Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Authenticity of the Zohar -- pt xiii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) Replying to the author's assertion that kabbalah took people away from the heresies of philosophy, the guest says that the kabbalah's invention was intended to good purpose, but did more damage than the philosophers, since it took people away from peshat. Chazal were engaged in peshat, but the Tikkunei Zohar denigrates peshat, and drives people away from it and towards nonsensical divrei Torah involving gematriot and the like. And further, it causes people to discuss sacrilegious topics about the nature of God. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The guest: My word is already said, that the Rishonim who invented from their own heart the wisdom of the kabbalah intended well.

But what will you say when I see that they did more damage than the philosophers?

Do you have anything which degrades the Torah more that the sefer haZohar which says that one who says that that the simple meaning {peshutah} of the Torah is the Torah itself, may his spirit be blasted, and he does not have a portion in the World to Come (chelek 3, page 152). And in another place it says that the peshat is the chaff of the Torah (Tikkunei Zohar Chadash, page 34). And in the beginning of the preface of the Tikkunim, he mocks those who engage in Scripture and calls them "eggs." {?}

And behold, we see that our Sages z"l only engaged in the peshat, and if they say also matters of aggada, they did not make them the primary, but rather they explicitly said "and are aggadot a reliable {?} ?"

And they said that the Scripture does not go out of its simple meaning, and when they came to respond to the faulty expositions which Menasheh ben Chizkiyah expounded -- and did Moshe have nothing better to do that write "and the sister of Lotan was Timna" -- they did not answer him on the way of sod {secret / mysticism}, but rather in the way of peshat. {See Sanherin 99.}

And in the matter of the precepts, I have already said before you the words of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai to his students: "By your lives! The corpse does not transmit impurity nor does the {red} heifer render pure, nor does the water render pure. {Rather, it is Hashem's wish that we conduct ourselves as if they do, such that it is a construct rather than reality.} Thus it is clear how far they were from the path of sod.

Also, in perek Ain Dorshin, when they came to speak a word in the matter of the Work of Creation and the Work of the Chariot, they brought a proof to their words from the peshat of the verses, or from the derash. But based on remez or sod, they did not say a word or half a word.

And behold, according to the words of the Zohar, they were all fools and "eggs," and their souls were blasted, and they do not have a portion in the world to come.

The author: Forfend to say like this about our Sages, z"l. For just the opposite. They were the ones who transmitted to us, in the sefer haZohar, and in Oral kabbalah, all the wonders of wisdom. But that which they did not wish to speak about in the Mishna and the Talmud, which are things equal to everyone.

Do you not know what they said about the {Divine} Name consisting of 12 letters and consisting of 42 letters? Behold there was by them sodot {secrets}, even though they did not explain them in the Talmud.

The guest: Even if you find to say they they had sodot by them, that which I will not deny, and I will only deny that they had by them sodot like the kabbalists in our days. Still, you will not find to them that they despised engaging in peshat, and he was not despised in their eyes one who did not desire sodot, like that Sage who said {in Chagiga 13a, when he declined to learn Maaseh Merkava} "I am still not old enough," even though he had an appropriate teacher to learn from.

Is this not the aim of my words which I have spoke, that the sefer haZohar caused the distancing of the Sages of Israel from engaging in the knowledge of the substance of Torah, which is the peshat, in order to know and understand the many piles and piles of halachot which depend on every single word and every single letter, according to the depth of the wisdom

of the language. And it caused them to waste their time and intellect in dreams and nonsense, and many things which do not have any substance, such as gematriot, acronyms, and other matters, which, if they are mentioned at times even in the Talmud, are only brought as a way of mere support {asmachta}, not to build upon them an insipid building, nor to believe that they were inspired in this {?} by the Divine Inspiration which spoke in the mouth of the prophets.

And the second thing which the sefer haZohar caused is the throwing off the yoke of fear of heaven from the necks of the Sages of Israel, until they did not have mercy upon the honor of their Creator. And they asked and answered, and wrote and printed about what is above, what is below, what is before, and what is after. And upon the God of gods {?} they speak and record with pride and and swelled heart, how He created his world, and how He conducts it, and how He contracted Himself to create it, and how he infused {?} worlds from His Essence, and how His Essence becomes joined with the worlds He infused, and how One is Ten and Ten is One, and how the soul is literally a portion of the Deity, and how the world is all a portion of the Deity, and how the works of flesh and blood have power in them to detract from and to damage the upper worlds, and similar things to these, whoever has a God, the hairs on his body stand on end when he reads them in a sefer, and specifically when he sees that those who are speaking in these matters are empty and missing the wisdom of common sense {/logic?}, and from all the required prefaces not only for such lofty investigations, but even for the littlest of the investigations. And on all of it, when he said how their is no accord among them in the foundations of their wisdom, and all of them grope the wall like blind men in matters upon which all depends, and based on this they strive to maintain two opposites in one issue, and that they say things which have no understanding at all. And the intelligent one who understands will only find their words blasphemies and sacrileges.

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