The Zohar: Reception and Impact

By Boaz Huss

Contributions by: Yudith Nave

The 'Zohar: Reception and Impact' was a finalist in the Jewish Book Council's National Jewish Book Awards 2016 in the 'scholarship' category. 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. *** "While much of academic scholarship on the Zohar focuses on its authorship, Huss instead focuses on how the material of the zoharic corpus was compiled and formed into the book we have today. He painstakingly tracks the history of attitudes toward the Zohar and the types of arguments used for and against its acceptance. There are only minor differences from the original Hebrew edition and the English translation is very readable. Highly recommended for academic libraries." --AJL Reviews, AJL Reviews, Volume VI, No. 3, September/October 2016 *** "Huss (Ben-Gurion Univ., Israel) insightfully argues that the different values readers posited on the Zohar-one of Judaism's best-known mystical texts-often reveal much about the theological agendas and the spirit of the age in which these commentators lived. Huss brilliantly addresses not only the text of the Zohar but also the different communities of its disseminators along with their politics and ideological agendas. Huss illuminates how the Zohar's perception as a sacred and authoritative work increased the cultural power of the elite circles of the Spanish exile and advanced Sephardi cultural dominance in their new settlements by drawing on the Zohar as cultural and religious capital. Huss clearly shows that authority flowed to those who controlled the hermeneutical meanings of the Zohar. He also expertly addresses how popularization of Zoharic teachings led to false Messianism, which caused the counter force and backlash of restrictions to cabalistic study. This book is a tour de force, representing some of today's best scholarship. It is recommended for all academic libraries without reservation, but educated lay readers will also enjoy the thoughtful content. Highly recommended." --Choice, Vol. 54, No. 3, November 2016 [Subject: Jewish Studies, History]

Publication Date: 5/26/2016
Format: Cloth
ISBN: 9781904113966