The edition of the Zohar of Mantua 1On the printings in Mantua, see David W. Amram, The Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy, Philadelphia, 1909, p. 331-332. On the printing of Kabbalistic texts in Italy, see Moshe Idel, “Printing Kabbalah in Sixteenth-Century Italy”, in Jewish Culture in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honor of David B. Ruderman, ed. by Richard Cohen, Nathalie Dohrmann, Adam Shear and Elhanan Reiner, Cincinnati, Hebrew Union College Press, Pittsburg, Pittsburg University Press, 2014, p. 85-96. Giulio Busi, “Materiali per una storia della qabbalah a Mantova”, in Materia giudaica, 1996, 2, p. 50-56; ibid., Mantova e la qabbalah, Milan, Skira, 2001. testifies to the essential role played by printers, editors and proofreaders in the production of the text, at the junction of technical know-how, linguistic competence and religious culture. The printing workshop was, indeed, one of the birthplaces of the Sefer ha-Zohar . Admittedly, the book had already existed since the Middle Ages in the form of scattered manuscript fragments, either entire treatises or extracts, and quotations in various texts. 2On the spread of the Kabbalah in Europe, see in particular Yaakov Elbaum, Petirut ve-histagrut , Jerusalem, Magnes, 1990, p. 181-222. Especially p. 184 where the author mentions the multiplication of references to the Zohar in works in Hebrew published in Eastern Europe; Boaz Huss, Ke-Zohar ha-rakia, perakim be-hitkablut ha-Zohar uve-havnayat ‘erko ha-semali , Jerusalem, Makhon Ben-Zvi, Mossad Bialik, 2008, p.185 (trans. English, The Zohar, Reception and Impact , Oxford, Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2016 p. 152-153.). it circulated, however, in restricted circles of scholars, scholars, kabbalists who owned or had access to a few copies3Let us quote two important works on which we based ourselves, in part, for the writing of this article, Boaz Huss, op. cit., 2008 (English translation, 2016); Daniel Abrams, Kabbalistic Manuscripts and Textual Theory, Jerusalem, Magnes; Los Angeles, Cherub Press, 2010, p. 224-232, 256-262. See also Isaiah Tishby, The Wisdom of the Zohar, Oxford, Littman Library, 1989, p. 98. . Moshe Idel speaks of his “marginal role among Italian kabbalists”. It seemed, indeed, little known, mentioned and studied, before the two printed editions of Cremona and Mantua4Moshe Idel, “The Zohar and Italian Kabbalah” in Kabbalah in Italia (1280-1510): a Survey , New Haven, Yale University Press, 2011, p. 224-226. . The printing allowed the text to circulate among a wider readership and in diverse circles, Jews and Christians 5On the Christian Kabbalah in Italy, see, among others, Francesco Zorzi, L’armonia del mondo , ed. by Saverio Campanini, Milan, Bompiani, 2010. . The printers, editors, correctors played a fundamental role in the formatting, the structuring of the text, which was established and which will preserve until our days the same internal organization and the same foliation as those of the edition princeps of Mantua 6 On the passage from the manuscripts of the Zohar to its printed form, see the book by Boaz Huss, op.cit., 2016, p. 67-111. On the editions of the Zohar, see Gershom Scholem, Bibliographia kabbalistica , Leipzig, Drugulin, 1927 (Berlin, Schocken, 1933). . The book contains multiple clues about its design, the stages of its production, its structure and the editorial choices of the publishers; we also have various sources of the time which inform us about the work of the printers who were, in fact, the co-creators of the most important work of Jewish mysticism.
Let’s start with the title page. The frontispiece, framed by two columns forming a portico 7 The portico formed by two twisted columns is surmounted by a vignette inside which we read: “It is the door of Adonai” (Ps. 118, 21). It is a classic depiction in the title pages of many Jewish works of the time, where the book is seen as access to the revealed word, its commentaries, knowledge of God and entry into the realm of knowledge. . We find many examples of this in Marvin J. Heller, The Seventeenth Century Hebrew Book , Leiden, Brill, 2 vols., 2010., we read :
The Book of Zohar / on the Torah by the holy, divine / Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai, zal , with the Sitrei / Torah , Midrash neelam , and additions ( tossefta) / in certain pericopes / And with explanations at the end of the book / Printed and corrected, with great / care, by the young (modest) men, Immanuel, son / of the honorable Gavriel, may God protect him, of Corropoli , a member of the family / Galluci, and Abraham, may God protect him, son / of the honorable rabbi Meshulam, may the memory of the righteous be a blessing, of Modena / Here (in the city) of Mantua / Under the authority of our prince, the Duke / Guglielmo Gonzaga, may his glory and majesty be glorified / Published by the associates, the scribe Meir, may God protect him / son of the honorable Rabbi Ephraim, may God protect him, of Padua / And Jacob, may God protect him, son of the honorable Rabbi Naphtali ha-Cohen of Gazzuolo /
The printing required, in the first place, the authorization of the authorities. The Church, thinking that certain “mysteries” contained in the kabbalistic writings could shed light on the origins of the Christian religion, agreed to the publication 8 On the multiple echoes of the Zohar among Christian Hebrew scholars, notably Guillaume Postel, see François Secret, Le Zohar chez les kabbalists Chrétiens de la Renaissance, Paris, Mouton, 1964. . One of the proofreaders, Immanuel de Corropoli, called upon a certain Menahem ben Joseph Tanhum of Mantua 9See Giulio Busi, “Il laboratorio cabbalistico mantovano”, in L’enigma dell’ebraico nel Rinascimento, Torino, Nino Aragno editore, 2007, p. 116. who intervened with the church 10See the introduction to the Zohar ( hakdamah ha-magiyah ) by Emmanuel de Coropolli, fol (4r). . The Cardinal-Bishop of Mantua, Ercole Gonzaga 11 He was appointed bishop of Mantua in 1521 and cardinal in 1527. Regent of the Duchy of Mantua. He died in 1563. See Paul W. Murphy, Ruling Peacefully: Cardinal Ercole Gonzaga and Patrician Reform in Sixteenth-Century Italy , Washington, Catholic University of America, 2007., gave permission on April 25, 1558, declaring that he had found nothing in the book of the Zohar that was contrary to the Catholic faith. The copy of the Zohar in the IAU library in Paris includes the handwritten signatures of two censors 12See Moritz Stern, Urkundliche Beiträge über die Stellung der Päpste zu den Juden, Kiel, Fiencke, vol. 1, 1893, p. 122, No. 116; Willam Popper, Censorship of Hebrew Books , New York, Knickerbocker, 1899, p. 101, 131, 142. Giovanni Domenico Carretto 13Domenico Caretto arrived in Mantua in 1616 and was officially appointed censor of the Duchy of Mantua in 1618. We read: visito per me Gio domenico caretto . In volume I, fol 250b, vol. II, fol. 269b, vol. III, fol. 300a, with the date 1617 and 1626. and Domenico Gerosolomitano (Irosolimitano)14 Before his conversion, his name was Samuel Vivas, a native of Jerusalem. He was a rabbi, a judge in the rabbinical court (dayan) and a doctor. We read: visto per me Dominico Irosolomi.no . Volume I fol. 251a, vol. II fol. 269b, tome III, fol 300b, after his signature, we find the date 1591 or 1597 (?). The censorship commission was re-established from the beginning of the 17th century for a new expurgation of Jewish books. On this question, see Monique Zerdoun, “The Censors of Hebrew Manuscripts”, Gazette du livre medieval, 22, 1993, p. 13-17. Domenico Gerosolomitano worked with two apostates Alessandro Scipione and Laurentus Franguellus in the censorship commission in Mantua from 1595 to 1597. See Gila Prebor, “Domenico Yerushalmi: his Life and Work as a Censor”, Materia giudaica, 15-16, 2010-2011, p. 467-481..
