On Translating the Zohar

Having recently completed a nine-volume translation of the classic text of kabbalah, Daniel C. Matt discusses some of the difficulties he encountered and reflects on the Zohar’s importance. (Interview by Alan Brill.)

One of the most charming—and frustrating—features of the Zohar is its frequent use of neologisms. The authors like to switch around letters of talmudic terms or occasionally play with Spanish words.

One newly coined word is tikla. In various contexts, this can mean “scale,” “hollow of the hand,” “fist,” “potter’s wheel,” or “water clock.” This last sense refers to a device described in ancient and medieval scientific literature, which in the Zohar functions as an alarm clock, calibrated to wake kabbalists at precisely midnight for the ritual study of Torah. A similar device was employed in Christian monasteries to rouse monks for their vigils. . . .

In interpreting the Bible, the Zohar is willing to ask daring questions. Going beyond traditional midrash, the Zohar employs radical creativity to make us question our current assumptions about life, about ourselves, [and] about God and spirituality. It moves through the Torah verse by verse, asking probing, challenging questions. As the Zohar says, “God is known and grasped to the degree that one opens the gates of imagination,” so it’s up to our imaginative faculty to understand reality, or the reality of God.

Read more at Book of Doctrines and Opinions

More about: Aramaic, Judaism, Kabbalah, Religion & Holidays, Translation, Zohar

 

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy