Monday, August 22, 2016

The Zohar and Martin Buber

Lehrhaus Philosophy Circle - The Zohar continues for a second year under the leadership of Professor Daniel C. Matt and utilizing his epic translation and annotation of The Zohar: Pritzker Edition. We will discuss selections from Volume 4 of this groundbreaking work.

Matt describes the Zohar as "a challenge to the normal workings of consciousness [that] dares one to examine one's assumptions about tradition, God, and self."

Lehrhaus Philosophy Circle: The Zohar in Aramaic

This special section of the Zohar program is led by Prof. Daniel Matt and is for students with the ability to follow the Zohar in the original (facility in either Hebrew or Aramaic). The Aramaic text will be provided (along with a Hebrew translation) and participants should also purchase Vol. 4 of The Zohar: Pritzker Edition. Class size is limited.

Lehrhaus Philosophy Circle: Martin Buber

We celebrate the life of the renowned Jewish philosopher and educator after his 50th yahrzeit with readings and discussions from Hasidism and Modern Man. First published in 1958, this collection of essays examines the life and religious experiences of Hasidic Jews, as well as Buber’s personal response to them.

From the autobiographical “My Way to Hasidism,” to “Hasidism and Modern Man,” and “Love of God and Love of Neighbor,” the essays span nearly half a century and reflect the evolution of Buber’s religious philosophy in relation to the Hasidic movement. Hasidism and Modern Man remains prescient in its portrayal of a spiritual movement that brings God down to earth and makes possible a modern philosophy in which the human being becomes sacred.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Professor Daniel Matt's Introduction To The Study of the Zohar

On Sunday, October 11, 2015, at the Jewish Community Library, Professor Daniel Matt presented a talk, "Introduction To The Study of the Zohar" for participating students of the Lehrhaus Philosophy Circles.  We are very grateful to have been hosted by the Jewish Community Library.

The audio recording is available for download here:

The Talk

The texts Professor Matt refers to in his talk are here:

The Ten Sefirot

How to Look at Torah

Romance of Torah

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Philosophy Circle Webinar with Prof. Daniel Matt

This is the link for the recoded webinar (click on "Recorded Webinar")

Recorded Webinar 

from Monday, May 9 with Daniel Matt.

Please note that in the first four minutes Danny and several participants share the screen, but from that point on the video is the text and Danny Matt alone.

You can download the text here: Moses and Shekinah in the Zohar

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

aleph ze'ira (small aleph)

Vayikra El-Moshe V'Vidaber... Sefer Torah 
We have encountered the aleph ze'ira (small aleph) twice in our studies.

It is found in the word "Vayikra," Leviticus 1:1

We encountered it in Zohar, Pritzker Edition, Volume 3, p. 420

“A small aleph – deriving from a small place, small becoming great in joining above.” 

Note: The divine call to Moses issued from Shekhinah, the last and “smallest” of the sefirot, who has nothing of her own but rather reflects the light of the other sefirot.  Yet when she is united with the upper sefirot, She becomes great.

and Zohar, Pritzker Edition, Volume 3, p. 457

He opened saying, "Vayikra, He called to Moses.  Here a small aleph.  Why?  Because this 'calling' was not consummate.  How so?  It was only in the Tabernacle and in a foreign land, for consummation is found only in the Holy Land..."

Friday, February 5, 2016

Jeremy Brown is our faculty for the Contra Costa County Philosophy Circle – The Zohar.  Jeremy is also at the University Of San Francisco, Department of Theology & Religious Studies, Swig Program in Jewish Studies & Social Justice.

He has complied a source sheet with some Jewish and non-Jewish traditions related to our Garment of Days/Garment of Merit motif. He notes that,  “of course, I have by no means exhausted the motif.” It generated some fascinating comparative discussion in his group and so we have shared it with all.

