Zohardoxy is the faction of Judaism which takes the teachings of the Zohar (and related texts) literally. As a result, while adherents of the Zohar may be halakhically Orthodox, some of their beliefs are quasi-Christian, Gnostic, or dualistic.
“What you need to understand is that once one enters the mystical/kabbalistic universe very nearly everything you think you knew about the limits of Jewish theology will have to be thrown out. This certainly includes most, though not all, of what were historically seen as being clear theological dividing lines between Judaism and Christianity.”
- Orthodox Rabbi Bob Carroll, Liberal Orthodox Mailing list
Critics of Kabbalah hold that it can promote dualism: the belief that there is a supernatural counterpart to God.
Some early Kabbalists believed in a heavenly being called Metatron, a lesser YHVH (the lesser Adonai), that worked in concert with YHVH (the greater) Adonai. This is a Gnostic belief.
Later Kabbalistic works, including the Zohar, more strongly affirmed dualism, ascribing all evil to a supernatural force known as the Sitra Ahra (“the other side”.)
“The dualistic tendency is, perhaps, most marked in the Kabbalistic treatment of the problem of evil. The profound sense of the reality of evil brought many Kabbalists to posit a realm of the demonic, the Sitra Ahra, a kind of negative mirror image of the “side of holiness” with which it was locked in combat.”
– Encyclopaedia Judaica, Volume 6, “Dualism”, p.244
|Judaism||Christianity||Hasidic Jewish Zohardoxy|
|God is one||There are three separate persons, God the Father, God The Son and God the Holy Spirit, all sharing the same substance. Thus God is one in some mysterious way.||“God is One being, yet in that One being there are Ten Sefitor”.
Rav,Leon Modena, a 17th century, wrote that if we were to accept Kabbalah, then the Christian trinity would indeed be compatible with Judaism, as the Trinity closely resembles the Kabbalistic doctrine of sefirot
|No praying to humans||Christians pray to Jesus, Mary, and various Saints, and ask them to intercede on God’s behalf with them.||Hasidic Jews pray to deceased Rebbes and other dead rabbis – tzadikkim. They ask them to intercede on God’s behalf with them|
|No dead rabbi will rise from the grave to become a messiah||Jesus rose from the grave to become a messiah.||According to many in Chabad, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe will rise from the grave, or reveal himself not to be fully dead, and become a messiah.|
|No evil counterpart to God||Satan (Lucifer) is an evil counterpart to God||The Zohar affirms dualism, ascribing evil to a supernatural force:
The Sitra Ahra (“other side”.)
|No vicarious atonement.||Jesus died on the cross to redeem mankind’s sins||The kadosh [Hasidic saint]/martyr/saint “conquers immortality by his suicide-apotheosis on the pyre”
Mircea Eliade, A History of Religious Ideas, vol 1, p.289
|No intermediaries between man and God||Jesus serves as an intermediary between God and man||Describing the Hasidic Jewish ‘tzadik’ concept …the qadosh/hero/ martyr/saint gains access to a primordial, mythical moment, which he then shares with his peers, disciples and devotees. That is why, in the function of Adam-Elohim, the qadosh/hero/ martyr/saint serves as an intermediary and a mediator between gods and men.”
The Horizontal Society, Jose Faur
Consider the following two essays, one describing a Christian view of Jesus, followed by one describing a Hasidic Jewish views of their tzaddik/Rebbe. Note the similarities:
A Christian view of Jesus
The notion of the Jesus’s simplicity as prime-most in the service of God is argued in their holy book “Jesus is the foundation of the world.” If this is true of the leader then how much more so of the average person, who could feel his spiritual worth despite his poverty and lack of scholarship.
Jesus, once a simple but faithful person, was transformed into a superior form of humanity, close to God and sometimes inseparable from Him. The personality of this newly created paradigm became a primary focus of Jesus’s followers.
As this new religion evolved, the notion of Jesus changed and has been the subject of many religious writings. Jesus is often attributed with possessing a common soul with his followers, in fact with all humanity. Jesus is often considered as the Moshe of his generation , or a pillar on which the world stands. These descriptions establish Jesus as a source of life and spirit, even in an impure world.
A person who associates with Jesus, eats from his plate, receives blessings from him or his advice, is connected with a more direct divine path than could be achieved through the regular channels of creation and existence.
