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3. Primary Written Sources of the Mystical Qabalah

E. Sefer HaZohar (Book of Splendor)

The Sefer HaZohar (Book of Splendor, often referred to simply as "the Zohar") is a five-volume mystical exegesis written in Rashi Aramaic on the five books of the Torah. Like the Sefer Yetzirah, the date and original author of the Zohar are subjects for academic debate. Many qabalistic scholars, such as Gershom Scholem, believe the Zohar to be a new work produced by Moses De Leon, circa 1250 CE in Spain.Scholem, Gershom. Kabbalah, Keter Publishing, Jerusalem, 1974. Others believe that it was dictated by its pivotal figure Rabbi Shimeon Ben Yochai to his son Rabbi Abba in the first century CE, while they and their group of rabbis hid in caves for thirteen years in Piquin, Israel to avoid Roman persecution. Hence, there are also those who would take the intermediary position that De Leon redacted and published a work that had a much earlier time of origin.

The text of the Zohar is presented as a series of dialogues among a group of rabbis. These rabbis were the embodiments of the various Sefiroth (spheres) on the Tree of Life (see Diagram). Hence, the "flavor" of the respective Sefirah (sphere) colors each rabbi's remarks and questions. Like the Sefer Yetzirah, the Zohar has its own distinct set of names for the Sefiroth, most of which come from the Sefer HaShmoth, and are later echoed in the Torah and Ketuvim (Writings). Those names may be described as various qualities of the Divine, such as Wisdom, Beauty, Glory, and Mercy. The Zoharic names for the Sefiroth are the most commonly known and used among all types of Qabalists.

Greater Holy Assembly The body of the five volumes of the Zohar emanates from a core of three extraordinary texts. The innermost layer and heart of the Zohar is a small text called the Sifra Detzniyutha (Book of THAT Which is Concealed). This book contains the single greatest exposition on the negatively existent Mysterious Unknown (called Ayn, and also "The NOT") among all written works of the Mystical Qabalah. The next layer of the core of the Zohar is a text called Idra Rabba Qadusha (Greater Holy Assembly), or simply Idra Rabba; and the third layer of the core is called Idra Zuta Qadusha (Lesser Holy Assembly), or simply Idra Zuta. The Idra Rabba and Idra Zuta expand greatly upon the anthropomorphic allusions introduced in the Sifra Detzniyutha. The "Greater Holy Assembly" is the entire Tree of ten Sefiroth. The "Lesser Holy Assembly" is the upper seven Sefiroth only.

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