Main Topics from Scholem, Major Trends Lecture #6
Reasons for the Zohar's Popularity
in comparison with ecstatic or systematic schools of Kabblah
- Non-elitist (compared to Abulafia, Maimonides, etc.).
- Focus on issues of popular concern
- Homiletical format: linked to Scripture and traditional midrashic literature
The Zohar's doctrines as "Theosophy"
- What does this imply?
- How does "theosophy" differ from:
Redirection of focus from Chariot to Sefirot
- = From experiential to theoretical?
Kabbalistic "symbol" vs.philosophical allegory
- Lower world as metaphor for celestial reality, rather than the reverse.
- Contrast with philosphical approach to religious/scriptural language ("Discourse about God is nothing more than a compromise with the limits of human perception, but says nothing meaningful about God").
Relationship between the Ein-Sof and the Sefirot
- In the Zohar, the unfolding of the Sefirot takes place within God--not as emanations from God.
Not all Kabbalistic systems agree on that point.
- Sefirot are to the Ein-Sofas flames to a coal.
The Zohar's hermeneutical system
- Concept of four levels of interpretation, with the Kabbalistic as the ultimate.
- To what extent does the Zohar acknowledge the legitimacy of the other Jewish hermeneutical systems--literal, midrashic and philosophical?
The Zohar's view of the Ten Sefirot
- Balance between presenting them as a single totality and depicting their individual identities.
- Principal types of Sefirot imagery:
- Human: as Primordial Man (Adam Qadmon).
- Tree (cf. Gnostic symbolism).
- Divine names (and letters of Tetragrammaton).
- Biblical persons.
- "One God in ten Sefirot" -- open to charges of polytheism.
New Interpretation of "Creatio ex Nihilo"
- Physical creation (cosmogony) reflects emanation of Sefirot (theogony)
- Doctrines of different levels of existence (as unbroken chain):
- Physical world of the four elements
- Our "world of separation" was not an original part of the Creation, but was the result of the Fall.
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