Cover of The Zohar by Translation and Commentary by Daniel C. Matt
The Zohar
Pritzker Edition, Volume Seven
Translation and Commentary by Daniel C. Matt

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2012
608 pp.
$55.00

Cloth ISBN: 9780804783057

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Sefer ha-Zohar (The Book of Radiance) has amazed readers ever since it emerged in medieval Spain over seven hundred years ago. Written in lyrical Aramaic, this masterpiece of Kabbalah exceeds the dimensions of a normal book; it is virtually a body of mystical literature, comprising over twenty discrete sections. The bulk of the Zohar consists of a mystical interpretation of the Torah, from Genesis through Deuteronomy.

This seventh volume of The Zohar: Pritzker Edition consists of commentary on more than half the book of Leviticus. How does the Zohar deal with a biblical text devoted largely to animal sacrifices, cereal offerings, and priestly ritual? Here these ancient laws and procedures are spiritualized, transformed into symbols of God's inner life, now that both the Desert Tabernacle and the Temple in Jerusalem no longer exist. For example, the ascent offering, which was totally consumed on the altar, is known in Hebrew as olah (literally, "that which ascends"). In the Zohar, this symbolizes Shekhinah, last of the ten sefirot (divine potencies), who ascends to unite with Her beloved, the blessed Holy One.

The biblical narrative describes how two of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, offered alien fire before YHVH and were immediately consumed in a divine blaze. Rabbinic tradition suggested various reasons why they were killed: they lacked the proper priestly garments, or had not washed their hands and feet, or were drunk, or were not married. For the Zohar, marriage enables one to imitate the divine union of male and female energies, and to stimulate that union above. By not marrying, Nadab and Abihu remained incomplete and unfulfilled. According to a related Zoharic passage, their ritual act failed because in their contemplation of the divine qualities they did not include Shekhinah. Without Her, God is incomplete.

About the author

Daniel C. Matt is a leading authority on Jewish mysticism. For twenty years, he served as Professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He has also taught at Stanford University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Matt is the author of The Essential Kabbalah (1995); God and the Big Bang (1996); and Zohar: Annotated and Explained (2002). He is also the translator of the first six volumes of The Zohar: Pritzker Edition.

"A monumental contribution to the history of Jewish thought." —Koret Jewish Book Award, The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, Volumes I and II

"Daniel Matt's work is superior to any other available translation of the Zohar because of its superb poetic language, the exegetical contribution of its copious notes, and its superior underlying Aramaic text, which was specially prepared by Dr. Matt from numerous original Zohar manuscripts."

—Moshe Idel, Max Cooper Professor of Jewish Thought, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

"A superbly fashioned translation and commentary that opens up the Zohar to the English-speaking world. The lucidity and overwhelming relevance of Matt's Zohar will provide both common and uncommon readers with access to a work capable of changing the consciousness of those who enter it."

—Harold Bloom, Max Sterling Professor of Humanities, Yale University

"A powerfully poetic rendition of this spiritual masterpiece . . . Matt's new Zohar is a classic already in its first two volumes. The edition alone, or the translation alone, or the commentary alone would be a major contribution. The whole is a work of art."

Journal of the American Academy of Religion

"Daniel Matt's new translation of the Zohar . . . will quickly become the definitive and unrivaled English edition of one of the pre-eminent classics of world mystical literature."

The Jerusalem Report