The printing workshop was a meeting place between Jews and Christians and the central place for the production of the Zoharic text. A number of Jewish printers, unable, as in many cities in Europe, to open a printing office, associated themselves with Christian printers. The two Jewish printers, Meir ben Ephraim Sofer of Padua 15See David Kaufmann, “Meir ben Ephraim of Padua, Scroll-Writer and Printer in Mantua”, Jewish Quarterly Review , 11, 2, 1899, p. 266-290; DW Amram, op.cit ., 1909, p. 323-33; Shlomo Simonsohn, Toledot ha-yehudim be-dukkasut mantovah , Jerusalem, Makhon ben-Zvi al-yede kiryat Sefer, 2, 1964, p.531. and Jacob ben Naphtali of Gazzuolo 16 He ended his printing career as an assistant to the Christian printer Giorgio Cavalli. See Pier Cesare Ioly-Zorattini, “Knowledge of the Jewish World in Venice in the Sixteenth Century”, in The Churches and the Talmud, ed. by Daniel Tollet, Paris, Paris-Sorbonne University Press, 2006, p. 102, ibid, Processi del S. Offizio di Venezia contro ebrei a guidaizzanti , vol 1, 1561-1570, Florence, Olschki, 1982, p. 267-315. On the Hebrew books printed by Gazzuolo, see Saverio Campanini, “On Abraham’s Neck. The edition princeps of the Sefer yesirah (Mantua, 1562) and its context”, in Rabbi Judah Moscato and the Jewish Intellectual World of Mantua in 16th-17th Century , ed. by Giuseppe Veltri and Gianfranco Miletto, Leiden, Brill, 2012, p. 260-261. , had the Zohar printed on the presses of the Christian printer Tommaso Ruffinelli 17See DE Rhodes, “A Bibliography of Mantua: IV- Giacomo Ruffinelli, 1547-1589”, La Bibliofilia , 59/1, 1957, p. 23-34. Le cinquecentine mantovane della Biblioteca Comunale di Mantova , a cura di Francesca Ferrari, con saggi di Arnaldo Ganda, Cesare Guerra, Angela Nuovo, Firenze, Olschki, 2008 .Jacob ben Naphtali from Gazzuolo, first worked at Sabionetta in Tobia Foa’s studio. In 1556 he moved to Mantua. First alone, then in association with Meïr ben Ephraim Sofer, then alone again from 1560 to 1564. They had their books printed by Venturino Ruffinelli, who worked in association with Giovanni Padovano and came from Venice in 1544. After his death in 1558, they had their works printed by his son Giacomo (1547-1589), then by his son Tommaso (until 1576) where the Sefer ha -Zohar was published. 18 Marvin Heller, The Sixteenth Century Book , Leiden, Brill, 2004, p. xxiv; “Ruffinelli, Venturino”, “Ruffinelli, Tommaso” and “Ruffinelli, Giacomo”, CERL Thesaurus (online: https://thesaurus.cerl.org).. This small group of cultural agents, made up of printers, editors, typesetters and proofreaders – inspired by the methods of editing ancient texts developed by Renaissance printers – were the co-inventors of the Zohar. It should be noted that in 1557 the Tikkunei ha-zohar was printed in Mantua, considered as the introductory part of the zoharic corpus, a sort of exordium, a prelude to the complete edition of the Zohar, based on similar typographical codes and editorial conventions. 19 See The Hebrew Book in Early Modern Italy , ed. by Joseph R. Hacker and Adam Shear, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.
In the middle of the 16th century, only scattered manuscripts of the Zohar existed, which they began to research and collect. Once the collection was complete, they prepared, ordered, organized, redistributed, these scattered, fragmented fragments and the often divergent versions. From these membra disjecta , they are going to create a safe, reliable and unified text, by removing internal contradictions, possibly errors, the alterations of the scribes, by retaining certain variants, eliminating passages which they judged not to have to enter into the composition of the book 20On the history of the Zohar manuscripts, see Boaz Huss, op. cit., 2016, see manuscripts index . . Corrections, revisions, omissions (hasmatot ) will be published as an appendix to certain later editions; in the Zohar Hadash , there is an anthology of fragments not included in the princeps edition 21 On the passage from manuscripts to printed form, see Boaz Huss, op.cit., 2016, p. 98-101. We find these omitted passages at the end of volume III of the edition of the Sefer ha-Zohar ed. by Reuven Margoliot, Jerusalem, Mossad ha-Rav Kook, 3 vols., 1970. Although we lack very precise information, the first phase of the invention of the Zohar was therefore the collection of the manuscripts, then the manufacture of the text, at the same time weaving, assembly, arrangement of manuscript fragments, of the different states of the text, assembly and adjustment of treatises22Which makes D. Abrams say that the Zohar “is not a book” and it is “a late invention”. He adds, “The Zohar was never written, edited, or distributed as a book by the various characters who produced the discursive or literary units ( mahberot ) that later came to be known as the Zohar. » D. Abrams, op.cit., 2010, p. 227 and 267. , in view, perhaps from a lost exemplar – a reference copy from which the printers worked – of establishing a clear and reliable printed text. We can reconstruct some stages of this preparatory work by referring to the paratext of various Italian editions of mystical texts.
