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Zohar ḥadash. Slavuta: Yeḥezḳel Shapira. 1793.Authorship attributed to: Simeon bar Yochai, 1st century C.E.

Moses de Leon, 1250-1305.

Moses de Leon, a rabbi in Guadalajara (Spain) first produced an Aramaic manuscript of this fundamental Kabbalah work and attributed it Shimon bar Yochai (135 C. E.-170 C. E.). Seeking refuge from the Roman army, Yochai hid in a cave for 13 years studying Torah, inspired by the Prophet Elijah.

Although varying views of the Zohar’s authorship still linger, close analysis of the linguistic style of the Aramaic, prompted the reknown scholar of Jewish mysticism, Gershom Scholem (1897-1982), to conclude that Moses de Leon composed the Zohar.   

After printed editions first appeared in mid-16th century Mantua and Cremona, many other manuscripts were found and incorporated into a Salonika edition (1587?) subsequently reprinted in Krakow and elsewhere.

The JPL edition hails from the Shapira family printing house. Their business was jeopardized due to the family’s allegiance to the then-new Hasidic sects. The Shapiras printed three beautiful Talmud editions, but in 1834, a rival edition led to disputes that culminated in the Russian authorities closing the press after allegations surfaced that the Shapiras had killed a bookbinder in their employ.