאכים - אנו כבני אדם. ואם כבני אדם - אנו כחמורים (ירושלמי דמאי א:ג)

Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

I do not have the time now to look into this and study the views of chachmei Yisrael on the subject (those views are far more acceptable to me than those of some apikoros with a PhD).

However, a quick internet search reveals the following (from the online Jewish Encyclopedia. I have not examined the sources, nor do I hold the JE to be authoritative. check the sources yourself):
"The Palestinian Targum (Targum Yerushalmi): A responsum of Hai Gaon, already cited with reference to the Targumim, answers the question concerning the "Targum of the Land of Israel [Palestine]" in the following words: "We do not know who composed it, nor do we even know this Targum, of which we have heard only a few passages. If there is a tradition among them [the Palestinians] that it has been made the subject of public discourse since the days of the ancient sages [here follow the names of Palestinian amoraim of the third and fourth centuries], it must be held in the same esteem as our Targum; for otherwise they would not have allowed it. But if it is less ancient, it is not authoritative. It is very improbable, however, in our opinion, that it is of later origin" (comp. "R. E. J." xlii. 235). The following statement is quoted ("Kol Bo," § 37) in the name of R. Meïr of Rothenburg (13th cent.) with reference to the Targum: "Strictly speaking, we should recite the weekly section with the Targum Yerushalmi, since it explains the Hebrew text in fuller detail than does our Targum; but we do not possess it, and we follow, moreover, the custom of the Babylonians." Both these statements indicate that the Palestinian Targum was rarely found in the Middle Ages, although it was frequently quoted after the eleventh century (see Zunz, "G. V." pp. 66 et seq.), especially in the "'Aruk" of Nathan b. Jehiel, which explains many words found in it. Another Italian, Menahem b. Solomon, took the term "Yerushalmi" (which must be interpreted as in the title "Talmud Yerushalmi") literally, and quoted the Palestinian Targum with the prefatory remark, "The Jerusalemites translated," or "The Targum of the People of the Holy City." After the fourteenth century Jonathan b. Uzziel, author of the Targum to the Prophets, was believed to have been the author of the Palestinian Targum to the Pentateuch also, the first to ascribe this work to him being Menahem Recanati in his commentary on the Pentateuch. This error was probably due to an incorrect analysis of the abbreviation (= "Targum Yerushalmi"), which was supposed to denote "Targum Jonathan." The statement in the Zohar (i. 89a, on Gen. xv. 1) that Onḳelos translated the Torah, and Jonathan the Miḳra, does not mean, as Ginsburger thinks ("Pseudo-Jonathan," p. viii.), that according to the Zohar Jonathan translated the entire Bible, and thus the Pentateuch; but the word "Miḳra" here refers to the Prophets (see "R. E. J." xxii. 46). It is possible, however, that the view, first advanced by Recanati, that Jonathan composed also a Targum on the Pentateuch, was due to a misinterpretation of the passage in the Zohar. Azariah dei Rossi, who lived in the sixteenth century, states ("Me'or 'Enayim," ed. Wilna, p. 127) that he saw two manuscripts of the Palestinian Targum which agreed in every detail, one of which was entitled "Targum Yerushalmi" and the other "Targum Jonathan b. Uzziel." The editio princeps of the complete Palestinian Targum was printed from the latter (Venice, 1591), thus giving currency to the erroneous title."

Thus. whether the Targum of Chumash found in most Mikra'ot Gedolot is called Yonatan or Yerushalmi, it was apparently accepted (according to the article) by R. Hai Gaon as being of ancient origin ("improbable... that it was of later origin"). Personally, I'm happy to go with Maharm MiRotenburg, Kol Bo, R"M Recanati, Me'or Enayim etc.

Anonymous said...

