Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Authenticity of the Zohar -- pt iii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment). The author just mentioned how Rav Yaakov Emden said that the Raaya Mehemna and Tikkunim were forgeries, while the Zohar was just subject to many, many late additions. In this segment, the guest now argues that it is more fitting to say that the Zohar, too, was forged. And he cites testimony from Rabbi Moshe de Leon's wife and daughter that he forged the Zohar so that people would value the work, and give him gifts. The text of Shadal's Vikuach follows:

The guest: But the opposite of this appears to me, that much more than is fitting did he show partiality in matters of Torah, in his saying about the sefer haZohar that additions came into it, and did not say that it was all forged from its root.

And what will you say about the testimony written in Sefer Yuchsin, printed in Constantine (and which the Gaon {=Yaabetz} brings down in his sefer, that Rabbi Yitzchak of Akko, the student of the Ramban, went to investigate the sefer haZohar, which was found in the hands of the students, and he did not find their words in tune. For some of them told him that the Ramban found it in Eretz Yisrael and sent it so Cologne, and some of them told him that it was never the composition of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, but rather than Rabbi Moshe of the city of Leon was the author of it, and in order to take for it a large price he suspended himself by the large tree {=Rashbi}. And therefore, he, Rabbi Yitzchak of Akko arose and went to the city of Valladolid {in Central Spain} and found there Rabbi Moshe de Deon, and he {=Rabbi Moshe} swore to him that the sefer of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was in the house of his dwelling in the city of Avila. And in returning to his home, he died on the road. And Rabbi Yitzchak came to the city of Avila and found there a sage whose name was Rabbi David Refan, the relative of Rabbi Moshe, and he found favor in his eyes, and he made him swear to tell him if he knew the truth of the matter of the sefer haZohar. And this sage said to him that it was clear to him with certainty that Rabbi Moshe had invented it from his heart, and had given it to wealthy individuals in our country, and accepted from them many gifts, and all that he profited he dispersed in his lifetime, and left his wife and children naked and lacking everything. And when he {=this relative} heard of the death of Rabbi Moshe, he went to Rabbi Yosef de Avila, who was a very wealthy man, from whom Rabbi Moshe {de Leon} had already taken from him a lot of money, and told him that now the time had arrived that he was able to purchase the great sefer haZohar in its entirety, if he wished to send a good portion to the widow of Rabbi Moshe, who was in abject poverty. And he did so, and send gift by the hand of his wife to the wife of Rabbi Moshe, and she swore to her that her husband never had the sought after sefer haZohar, but rather from his own heart and mind did he write, and that she had already reproved him on this, why he suspended his own wisdom upon others. And he {=Rabbi Moshe de Leon} answered her that if he said these words in his own name, they would not value them, and would not give him gifts. And after this, the woman {=the wife of the rich man} spoke with the daughter
of Rabbi Moshe, and she found that her words were in accord with the words of her mother.

These are the words of the sage, the elder, to Rabbi Yitzchak of Akko, and so are they written in sefer Yuchsin and recorded in Mitpachat Sefarim to the Gaon Yabeitz {=Rav Yaakov Emden}, and he, z"l, says on this that a man is not suspected of a matter unless he did it, and if he did not do it all, he did some of it.

The author: If I have to believe in forgery, it is not easier for me to believe that this testimony is forged and made up, and that Rabbi Yitzchak of Akko never wrote these things, and that the testimony of the wife and daughter of Rabbi Moshe never was and never was created, than to believe that the sefer haZohar is entirely forgen, and to suspect Rabbi Moshe di Leon of such lying as this.


Anonymous said...

How can I get a copy of the Vikuach?

joshwaxman said...

SeforimOnline.org has it in their Unsorted bin, for download. Though there are 2 to 3 pages missing from it, which I supplement from my own copy when needed. The YU library has it. I'm not sure where one can buy it, though.

Anonymous said...



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