SIDEBAR - "Zohar"

The Zohar [Hebrew: "radiance"] is considered by many to be the greatest classic of Jewish mysticism. It is a mystical commentary on the Torah, written in Aramaic, and is purported to be the teachings of the 2nd century Palestinian Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai. Legend relates that during a time of Roman persecution, Rabbi Shimon hid in a cave for 13 years, studying Torah with his son. During this time he is said to have been inspired by God to write the Zohar.

However, there is no real mention of this book in any Jewish literature until the 13th century. At that time, a Spanish Jew by the name of Moshe de Leon claimed to discover the text of the Zohar, and the text was subsequently published and distributed throughout the Jewish world. However, there is a school of thought (based on the writings of historian Gershom Scholem) that de Leon himself was the most likely author of the Zohar. Most Orthodox Jews dispute Scholem's view.

Whoever the author is, the content of the book is not fraudulent. It definitely is based on older works, and it was a common practice to ascribe the authorship of a document to an ancient rabbi in order to give the document more weight. The Zohar contains and elaborates upon much of the material found in other mystical writings such as, 'Sefer Yetzirah' and 'Sefer Bahir', and without question is the Kabbalistic work par excellance.

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