Jesus is a source of holiness, standing between heaven and earth like an intermediary. He is humble and modest, subjected to the will of God, careful not to reject the flow of spirituality into his being. Jesus descended to the world, a place where he does not belong, he suffers for his people and for the will of God, he has insight into the nature of man and can read their souls. Jesus gives his followers council because he cares for them.
Jesus has forged an identity so strong that their religious literature almost deifies him, comparing Jesus to God himself, stating that God dwells in the body and soul of Jesus, that Jesus incorporates God into an inseparable union
Some literature even justifies to some degree the worship of Jesus. This is
justified to some extent by the comparison of Jesus to the Temple. Just as God dwells in the Temple, he also does so in Jesus Christ. Just as one does not pray to the Temple but rather at what resides in it, likewise Jesus is not worshipped but rather the Godly presence within him is worshiped.
The above quote is from a history of Hasidic Judaism: Leadership in the HaBaD Movement, by M. Avrum Ehrlich. The original quote is about how Hasidic Jews see their Rebbe) as a tzaddik. All I did was substitute ‘zaddik’ with ‘Jesus’. We thus see how Zohar-following Jews have come to have a theology almost identical to Christianity – they just pick a different rabbi to worship as God’s presence on Earth.
Original quote, for comparison:
The notion of the zaddik’s simplicity as prime-most in the service of God is argued with the assistance of talmudic sources: “the zaddik is the foundation of the world”.. If this is true of the leader then how much more so of the hasid, who could feel his spiritual worth despite his poverty and lack of scholarship. Over time, however, the term hasid came to mean a follower, a simple person subjected to the superiority of the zaddik.
The zaddik, once the simple but faithful person, was transformed into a superior form of humanity, close to God and sometimes inseparable from Him. The personality of this newly created paradigm became a primary focus of hasidic worship.
As hasidism evolved, the notion of the zaddik also changed and has been the subject of many Jewish mystical writings. He is often attributed with possessing a common soul with his followers, in fact with all Jews. He is often considered as the Moshe of his generation 46, or a pillar on which the world stands. These descriptions establish the zaddik as a source of life and spirit, even in an impure world. The hasid who associates with him, eats from his plate, receives blessings from him or his advice, is connected with a more direct divine path than could be achieved through the regular channels of creation and existence.
Dresner writes of the zaddik that he is a source of holiness, standing between heaven and earth like an intermediary. He is humble and modest, subjected to the will of God, careful not to reject the flow of spirituality into his being. He descended to the world, a place where he does not belong, he suffers for his people and for the will of God, he has insight into the nature of man and can read their souls. He gives his hasidim council because he cares for them.
The zaddik has forged an identity so strong that some Hasidic literature almost deifies him, comparing the zaddik to God himself, stating that God dwells in the body and soul of the zaddik, that the zaddik incorporates God into an inseparable union.
Some literature even justifies to some degree the worship of the zaddik. This is justified to some extent by the comparison of the zaddik to the Temple. Just as God dwells in the Temple, he also does so in the zaddik. Just as one does not pray to the Temple but rather at what resides in it, likewise the zaddik is not worshiped but rather the Godly presence within him is worshiped.
Many parallels between the story of Jesus and the story of the Baal Shem Tov
Hasidic Jews, and even most non-Hasidic Orthodox Jews, generally do not receive an education in Christianity, so they are not aware of this. The origin story of Israel Ben Eliezer, Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidic Judaism, contains a huge number of parallels to the origin story of Jesus, and later Christian saints, in Christianity.
In Shivḥei haBesht, the Hasidic compilation portraying the greatness of the Baal Shem Tov, the following description appears:
* The Besht’s birth was heralded by the prophet Elijah…
* He was a reincarnation of the renowned philosopher and exegete Saadiah Gaon
* His soul was derived from the soul of King David…
* [Like Jesus Christ] His son, Hersheleh, was “born by the word [of God]” because the BESHT claimed not to have slept with his wife for a period of fourteen years
* the BESHT told Hersheleh that he had the power to endow his son with the holy soul of Adam.
* The BESHT received communications from the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, was able to perceive angels
* visited the palace of King David
* ascended to the heavenly palace of the Messiah where he was told that redemption would come to Israel if the BESHT opened the “gate.”
* The BESHT’s Torah teachings, like G-d’s revelation to Israel at Mount Sinai, were revealed amidst thunder and lightning.
