JS 353 / Rel. 353R / Hist. 385 / JS 541

Fall 2003

MW 3:00 - 4:15

Candler 114



Professor David R. Blumenthal (404-634-3833; 7-7545; <>)


The Zohar is the most secret and most central of Jewish mystical texts. Traditionally, one may not study it until one is 40 years of age and married. Nonetheless, we shall attempt to probe its depths, devoting an entire semester to this mysterious text. We will cover such topics as: God, the sefirot, the Shekhina, evil, humanity, sin, death, mystical conjugal life, mystical prayer, and repairing the universe.


The Wisdom of the Zohar, ed. I Tishby (Littman Library).
Bible, any translation.
Wineman, Mystical Tales
reading questions (handed out in class)


G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism.
D. Blumenthal, Understanding Jewish Mysticism.
M. Idel, Kabbalah: New Persepctives.
D. Matt, Zohar: The Book of Enlightenment.


We will read this central text closely and consider the nature of religious and mystical beliefs.
Students should also consult the books on reserve during the course of the semester, as well as those parts of Tishby that we will not cover in class.
Additional material on how to review and how to prepare will be distributed.
Class participation is expected. One final paper.

Graduate students:

Graduate students will be responsible for Tishby's Introduction and for any assignments not covered in class for lack of time.
Graduate students should do the preparatory readings not assigned to the class for each section. An Aramaic tutorial is part of this class.
Graduate students are expected to write a full-length paper which will clearly and fully exegete a zoharic passage. The paper should be publishable. An additional paper on a theme in the Zohar or a creative interpretive piece is advised.


9/3 The nature of the sefirot, the "sefirotic tree"
Reading: "The Rose and the Lily"
Assn.: The Sefirot, I: 269-308

The Sefirot

9/8 Questions on The Sefirot
Assn.: Readings 31, 27
9/10 Readings 31, 27
Assn.: Readings 4, 32
9/15 Readings 4, 32
Assn.: Readings 34, 18
9/17 Readings 34, 18
Assn.: Shekhina, I: 371-88


9/22 Questions on Shekhina
Assn.: Readings 4, 5
9/24 Readings 4, 5
Assn.: Readings 26, 21
9/29 Readings 26, 21
Assn.: Influence and Direction, I: 423-30, and Reading 11
10/1 Questions on Influence and Direction, I: 423-30; Reading 11
Assn.: review for Open Session

(10/6 -- Yom Kippur -- no class)

Open Session

10/8 Open Session: review, texts not read
Assn.: The Forces of Uncleanness, II: 447-74

(10/13 -- Fall Break -- no class)

The "Other Side"

10/15 Questions on The Forces of Uncleanness
Assn.: Readings 2,3,4,9,11
10/20 Readings 2,3,4,9,11
Assn.: The Activity of "the Other Side," II: 509-11; Demons, II: 529-32;
Angels II: 623-34
10/22 Questions on The Activity, Demons, and Angels
Assn.: Readings: Activities, 4, 7; Demons, 5, 6
10/27 Readings: Activities, 4, 7; Demons, 5, 6
Assn.: Prayer and Devotion, II: 941-1016; Questions 1-16

Prayer and Devotion

10/29 Questions 1-16 on Prayer and Devotion
Assn.: Reading 4
First exercise due: decode and comment upon "Influence" 2.
11/3 Reading 4
Assn.: Reading 6
11/5 Reading 6
Assn.: Review: Prayer and Devotion, II: 941-1016; Questions 17-33
11/10 Questions 17-37 on Prayer and Devotion
Assn.: Reading 6; plus passages on pp. 958, 992
11/12 Reading 6; plus passages on pp. 958, 992
Assn.: Review for open class
Second exercise due: decode and comment upon "Prayer" 10.

Open Class

11/17 Open Class
Assn.: Continuous Text

Continuous Text

11/19 Continuous Text
11/24 Continuous Text
(11/26 -- Thanksgiving -- no class)
12/1 Continuous Text
Distribute final exam / paper
12/3 Continuous Text
Assn.: Review
So what does all this mean to us?


12/8 Conclusion: Review; So what does all this mean to us?

Final paper due:

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