All who immerse themselves in the holy Zohar — which is to say, all who (truly) understand what’s written in it — agree that it was composed by that divine 2nd Century Talmudic sage, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. It’s only those who are removed from Kabbalah and rely on its opponents’ fabricated tales who doubt its origin and tend to say that its author was the Kabbalist Rabbi Moshe De Leon or his contemporaries.
The Zohar emerged out of obscurity at the hands of the Kabbalist (and scribe) Rabbi Moshe De Leon at the end of the 14th century, who claimed to have copied it from a manuscript in his possession that had been hidden away and only recently discovered, which he asserted was written by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. A number of people doubted the text’s antiquity, though, including historian Heinrich Graetz (1818-1891) and scholar Gershom Scholem (1897-1982), and they attributed it to De Leon himself or to others in his circle.
Many Kabbalists and other traditional scholars were aghast at the absurd suggestion that the Zohar wasn’t authentic and set out to disprove the notion. (In fact, Ashlag once averred that De Leon himself wasn’t quite the master Kabbalist he’d need to be and so he wasn’t qualified to have written the Zohar himself.)
(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).