Sunday 25 March 2018


Page 1 of the document.


While many believe the Zohar to have been authored by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai during the second century CE, the fact is that authorship of the Zohar has been disputed by many Torah scholars over the centuries. Some believe the Zohar to have been written around the 13th century.    

In this article, we will look at a hitherto unknown document which was discovered relatively recently in a library in Jerusalem. It apparently gives unprecedented insight into Rav Kook’s (1865-1935) position on the issue of the authorship and age of the Zohar.

Page 2 of the document.


Rabbi David Bar-Hayim describes how some thirty odd years ago, while looking through the National Library in Jerusalem - which contains a smaller library, specializing in matters relating to Kabbalah and known as the Gershom Scholem Library – he came across what appeared to be a nondescript file.

This file contained just three photocopied pages which had been stapled onto a piece of cardboard. The title read “Meyuchas leRav Kook” - attributed to Rav Kook.

R. Bar-Hayim got permission to copy the three pages and immediately identified the handwriting as belonging to the foremost student of Rav Kook, R. David Cohen known as the Nazir.


R. David Cohen (1887-1972) was a fascinating individual known as the Nazarite of Jerusalem. He never drank wine, ate grapes or cut his hair. He was to become the editor many of Rav Kook’s writings, including the well-known Orot haKodesh

He had studied under R. Israel Meir Kagan - known as the Chafetz Chaim (1838-1933) who authored the Mishna Berura - as well as studying in Volozhin and Slabodka Yeshivot.

In addition to his Torah studies, he was accepted into the University of Basil in Switzerland where he studied philosophy and classical literature for seven years.

He met Rav Kook when the latter got stranded in Switzerland during the unexpected outbreak of the First World War. After initially being disappointed that Rav Kook only wanted to talk about Greek philosophy, he was won over when he heard him daven - and he writes in the Introduction to Orot haKodesh that at that moment: “I had found for myself a Rav.”

This was the person whose handwriting appeared on those three pages.

Page 3 of the document.


R. Bar-Hayim records that in all the many years he spent in the shadow of the students of Rav Kook, he had never heard or seen the likes of what was contained in those three pages, and believes that few - if any – were aware of its contents or even of its existence.

The Nazir had written that while two specific sections of the Zohar, namely the Tikkunei Zohar and the Raaya Mehemna[1], emanate - in principle[2] - from Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and Moshe Rabbeinu[3], however, in actual historical terms they were not recorded nor received from either of them.

Rather, they were written by holy people, namely Sephardic Rabbis who lived much later in Spain around the 13th century. 

This is because the style and the language match that of the Sephardic Chachamim of that time. The literary style clearly precluded these texts from being authentically ancient as many belied they were.

The Nazir goes on to say that this issue was already addressed by R. Yaakov Emden (1697-1776) in his little-known work Mitpachat Sefarim. This book was suppressed and deliberately hidden away over the last number of generations.

It is important to remember that in this document the Nazir is not referring to all of the Zohar but only to the two sections Tikkunei Zohar and Raaya Mehemna. Traditionally the mystics have always regarded these two sections as the ‘purist’ and ‘highest’ form of Zoharic literature.

This is further evidenced by the fact that the Vilna Gaon wrote a commentary on the Tikkunei Zohar and not on the rest of the Zohar.

Similarly, R. Nachman of Breslov is recorded as having expressed surprise that people mention the Zohar and Tikkunei Zohar in the same breath, because of the loftiness of the latter.

This being the case, it follows that if the Nazir believed these two texts to have only been written in the 13th century, then certainly the other sections of the Zohar cannot be more ancient (which would have granted them even more importance). -Rather, according to him, all the Zohar must only have been committed to writing at a much later time than generally believed.

Explosively, the Nazir writes that he received this information from his teacher, ‘Maran shelita’ - which can only refer to his teacher, Rav Kook!

This is ‘explosive’ because up till now, no one – not even those within the camp of Rav Kook - would have imagined Rav Kook the mystic, to have taken such a surprising stance.

Lest one thinks that this is an anti-mystical approach or conspiracy, R. Bar-Hayim is quick to point out that all the three players in this scenario - the Nazir, Rav Kook and R. Emden - were great Kabbalists in their own right and were certainly not opposed to the mystical tradition.

R. Bar-Hayim says:

There are many people who are associated with Rav Kook and his writings, who either are not aware of this text...(or) there may be some who have seen it...but would be very very displeased if this information were to get out...

And we know for a fact that there still are in existence today, many writings of Rav Kook that have never been published – because there are individuals...Rabbanim...who make it their business to deny access to these writings of Rav Kook...

They seem to think that it is better that people do not know what Rav Kook thought and wrote...

Some of the 120-year-old manuscripts have reached the point where they are nearly illegible...

- I believe this is a misguided approach and therefore I choose to make this information (concerning this obscure three paged document) public.

For more on the general censorship issue, see THE CENSORED WRITINGS OF RAV KOOK.

[1] The Zohar is not just one book, but instead is comprised of about fifteen separate texts.
[2] I am not sure that I understand exactly what the Nazir means by ‘in principle’: If there were surviving texts from R. Shimon bar Yochai, he would have surely said ‘based on some texts’. If there was some type of spiritual visitation, he would have surely said ‘based on some form of revelation’. Or did he added this because without some connection to R. Shimon bar Yochai this view would not have been acceptable to the mainstream who held on dearly to this belief?
[3] Tikkunei Zohar is often attributed to R. Shimon bar Yochai, while Raaya Mehemna is often attributed to Moshe Rabbeinu.


  1. Has the original Hebrew been transcribed anywhere?

  2. I have asked the same question and also requested permission to translate it into English.

  3. If you don't have the Hebrew, where did the translation in the post come from?

  4. The original three pages are on the post. But in order to translate the entire document, it would be nice to get a clearer printed version.

  5. The Kamarna in Nesiv Mitzvosecha, Nesiv HaTorah Shvil 1,32 says the Tikkunei Zohar and the Raaya Mehemna were written by a holy Jew at the time of the geonim with ruach hakodesh.

  6. Mitpachas sefarim mentions that parts of the zohar were written by distant students of Rashbi 300 years later (shin). This is a correction from Sefer yuchsin which says it was only 60 years (samech) which would give it a lot more credence (same years as the Mishna).
    Sefer yuchsin also calls the Sefer zohar Midrash yehi ohr (as it is connected with Berashis)