Saturday, January 01, 2011

Esnoga, and the authenticity of the Zohar

Summary: Many people discuss it, pro and con, but I get the sense that not even everyone discussing it has seen the relevant Zohar inside. And so, I present it in this post.

Post: One point raised by Rav Yaakov Emden, Shadal, and others, about evidence of forgery or else late interpolations in the Zohar is the use of the word Esnoga, meaning synagogue. And not just using the word, but working it into a derasha. Since not everyone has seen this Zohar (in the Raya Mehemna), I present it here.

It is on parashat Ki Teitzei, siman 119-121, and particularly in the last statement of 119:

119. The King's daughter, WHO IS MALCHUT, is bound by ropes. THAT IS, JUST AS THE ADHESIONS OF THE LUNG STOP THE AIR FROM THE LUNG, SO DO THE INIQUITIES OF YISRAEL STOP THE LIGHT FROM MALCHUT in prison in her exile. She is a nest to Samael among the stars, THAT IS, SAMAEL IS ATTACHED TO HER, and the Holy One, blessed be He, swears, "Though you do soar aloft like the eagle, and though you do set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you, says Hashem" (Ovadyah 1:4). And the Shechinah is CALLED Venus (Heb. nogah), AS WRITTEN, "the fire was bright (Heb. nogah)" (Yechezkel 1:13). Hence the synagogue is called 'a bright fire' IN A FOREIGN TONGUE.

120. The fire of Mars (Heb. ma'adim) IS RED SINCE MA'ADIM derives from redness (Heb. odem), ACCORDING TO THE SECRET OF, "the first row shall be a ruby (Heb. odem), a chrysolite, and a beryl" (Shemot 28:17). Venus is a white fire, and both are the face of the sun, the face of the moon. Netzach and Hod receive the whiteness from Chesed and the redness from Gvurah; Aaron and David came from there; one received Mercy and the other received Judgment. David came from the left side, AS WRITTEN, "Now he was ruddy" (I Shmuel 16:12). Aaron is a man of Chesed, and the two true prophets, NAMELY NETZACH AND HOD, are from them. The face of Moses used to shine with prophecy from Binah, which is the supernal sun, whence his prophecy came.

121. In them, Esau the wicked, the servant IS CALLED Edom, and his female IS CALLED Mars, which is bloodshed in Yisrael. She caused it to be fulfilled in the Queen, "he has made me desolate and faint (Heb. davah) all the day" (Eichah 1:13). Hod turned into Davah, since they correspond to Netzach and Hod. "I AM NOT ABLE TO RISE UP" (IBID. 14) CORRESPONDS TO NETZACH AND "FAINT ALL THE DAY" CORRESPONDS TO HOD. THEY ARE Jachin and Boaz, NETZACH BEING JACHIN AND BOAZ HOD, on both of which the house is supported, since a synagogue, WHICH CORRESPONDS TO MALCHUT, is named after them 'a bright fire', as we said.

It seems as though there is a derasha going on here. After citing a pasuk in the first perek of Yechezkel stating venoga la'eish:

יג  וּדְמוּת הַחַיּוֹת מַרְאֵיהֶם כְּגַחֲלֵי-אֵשׁ, בֹּעֲרוֹת כְּמַרְאֵה הַלַּפִּדִים--הִיא, מִתְהַלֶּכֶת בֵּין הַחַיּוֹת; וְנֹגַהּ לָאֵשׁ, וּמִן-הָאֵשׁ יוֹצֵא בָרָק.13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like coals of fire, burning like the appearance of torches; it flashed up and down among the living creatures; and there was brightness to the fire, and out of the fire went forth lightning.

the Zohar states that the Shechina is called noga, and the shul they call {"karu"esh noga, 'a bright fire'. So too at the end of siman 121, the bei kenishta, the shul, is called {itkeriat} after them "Esh Noga", as we have said (above).

Now, who calls a synagogue Esh Noga? The answer is that in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), which was spoken in the time and place of Rabbi Moshe de Leon, a shul was called Esnoga. They did not call it Enoga in the time and place of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. This is one of a whole bunch of anachronisms in the Zohar.

Now, it might be resolvable with deeper analysis, or we might say this is a late interpolation, rather than evidence that it was forged in its entirely. Regardless, this is the famous derasha.

Counter-arguments to be presented and considered, beEzras Hashem, in future posts.


thanbo said...

At Scout camp (Kunatah), the synagogue was called "Synagogue in the Pines." Mark Goldfarb, whose father was both Scoutmaster and shammash of the Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue, called it "Esnoga be-ha-Pines". This would be c. 1980, well before I knew much of anything about the Zohar, being in HS at Ramaz.

S. said...

I recently posted about Esnoga here


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