The production of kabbalistic treatises developed thanks to the patient, obstinate activity of a small circle of cultural actors composed, on the one hand, of scholars, rabbis and kabbalists and, on the other, of correctors, composers and printers. All pooled their intellectual, linguistic, religious and technical competence, motivated by the same desire to publish and distribute the Zoharic treatises. The presence of excellent craftsmen of the book, at a time when the progress of printing tended to slowly upset the methods of transmission and reception of knowledge, the ever-increasing penetration of mysticism among Jewish scholars and Hebrew scholars Christians, explain that Mantua became, in the 16th century, one of the important places of edition, printing of esoteric treatises 23 Various kabbalistic writings were printed in Italy in the 16th century, one of the important centers for the publishing and dissemination of the kabbalah in Europe. Let us cite the Ma’arekhet ha-elohut (1557), the Sha’arei orah of Yosef Gikatilla (Riva di Trento, 1558; Mantua, 1560) , the Sefer ha-mussar , with Kabbalistic annotations by Judah Khalats (Mantova, 1560) , the Sefer Yetzira (Mantua, 1562). Mystical texts were also published in Venice, including the Perush ha – Torah by Menahem Recanati (1522). See Giulio Busi, Mantova e la Qabbalah , Milan, Ginevra, 2001; Same, Libri ebraici in Mantova. I. Le edizioni del XVI secolo nella biblioteca della Comunità ebraica, Fiesole, Cadmo, 1996; idem, Catalog of the Kabbalistic Manuscripts in the Library of the Jewish Community of Mantua , with an appendix of texts, ed. with Savario Campanini, Fiesole, Cadmo, 2001; idem, L’enigma dell’ebraico nel Rinascimento, Torino, Aragno, 2007..
Within the production of mystical works published in Italy during the Renaissance, we find various sources that inform about the process of collecting the manuscripts and about the editing work. We note, first of all, information in various books printed in Mantua:
– At the beginning of his treatise on grammar and prosody the Livyat Hen 24See Immanuel de Benevento, Livyat hen, Mantua, 1558, fol. 3a. (quoted from Hebrew Books, http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=11740&st=&pgnum=7 ) (Mantua, 1557), edited by Meir ben Ephraim Sofer of Padua and Jacob ben Naphtali of Gazzuolo, author Immanuel ben Yekutiel of Benevento 25He is also the editor of the kabbalistic treatise Ma’arekhet ha-Elohut (Mantua, 1557) by Perez ben Isaac Gerondi. He added his own comments. See Moritz Steinschneider, Catalogus librorum hebraeorum in bibliotheca Bodleinana , 1852-1960, p.541, n° 3492; p. 1055, no.5266; Joseph Perles, Beitraege zur Geschichte der hebraeischen und aramaeischen Studien , München, Ackermann, 1884, p. 220; Gershom Scholem, Bibliographia kabbalistica , Berlin, 1927, p.166, 177; Benjamin Nehemiah ben Elnathan, Mi-paolo harevi’i ad pius ha-hamishi , khroniḳah ʻivrit min ha-meʼah ha-shesh ʻesreh , ed. by I. Sonne, Jerusalem, Mossad Bialik, 1954, p.110–17, 127–29; Umberto Moses David Cassuto and Moti Benmelekh, “Immanuel ben Jekuthiel Benevento”, in Encyclopaedia Judaica , 1901, volume 3, col. 34; ibid. Encyclopaedia Judaica , Berlin, 1929, volume 4, col. 97. – rabbi in Pesaro, grammarian, kabbalist, student of Moshe Basola 26Moshe Basola initially approved the printing of the Zohar; he later joined rabbis in condemning the publication of the Zohar. On Moshe Basola’s arguments against printing the Zohar, see Isaiah Tishby: “Ha-Pulmus al sefer ha-zohar ba-meah ha-shesh esreh be-italyah”, Hiqrei kabbalah u-sheluhoteha , Jerusalem, Magnes, I, 1982, p. 134 and 148-150; Boaz Huss, op. cit., 2016, p. 191-200. who was in contact with Guillaume Postel, supporter of the printing of the Zohar – evokes the hard work of preparation:
Although very poor, I have prepared the words of the divine Tana Shimon bar Yohai and his companions, from blessed memory, for you, with sword and arrow, with great difficulty and expense… And with my companions, I lost sleep editing them… I had seven manuscripts in front of me that I had received from saints and nobles who are in the land (Ps 16,3) to separate the dross from the silver, and a basin will come out of it by the goldsmith (Prov 25,4).
Let us also refer to Tikkunei ha-Zohar (Mantua, 1557) 27 According to the copy kept at the Bibliothèque Mazarine in Paris (cote 4° A 13047). It should be noted that this copy includes many notes attributed to Guillaume Postel and G. Le Févre de la Boderie, an important testimony to the dissemination of Italian editions of Jewish mystical texts, including the Zohar, in the circles of Christian Hebraists. See François Secret, Bibliography of the manuscripts of Guillaume Po stel, VI, works annotated by Postel , p. 60; Valérie Neveu, “From Guillaume Postel to Richard Simon: Zohar and other Hebrew sources in the collection of the municipal library of Rouen”, in Forgotten documents on alchemy, the cabbala and Guillaume Postel , Geneva, Droz, 2001.. In the introduction, the publishers recall the importance of disseminating the Zoharic treatises, although it is impossible to find them in their entirety 28Tikkunei ha-Zohar , Mantua, 1557, fol. 2a. :
And the poor and the needy ask for food, the food of the Torah; but there is no one, because hearts are like the lion’s heart, who wants to delve into hidden things and understand mysteries. Their hands are stretched out for a scribe’s manuscript of the Sefer ha-Zohar in its entirety. Anyone who has a copy of the Sefer ha-Zohar has hidden it away so that no one else can access it.
In the colophon, Jacob de Gazzuolo explains that Immanuel de Benevento undertook travels, notably in the Ottoman Empire, in Salonika, to search for manuscripts of the Zohar. He then worked – ordering, organizing, editing – from the ten manuscripts at his disposal, including those of Yehuda ben Moshe Blanes29 Also named Laudadeus Blanis. Italian physician and kabbalist from Perugia. Kaufmann Kohler, Isaac Broydé, “Judah of Blanis”, Jewish Encyclopedia , 1906, Elaykim ben Yeshaya of Macerata and Eliyya (Menahem ben Abba Mari) Halfan 30On Eliyya Halfan (late 15th century – circa 1577), kabbalist, important figure in 16th century Italian Hebraism, author of theIggeret al toledot ha-kabbalah , see Fabrizio Lelli, “L’interpretazione teosofica della storia d’Israele nell’ Epistola sulla storia della Cabbalà di Eliyyà Menaḥem ben Abba Mari Ḥalfan”, in Adorare caelestia, gubernare terrena , Atti del Colloquio Internazionale in onore by Paolo Lucentini , Napoli, 6-7 November 2007 , ed. by Pasquale Arfé, Irene Caiazzo, Antonnella Sannino, Turnhout, Brepols, 2011, p. 475-506; ibidem, “L’albero sefirotico di Eliyyà Menahem ben Abba Mari Halfan (Ms. Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut. 44, 18)”, Rinascimento , 43, 2008, p. 271-290. who had a copy from Egypt with a complete version of the treatise Saba d-mishpatim (“the old man of the Mishpatim pericope”).
