Twenty Years Later, an English Translation of the Zohar Nears Completion

Having begun the project of rendering the Zohar—the major work of Jewish mysticism—into English in 1997, Daniel Matt, with the help of two other scholars, is completing the eleventh volume of the most comprehensive translation of the book to date. (The twelfth and final volume will appear next year.) Ezra Glinter reviews Matt’s translation and discusses the Zohar itself, dated by tradition to the 2nd century CE but believed by most scholars to have been composed in late-13th-century Spain:

Written in the style of midrash, or rabbinic commentary on the Bible, the Zohar relates the teachings of [the talmudic sage] Rabbi Shimon and his companions as they wander through Galilee. But the Zohar also strikes out in bold new directions, describing not only the conversations of Shimon’s mystical fellowship but their adventures and exploits [as well]. On their travels, they encounter strange characters who turn out to be more than what they seem—a beggar or a donkey driver who is actually a hidden sage, a child who displays surprising wisdom. At times, some argue, it comes to resemble a kind of medieval novel. . . .

The fundamental concept underlying the Zohar—along with most of medieval Kabbalah—is that of the ten s’firot, the divine aspects or attributes through which God interacts with the world. . . .

The idea of the s’firot served an important theological purpose. Following philosophers like Maimonides, God had become an abstract, practically inconceivable entity, which made the idea of prayer and religious observance seem almost absurd. With the s’firot kabbalists preserved this notion of God as the ultimate source of being, but introduced a mechanism by which God could relate to the world. Of course, the idea of a tenfold divinity didn’t always sit well with the followers of a religion that prided itself on strict monotheism. . . .

Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Judaism, Kabbalah, Religion & Holidays, Theology, 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