The Zohar: Pritzk­er Edi­tion, Vol­ume Three

Daniel C. Matt, trans. and commentary
  • Review
By – October 17, 2011
The Zohar is Judaism’s best-known mys­ti­cal text. It is also one of Judaism’s most impen­e­tra­ble texts, writ­ten in obscure Ara­ma­ic. The epochal Pritzk­er edi­tion Eng­lish trans­la­tion attempts to make this Kab­bal­is­tic work more acces­si­ble to Eng­lish speak­ers and free them from the errors and mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions that exist in almost all pop­u­lar accounts of the Zohar. How­ev­er one will not real­ly know the Zohar from a trans­la­tion. Trans­la­tions of Jew­ish works have been likened to kiss­ing the bride through a veil,” eat­ing raw wheat rather than the refined hal­lah,” and some have referred to any­one who trans­lates as a liar, but any­one who does not trans­late as a thief.” What may appear to be translu­cent is often a clev­er­ly dis­guised opac­i­ty. Tra­di­tion­al­ly in Rab­binic cul­ture under­stand­ing the Zohar requires many decades of study, and pro­hi­bi­tions abound in Rab­binic texts refer­ring to the Kabbalah’s eso­teric nature that requires not only a good foun­da­tion in the Hebrew and Ara­ma­ic lan­guages, famil­iar­i­ty with Rab­binic meth­ods of inter­pre­ta­tion, expo­sure to many more basic Rab­binic works, but also a matu­ri­ty and ripeness for its dan­ger­ous areas of spec­u­la­tion. Still the Amer­i­can read­er who wants a taste of this dif­fi­cult text will find no bet­ter win­dow into the Zohar­ic world than Matt’s trans­la­tion. This third vol­ume of The Zohar: Pritzk­er Edi­tion wraps up the Zohar’s com­men­tary on the book of Gen­e­sis. In this vol­ume the read­er may glimpse secret insights into well known bib­li­cal nar­ra­tives includ­ing Jacob’s wrestling with the angel at Peniel, Joseph’s kid­nap­ping by his broth­ers, his near seduc­tion by Potiphar’s wife, his inter­pre­ta­tion of Pharaoh’s dreams, his reunion with his broth­ers and father, etc.
David Levy (B.A. Haver­ford Col­lege, MLS UMCP, Ph.D. Bal­ti­more Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty) cur­rent­ly serves as the librar­i­an at TC. LCW. David has pub­lished over 1,800 book reviews and var­i­ous papers in Judaica library sci­ence includ­ing, most recent­ly, Halakhic Eth­i­cal Issues of the Online Envi­ron­ment” (AJL, 2011, Mon­tre­al) and Teach­ing Judaica Library Sci­ence” (AJL, 2010 Seattle).

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