The System Of The Jewish Cabbalah, As Developed In The Zohar -- By: Theoph Rubinsohn

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 009:35 (Jul 1852)
Article: The System Of The Jewish Cabbalah, As Developed In The Zohar
Author: Theoph Rubinsohn

The System Of The Jewish Cabbalah, As Developed In The

Dr. Theoph. Rubinsohn

It is an undeniable fact that, at the time of the compilation of the Mishnah, a certain Mystic doctrine was known by the name of “construction of the chariot” מַעֲה מֶרְכָּבָה. But it is not at all demonstrated, whether the modern Cabbalah is in such a close connection with that doctrine, as the modern Cabbalists would make us believe. We, however, cannot pronounce an apodictic judgment, either in their behalf, or to the contrary, because the evidence is in neither case sufficiently strong.

Another question concerns the time at which the Zohar, the code of the Cabbalah, was written. In what age was it produced? Who was its author? These are the questions which the student naturally asks. The answer to them has engaged many pens, and much has been said on the subject. But most of the writers have copied each other, and have merely clothed old ideas in new words.

Another work of high reputation among the Cabbalists is the “Sepher Yetsirah,” פֶר וְצִרָה, i.e. book of the creation. To this book, most of the historians ascribe a high age. This is not the case with the Zohar, to which some ascribe a very recent one.

Concerning the age and writer of the “book of the creation,” two opinions are worthy of our notice. The one, that its origin may be traced to the times of the Mishnical doctors, and that Rabbi Akiba was the author. There is, indeed, every probability that it was so. Another opinion is, that it was originated in the times of the Geonim, from 600 to 1000 after the birth of Christ, but this has no foundation whatever.

Those who are in favor of the last opinion, endeavor to sustain it by quoting from it words and phrases which, they say, are of a more recent date than that at which Rabbi Akiba lived.

A still greater uncertainty prevails about the age of the Zohar. Some believe, and this is the current opinion, that it was written in Palestine at the time of Rabbi Simeon Ben Yohai; but others, again,

believe that it was written by Rabbi Moses de Leon, a Spanish Jew, in the thirteenth century.

A third opinion is, that there are fragments in the Zohar of Rabbi Simeon’s own doctrine, but that there have been also notes added to them by his disciples, and that it was completed, in the shape in which we have it, about the seventh century. The country of the entire book is Palestine. Rabbi Simeon, it is said, delivered, in the first century of our era, his doctrines with the elements of the Cabbalah to his disciples and fr...

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