The point is that divine and human realms are interdependent. Tradition has always taught us that we need God; the innovative message of the Zohar is that in order to manifest in the world, God needs us.
- Daniel Matt
It was my original intent to write a full analysis of the Zohar focusing on each chapter. The collected writings were called All Streams in Joy (after a particularly affecting line from the book), and after some consideration I’ve decided to rework the scope of the collection. I’d like to encourage folks who are thinking of doing a deep dive into the books themselves and so I want to focus on chapters that are particularly representative. The Zohar is challenging to write about in many ways. Due to its inherent expansiveness, wealth of detail, and wide creative net, it can be easy for the reader to get lost in its spiraling monologues.
The Zohar also demands a certain amount of focus due to its esoteric imagery and the way it draws from many different source materials. All of the elements that make the Zohar the wonderful book it is may not initially cohere. As time goes on, its careful balance of novelty and repetition make more sense and become the narrative’s warp and weft as this difficult text is further revealed. There is therefore no substitute for making sense of the book for yourself by struggling with the material and living in its world. It’s a book that rewards sustained connection with it, much like the love affair with Torah it describes. Representative parts of the text can help orient the reader in this process as they seek to enhance their understanding of the work. My goal to writing this series is to help this orientation process along.
As the series progresses I want to eventually pull these representative slices into a larger work that discusses the theory underpinning the Zohar and its practice that defines the core of the book. I think a nice middle ground could be established between people who didn’t have much experience with the book and those who wanted to tackle some of the more complex themes. Due to the limited nature of my publishing schedule (I can only publish one or two essays a month due to job and family commitments) I have no clue when this book would materialize. If there’s any further development along those lines I’ll post it here first.
I’d encourage any of you who read these articles and find a similar connection to the text to go out and get Daniel Matt’s masterwork translation. Daniel Matt’s commentary makes the book accessible to a wider audience, which is an important part of the Zohar’s development. I’ve also picked up The Zohar Annotated. It’s a great starting point for interested readers and has some thought-provoking selections from the text. It also includes page-facing commentaries. It’s probably the best introduction I’ve come across so far. I really can’t recommend Daniel Matt’s writing and overall approach to these books enough.
The next installment of All Streams in Joy will be in progress soon. I’ve enjoyed writing about the Zohar more than any other subject on this blog and hope you enjoy them as well. The past works in this series are on their own separate page here.