Printed from
They weren't doing their homework....

Other Claims and Responses

Other Claims and Responses

Other Claims and Responses
They weren't doing their homework....

2) Language and Grammar

We must realize that each branch of Torah study has its own unique vocabulary, at least to some extent. The vocabulary of moral instruction, for example, is not likely to be identical to the vocabulary used for legal texts or kabbala, just as the vocabulary of medicine is not likely to be identical with the vocabulary of architecture or computer programming. Furthermore, identical words may be used in different ways, with different meanings. This is certainly the case in the various branches of Torah study. In the comparison below I have only gone through about half of the academics claims so far, and therefore many cross-references are missing. Nevertheless, it is easy to get an understanding of the problem with academics. An added difficulty is that Scholem generally does not source the words he finds fault with in the Zohar. Using a CD-Rom to search for these or similar terms, I have been unable to find a substantial portion of the terms Scholem lists. His lack of sourcing is itself indicative of academic sloppiness at best, or even dishonesty.

The words in bold print are from the Zohar that Scholem and his colleagues claim are unique to the Zohar or are invented or misunderstood. Let the reader compare for himself:

The following is a list of "new" expressions (new in form or root) listed by Tzvi Kedari in Dikduk HaLashon HaAramit shel haZohar (p. 145-6). In several cases the word or expression is found only once in the entire Zohar. How one can generalize from a single occurrence to unusual usages in the original is difficult to understand.

Scholem's lack of sourcing is itself indicative of academic slopppiness at best...

The word from the Zohar is in bold; what follows are other sources where the same (or minimally different) expression is used.

Chavaru (Zohar II, 72b): Also found in Targum Yonatan, Vayikra 13:55, 56. Also, k'chavari is found in Bava Kama 93b; Chulin 76a et al. (It is known that copyists often erred in writing a vav instead of a yud and vice versa, so this minor difference should not detract from their similarity).

L'chishu (Zohar II, 76a): Similar forms such as l'chushu and ilchisha are found in Talmud. See e.g. Yoma 82b.

Atiku (Zohar II, 75b): Found as atiki in Shabbat 48a, 76b, 134b; Pesachim 42b; Bava Kama 114b; Avoda Zara 3b. As atika in Rosh HaShanah 20b; Yoma 29a et al. atikin in Yoma 55b.

Saliku (Zohar II, 75b): Found also in Targum Onkelos to Shemot 13:18; ibid. 17:10; to Bamidbar 13:31; Targum Yonatan to Shemot 13:18. 17:10; to Yehoshua 4:19; to Shoftim 1:16. In Eruvin 89b; Yoma 9b; Yevamot 86b; Gittin 60b; Kiddushin 69a & b, 71b; etc. etc. etc.

Tzahivin (Zohar II 73a). A similar expression is found in Moed Katan 24b (m'tzhivin). Also in the sense of "glow" in Pesachim 113b; Zevachim 19b, Menachot 68b (tzahavu). The expression "panav tzohavin" is found fairly often: Ketubot 103b; Nedarim 49b; Menachot 18a etc.

K'mitin (Zohar II, 71b). in the sense of folds or wrinkles. K'mitin (the identical meaning) is found in Mishnah Negaim 6, 8; Mikvaot 8, 5 (kamtin); Bava Metiza 87a; Bava Batra 91b, 120a. Chulin 112b (k'miti).

Kelipa. This is an allegorical expression used in a specifically kabbalistic sense and will therefore not be found elsewhere with the same meaning.

Kortamei: (Zohar II 75a) in the sense of spots or blotches. Not found in the same sense elsewhere. However, in Gemara the word signifies a type of herb or spice (carcum) as in Berachot 38a, Shabbat 110a;Pesachim 42b; Gittin 70a. Perhaps the Zohar uses this in the allegorical sense, referring to the shape or size of the blotch. Alternatively, since the word appears only once in the Zohar, it could have been miscopied from the original.