(R. Immanuel de Benevento) was a poor man and a downcast spirit (Isaiah 46,2) who, despite his poverty, spent money in search of treasures, and who took interest in collecting and gathering whatever he could find from the Sefer ha-Zohar and the Tikkunim . Even at night his mind found no rest; he stood with his pupils, friends and admirers to edit them, from ten manuscripts which he had in his possession, before him, which had been given to him by remarkable and chosen individuals, among whom was the renowned wise physician, a trustworthy person, may his offspring be mighty, exalted, our honorable master, R. Yehuda Blanes, may God preserve and protect him; and the most exalted, the pride and glory of enlightened people, a strong pillar, and the chief support of wisdom and our honorable master, R. Elyakim of Macerata, may God protect and preserve him.
Other valuable sources are also found in the paratexts of the Zohar edition of Mantua:
– Emmanuel de Corropoli, the second proofreader of the Mantua edition, in the introduction to the princeps edition, corroborates this information and mentions another manuscript from Safed 31Sefer ha-Zohar , Mantua, 1558, vol. I, fol. 2b-3a. :
We had to spend money to acquire valuable things ( divrei hefets ), new and old copies that had been hidden in different places, because we thought that the more copies we had, the more wisdom we could find in order to to be able to publish an exact version ( ha-girsa ha-nekhonah ). From what he endeavored to seek, our master and teacher, the perfect R. Immanuel de Benevento edited and arranged his version from clear and exact copies ( ha-atakot yesharim u-nekhonim ) considered as such by those who are connoisseurs. Today they are in the possession…of the honorable man and guide ( ha-nasi ), our master Rabbi Yehuda, noblest of physicians…and of our honorable master and teacher R. Elyakim…of Macerata. In addition to all the copies scattered throughout Italy. Despite everything (including toil and hardship), we did not rest until we found an ancient copy of Safed – may it be rebuilt and revived quickly, nowadays! – When it reached us, in our hands, we rested on it, we added it (to the sources in our possession) and we scrutinized it as one purifies gold in order to establish the text… And in a few places we put two different readings.
The existence of this Safed manuscript could only confer renewed prestige and authority on the Mantua edition, considered as the direct emanation of a prestigious chain of tradition stemming from one of the epicentres of production and the spread of the Kabbalah. This important text explains well the method used by publishers who, like the learned printers of the Renaissance, brought together manuscript traditions. 32 [/Note that in the introduction (fol. 2b) of Sefer ma’arekhet elohut (Mantua 1558), Yehuda Hayyat wrote: “I went from strength to strength (Ps 84, 8) collecting all that I could from the mentioned book (the Zohar) and I gathered a little here and there until ‘until I own the majority of it’. mfn] examine them, compare them, check them, in order to establish a reference version, then choose a layout, proceed to printing, to achieve the clearest possible readability for readers32 The editors of the Sefer ha-Zohar, just as the printers-publishers of the great classical texts, notably in the Greek language, chose between different forms of the text from ancient manuscripts of various origins; they established a version which seemed to them the fairest and most correct before proceeding to the choice of typeface, layout and, finally, printing. On the establishment of classical texts during the Renaissance, on the long technical process of printers, proofreaders and the reading practices of scholars, refer to the important works of Anthony Grafton, Defenders of the Text: The Traditions of Scholarship in the Age of Science, 1450-1800 , Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1991; ibid, The Footnote: A Curious History , Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1997; ibid, Commerce with the Classics: Ancient Books and Renaissance Readers , Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1997, ibid, The culture of Correction in Renaissance Europe , Yale, Yale University Press, 2011. [/].
– Let us also quote the colophon of volume III of the Zohar, in which the corrector Abraham ben Meshulam of Modena explains that the publishers have collected, checked, compared a set of manuscripts 33Sefer ha-Zohar , Mantua, 1558, vol. III, fol. 300a. . He indicates, when fragments were missing, that he integrated into the Mantuan version parts of various manuscripts that he had collected, in order to compose a reliable version that was as complete as possible. So, for example, in the parashah tsav , he inserted a part that did not exist in most manuscripts; in Parashah Pinhas 34Sefer ha-Zohar , III, 300a. At the beginning of the parashat vayehi (I, 211b), the proofreaders inserted a part of the Midrash ne’elam “which they did not find in the copy of Safed”. , “he included fragments which were not found in any copy, except in that brought back from the holy city of Safed, a city faithful to wisdom, to our project and to all that is sacred where the atmosphere makes people wise”. Abraham ben Meshulam also mentions, in the same folio, a manuscript that Immanuel de Benevento brought back from Salonika. He was thus able to incorporate into the parashah vayikra a fragment found only in this copy; he mentions another copy given to the printers “by the most noble and perfect of physicians R. Eliyahu Halfan”, from Egypt which includes a complete, “correct and pure” version of sava d-mishpatim , a treatise which in the other manuscripts was in a defective form.
The Sefer ha-Zohar was the origin of a competition between printers 35 Such competitions were, if not common, at least relatively frequent between rival printers. Let us cite, among others, the conflict between Marco Antonio Giustiniani and Alvise Bragadin over the simultaneous publication of Mishneh Torah by Maimonides (Venice, 1549-1550) and the two editions of the Bible in Yiddish published in Amsterdam (1676-1678 / 1679-1687 ). with the concurrent Cremona edition of 1558, printed, without haskamah , in one large-format volume 36The Cremona edition was completed in 1560. In chronological order, we find first the edition of Cremona (1558), that of Mantua (1558), the corrected edition of Mantua and finally that supplemented by Cremona (1560). See D. Abrams, op. cit ., 2010, p. 234-241. , by the Christian printer Vincenzo Conti and edited by the convert Vittorio Eliano 37He was the grandson of the grammarian and poet, Elie Bahur Levita. See Carla Casetti, “Eliano, Vittorio”, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani , http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/vittorio-eliano_(Dizionario-Biografico ); Tipografia ebraica a Cremona 1556 – 1576 , a cura di PF Fumagalli, Roma 1985, pp. 15, 42-46. and Samuel ibn Gattinio (Gatigno) 38 Vincenzo Conti published about 40 books in Hebrew between 1556 and 1567. See DW Amram, op.cit., 1909, p.306ff; Isaiah Sonne, Expurgation of Hebrew Books , New York, New York Public Library, 1943, p. 21ff; Hayim D. Friedberg, Toledot ha-Defus ha-Ivri bi-medinot Italyah , Tel-Aviv, Bar-Juda, 1956 2 , p. 80ff; Meir Benayahu, Ha-Defus ha-Ivri be-Krimona , Jerusalem, Makhon ben-Zvi, Mossad ha-rav kook, 1971, p. 134-136.. From the title page, the originality of this version and the differences with that of Mantua appear:
