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The Scandal of KabbalahLeon Modena, Jewish Mysticism, Early Modern Venice$
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Yaacob Dweck

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691145082

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691145082.001.0001

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Early Modern Criticism of the Zohar

Early Modern Criticism of the Zohar

Chapter Two Early Modern Criticism of the Zohar
The Scandal of Kabbalah

Yaacob Dweck

Princeton University Press

This chapter argues that Modena's criticism of the Zohar's origins had little to do with its theological contents. It emerged as a reaction to the elevated status of the work among his Jewish contemporaries and immediate predecessors; Jews had begun to treat the Zohar as a source of legal authority rather than a collection of stories and biblical glosses. Modena's critique constituted a denunciation of these larger trends in contemporary Jewish life rather than a rejection of the Zohar as a work of exegesis. As such, Ari Nohem offers a case study of how an early modern intellectual worked to prove that a text was pseudepigraphic. It also presents a wealth of information on attitudes toward the Zohar among Jews in Italy, Poland, and elsewhere. Ultimately, Modena rejected the status ascribed to the Zohar in contemporary Jewish life, denied the work's ostensible antiquity, and reflected on the deleterious impact of its packaging as a printed book.

Keywords:   Zohar, contemporary Jewish life, Ari Nohem, pseudepigraphic, antiquity, printed book

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