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The Essential Zohar: The Source of Kabbalistic Wisdom Paperback – April 6, 2004

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Editorial Reviews Review

Kabbalah, often defined as a Jewish mystical tradition, actually encompasses "the spiritual heritage of all mankind," according to Rav P.S. Berg in The Essential Zohar. Berg, the dean of the Kabbalah Centre (whose members include celebrities such as Madonna and Mick Jagger), has concentrated a core of teachings from the central kabbalistic text, the Zohar, in a single volume that makes kabbalistic wisdom accessible to readers of all religious traditions. The Zohar, which dates back to the second century B.C.E., offers tools for doing the work of kabbalah: "transforming chaos and fragmentation into unity and completion." The Zohar's biblical commentaries and rabbinical stories of apparently "surprise happenings, sudden insights, and full-blown epiphanies" are intended to help readers open themselves to similar revelations. And Berg explains that all of the Zohar's rarified spiritual stories have potential for practical application, to help readers "replace doubt with certainty and darkness with Light." --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Berg, the dean and director of the Kabbalah Centre, writes accessibly about the Zohar, a free-flowing mystical commentary on the Bible, as a way people can tap into cosmic energies that are available for personal and universal salvation. For this to happen, however, the reader must believe that the Bible is a literal history of real personalities and, on the other hand, accept claims that Cham castrated his father, Noah, or that the "biblical golden calf could walk, talk, dance, and even change its shape" midrashic assertions that are not in the Bible. Berg's introduction to the Zohar is often insightful, noting, for example, that awe can be the beginning of wisdom in a world distracted by the "golden calves" of computers and cars. But there are also risks. Although "analyzing" a book on the Zohar is a contradiction in terms, this commentary can be disorganized and illogical. Berg admits that people may be uncomfortable with the notion that we can use "whatever means... necessary to create the spiritual circuitry of our universe," especially if that explains such misdeeds as King David murdering Uriah so he could take Batsheva as his wife. But comforting the reader is not the goal here; Berg succeeds in providing readable access to an esoteric Jewish mystical text. Whether he has also established that "only through Kabbalah will we forever eliminate war, destruction and man's inhumanity to his fellow man" is not so clear.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; Reprint edition (April 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609807315
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609807316
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 96 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
If I could rate this title with 10 stars I would. This book is amazing. I've never felt the need to write a review before but I believe that this title is deserving of my first.
The explanation of the tree of life alone, is reason enough to purchase this title. I own many different Kaballahs and I understand the material within them, but some of the concepts always seemed rather vauge until I read this book. This book has explained the material to me in a way that I didn't think was possible. It was as if the author took the time to hold the readers hand. Everything is explained in a clear and consise manner. This title is definatly worth a look.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Rav Berg is the best teacher of spiritual concepts in a day to day language, and this book is the best simple explanation of passages of the Zohar yet. If one wants to really know what Kabbalah is about, this is a MUST.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Debbie on April 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is the most clear and consise book that I have ever read on the Zohar. It is now very clear to me how and why to use the Zohar to better my life. I loved reading this book. I feel that it has changed my life in such a profound way. Something that I have been looking for for such a long time is now accessible. The invaluable wisdom of this book has already helped me to remove a lot of the chaos I have been experiencing until now. I highly reccomend this book to anyone who has any questions about life.
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Tin Man on March 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed Berg's fresh perspective, which gave me a lot to think about. Definitely thinking outside the box.
Commenting on Adam's fall, the feminine aspect of the Creator, Noah, the story of Jacob and Rachel, David's struggles, and much more; Berg delineates substantive Kabbalistic interpretations of sin, God in the world, desire, soulmates, and testing. The book is brimming over with fresh insights into Kabbalistic wisdom. Check out Berg's interpretation of the fear of God as a source of strength, the importance of the "as above, so below" dynamic in life, the encounter with every stranger as a possible catalytic moment for transformation, the ideal of judging all persons favorably, repentance as one of the most rewarding activities of the human heart, and midnight as the best time for study and prayer.
At the core of the Zohar is the spiritual ideal of transformation. Berg writes: "Each of us came into this world to achieve specific spiritual goals that will culminate in our achieving oneness with God. In this endeavor, there is no such thing as failure. Our transformation is ordained and assured by the Creator. How long it takes depends entirely on us." This cogent and inspired overview of the essential Zohar is one of the best interpretations of Kabbalah available.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Asha Pilota on January 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have been studying and researching the gnostic gospels for some time and have always been intrigued with the "mysteries" of God. I have also been completely vexed with what kabbala is and noone I asked could ever give me an answer- or nothing worth commenting on. Even a friend that had converted to judaism had a murky definition of what she thought kabbala was.. oh, she'd say the kabbala is the study of jewish mysticism. I would ofcourse ask- 'what, then, is jewish mysticism?' Again, no adequate answer.

After reading the Essential Zohar- I picked it up and couldn't put it down, actually, I discovered that the very questions that led me to research the gnostic gospels were the ones that kabbala, the study of, deals with. What I had once called the contradictions of the Bible and of God-even, I now understand to be the paradox that exposes my very own internal nature of good and bad, light and dark, earthly and spiritual. This was a big thing for me...

I responded to Rav Berg's writing style and understood all of his references and allegories. I felt that he gave an excellent view into what kabbala is and how it can be applied both in life and in humanity. He presented, in my opinion, a substantive and balanced introduction to the basic structure, scriptural citations, contemporary relevance, and application of the essential principles of Kabbala. Rav Berg constructs the material in an intuitive, comprehensive sequence. I felt the more I read the more I understood. It is intellectually stimulating and well written. It had moments of humor even.

I feel enlightened, having read this book, and will continue to learn more solely because of Rav Berg's presentation and delivery. I am excited, encouraged, and revived about my spiritual journey again. Superb. A must.
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86 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Israel Drazin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
This volume tries to show that some Zohar notions are reasonable by ignoring the vast majority of the book and by mistranslations. Many mystics, including the author of this volume, insist that the Zohar was composed by Rabbi Simeon bar Yochai around the year 130 CE. However, scholars recognize that Moses d' Leon, a Spaniard living in Granada, wrote it around 1286, that parts of the book were added by others after his death, and that the work is a pious forgery.

Zohar means "luminous" and alludes to the notion that God illuminates the people through mysticism. But while ostensibly dealing with enlightenment, the Zohar is usually very difficult to understand and many of its ideas are not rational. Therefore, Berg needed to cut and mistranslate it.

The Zohar's basic teaching is the doctrine of the Sefirot, "numbers," ten divine entities that function in ten different ways. The lowest entity is shekhinah, also called malkhut, which mystics see as the anthropomorphic feminine part of God that interacts with humans.

The mystics feel that the ten parts of God are not combined together and that humans have a duty to help God become one with all his ten disjointed parts reassembled, like putting Humpty Dumpty together again. When this is done, the messianic age will arrive.

Scholars have assembled a host of proofs showing that the Zohar was not an ancient document. The following are some of the many proofs.

1. A renowned person visited Moses d' Leon to see the ancient documents that d' Leon claimed he used to copy the Zohar. Moses d' Leon kept putting him off and later asserted that the documents had strangely disappeared. After his death, d' Leon's wife admitted that the documents never existed.
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