The first two volumes of The Zohar, Pritzker edition, cover more
than half of the Zohar's commentary on the Book of Genesis (through
Genesis 32:3). This is the first translation ever made from a
critical Aramaic text of the Zohar, which has been established by
Professor Matt based on a wide range of original manuscripts. The
extensive commentary, appearing at the bottom of each page,
clarifies the kabbalistic symbolism and terminology, and cites
sources and parallels from biblical, rabbinic, and kabbalistic
texts. The translator's introduction is accompanied by a second
introduction written by Arthur Green, discussing the origin and
significance of the Zohar ever since it emerged mysteriously in
mediaeval Spain toward the end of the 13th century. Written in a
unique Aramaic, this masterpiece of Kabbalah exceeds the dimensions
of a normal book; it is virtually a body of literature, comprising
over 20 discrete sections. The bulk of the Zohar consists of a
running commentary on the Torah, from Genesis through Deuteronomy.
This translation begins and focuses here in what are projected to
be ten volumes. Two subsequent volumes will cover other, shorter
sections. The Zohar's commentary is composed in the form of a
mystical novel. The hero is Rabbi Shim'on son of Yohai, a saintly
disciple of Rabbi Akiva who lived in the 2nd century in the land of
Israel. In the Zohar, Rabbi Shim'on and his companions wander
through the hills of Galilee, discovering and sharing secrets of
Torah. characters, and the mystical companions interpret their
words, actions and personalities. On a deeper level, the text of
the Bible is simply the starting point, a springboard for the
imagination. For example, when God commands Abraham, Lekh lekha, go
forth ... to the land that I will show you (Genesis 12:1), Rabbi
El'azar ignores idiomatic usage and insists on reading the words
more literally than they were intended, hyperliterally: Lekh lekha,
go to yourself . Search deep within to discover your true self.
about their dramatic mystical sessions with Rabbi Shim'on or their
adventures on the road, for example, an encounter with a
cantankerous old donkey driver who turns out to be a master of
wisdom in disguise. stages of God's inner life, aspects of divine
personality, both feminine and masculine. By penetrating the
literal surface of the Torah, the mystical commentators transform
the biblical narrative into a biography of God. The entire Torah is
read as one continuous divine name, expressing divine being. Even a
seemingly insignificant verse can reveal the inner dynamics of the
sefirot - how God feels, responds and act, how She and He (the
divine feminine and masculine) relate intimately with each other
and with the world.
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