“The Book of Zohar / on the Torah, of the man of God, the holy and most remarkable Tana Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. With many novelties, including the Sitrei Torah , the Midrash Neelam , and the additions ( tossefta ) on certain parashiot . We have added parts which do not appear (in the other editions, namely Mantua 1558), including the Ra’aya Mehemna including the parts on Genesis, the commentary ( hiddushei ) of the Bahir , the Midrash on Ruth, the Midrash Hazit , the treatise Ta hazei , the Heykhalot39 , indications on the location of the verses ( makom meha-pesuqim ) and at the end of the volume, there is a table of the biblical verses which begins each section of the Zohar and an index of all the verses which are discussed, once or several times. in the Zohar. Printed with great care / in Cremona / the city of the great king. Our lord King Philipo, may his glory be exalted, amen 40 On the frontispiece, it is written: Zohar , followed by the end of the verse (Exodus 24, 10) limpid as the substance of heaven . With the permission of the Vicar and the Inquisitor General, as indicated at the end of the volume41 At the end of the volume, we find the imprimatur in Latin, signed by the censor Galeaz Guacius on August 5, 1558. The colophon gives the date as November 21, 1558.“
The version was, according to the introduction 42Unfoliated introduction, (1b): “What we have found we have seen in six copies, two of which showed us the way. » , edited from six manuscripts and more particularly from two of them and printed in square Hebrew characters. Let us recall that in 1559 the Inquisition ordered the confiscation and destruction of Jewish books in the Duchy of Milan. The first edition of the Cremona Zohar was confiscated 43 Vincenzo Conti’s printing press was inspected by the Inquisition. They found there, among other things, 2000 copies of the Zohar out of an edition that must have included about 3000 copies. See Franco Bontempi, Storia delle comunità ebraiche Cremona e nella sua provincia , Milano, 2002, p. 118-120. Quoted by Saverio Campanini, art. cit., 2012, p. 254.. It was therefore decided in 1559 to publish a second edition which was completed in 1560. It has a different title page and an introduction including references to the Mantua edition. Vittorio Eliano criticized the biases of the publishers of Mantua. First, regarding the choice of character Rashi, inappropriate for such a holy book. He also criticizes them for omitting some essential treatises, including the Midrash Ruth and the Hiddushei ha-Bahir . In the afterword to volume III of the Mantuan edition, printed in 1560, we read an attack by the corrector Meshulam against the work of the printers of Cremona; proof that he had read the Cremona version. He explains that it was decided to publish a “correct” concurrent version with substantial structural differences. Meshulam explains, for example, how, within the second and third volumes of the work, he cut and dispersed the Ra’aya mehemna 44Sefer ha-Zohar , Mantua, 1560, III, fol. 300r. In the Cremona edition, the Ra’aya mehemna begins in the Sefer bereshit (fol. 26r, column 104). .
This information concerning the disputes between the two printers makes it possible to reconstruct the chronology of the two editions of Mantua and Cremona which were printed jointly in 1558. It seems that that of Cremona may have slightly preceded that of Mantua. The introduction to volume I of Mantua (1558) includes, in fact, indirect criticisms against the competing edition of Cremona. A second edition was printed in Cremona in 1559; it was completed in 1560. The same year was printed volume III of the version of Mantua in the colophon of which the corrector justifies the organization of the volume and launches direct attacks against the arbitrary choices of the editors of Cremona.
The Mantuan edition of the Sefer ha-Zohar (1558-1560) includes three quarto volumes (I Genesis; II Shemot; III the rest of the Pentateuch.) Each page has 32 lines, either in a single column or in two columns, printed in two types of type, the initial words and headings in square type and the text in Sephardic semi-cursive (Rashi script), in a large or a smaller body, especially for additions ( tossefta )45One of Vittorio Eliano’s criticisms concerns the choice of these characters (Rashi) for the edition of a holy text. The Cremona edition was printed in large square type for titles and the first words of chapters or paragraphs and in small square type for the text itself. . There is a set of markers, common in Renaissance editions, intended to facilitate the use and readability of the work: for printers, registers, signatures, advertisements, intended to properly assemble the notebooks; for readers, the introduction of running titles, the clear division into treatises and foliation. The internal organization and standardization of the Zoharic text contributed, in part, to its canonization.
The concurrent edition of Cremona (1558) served as a model until the 18th century, for the edition of Lublin (1623) and Sulzbach (1684). The Zohar was printed twice in Amsterdam (1714 and 1728), based on the Mantua edition. Since that time, the Cremona edition was ignored and that of Mantua was considered the reference edition on which all subsequent editions conformed, reproducing the same structure and adopting the same foliotation.
Note – common practice among printers of the sixteenth century who could insert additions, corrections, change the layout, when preparing a second edition – that there are two different states of the beginning of volume I of the edition of the Zohar of Mantua46On this aspect see D. Abrams, op.cit ., 2010, p. 235, 240-241. . Which therefore supposes that there was a first version of the volume, then a corrected version. On the other hand – this is one of the important points of divergence between the two editions of Cremona and Mantua – certain treatises are inserted in different places in the edition of Cremona and Mantua47 See D. Abrams, “The printing of the Zohar in Mantua, the Self-Awareness of the Printers in Producing a Standardized Text”, Kabbalah, to be published in 2019. .
– The Mantua edition begins with the hakdamah ha-zohar ; this part was inserted in the parsha bereshit in the Cremona volume.
– The Midrash ne’elam and the Ra’aya meheimna has been cut and inserted into different parts of the two editions.
– The Sifra d-tsiniuta is found in the Mantua version in the parsha terumah while it is found in the parshat bereshit in the Cremona edition.
– The Midrash Ruth and the Sefer ha-Bahir are found only in the Cremona version.
– The Tikkunei ha-zohar are absent from the Cremona edition. They were published in Mantua in 1557.
– Passages relating to the Exodus are in Hebrew in the Cremona version and in Aramaic in the Mantua version48Ronit Meroz explains that these passages were originally written in Hebrew in Palestine or Egypt, then translated into Aramaic. See Ronit Meroz, “The Middle Eastern Origins of Kabbalah”, The Journal for the Study of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewry , 2007, p. 40-41, 49. .
– The editors of Mantua have integrated fragments which, according to them, did not belong to the Zohar. In the beginning of the parsha Vahehi one reads, thus, this fragment in which the competing edition is stigmatized as the work of ignoramuses without wisdom who have missed the meaning of the text49 Sefer ha-Zohar , Mantua, 1558, vol. I, fol. 211b-216a; quoted by B. Huss, op.cit., 2008, p.131-132. :
The correctors ( magihim ) say: on the basis of the language, it is clear that this is not part of the Sefer ha-Zohar , just as light is differentiated from darkness. In our opinion, this comes from the Midrash ne’elam. It was originally written in the holy language and the so-called sages (ha-mithakhamaim ) changed the true original language and because they did not understand the language and did not know how to use it properly, they did not understand the meaning and intent of text ; it was turned into a sealed book (ha-sefer ha-hatum ) for those trying to figure it out. We would have removed it since it was not included in the manuscript coming from Safed, may it be rebuilt quickly, nowadays, but as they could have seen that it had been omitted, and that they could have bragged and claimed that our work was flawed, we printed it as it was, unable for us to correct what was flawed.
