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Zohar: Annotated & Explained (SkyLight Illuminations) Paperback – June 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

SkyLight Paths continues its Illuminations series with this edition of the Zohar, which series editor Andrew Harvey explains in his foreword is "the cornerstone of Kabbalah." This central text of Jewish mysticism is notoriously recondite and lends itself to multiple interpretations, making its study the life's work of many a Jewish scholar. More recently, individuals of other religious traditions (Exhibit A being Madonna) have begun to dabble in the Zohar, and this edition is particularly geared to them. It is based on short selections rather than the full text, and it offers wonderful facing-page explanations of key concepts and terms, so readers will not have to dig through endnotes looking for information. Matt, a former professor of Jewish mysticism at Berkeley and author of The Essential Kabbalah, doesn't "dumb down" the more abstruse passages of the Zohar, and he provides a very effective introduction that outlines its importance for the reader.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

There are many fine books that explain the Zohar, the mostimportant text of the mystical Jewish movement, kabbalah. This one hasseveral advantages, however, over the others. First, it has awonderful foreword by Harvey, editor of the SkyLight Illuminationsseries, of which the book is a member. In it Harvey evocativelyintroduces a kabbalist named Ezekiel, who teaches Harvey about thepossibilities and power of the mystic tradition, generally andparticularly. Interested readers will be as exhilarated as Harvey isby Ezekiel's provocative statements. Next, the solid preface explainsthe Zohar 's origins, which aren't lost in the mists of time asmany believe, and basic concepts. The text proper is the Zoharwith commentary by translator Matt that explains references to theBible and Midrash and draws on the writings of Jewish philosophers forfurther illumination. A fine starting place for most readersinterested in Jewish mysticism. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: SkyLight Illuminations
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: SkyLight Paths; 1 edition (June 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1893361519
  • ISBN-13: 978-1893361515
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #231,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

117 of 119 people found the following review helpful By S. Eyer on January 8, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This work, a careful update of Matt's earlier edition of Zohar excerpts, provides an accurate and thoughtful translation of many of the most important sections of the Zohar, a primary text in the mystical tradition of the kabbalah. The Zohar itself is voluminous, and it has never been fully translated into English. This book, though, is short and just covers a few essential areas of the Zohar. While basic, it is not watered-down. It's a great place to start if you've recently heard about the Zohar and are wondering about it. There are a lot of unreliable and "fluffy" treatments filling the shelves these days -- this is the authentic article, prepared by one of the most highly regarded scholars in the field.

If you like this book, you might also be interested in the same translator's new, complete translation of the entire Zohar. It's being published volume-by-volume by Stanford University Press. But if you just want the highlights, if you just want to see what this text is about, then this Skylight edition is the way to go.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAME on September 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
In the Foreword, series editor Andrew Harvey relates his interesting experience with a wise man in Israel who taught him about the seven wonders of Kabbalah, whilst in the Preface Daniel Matt explains the origin of this book of commentary, drawn from his volume for the Paulist Press. These are the most powerful passages from that book in a revised translation.

The introduction deals with the history and contents of the Zohar, a commentary on the 5 books of Moses written in the form of a mystical novel. The questions of its original author/s, the language, and the Ten Sefirot are also discussed here. I found this interpretation of the first words of Genesis very interesting, as well as the insight that the Zohar urges us to regain cosmic consciousness, a closer connection to the divine.

From a linguistic perspective, it is valuable to learn of the neologisms and the use of multiple connotations, oxymorons, puns, parables and puzzles in the text. A chart of the Sefirot is provided. Chapters 1 to 17 consist of selected passages from the Zohar on the right-hand page, with commentary on the left. Chapter titles include The Essence Of Torah, The Creation Of God, The Hidden Light, Adam's Sin, The Binding Of Abraham and Isaac, Jacob's Garment Of Days, the Secret Of Sabbath, The Aroma Of Infinity, God, Israel and Shekhinah, and The Wedding Celebration.

The book concludes with notes, a glossary, a bibliography and an index of Zohar Passages. I did not find this book very clear or accessible at first. It was only after I had read The Essential Zohar: The Source of Kabbalistic Wisdom by Rav P S Berg that I returned to this one and it made sense.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By B. Glazer on March 25, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Daniel Matt's beautifully annotated Zohar leads one into the depth of Jewish mysticism while celebrating the wisdom of our ancestors. Study of the Kabalah requires a teacher, one who can guide the learner deeper into Torah and Talmud, and is not for the easily discouraged. This is a complex book with multiple levels of meaning and Daniel Matt opens the door to the initiate.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Oppenheim VINE VOICE on November 1, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book is a very good introduction to Kabbalah through some translations of its major reference, the Zohar. It focuses on several passages, and how they relate to the Ten Sefirot - about Adam (Adam's sin - driving out the divine), Abraham & Sarah (prophecy of a child - opening to the divine), Abraham & Isaac (balance of love and judgement), Jacob (garment of days - Torah/Zohar - key to the whole world - including resurrection), Joseph (dreams are reflections of the mind - Shekhinah enters), etc.

The book's forward is very good in offering seven 'wonders' of Kabbalah, as a preface to embarking further - like 1) vision of the infinite, Ein Sof, 2) fusion of male/female, good/evil and light/dark, 3) flowing of the Ten Sefirot, 4) Shekhinah - feminine side of God, body of the soul, 5) creativity of Kabbalah, 6) God needs us as we need God - tikkun ha nefesh (mending the soul) and tikkun olam (mending the world), and 7) the glory of living a 'divine' life.

Some other things from the book I think worth mentioning are:

1. Parts of Kabbalah may have been composed by 'automatic writing' - the authors writing while in a state of meditation - writing more from inspiration than analytical thought.

2. The Zohar is poetic, mysterious - only suggests, hints.

3. Zohar means 'radiance' - hidden power.

4. Light shows for the righteous - understanding the Torah.

5. God at Sinai reveals himself through letters.

6. The Sabbath - brings in Shekhinah

Overall, the book is very good, but really just an introduction.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Israel Drazin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is an easy to read collection of selections from one of the most difficult to understand books of Jewish mysticism, Zohar. It contains a 24 page forward, preface, and introduction that explains what Zohar is about, who wrote it, its unique sometimes bizarre poetic cryptic language, its mythical imagery, its belief that God needs human help, and its core belief that God is composed of ten parts, each operating separately, and that the lowest entity is shekhinah, also called malkhut, which mystics see as the anthropomorphic feminine part of God that interacts with humans. Zohar contends that the ten parts of God became disjointed and humans have a duty to help God become one with all his ten parts reassembled. When this is done, the messianic age will arrive. Daniel Matt places his renderings of the Zohar on right hand pages and his interpretations on the left.

Zohar means "luminous" and alludes to the notion that God illuminates the people through mysticism. But while dealing with enlightenment, Zohar is usually very difficult to understand and many of its ideas do not appear to be rational.

Many people are convinced that Zohar was composed by Rabbi Simeon bar Yochai around the year 130 CE. However, scholars have assembled well over a hundred proofs showing that Zohar is not an ancient document. They recognize that Moses d' Leon, a Spaniard living in Granada, wrote it around 1286, and that parts of the book were added by others after his death.
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