The Zohar: Recep­tion and Impact

Boaz Huss
  • From the Publisher
January 5, 2017

The Zohar is one of the most sacred, author­i­ta­tive, and influ­en­tial books in Jew­ish cul­ture. Many schol­ar­ly works have been ded­i­cat­ed to its ideas, its lit­er­ary style, and the ques­tion of its author­ship. This book focus­es on oth­er issues: it exam­ines the var­i­ous ways in which the Zohar has been received by its read­ers and the impact it has had on Jew­ish cul­ture, includ­ing the fluc­tu­a­tions in its sta­tus and val­ue and the dif­fer­ent cul­tur­al prac­tices linked to these changes. This dynam­ic and mul­ti-lay­ered his­to­ry throws impor­tant new light on many aspects of Jew­ish cul­tur­al his­to­ry over the last sev­en centuries. 

Boaz Huss has bro­ken new ground with this study, which exam­ines the recep­tion and can­on­iza­tion of the Zohar as well as its crit­i­cism and rejec­tion from its incep­tion to the present day. His under­ly­ing assump­tion is that the dif­fer­ent val­ues attrib­uted to the Zohar are not inher­ent qual­i­ties of the zohar­ic texts, but rather rep­re­sent the way it has been per­ceived by its read­ers in dif­fer­ent cul­tur­al con­texts. He there­fore con­sid­ers the attri­bu­tion of dif­fer­ent qual­i­ties to the Zohar through time, and the peo­ple who were engaged in attribut­ing such qual­i­ties and mak­ing inno­va­tions in cul­tur­al prac­tices and rit­u­als. For each his­tor­i­cal peri­od from the begin­ning of Zohar recep­tion to the present, Huss con­sid­ers the social con­di­tions that stim­u­lat­ed the ven­er­a­tion of the Zohar as well as the fac­tors that con­tributed to its rejec­tion, along­side the cul­tur­al func­tions and con­se­quences of each approach. Because the mul­ti­ple modes of the recep­tion of the Zohar have had a deci­sive influ­ence on the his­to­ry of Jew­ish cul­ture, this high­ly inno­v­a­tive and wide-rang­ing approach to Zohar schol­ar­ship will have impor­tant reper­cus­sions for many areas of Jew­ish studies.

Discussion Questions