Rachimu, found frequently in Zohar. Also in Targum Yonatan to Bereishit 30:6 (b'rachimoi); to Yirmeyahu 5:31 (rachimu); to Yechezkel 23:21; to Hoshea 4:18; also to Ester, Psalms, etc., etc.; Bava Kama 116a.

Rachich Laka. Zohar II 72b ("soft-hearted" or "loving"). Targum Yonatan to Divrei HaYamim II,13:7 (translation of rach levav). The phrase likhon rachich ("they are soft-hearted") is found in the Jerusalem Talmud Taanit 15a. As a separate word rachich is found in Bava Metzia 86b; Chullin 122a. Licha is found in a number of places e.g. Moed Katan 8a; Sanhedrin 35a, 106b.

Rashima. Found numerous times in Zohar. As roshma, the word is found in Pesachim 110b; Gittin 20a.

Sh'kivu (Zohar II, 74a). Found also in Targum Onkelos to Genesis 19:4; Targum Yonatan to Genesis 19:4; to Joshua 2:1, 2:8; to Ezekiel 32:21 etc. In Babylonian Talmud Succah 53a, Sanhedrin 97a.

The next article in this series: Authenticity of the Zohar, Claims and Responses (continued).

Rabbi Moshe Miller was born in South Africa and received his yeshivah education in Israel and America. He is a prolific author and translator, with some twenty books to his name on a wide variety of topics, including an authoritative, annotated translation of the Zohar. He has developed a coaching-type approach to dealing with life's issues based on Chassidism and Kabbalah—a tool for dealing with normal issues that everyone faces as well as issues psychologists usually address, often ineffectively. He also gives free live classes over the Internet.
The Zohar is a basic work of Kabbalah authored by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his students (2nd century CE). English translation of annotated selections by Rabbi Moshe Miller (Morristown, N.J.: Fiftieth Gate Publications, 2000) includes a detailed introduction covering the history and basic concepts of Kabbalah. Volume 1 (36 pp.) covers the first half of the first of the original’s three volumes. It is available online from our store, KabbalaOnline Shop.
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
1000 characters remaining
Anonymous June 23, 2014

Secular scholars can be pests, as it is written: Catch us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes (Song of Songs 2:15). Still their work is often very useful because of their copious notes and citations. In any case thank you Rabbi Miller for all your excellent work on the Zohar. Reply

Anonymous USA July 7, 2013

Authenticity of the Zohar 4 Who do we believe? There seems to be so much controversy... Why is it that human beings are always disagreeing? Doesn't the Zohar make sense? According to the teachings of Torah? I am not a scholar, but by reading Torah and all the Sacred books, can one make sense of it all? Besides prayers, and trusting in the Almighty brings peace and understanding. The Precious Holy Spirit have a part on the learning as I believe it was promised. Reply

Rabbi Moshe Miller Chicago, IL via May 2, 2013

David Austin's comment After a lecture on Kabbala, Scholem was once asked how, if he knows so much kabbalah (and he did have a vast knowledge of the literature) why was he not already an observant Jew? His answer: "You don't have to be a triangle to teach mathematics!"
So I very much agree with the "tone-deaf" analogy. Reply

David Austin Sydney, Australia via October 27, 2012

I quite agree. Scholems' approach is like a tone deaf person comparing works of music and drawing conclusions from patterns seen at some level, while lacking a gestalt appreciation of the system into which the works fit. An expert is indeed someone who is scrupulous as to details while sweeping on to the grand fallacy. I find his books helpful at the detail level but take his conclusions with a large pinch of salt. Academics who start off rom the premise that "I will have none of this superstitious nonsense" have no role to play in the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. They are mere bookworms. Reply

The larger, bold text is the direct translation of the classic text source.

The smaller, plain text is the explanation of the translator/editor.
Text with broken underline will provide a popup explanation when rolled over with a mouse.