All I can say from my own experience is that from the very day that God’s Holy Light accorded me the merit to begin mulling over this holy book it had never occurred to me to question its origin. And that’s for one simple reason: because its contents have always evoked the rare qualities of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai to my mind far more so than that of any other sage of his generation.
Though it’s not often spoken of, there’s a distinct level of tonality — of subtle hues, cadences, and lyricism — in Torah literature that’s unique to each author and every Torah work. Torah doesn’t sing when it’s read as prose and exposition, but it most certainly does when it’s read as mystery solved and as truth laid out whole and in full, fertile measure.
An excellent reader, Ashlag affirms that he’d never adduced anyone else’s tones in the Zohar other than Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s. For Ashlag never found the sort of off-rhyme there or fault in meter that one might expect every once in a while in a lesser kabbalists work.
Nonetheless, if it became clear to me that someone else — like Rabbi Moshe De Leon — wrote it, then I’d admire him more than all the great earlier sages, including Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.
In fact, if I’d determined that its author was one of the Biblical prophets,…
… who were likely to have written so lofty a work of revelation,…
… that actually would have sat even better with me than attributing it to any one of the early sages, given the depth of the Zohar’s wisdom.
The truth is that if I’d determined that Moses had received it (directly) from God on Mt. Sinai that really would have sat well with me, since it would have been (utterly) fitting for such a work to have come from Moses!
But since I merited writing a commentary that allows everyone who wants to examine it to (in fact) understand something of it, then I think I’m exempt from having to enter into that (fray) altogether. For no one versed in the Zohar could ever settle for an author of a lesser caliber than Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.
That is, being in a position to know the Zohar from the inside-out as he was, Ashlag felt confident in saying that no one of a lesser stature than the great Shimon Bar Yochai could ever have written it.
(c) 2013 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
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Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has also translated and commented upon “The Path of the Just” and “The Duties of the Heart” (Jason Aronson Publishers).