17 April 2007

chicken of the sea

I think the thing I like best about The Zohar is that it insists that it is not a replacement of or alternative to the Torah, but, in its words, a "garment," something that Torah wears and that enhances its inherent qualities. I think this is a wonderful analogy -- even gorgeous people wear clothing! It (at least more recently) is designed to enhance the body, not cover or distract from it. This seems to be the ideal way to present interpretation.

Additionally, the introduction to Zohar presents it as the mere words and story of Torah (p.43), which is the important part. It's like Zohar is the Cliff's Notes version of Torah, to put it ungracefully. But unlike Cliff's Notes, the author of this text emphasizes that "Whoever thinks the garment is the real Torah / and not something else --/ may his spirit deflate!" (43) -- that is, this can never be as good as the real thing, and is just supplementary.

But while Zohar emphasizes the truth of Torah, it's not like the "Bible-thumping literalists" who insist that you have to take every word as literally fact. Zohar takes Torah and adapts it to the circumstances of "modern" readers, whenever "modern" may be. It takes the writings of Torah and sees them (realistically) as allegory, which, the intro also says, is vital to Torah itself! So there's symbiosis between the text and its garment -- Zohar is flat and meaningless without Torah, and Torah needs the garment of Zohar to be useful in the world.

Furthermore, I think it may be useful to extend this relationship back and see it between Torah and YHVH (or Bible and God, if you swing that way) as well. For me and my beliefs, I think this is a good and perhaps important way to think about God. We (they?) say the Bible was divinely inspired -- as the Zohar was Torah-inspired. With this parallel, I can think of God as being the Ultimate Truth (capitalization makes it epic!), and the Bible as that seen through the lens of reality and presented in a way that is (more) accessible to us. The difference is that we have no way to directly study God as we could the Torah. Nevertheless, I still feel like as the Zohar is a "dumbing-down" (to be ungraceful again) of Torah, so Torah and the Bible are a "dumbing-down" of YHVH/God (they're essentially the same thing, toss in Jehovah, Allah, etc.etc. for good measure). There is good give-and-take, but they are not equal.

I'll invoke my title to get to a conclusion here. We use allegory every day -- Chicken of the Sea isn't poultry, my Windoze desktop is not literally the top of a desk, the Bible is not God. Allegory can help us understand things that may be far too complicated otherwise, but it's not the actual , 100% truth. Still, though. It's good. Just keep things in perspective :)


Just to show that any religion can have wacky marketing associated: The Eye of Zohar Board Game (like a Ouija board -- scroll to almost the bottom - picture of a glow-in the-dark green thing with an eye on top). It's also featured in a song (on the album of the same name) by the Kabalas, a klezmer/pop group.

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