DEAR Rabbi
Once again the meaning of gemara you quoted is hidden from you. TALMUD never states that Yonatan translated Chumash , this is another fantasy of yeshiva world just like Zohar.
TALMUD certified Babylonian Targum of Ezra/ Onkelos on Chumash, Palestinian Targum was not as authoritative as clearly stated by rav Hai Gaon
NEXT POINT
MEDIEVAL TIMES AS define by academicians whom you so bitterly despise is from 5-15 century of common era
NOW PLZ READ THE FOLLOWING STATEMENTS OF TARGUM PSEUDO YONATAN FOUND IN MOST MIKRAOT GEDOLOT
כא וְיָתִיב בְּמַדְבְּרָא דְפָּארָן וּנְסֵיב אִתְּתָא יַת עֲדִישָׁא וְתֵרְכָהּ וּנְסִיבַת לֵיהּ אִמֵיהּ יַת פְּטִימָא אִתְּתָא מֵאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָיִם:
One has to know Quran and Muslim history to truly understand it.

יט וִיקוּם שַׁלִיט מִדְבֵית יַעֲקב וְיוֹבִיד וִישֵׁיצֵי שֵׁיזְבוּתָא דְמִשְׁתַּיֵיר מִן קוּסְטַנְטִינֵי קַרְתָּא חַיַיבְתָּא וְיִצְדֵי וְיֶחֱרוֹב כְּרַכָּא מְרוֹדָא דְקִסְרִין תַּקִיף קִרְוֵי עַמְמַיָא:
ThAt requires knowledge of Byzantine history
As well as thisכד וְצִיצִין יִצְטַרְחַן בְּמָנֵי זַיְינָא וְיִפְקוּן בְּאָכְלוּסִין סַגִיאִין מִן לַמְבַּרְנְיָא וּמֵאַרַע אִטַלְיָא וְיִצְטַרְפוּן בְּלִגְיוֹנִין דְיִפְקוּן מִן קוּסְטַנְטִינֵי וִיצַעֲרוּן לַאֲתוּרָאֵי וִישַׁעַבְּדוּן כָּל בְּנוֹי דְעֵבֶר בְּרַם סוֹפֵהוֹן דְאִלְיֵין וְאִלְיֵין לְמֵיפַּל בְּיַד מַלְכָּא מְשִׁיחָא וִיהַווֹן עַד עַלְמָא לְאוּבְדָנָא:

Given your legendary experience with anachronisms in Zohar, tell me PLZ when this Targum was finalized.

Enjoy TRUE PAlestinian Aramaic of this Targum and know it's time frame before using it as a proof.

P.S.
ONE OF THE FEW, OR MAY BE THE ONLY nonreligious texts flu d in the office of Lyubavitcher Rebbe was the very Jewish Encyclopedia which you rendered unreliable

joshwaxman said...

Hi Rabbi Miller,

Have you had time to consider what I wrote above about why your "typo" explanation of your article (regarding Archeih) does not make sense and is not credible?

Now you are introducing further false statements. You write:

I see that you make light of scoffing at an important acharon, something that leads me to question your motives.

Please show where I "scoffed" at Rav Yaakov Emden.

Saying that, in general, the Rishonim and Acharonim are silent and that a statement by Rav Yaakov Emden may well be a (relative) daas yachid and therefore does not form (to quote your words) "the authoritative understanding" of this gemara, which would preclude any other opinion, is not "scoffing".

As I said before, I certainly count Yavetz as a greater authority than the translators of the Soncino Talmud, and he is certainly a better proof of the meaning of the text than the soncino.
But this interpretation is not limited to the translators of the Soncino. As I pointed out above, Dr. Marcus Jastrow also interpreted in this way.

So it seems to me that to support your reading the burden of proof is on you to show from elsewhere that R. Zeira had no idea of the coinage in Bavel and that this is indeed the meaning of the passage.

Nope. You don't get to shift the burden of proof to me. Any more than you have to show from elsewhere that Rabbi Zera did not know science, and that Rabba did know science.

(It happens to be that it makes logical sense for Rabba to be more familiar with the intricacies of the local coinage system, since Rabba was an Amora of Bavel, while Rabbi Zera was more rooted in Eretz Yisrael. But that just speaks to the plausibility of the interpretation.)

Here is the thing. I don't care, at this point in the conversation, whether the "correct" explanation of this gemara is "Nature" or "Coin".

What concerns me is that you have, in various places, asserted or implied that the scholars "either [...] were ignorant of the texts elsewhere OR they had an agenda", or that "they weren't doing their homework...". And the reader of your article will falsely assume (because he was misled by you to believe) that these scholars did not know that this gemara exists.

Meanwhile, in fact, they were well aware of this gemara but just interpreted it differently.

The same thing for "yellow". You falsely charge them with not knowing several instances of "tzahivin". But (as per your revised claim of your assertion), while they might maintain it meant "yellow" in Zohar, you think it has the same meaning as the Talmudic instances of this word. The reader is misled by your false presentation into thinking that the scholars "didn't do their homework" and therefore were unaware of the Talmudic texts.

So please do not argue about what the "correct" meaning of this gemara is or that Zohar is. Irrelevant. The question is whether you are presenting lies to your readers, by misrepresenting the position of these scholars and casting your (questionable) disagreement with interpretations of sources as if it was lack of basic knowledge of the EXISTENCE of these sources.

Thanks,
Josh

Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

"not as authoritative" is still good enough for me. R. Hai Gaon doubted that it was from a later period, as mentioned in the article. But as I said, I have not had time to look into it and won't have time in the near future

Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

"they were well aware of this gemara but just interpreted it differently"

On what basis do you make this claim?

Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

"The question is whether you are presenting lies to your readers, by misrepresenting the position of these scholars and casting your (questionable) disagreement with interpretations of sources as if it was lack of basic knowledge of the EXISTENCE of these sources"

I have seen no evidence that they considered these sources and explained why they were not acceptable. Have you? Accordingly, I must assume that they did not know of them or deliberately avoided mentioning them in order to present a false narrative about the Zohar.

joshwaxman said...

Rabbi Miller (in answer to anonymous about the Targum Pseudo-Yonatan):

""not as authoritative" is still good enough for me."

Unfortunately, you once again miss a major point. "Good enough for you" is irrelevant. The scholars you are have falsely criticized as ignoramuses who did not do their homework, for not knowing these instances of these words (e.g. L'minda khi) in Targum Yonatan in fact DID KNOW these sources in Targum Yonatan. They just didn't agree that Targum Yonatan was early.

In this instance, at least, this was not due to malice. It was due to your own ignorance of what the position of the scholars was regarding the dating of Targum Yonatan.

If so, you owe these scholars an apology for maligning them, and you owe your readers an apology for misleading them.

Will any such apology be forthcoming?

joshwaxman said...

I have seen no evidence that they considered these sources and explained why they were not acceptable. Have you? Accordingly, I must assume that they did not know of them or deliberately avoided mentioning them in order to present a false narrative about the Zohar.

No, you must not "assume" this. That you have seen no evidence, or that you refuse to even consider this truth as a possibility, just speaks to your own biases or ignorance.

It is well known, for instance, that Rabbi Abba in Tosefta is asserted by scholars to be Rav. You didn't know this and ran with your interpretation, maligning them that they did not know.

joshwaxman said...

you might want to review this article to get a sense of the nature of their claims.

For instance:
A large number of errors and of borrowed translations constantly recur in the Zohar. The word pelatarin is considered a plural form, and galgallei yamma a plural form from gallei ha-yam ("waves of the sea"). The author writes baranan instead of barminan and gives the artificial translation "limb" for shaifa through a mistaken guess in the interpretation of a passage in Makkot 11b. From the verb gamar, meaning "to learn," he coins the same meaning for the verb ḥatam (le-meḥtam oraita), and there are many examples of this kind. There are several words, whose meaning in the original sources the author of the Zohar did not know, and they are given new and incorrect meanings: e.g., the verb ta'an is given the meaning of "to guide a donkey from behind" (an Arabism taken from the Sefer ha-Shorashim of David Kimḥi) or taya'a, "the Jew who guides the donkey." Tukfa in the sense of "lap" is based on a misunderstanding of a passage in Targum Onkelos (Num. 11:12); boẓina de-kardinuta as "a very powerful light" is based on a misunderstanding of a passage in Pesaḥim 7a.

That is, pointing out examples of these words occurring in Talmud is not helpful, because in quite a number of instances their explicit assertion was that, yes, there words occur in the Talmud, but the meaning is not the same. And furthermore, in some cases, that the author of the Zohar **misunderstood** a source in Onkelos or the Talmud. So someone turning around and offering the same misinterpretation (at least from their perspective) would not be helpful.