Let us point out, on the other hand, that, in volumes II and III of Mantua, we read short notes, intra-textual annotations by the editors-correctors ( amar ha-magiya, amru ha-magi’im ) on the distinction between the body of the Zohar and peripheral treatises (referred to as hiddushim ) and on the justification for the insertion of various fragments. I am only mentioning this formal question concerning the integration or the fragmentation of certain treaties50See the list of choices made by the proofreaders in the article by Daniel Abrams, art.cit., Kabbalah , p. 23-24 (to be published in 2019). . These structural differences testify to the importance of the work of the editors in the constitution of the zoharic corpus and the debates which opposed them. The Sefer ha-Zohar is, at the same time, in the process of canonization, and in continual formation, transformation and fluctuation according to the composers who organized it.
The printing of the Zohar aroused a violent controversy of which the paratext of the Mantua edition provides much information.51This controversy has given rise to various articles – on which we have based ourselves for writing part of this article – including Simha Assaf, “Le-Pulmus al hadpasat sifre kabbalah”, Sinai, 5, 1939-1940, p. 360-368; Isaiah Tishby: “Ha-Pulmus al sefer ha-zohar ba-meah ha-shesh esreh be-italyah”, Hiqrei kabbalah u-sheluhoteha , Jerusalem, Magnes, I, 1982, p. 131-182; Ephraim Kupfer, “Te’udot hadashot be-inyan ha-pulmus ba-devar haspasat Sefer ha-Zohar”, Mikhael , I, 1972, p. 302-318; Boaz Huss, op.cit., 2016, p. 191-200. On the difficulties encountered in printing the Zohar, see Yaakov Boksenboim, Iggeret melamedim: Italya 1555-1591 , Tel-Aviv, Beit-ha-sefer le-mada’e ha-Yahadut al shem Ḥayyim Rozenberg, Universiṭah Tel-Aviv, 1985, p; 270-278. . This “battle of the ancients and the moderns” is, in particular, centered on the questions raised by the progress of the printing press and by the writing down of mystical traditions: to what extent was it possible to reveal to a greater number of readers and, possibly, female readers, texts, all the more esoteric, which, until then, remained the prerogative of a restricted elite 52As Joseph Hacker explains, should the Zohar remain an esoteric science accessible to a few individuals of a high religious culture or enter the public domain: “Should the Kabbalah, from an esoteric science, be transformed into a exoteric knowledge? see Joseph Hacker, “Iggeret hadash min ha-pulmus al hadpasat ha-Zohar be-Italyah”, in Masuot: mehkarim be-sifrut ha-kabbalah uve-mahsehvet yisrael mukdashim le-zikhro shel prof. Efraim Gottlieb, ed. by Michal Oron, Zdam Goldreich, Jerusalem, Mossad Bialik, 1994, p120-130. ? What
consequences involves the public revelation of a canonical text which, until then, was transmitted by a master, initiate and initiator, to a disciple? To what extent has the traditional study been upset by this new mode of transmission? What impact on traditional Jewish culture could the mechanical reproduction of the printed book and the public revelation of secret, hidden, sealed traditions have? On the other hand, did the printed canonical texts possess the same degree of sanctity as those copied by scribes from manuscripts? 53This question is, in particular, addressed by the decision-maker Benjamin Solnik. He replies that a printed book has as much sanctity as a manuscript copy. See Benyamin Slonik, Masat Binyamin, no. 99-100. See Mark Hurvitz, The Rabbinic Perception of Printing as Depicted in Haskamot and Responsa, Cincinnati, Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion, 1978, p. 72-95. ?
On the one hand we find the opponents of printing, hostile to public revelation and the dissemination of mystical traditions. Some rabbis feared that the halachic texts would become rigid, without being discussed, orally commented on, not by the masters; they were indignant, too, to see the secrets of the secrets of the Torah revealed to ignoramuses who could study them, interpret them alone, from a printed book, without the help of a master who initiates followers during an oral transmission. The printed circulation of the Zohar profoundly transformed the traditional ways of disseminating exoteric and esoteric knowledge. The reading practices introduced by the printed book, whether individual, private or collective in small study circles, tended to disseminate complex knowledge that the little or less literate were often unable to master, that they could manipulate at will, at the risk of idolatry, even heresy54The Sefer ha-Zohar was, for example, studied from a messianic perspective by the disciples of Sabbatai Tsevi. See Ada Rapoport-Albert, Women and the Messianic Heresy of Sabbatai Zevi, Oxford, Litman Library, 2011, p.122-131. The controversy in the 18th century between Yaakov Emden and Yonathan Eybeschutz testifies to the violence of the debates surrounding the distribution of kabbalistic amulets and magical practices. See Sabbatian Heresy, ed. by Pawel Maciejko, Waltham, Brandeis University Press, 2017, p. 115-139. .
The controversy took place, first of all, in a local context. One of the rabbis of Pesaro, Jacob Israel ben Raphael Finzi55 From the branch of Recanati. See Eliott Horowitz, “Families and their Fortunes: the Jews of Modern Italy”, Cultures of the Jews, ed. by David Biale, New York, Schocken, 2002, p. 604-610., who had lived in Mantua, openly expressed his opposition to the printing. He explains, among other things56S. Assaf, art.cit., 1939-1940, p. 4. Jacob Finzi fears that the Zohar will come into the hands of Christians: “They will copy it in their own language and do with it what they please. “. They could use mystical and kabbalistic writings for proselytizing purposes. See S. Assaf, art. quoted, p. 8. :
Through the printing press, a person will come to study Kabbalah on their own, without a partner. And even young people, children, and people who are not respectable (will engage in it), which is against the rule: A person should not study without a partner, he should be middle-aged, modest and respectable
A parnass from Pesaro, R. Menahem da Pollino (Fologno) also pressured Jacob Finzi to ban the edition. In May 1558, just after the publication of the Tikkunei ha-Zohar and the Zohar, Jacob Finzi launches a violent diatribe against these publications and, more generally, against the public revelation of all Kabbalistic texts57 On May 29, 1558, Finzi again condemned the printing of the Zohar, as did Moshe Basola and, possibly, David ben Raphael of Tosiniano, Meir Katzenellenbogen and Judah Ortil (Ortili). See S. Assaf, art. cit., 1939-1940, p. 241; I. Tishby, s. cit., I, 1982, p. 133-134. :
I was very angry for the Lord and the Holy Torah – the teachings of Kabbalah, trampled on by the impudent and gobbled up by legions, published in the streets and markets, made available to unworthy people.
