Ronit Meroz-Who wrote the Zohar?

I know I am behind on posting about some of the new works on Kabbalah. In the meantime here is a nice video interview with Ronit Meroz about her forthcoming book about the various strata in the Zohar. She states that the texts of the Zohar were written between the 11th and the 14th century, layer upon layer, each generation adding or taking out what they wanted. she claims that the manuscripts show that there were many things called Zohar.
Meroz places the first texts in Israel in the 11th century, those texts were reworkings of Rabbinic ideas taken a little further. The early drafts were not mystical yet, rather more mythic versions of Rabbinic statements. Here is an 18 page taste of her book from an earlier article. (Whatever similarities her view has to Emden and Sde Hemed would need to wait until the full book comes out.)
For the alternate view, see my post on Daniel Abrams, who claims the Zohar was never a book until created by the printers.

Notice how she changes the question when the interviewer asks: Is it worth it [to spend a decade looking at 1000 manuscripts]? Is it interesting to do this?

(h/t Yosef Rosen).

12 responses to “Ronit Meroz-Who wrote the Zohar?

  1. Rabbi Brill,

    What is your personal opinion on the Zohar’s authorship?

    • The short answer is that I would need to see each specific passage and give a very localized answer after researching that passage. There is truth in Emden and Shadal, as well as Idel, Abrams, Hellner-Eshed, and Meroz. Most people who ask the question do not usually know what is inside the Zohar and are misusing the word authorship. Entire sections of the 32-36 sections of the Zohar have never been subject to academic or humanist scrunity. One would need also to learn lots of Numbers Rabbah, Pirkei de Rebbi Eliezer, and Tanhuma to understand the answer of how passages of Rabbinics develop and how to date them. And in some passages, I would need to consult with an expert in DSS, Jubilees, liturgy, massoretic work, or linguistics.

      A@ who works at bloomberg- please include email that I can verify as yours and no abbreviations. And be sure to specify a specific passage that you want to discuss or else you didn’t understand my comment.

      • The kind of genealogical passage by passage analysis you suggest – does it actually give us a better sense what the circle was trying to do or saw themselves as doing, or does it simply give us a connect the dots history of ideas useful for dating the texts?

  2. AS-
    The circle of the midrash haneelam is not the circle of the tikkune Zohar and neither is the circle of the “guf hazohar stories.” The earliest large units of the Zohar are part of the Rashbi Nistarot apocalypses of the 7-11th centuries and sections that seem to part of Tanhuma- Aggadat Bereshit.
    So of course not. But the printed text of the Zohar has several collections from different groups. There are also various pieces of reworked Beit Sheni material, Hasedai Ashkenaz, as well as alchemy and chriromancy. I am far from certain there is one goal inherent in all the passages.
    The majority of the printed text does not fit Melila’s categories, it fits a recognized section. Now the other sections need a redeemer to explain what they are doing.

  3. The earliest large units of the Zohar are part of the Rashbi Nistarot apocalypses of the 7-11th centuries

    You mean the stories of the Chavraya? Isn’t that one of the later strata?

    I do wonder about her claim that the earliest non Heikhalot strata are from Israel. For reasons relating to the halakhic positions of the Zohar, I would rather place its origins in Bavel. What do you think?

  4. The most important remark is made at the end: Prof. Meroz says that although there’s a continuation of earlier rabbinic discourse, including Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai, reflected in the Zohar, “there’s no way that ‘Torat haSod’ and the Ten Sefirot go back to him.” At this point the interviewer should have said, “Okay, when does that appear in the Zohar? Is it in the 11th Century or only later, in the 13th Century? Is it sudden, or gradual? Can we attribute that to Moshe de Leon, or to anyone in particular?” He’s so excited about the idea of a continuum of Jewish (rabbinic) tradition reflecting on itself that towards the end he loses the forest for the trees.

  5. This is from a great show Mekablim Shabbat where they discuss Parashat haShavua with (mostly) Hiloni guests. The host Dov Elboim grew up Haredi.

  6. Link to Meroz — “18 page taste of her book” — is broken (extra http). No one clicked on it? Speaking of Ronit Meroz, has anyone responded to her Three Binatarian Accounts paper? Hopefully not in a pay-walled journal?

    • The link is fixed. No one is responding right now they are busy putting out their own books. When people give courses that start with Meroz, Heller-Eshed, Abrams and the recent Zohar conference volume then people will compare and respond.

  7. Lawrence Kaplan

    The problem of the interview is that the intervewer does too much of the talking.

  8. Thanks, Her paper was 2007 so I was hoping something had happened in the meantime. I had a hard time imagining that Peter Hayman (for instance) would agree with her idea of separate “accounts” in the SY. The phrase that keeps occuring to me is the sci-blog meme, “Not Even Wrong.”

  9. This might be more helpful. For anyone trying to follow Meroz’ argument, here are her Three Accounts overlaid on Kaplan’s Short SY and Hayman’s numbers:

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