I am saying here that in many, many, many, of your "proofs" of their "ignorance", in fact there is an alternate and scholarly interpretation. (Whether it is correct or not is a different argument/fight).

But given this background, why is it in any way remotely fair to simply assume that, in these many, many, many cases that I show the alternate interpretations, that these scholars were ignorant of the basic sources or were hiding the sources from their readers?

Anonymous said...

Dear Rabbi Miller

I t respect your belief even though it doesn't make it in to a proof of your statements about Scholem and Tishbi.
I am not there to challenge your belief but only your proofs.

Rashba, Rivash, Elyahu Delmegido, Rav Yehuda of Modena, Yaavetz, Chatam Sofer, Noda BeYehuda, Shadal, Shmuel Yehuda Leib Rappoport, Rav Yehiya Kapach, Yeshayahu Leibowitz , all of them were respected Jewish Rabbis and thinkers who challenged ideas and/or authorship of Zohar. So we should not pretend that is universal Jewish belief that Zohar is Holy book that was authored by Rabbi Shimon.

I wanted to suggest to rewrite your article is Chabad.org to make it typos/ errors
free and less offensive.
One of my students, after analyzing your article,
was ashamed by the fact that that non observant Scholem understands Talmudic literature better than a Rabbi.

On a side note, in your interview with Rabbi Doug you said that Zohar was work of Rashbi and several generations of talmudic Rabbis. The difficulty that I have with that is that Aramaic of Zohar shows a artificial mixture of Babylonian dialect with some Palestinian verbs in the same sentence.
The author has incorrectly constructed many passive and reflexive forms of Aramaic words and seemingly never proofread his writings. The general appearance of haphazardness and not diligent work of several generations that what Zohar language shows.


Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

"I am saying here that in many, many, many, of your "proofs" of their "ignorance", in fact there is an alternate and scholarly interpretation"

1) An alternative and scholarly interpretation should be presented as such, b'tuv ta'am and in a non-pejorative way. Scholem in particular was not wont to do that. I suspect that the reason for this in many cases is because he "stole" the information from R. Yaakov Emdin's questions presented in the Mitpachat without acknowledging or attributing their source and without making a valid examination of relevant texts for himself. Ergo he didn't know them or he had an agenda.
2) My basic hanacha is that the texts which have been accepted by rov bnei Yisrael as authentic must be accepted as such, until proved otherwise beyond reasonable doubt (as in "innocent until proven guilty"). I have shown you that there ARE alternative and valid explanations for the meaning of words that seem unusual (not forgetting of course that the meaning of words can change over time, between dialects and across disciplines). Take for example an innocent word like "screw" which could mean a metal bolt, a tapped or threaded hole (British); something having a spiral form; to contort by twisting; to to cause to become sufficiently strong or intense; to coerce or threaten; to extort; to ruin or bungle, not to mention the slang meanings.
Of course Zohar sometimes uses the same words as found elsewhere with different meaning from the Talmudic meaning, just as "middah" for example means measurement in halacha but characteristic or emotion in mussar etc. Those initiated in Sod understand the meanings of these words as used in Sod.
I am aware of the meaning of the words and the supposed "misunderstandings" of Onkelos or Pesachim etc. you cited above (cut and paste is soooo easy). All of them have clear and simple explanations for those who care to seek them out. (These are answered in my article, I believe). If you sincerely wish to know how the Zohar understands a word and what the origin of the word is, it is not hard to do so. But you have to understand it in the Sod context.

3) A scholar worthy of the name would a) reference his claims (i.e. volume and page in the Zohar); b) explain why he concludes what he concludes based on solid scholarship. Scholem (and to a lesser extent Kedari) did not do that.

4) In many of the 'disproofs' you cite there are also "in fact... an alternate and scholarly interpretation".

5) Don't expect me to answer every question you have, because a) I have other things to do and don't have as much time as you to waste on blogs; b) I have the inkling that there is somewhat o a lack of sincerity in some of the questions (the "gotcha" types); c) there is obviously no end of questions one could ask. Again, there has to be a limit to דע מה להשיב.
Which reminds me of the misnaged who passed away and went before the Beis Din shel ma'ala. since he was regarded as a talmid chacham, the Beis Din asked to say a drasha. He replied, "Aderaba; let HaKadosh Baruch Hu say a drasha and I'll mafrich Him (shlog Him up in the Yeshivish version).
v'da"l.

Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

Please point out to me where Rashba, Rivash, Chatam Sofer and Noda Biyehuda eschewed the authenticity of the Zohar? They may had had questions about certain things, but questions per se are not treif. They are merely an invitation to sincerely seek answers. As are questions in Talmud, Halacha or anything else.
"The difficulty that I have with that is that Aramaic of Zohar shows a artificial mixture of Babylonian dialect with some Palestinian verbs in the same sentence: a) I'm pretty sure that doesn't keep you up at night; b) are you such an expert in the spoken dialects of the time that you can make such claims? c) The fact that there are anomalies (mixed verbs etc.) tells me the exact opposite: That it wasn't written by one person (M. de Leon) but by many scholars over a period of time. d) I suggest you read Prof. Moshe Idel's "Kabbalah, New Perpectives" --particularly from p. 10-16 and chapter 2.

Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

"Even if you wanted to say renown or fame, that does not mean the same thing as "nature""
Well at least you acknowledge (surprisingly perhaps) that it doesn't mean coinage.

Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

To JW

"incorrect as to Rav Yaakov Emden's conclusion"

Could you point out to me definitively how you came to this conclusion?

joshwaxman said...

Hi Rabbi Miller,

Well at least you acknowledge (surprisingly perhaps) that it doesn't mean coinage.

According to Jastrow, it does mean something **derived** from coinage. If you want to say fame, then it does not MATTER that the word doesn't mean coinage, because it doesn't mean the same as "nature".

Could you point out to me definitively how you came to this conclusion?

No, I won't get sidetracked and let you throw up more dust. I wrote you responses above, and you haven't responded adequately.

Let us start with the fact that your "typo" explanation seems like a lie, for the reasons I detailed above. Do you still persist in that denial?

Kol Tuv,
Josh

Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

" then it does not MATTER that the word doesn't mean coinage, because it doesn't mean the same as "nature""

My point being that it means different things in different contexts, one of which is the valid interpretation of טבע as natural science. I have yet to receive a better source than soncino or Jastrow for your interpretation.

"No, I won't get sidetracked and let you throw up more dust."

The more probable reason is that you don't have an answer.

Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

In fashion that seems typical of you, once you lose an argument, the question becomes about me and what I said, instead of whether the Zohar is authentic or not.

So let's settle this once and for all by quoting an *AUTHORITATIVE* rishon, Sefer HaAruch. I'm sure you will agree with me that the the Sefer HaAruch is more of an an authority on the language of Chazal than Jastrow or Soncino.
After all he is quoted as such by Rashi many times (e.g. Shabbat 13b ד"ה האובל); by Rashbam (ב"ב נב, א) Sefer haYashar l'Rabbeinu Tam (גיטין סי' צט ועוד); Tosefos (מגילה לב, א ד"ה הלוחות ועוד); Rambam (פירוש המשנה שביעית ז, א) Chidushei HaRamban (גיטין לז, ב); Chidushei haRashba (שבת קמז, א); Chidushei HaRan (סמהדרין סה, ב) to cite just a few references.
This is what the Aruch says s.v.טבע
שאדם טובע כמה מטבעות בחותם אחד (סנהדרין לז); כל המשנה ממטבע שטבעו חכמים לא יצא ידי חובה (ירושלמי ברכות פ' כיצד מברכים); משום טביעת עינא (גיטין כז). *כל אלו ענין דבר מחוקק ומודפס ולכן המפרשים קראו לחכמת התולדה חכמת הטבע כי לכל דברים נתנענים יש חוק לא יעברוהו*. ע"כ

No doubt you will say, 'but you cited other sources'. True. But the question is about the Zohar's use of the word טבע which I think you can now agree אישא שמ AUTHORITATIVE source also views it that way. QED

joshwaxman said...

Hi Rabbi Miller,

The question, in this comment section, at least, has ALWAYS been about you and what you said.

You wrote an article which was (from my perspective, at least) exceptionally misleading as to what the Zohar skeptics said as well as what to what the Mishna and Gemara said. This is a critique of your article and your methods. The intent of this series was to convince people not to blindly trust your article as a debunking of the skeptics but to look up the sources for themselves.

