Zohar (Moses de Leon)
Spain (1245? - 1305) Timeline

Poems by Zohar (Moses de Leon)
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Not a great deal is known about the life of Moses de Leon. He was born in the vibrant Jewish community in Muslim Spain sometime around 1250 or a little before. He studied philosophy and was eventually drawn to the Jewish mystical practices of Kabbalah.

Moses ben Shem-Tov de Leon was born, as the epithet in his name implies, in Leon. He lived for many years in Guadalajara, an important center of Kabbalah in Muslim Spain. Sometime after about 1291, he traveled extensively and, in 1305, he died at Arevalo.

He composed a "Mystical Midrash" looking at the inner meaning of the Torah and wrote philosophical papers to counterbalance what he saw as excessive reliance on rationalism and the denigration of Jewish tradition and mystical striving.

The work most associated with Moses de Leon is the Zohar (or, more fully, the Sefer ha Zohar) which can be translated as The Book of Splendor, Radiance, Enlightenment. The Zohar is a collection of stories and visionary observations on the divine nature of reality, organized as commentary upon the Torah. It has come to be one of the central texts of Kabbalistic study.

The true authorship of the Zohar is an area of contention even to this day. When Moses de Leon began distributing hand copied portions of the Zohar about 1281 to fellow students of the Kabbalah, he asserted that it had been composed in the third century CE by the greatly respected Rabbi Shim'on. Disputes about its antiquity emerged almost immediately following Moses de Leon's death. The Aramaic language in which it is composed contains certain idiosyncrasies and anachronistic uses. De Leon's own widow eventually claimed that her husband composed the Zohar himself.

Most modern scholars believe that Moses de Leon was the author of the Zohar. Kabbalists naturally point out that the later authorship does not diminish the wisdom and profound truth -- or poetic beauty -- given to us in the Zohar.

Poems by Zohar (Moses de Leon)

Recommended Books: Zohar (Moses de Leon)

Zohar: The Book of Enlightenment: (Classics of Western Spirituality) Zohar: Annotated & Explained The Zohar (Revised Edition, Volumes 1-23) Zohar: The Book of Splendor: Basic Readings from the Kabbalah The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain

Related Links

Wikipedia - Moses de Leon

A brief overview of the life and historical significance of Moses de Leon.

Zohar - Wikipedia

An in-depth article discussing the philosophy and controversy surrounding the Zohar.