Being the modest scholar he is, Jeremy also notes that, “the Reshit Hokhmah passage is adapted from the Benyosef translation.  The Bahir passage is my translation.” CLICK HERE

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Lehrhaus Philosophy Circle: The Zohar Winter 2016

List of Zohar passages

Session 5: Jacob’s Garment of Days

The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, Vol. 3, pp. 346349 (note 260 extends to p. 350) 
Corresponding Aramaic text Zohar 1:224ab

Session 6: Jacob’s Blessings to His Sons
         The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, Vol. 3, pp. 417422
Corresponding Aramaic text Zohar 1:234ab

Session 7: Jacob and Moses; Adam’s Sin
         The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, Vol. 3, pp. 433 (top at n. 638)–435 (top at n. 644)
Corresponding Aramaic text Zohar 1:236a–b
The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, Vol. 3, pp. 440443 (top at n. 672)    Zohar 1:237a (You may want to compare The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, Vol. 1, pp. 29798, although note 663 on pp. 440–441 contains much of what’s relevant from the notes in Vol. 1)

Session 8: A Child’s Teaching
The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, Vol. 3, pp. 452 (bottom) – 459 (If you want, you can skip pp. 453–454)
Corresponding Aramaic text  Zohar 1:238b–239b

Alternative: Sacrifice and Prayer
The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, Vol. 3, pp. 492494 (at n. 870)      Corresponding Aramaic text Zohar 1:244a

Session 9: Inside the Cave
The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, Vol. 3, pp. 498503 (note 902 extends to p. 504)
Corresponding Aramaic text Zohar 1:244b245b

The Aramaic text corresponding to The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, Vol. 3, can be found at the website below. The corresponding page numbers in the Pritzker Edition are indicated in brackets throughout this Aramaic text. Click Zohar - Aramaic

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Therefore the prophets called them "fools and dolts"

Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, the Rambam, died on the 20th day of the Hebrew month of Tevet, this year the 11th of January.

2015 began on the 10th of Tevet, a minor fast day on the Jewish calendar. The fast commemorates the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia, the beginning of the end of the First Temple period and Judean independence.

The Rambam in his Letter to the elders of Provence provides a fascinating understanding of how the leaders of Jerusalem enabled Nebuchadnezzar to conquer Jerusalem.

Noam Silverman, the teacher of the Palo Alto Philosophy Circle provided this excerpt from Isadore Twersky, A Maimonides Reader (New York: Behrman House, Inc., 1972) pp. 463-473, to his class and on the occasion of sitting between the 10th and 20th Tevet we share it with you.  And beware, less we become fools and dolts, of imagining follies to be science, even if the follies comes from old books.


…Know, my masters, that it is not proper for a man to accept as trustworthy anything other than one of these three things.

The first is a thing for which there is a clear proof deriving from man's reasoning—such as arithmetic' geometry, and astronomy.

The second is a thing that a man perceives through one of the five senses—such as when he knows with certainty that this is red and this is black and the like through the sight of his eye; or as when he tastes that this is bitter and this is sweet; or as when he feels that this is hot and this is cold; or as when he hears that this sound is clear and this sound is indistinct; or as when he smells that this is a pleasing smell and this is a displeasing smell and the like.

The third is a thing that a man receives from the prophets or from the righteous.

Every reasonable man ought to distinguish in his mind and thought all the things that he accepts as trustworthy, and say: "This I accept as trustworthy because of tradition, and this because of sense-perception, and this on grounds of reason." Anyone who accepts as trustworthy anything that is not of these three species, of him it is said: "The simple believes everything" (Prov. 14:15). Thus you ought to know that fools have composed thousands of books of nothingness and emptiness. Any number of men, great in years but not in wisdom, wasted all their days in studying these books and imagined that these follies are science. 

They came to think of themselves as wise men because they knew that science. The thing about which most of the world errs, or all of it—save for a few individuals, "the remnant of whom the Lord shall call" (Joel 3:5)—is that thing of which I am apprising you. The great sickness and the "grievous evil" (Eccles. 5:12, 15) consist in this: that all the things that man finds written in books, he presumes to think of as true—and all the more so if the books are old…

This is why our kingdom was lost and our Temple was destroyed and why we were brought to this; for our fathers sinned and are no more because they found many books dealing with these themes of the star gazers, these things being the root of idolatry, as we have made clear in Laws Concerning Idolatry. They erred and were drawn after them, imagining them to be glorious science and to be of great utility. They did not busy themselves with the art of war or with the conquest of lands, but imagined that those studies would help them. Therefore the prophets called them "fools and dolts" (Jer. 4:22). And truly fools they were, "for they walked after confused things that do not profit" (I Sam. 12:21 and Jer. 2:8).