This virulent opposition fits, more generally, in the cultural context of the time which sees the beginnings of the popularization of the Kabbalah. Let us refer to the famous responsum of Moshe Isserles in his work Torat ha-Olah (Prague, 1570) 58Moshe Isserles, Torat ha-Olah, Prague, 1570, 4/3, p. 72b. Quoted by Jacob Elbaum. Petihut ve-histaggerut: ha-yetsirah ha-ruhanit ha-sifrutit be-Polin uve-artsot Ashkenaz be-shilhe ha-meah ha-shesh-esreh , Jerusalem, Magnes Press, 1990, p. 183. :
Many ordinary people rush to study the Kabbalah because it is very desirable in their eyes… The scholars must already understand it, all the more so the masters of the house, who do not know how to distinguish their right from their left, walk in darkness, unable even to interpret the Torah parashah with Rashi’s commentary, rush to study Kabbalah
We could, at the same time, list a series of halachic authorities, rabbis and scholars who fought against the dissemination of mystical writings. These controversies testify to the traditional opposition between Talmudists, philosophers and mystics from the Middle Ages to modern times.59 On these controversies, see, in particular, Geoges Vajda, Research on Philosophy and Kabbalah in Jewish Thought of the Middle Ages, Paris, Mouton, 1962; Jacob ben Sheshet of Girona, The Meshiv Devarîm Nekhohîm, Book of Adequate Response: Anti-Maimonidian Kabbalistic Controversy, ed. by Jacqueline Lévy, Paris, Lahy, 2010; Shem Tov Falaquera, The Accord of Torah and Philosophy: Epistle of Controversy, ed. by David Lemler, Paris, Hermann, 2014.. Let us quote Meïr Katzenellenbogen, the Maharam, chief rabbi of Padua who, in 1558, published two decrees against the study of Kabbalah60Isaiah Tishby, art.cit., I, 1982, p. 134; Boaz Huss, op.cit, 2016, p. 191. Let us also mention Yosef Yaabetz, a Sephardic Jew, expelled from Spain, who took refuge in Mantua at the end of the 15thth century, where he was darshan (preacher). Although influenced by Kabbalah, in his Or ha-Hayyim , included in the Ma’amar ha-ahdut (Ferrara, 1554), he criticizes impious ignoramuses who study mysticism before they have mastered the basic texts of the Bible, Mishnah and Talmud61Yosef Yaabetz, Or ha-hayyim , Warsaw, 1871, p. 13a. The main criticisms were made by Elie Del Medigo, Averroist philosopher and Maimonidian62See HJ Hames, “Elia del Medigo, an Archetype of the Halakhic Man”, Traditio , 56, 2001, p. 213-227. , author of the Behinat ha-dat , dated to the 1490s and published, by his great-nephew, Shlomo Delmedigo, in 1629 in Hanau (Pseudo-Basel) in the Ta’alumot hochma (“depths of wisdom”)63Eliya Delmedigo, Behinat ha-dat , ed. by Yaakov Y. Ross, Tel-Aviv, Beit ha-sefer le-mada’e ha-Yahadut ‘al shem Ḥayyim Rozenberg, Universiṭah Tel Aviv, 1984; ibid., Review of Religion, ed. by Maurice-Ruben Hayoun, Paris, Cerf, 1992, p. 91-93. Note that Elie Delmedigo was in contact in Florence with Pic de la Mirandola to whom he taught the rudiments of Hebrew. His criticism of the Kabbalah, a “cobbler of corrupt ideas”, focuses on the authenticity of the Zohar. The Talmud and its commentators, including Rashi, know nothing of Kabbalistic doctrines; Shimon bar Yohai cannot be the author of the Zohar in which many authorities from after his time are cited. Taking up the philosophical arguments of Maimonides 64Maimonides, Guide des égarés, Lagrasse, Verdier, 1979, book I, 50-60. Delmedigo rejects the idea of a chain of being, symbolized by the ten divine attributes ( sefirot ). He also rejects theurgic practices concerning the influence of human beings on the superior worlds. These anti-kabalistic criticisms are part of a tradition of thought, of which we can trace some milestones. Let us mention the rationalist philosopher Moshe ben Sabbataï 65 Jean-Pierre Rothschild, Moses b. Sabbataï, Jewish reader of the ‘Book of Causes’ and adversary of the Kabbalah, in Italy, circa 1340, Tunrhout, Brepols, 2018. ; let us also quote Yehuda Messer Leon, who issued a decree to the yeshivas of northern Italy to banish the study of the Kabbalah 66 Hava Tirosh-Rothschild, Between Worlds, the Life and Thought of Rabbi David ben Judah Messer Leon, Albany, State University of New York, 1991, p. 26.; Leo of Modena (1571-1648) in his Ari Nohem (“Roaring Lion”) castigated the printing press as a cause of the downfall of traditional culture 67 We find the same arguments in Yehezkiel Landau, rabbi of Prague, see Noda bi-Yehudah , 1776, Part I, Yoreh de’ah 74; part II, Yoreh de’ah 210. On Landau’s ambivalent attitude towards the Kabbalah, see Sharon Flatto, The Kabbalistic Culture of Eighteenth-Century Prague, Ezekiel Landau (the noda biyhudah) and his Contemporaries”, Oxford, Littman Library, 2010, p. 128-139. training Christian theologians and kabbalists to seize kabbalistic doctrines to strengthen their own religion68Yaakov Dweck, The Scandal of Kabbalah, Leon Modena, Jewish Mysticism, Early Modern Venice , Princeton, Princetoon University Press, 2011, p. 61-100. . Add Jacob Emden 69 Jacob Emden, Mitpahat sefarim, 1768. See Oded Yisraeli, “The Controversy on the Antiquity of the Zohar in its Sabbatean Context”, Echoes of Shabbetai Sevi in Jewish Literatures , Conference Montenegro August 2015. Online http://www.academia.edu/14658006/The_controversy_on_the_antiquity_of_the_Zohar_in_its_Sabbatean_context_who, in his Mitpahat sefarim (1768), challenges the antiquity of the Zohar, which he considers as a falsified work of which he contextualizes the so-called holy character and the qualification of canonical text . We could cite, at the end of this chain of anti-Kabbalistic tradition, Moses Mendelssohn in his Or la-Netivah (1783) 70 Moses Mendelssohn Or la-Nativah , in Jewish Writings, ed. by Eli Schonfeld, Lagrasse, Verdier, 2017, p. 87-146..
In the other camp, we find rabbis and decision-makers, aware of the importance of disseminating the classic works of Jewish mysticism. They mobilized to defend, to help print a reliable edition of the Zohar. It was a question of creating a textual tradition which could be transmitted from generation to generation and, thereby, of establishing their authority vis-à-vis the philosophers and the Talmudists. For them, there was a continuity between the manuscript and the book: the printed reproduction of the canonical texts, including the texts of Jewish mysticism, lost nothing of their authority and their sanctity. Supporters include members of the Jewish community of Pesaro: Yehuda Blanes, physician and kabbalist. We have already quoted Moshe Basola71 His approval appears in the Tikkunei ha-Zohar (Mantua, 1557). See Cecil Roth, “Moses ben Mordechai Basola,” Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2007. The edition of the Tikkunei Zohar (1557) begins with his pesak where he explains that the printing does not constitute a violation of the rule which imposes not to reveal the secrets of the Torah. Everyone can therefore study according to their level of religious culture, the “science of kabbalah” ( hokhmat ha-kabbalah )72Tikkunei ha-Zohar , Mantua, 1558, fol. 2v. :
There is no need to hide the Zohar which is entirely fear of God… This is why it is good and beautiful to print it for the merit of all… to increase the knowledge of the Torah… All the books of the Kabbalah are the divine word, the Torah of truth (torat ha-emet ) and a precious treasure.
