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BOAZ HUSS The Anthological Interpretation: The Emergence of Anthologies of Zohar Commentaries in the Seventeenth Century ANTHOLOGIES OF COMMENTARIES are a highly popular and widespread genre in Jewish literature. Most of the literary output of the talmudic period, the midrashic collections and the talmudic compilations, are essentially anthologies of interpretations. In medieval times, new genres of anthological and compilatory interpretations emerged: anthologies of midrashic interpretations to the Bible, such as Yalaul shim'oni and Midrash hagadol; compilatory commentaries to biblical texts, such as the commentary to Job attributed to R. Joseph Kara1 and the Torah commentary of Rabbi Hezekiah ben Rabbi Manoah (Sefer hizzekuni)? and the super-commentaries of Ba'alei Hatosafot to Rashi's Torah and Talmud commentaries.3 With the coming ofprint, the format of a text surrounded by several commentaries became prevalent. The first editions of talmudic tracts were accompanied by the commentaries of Rashi and the Tosafot, and the Biblia Rabbinica of 1525, edited by Jacob ben Hayyim, included at least two commentaries to each biblical compilation.4 Other commentaries were added to later editions of the Babylonian Talmud and the Biblia Rabbinica. The editors of compilatory and anthological commentaries offer a special exegetical attitude: instead of offering their own understanding of a text, they express their hermeneutic stance through selecting and editing previous commentaries to the text.5 Among such compilations, two major types can be discerned: compilatory commentaries that form PROOFTEXTS 19 (1999): 1-19 O 1999 by The Johns Hopkins University Press 2 BOAZ HUSS an exegetical sequence from previous commentaries, without disclosing their sources;6 and anthological interpretations that explicitly mention their sources, and offer different, sometimes incompatible, explications to the same passage. The phenomenon of the compilatory commentary was studied by Sara Japhet through an investigation of the commentary to Job attributed to Rabbi Joseph Kara.7 In this study, I will examine the anthological interpretation, looking at a genre that did not receive much attention in scholarly literature: anthological commentaries to the Zohar. Like the compilatory commentaries to the Bible that were investigated by Japhet, the anthological interpretations to the Zohar were dependent not only upon the canonical status of the interpreted text, but also upon the reception of antecedent interpretations of the text as authoritative.8 In contrast to the compilatory commentaries studied by Japhet, the anthological interpretations to the Zohar do not aim to create a new interpretative continuum. Rather, they indicate their sources and present side by side different interpretations to the same passages. The inclusion of incompatible interpretations in these anthologies, which was justified by the perception of the multifarious meanings of the text, highlights the cultural function of the anthological interpretation in preserving and disseminating alternative forms of exegesis to a canonical text. Before investigating the emergence of the anthological interpretation of the Zohar, I would like to discuss briefly the canonization of the Zohar and the early history of its hermeneutics. The Zohar is a collection of kabbalistic texts (indeed, an anthology of such texts), mostly homilies on the Torah, which were written in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries in Spain. According to Gershom Scholem, most of the Zoharic corpus was written at the end of the thirteenth century in Castile by the kabbalist R. Moses de Leon (d. 1305). Two units in the Zoharic corpus, Tiqqunei zohar and Ra'aya meheimna, were written, according to Scholem, by a different kabbalist in the early fourteenth century.9 Recently, Yehudah Liebes described a much more complex picture of the authorship of the Zohar. Without denying the centrality of R. Moses de Leon in the creation of the Zohar, he argues that the Zohar was a product of a group of kabbalists who produced the work on the basis of a common heritage and ancient texts. Liebes claims that not only Tiqqunei zohar and Ra'aya meheimna, but also the units called Midrash hane'elam, as well as other passages contained in the Zoharic corpus were not written by R. Moses de Leon, but by other members of the "circle of the Zohar."10 The Zohar, which was attributed to the second-century sage Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai, was gradually received as the central...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3311
Print ISSN
0272-9601
Pages
pp. 1-19
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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