I couldn't hope to persuade you about the Zohar, nor do I really have the time or stomach for that fight.

As far as the Aruch goes, yes, he is AN AUTHORITATIVE source, which is not the same as THE AUTHORITATIVE view.

Two points, however, which you might have overlooked in your haste. (Or else, I am overlooking now in my haste.) Please consider that

1) If you look in the regular Aruch, here:
http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=11828&st=&pgnum=160

you will find no such statement.

If, however, you look in the Aruch Hashalem, which has many additions by a later author, here:
http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=48231&st=&pgnum=13

THEN, next to a pointing finger, which I think indicates an insertion, you will find the statement you quoted.

So it does not seem evident that this statement is indeed by the AUTHORITATIVE Rishon.

2) The statement you quoted makes no claim that the word TEVA as used by **Chazal** meant science. Rather, the statement was that the **Meforshim** called science by the name Chochmat HaTeva, on the basis of Chazal's usage of the term to mean something stamped.

ולכן המפרשים קראו לחכמת התולדה חכמת הטבע כי לכל דברים נתנענים יש חוק לא יעברוהו

3) If you are, however, going to look to the Aruch HaShalem, then don't overlook the very next page:
http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=48231&st=&pgnum=14

where indeed he cites the very gemara in question, Niddah 20b, and (as far as I can make out) understands this statement as 'Natur'.

All the best,
Josh

Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

Unfortunately I cannot post a jpg of my Sefer HaAruch (just sefer HaAruch, not HaShalem) here, but if you send me your e-mail (privately if you wish) I can send it to you and you can post it.

Rabbi Moshe Miller said...

"The statement you quoted makes no claim that the word TEVA as used by **Chazal** meant science. Rather, the statement was that the **Meforshim** called science by the name Chochmat HaTeva, on the basis of Chazal's usage of the term to mean something stamped"

Not science, but *nature*. But as to your conclusion I beg to differ: the meaning of the Aruch is that the sources cited from Chazal indicate that the דבר מחוקק ומודפס (what we would call the 'laws of nature') is called טבע (as in the כותרת) and that is why mefarshim state that the study of that דבר מחוקק ומודפס is called חכמת הטבע

Anonymous said...

Dear Rabbi Miller

I understand that in most chassidic and misnagdishe yeshivot linguistics is a very weak subject. ( my personal experience in Lyubavicher yeshiva and similar observations of yeshivot where my children study).

But my teacher for the past 10 years is very serious expert in semitic languages (Heinrich Guggenheimer-- google him out)

Here is a lesson in aramaic you may find useful

חמי,חמא to see in standard Palestinian Aramaic hence usual word in Yerushalmi, Targum Yerushalmi, and Targum Pseudo- Yonathan.

חזי, חזא to see is good Babylonian Aramaic hence found in Bavli and Targum Ezra/Onkelos

Now try reading Zohar or better of run a search engine for both words through its text and see how Palestinian Rabbi Shimon says חזי, and Babylonian Rabbis say חמי

If you would like to know other differences in dialects of Aramaic plz let me know

joshwaxman said...

You have my email. But you can also just follow the links to hebrewbooks and see what I said is true.

But of course something stamped or printed is called teva. A coin is stamped.

The idea is that one later usage is derived from the earlier usage. This doesn't mean that According to aruch the word teva was used by Chazal to mean nature.

joshwaxman said...

By the way, here is Rav Yaakov Emden in Mitpachat Sefarim. Despite how he interprets it in the case of this gemara, he still lists it there as a word that is not used by Chazal, referencing what he wrote in the end of the second perek of Niddah:

מלת טבעה מצויה בפי הפילוסופים והטבעיים לא נמצא בדרז״ל. ועמ״ש ספ״ב דנדה

His comment at the end of Niddah is this:
אמר רבי זידא טבעא דבבל, נראה שהוא
ענין טבע העולם שנשתמשו במלה זו הרבה
הטבעיים, ומכאן לקחו מלה זו חכמיט טבע שלנו
[לצרכם], ולא מצינו לה חבר בתלמוד.



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