The edition includes a second pesak by Moshe Provenzali, chief rabbi of Mantua. He opposed Meir Katzenellenbogen, chief rabbi of Padua who, in 1558, issued two decrees against the study of the Kabbalah:
No one has permission to print any kabbalistic text without the permission of three rabbis from three different provinces, based on truth and justice, as is the rule.
Moshe Provenzali praises printers and shows the continuity between oral and written traditions which mark the passage from hidden esoteric traditions, transmitted orally, to their public revelation thanks to the art of printing. Let us especially mention Isaac de Lattes, rosh yeshiva of Pesaro, editor and printer 73He was Rabbi in Avignon and, in 1536, lived in Mantua, then in Bologna. In 1546 he directed the workshop of Hebrew books in Rome. See the article by Solomon Schechter and Isaac Broydé, “Isaac Joshua Ben Immanuel de Lattes”, J ewish Encyclopedia , 1906. In the introduction to the Responsa of Rabbi Nissim of Girona 74Rabbi Nissim of Girona, Sheelot teshuvot ha-rav ha-gadol ha-gaon rabenu Nissim Girondi , Rome, 1546 (Republished in Cremona, 1557). Online: http://hebrewbooks.org/44560 . See Dov Ber Cooperman, “Technology, Preservation, and Freedom of Expression, Isaac de Latters as Printer in Sixteenth-Century Italy”, in Early Modern Workshop, Jewish History Resources. Volume 6: Reading across Cultures: The Jewish Book and Its Readers in the EarlyModern Period, The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University, Cambridge, 2009, p. 7-27. , he praises the printing press ( ma’aseh ha-defus ) and printers who have “the merit of generously editing/publishing the science of secrets ( ta’alumot hochma ) and thus increasing the knowledge of the Torah. May God grant them the privilege of printing countless books, endlessly until the days of the Messiah, these hidden and sacred things will be sorted out and purified. Amen! » At the beginning of the first volume of the edition of the Zohar of Mantua, we find a pesak of Isaac de Lattes 75 Sefer ha-Zohar, Mantua, 1558, fol. 2r-4v.. This introductory text, inspired by the art of rhetoric in the Renaissance, begins with a prosopopeia in which he takes up one by one the arguments of the opponents of the printing of the Zohar, who “say that it is bad to reveal / edit sealed and hidden things and to break down the barrier of the ancients which they hid in their treasure chambers and in their arsenals” (II Kings 20, 13)… How anyone can be bold enough to print and distribute books to all winds (on all sides)…” He continues on an argument of Maimonides76Maimonides, Guide to the Lost , Lagrasse, Verdier, 1979, p. 21-22. : “Anyone who interprets things in a book, it is as if he had explained / preached them in front of thousands of
people”, followed by the quotation of a verse from Lamentations (4,1). “How holy jewels can be strewn on every street corner. To conclude, he reports the diatribe of his adversaries: “those who seek to make public the secrets of the Torah must be punished”. Then comes a counter-argument, based on the verse (Isaiah 11:9): “The earth will be full of the knowledge of God. Lattes reviews the great texts of the mystical tradition, wondering why they would have been “left in a cave, in darkness, forever”, whether the Sefer yetzira , the Sefer ha-bahir and the Heykhalot of Rabbi Ishmael. The same applies to the Zohar of which “there are many manuscript copies. He then wonders: If the recent authorities (aharonim ) had forbidden the use of printing, why would they have allowed the printing of Recanatti’s biblical commentary, printed twice in Venice, the Sefer ha-Musar , the Mekor Hayyim who also “unveil hidden things. “As it was permitted to write down the Oral Law, to preach the commandments in public in order to teach the children of Judah what they had to do, so it is, likewise, possible to reveal the secrets of the Torah “to qualified people”. There is another interesting argument: the printing of the Zohar is part of a messianic process as redemption seems to be approaching ( shanat ha-shemita, yeshua adonai ) and its dissemination in printed form is part of a plan to hasten redemption. Divine. Those who refuse the edition are referred to as the “demolishers of the secrets of the Torah”. Isaac de Lattes is also known for a collection of responsa77 On the decree favorable to the printing of the Zohar, see Isaac ben Emmanuel de Lattes, Sheelot u-teshuvot , ed. by Max H. Friedländer, Vienna, Knöpfmacher, 1860, p. 124-127. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.hwmhze;view=1up;seq=142 . in which we find a decision ( pesak ) of 1558 “against the rabbis who obstruct the printing of the Zohar following the decrees of power concerning the burning of the Talmud78In 1553, Pope Julius III decreed the burning of the Talmud. The copies were burned on the Campo di Fiori in Rome. “. Long diatribe against the rabbis, “annihilators and destroyers of the world… moved by hatred and envy” and, contrary to the saying: “multiplying books increases wisdom”, they want to restrict the dissemination of Jewish knowledge. They are only hypocrites, blind ignorant fools, deprived of understanding. On the contrary, one must never, during periods of religious persecution ( shmad ), give up studying. Let us not forget, in fact, that in 1553 the burning of the Talmud took place. Moreover, Isaac de Lattes reminds the rabbis who threaten to excommunicate supporters of the printing of the Zohar, that the civil and ecclesiastical authorities had authorized the printing of the Zohar and other kabbalistic texts: “Why then these thousands of books copied. What is the difference between writing ( ketivah ) and printing ( hadpasah ). »
From this quick overview let us remember:
– The Zohar, as a unified corpus of kabbalistic texts, was the invention of printers, editors and proofreaders. Admittedly, before them, the Zohar existed, but in the form of a scattered set of manuscript fragments that they collected, ordered, in the form of a printed book, thus participating in the birth, recognition and canonization of a fundamental texts of Jewish mysticism.
– The controversies around the printing of the Zohar testify to the break that the book introduced into Jewish culture, establishing a new relationship with Jewish textual traditions and new reading practices. This upheaval had profound consequences, albeit gradual and variable, on the dissemination of Jewish mystical literature. The edition of the Zohar inaugurates new ways of approaching the kabbalistic tradition. The book, although still confined to very restricted circles of scholars, was now more available; readers then experienced greater freedom to move within the mystical texts, to apprehend them, to study them and to circulate them. The Zoharic corpus will know, from the XVIcentury, in Italy and then throughout Europe, a slow but growing popularization79In the seventeenth century, the religious break that was Sabbatianism and , in the eighteenth century, Hasidism, can be explained, admittedly only in part, by the increased dissemination of the Zohar and mystical writings, and by the penetration of religious practices. magical and kabbalistic rituals in the religious life of the Jews. .