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Zohar: The Book of Enlightenment (Classics of Western Spirituality) Paperback – December 1, 1983


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Product Details

  • Series: Classics of Western Spirituality
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Paulist Press (December 1, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809123878
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809123872
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #462,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Dougal on May 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Most of the translations of material from the "Zohar" I have seen have been difficult reading, a kind of cross between Talmud and gnostic treatise. In this volume, Daniel Matt translates a small selection (2% of the work by his own estimate) into rhapsodic and rapturuous, truly air-borne free verse. The effect is both surprizing and exhilarating. The only comparable approaches I can think of that might put you in mind of the nature of this translation are Stanley Lombardo's Homer and Stephen McKenna's Plotinus. But lest I create the impression that this book is only pleasure, the introduction to Kabbalistic thought in general, and the Zohar in particular is quite illuminating, as are the detailed notes on each selection placed at the end of the book. In short, this is a great read and a mind-blower.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By David Kidybinski on January 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the most interesting anthology of Zohar literature I have seen. Though the anthology represents only 5% of the whole Zohar, it is translated in a uniquely modern style. It is translated as poetry, which is highly original, and a very comprehensive introduction and very detailed notes explain the Kabbalistic meanings to the average reader.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Olsen VINE VOICE on June 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
Daniel Matt prepared this very elegant translation of the Zohar. It is only about 2% of the complete Zohar, but it provides an excellent selection of various themes in the Zohar. He prepared a commentary on each selection to assist the novice reader in decoding the language and the allusions in the text. Jews of the 13th Century were more versed in Jewish literature than the average Jew today, so the commentary is very helpful to the modern reader.

The Introduction is also very worthwhile reading. I particularly like Matt's take on how to read the Zohar - read it and let it blow your mind. That is, take what you can from it. The text operates on so many levels that it is profitable reading for almost any audience.

The Zohar itself is structured as midrash on the Torah. Consequently, it is helpful if the reader has some experience with the midrashic process. Midrash can seem really weird to modern people, not schooled in the medieval mindset.

Each selection in this book operates on at least three levels. There is the peshat of the midrash (read it for the basic story). You can decode it according to the doctrine of sfirot (aspects of the Divinity). Finally, there is the ethical/theosophical/ontological content. Some of the selections appear to also relate to peak mystical experiences - either what they are like, or how to produce them.

One way to understand Zohar (which is Gershom Scholem's) is that the Zohar is essentially anti-Maimonidianism. That is, Moses de Leon, the author (there is some dispute about whether some portions were written by committee) did not like Maimonidian rationalism (Aristotle) and was producing a counter-text based on the philosophy of Plato (actually Neoplatonic paraphrases and abridgments produced in Spain).
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Edward J. Barton VINE VOICE on July 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Another in the Classics of Western Spirituality series. The Zohar is a text cosidered inspired or semi-canonical by some Jews. It is considered a kabbalistic text, and as such is really a significant kabbalistic exegesis on the Torah. Daniel Matt is considered one of the finest scholars on the subject, and this book provides a worthy introduction. He begins with a discussion of the somewhat controversial hsitory of the Zohar (when it was written and by whom), the emergence of the Zohar as a religious text, and the challenges of interpretation. He then exerpts about 5% of the text, translates it, and provides a detailed exegesis and interpretation of the symbolism and meaning in the notes. Without reading the exegetical notes, one will be very lost in just reading the text - and even after reading the notes, without a good familiarity of the Bible and even some of the Talmud, it is tough sledding. I wish the exegetical notes followed each excerpt instead of being in a separate appendix to avoid having to flip back and forth for the necessary interpretation. This relatively minor criticism aside, if you have interest in the subject, this scholarly and approachable work will be a welcome read.
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