Viewing a rebbe as a messiah or as God
Furthermore, the Rebbe/Tzaddik of every era was deemed to be the potential Messiah himself, and many Hasidim believed that a messianic spark was vested within their respective Rebbe/Tzaddik. The earthly powers of the Rebbe/Tzaddik appear to have been limitless.
“The Tzaddik sustains the entire world.” R. Elimelekh of Lizhensk declares, “The Tzaddik alone, through his holy deeds can accomplish everything,” and “The Tzaddik decrees, and G-d, blessed be He, fulfills.” R. Moses of Kozienice states the matter thus: “Whatever G-d does, it is also within the capacity of the
Tzaddik to do.”
….One hesitates to use the word “intermediary” in describing a Jew. It is a phrase seemingly inappropriate, if not antithetical, to our conception of normative traditional Judaism. The holiest human being remains just that—a human being. However, an essential teaching of Hasidism revolves around the act of hitkashrut, i.e. binding oneself to the Rebbe/Tzaddik, a human being who is clearly more than merely human.
Indeed, R. Yaakov Yosef of Polonnoye cites the Baal Shem Tov as emphasizing the necessity for the Hasid to bind himself to the Rebbe/Tzaddik in order to be elevated to the level that allows the individual to bind himself with G-d.
– Hasidism and the Rebbe/Tzaddik: The Power and Peril of Charismatic Leadership, by Elijah Judah Schochet.
The Zohar teaches that the Torah’s ordained korbanot (sacrifices) feeds demonic forces: The flesh of the sacrifices satisfies demonic forces while the intention behind the korbanot ascends to the sefirot.
– The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, Vol. 1, pages 377-381.
How can we have a truly monotheisic religion and Torah if we accept such Zoharic teachings? This is identical to the polytheistic teachings of the ancient middle east – all of which the Torah opposes.
Daniel Matt has written “The Zohar is not completely consistent on this. According to some passages, the flesh of all sacrifices is given to Sitra Ahra [סטרא אחרא, “other side, demonic side”]. According to other passages, the demonic has no share in the olah. Certain sacrifices (such as the scapegoat) are intended entirely for the demonic.
See Tishby, Wisdom of the Zohar, 3:890-895.
Much theology of the Zohar is dualistic or Gnostic
Prof. Gershom Scholem, one of the world’s foremost authorities on Kabbalah, writes
“In the last resort, every cognition of God is based on a form of relation between God and His creature, i.e. a manifestation of God in something else, and not on a relation between Him and Himself. It has been argued that the difference between deus absconditus (God in Himself) and God in His appearance is unknown to Kabbalism. This seems to me a wrong interpretation of the facts. On the contrary, the dualism embedded in these two aspects of the one God, both of which are, theologically speaking, possible ways of aiming at the divinity, has deeply preoccupied the Jewish mystics.
It has occasionally led them to use formulas whose implied challenge to the religious consciousness of monotheism was fully revealed only in the subsequent development of Kabbalism. As a rule, the Kabbalists were concerned to find a formula, which should give as little offense as possible to the philosophers.
For this reason the inherent contradiction between the two aspects of God is not always brought out as clearly as in the famous doctrine of an anonymous writer around 1300 CE, according to whom God in Himself, as an absolute Being, and therefore by His very nature incapable of becoming the subject of a revelation unto others, is not and cannot be meant in the documents of Revelation, in the canonical writings of the Bible, and in the rabbinic tradition.
God is not the subject of these writings and therefore also has no documented name, since every word of the sacred writings refers after all to some aspect of His manifestation on the side of Creation. It follows that while the living God, the God of religion of whom these writings bear witness, has innumerable names…
the deus absconditus, the God who is hidden in His own self, can only be named in a metaphorical sense and with the help of words which, mystically speaking, are not real names at all. The favorite formulae of the early Spanish Kabbalists are speculative paraphrases like ‘Root of all Roots,’ ‘Great Reality,’ ‘Indifferent Unity,’ and above all, En-Sof.
The latter designation reveals the impersonal character of this aspect of the hidden God from the standpoint of man….It signifies ‘the infinite’ as such; not, as has been frequently suggested, ‘He who is infinite’, but ‘That which is infinite’. Isaac the Blind calls the deus absconditus ‘that which is not conceivable of thinking’.
…It is clear that with this postulate of an impersonal basic reality in God, which becomes a person – or appears as a person – only in the process of Creation and Revelation, Kabbalism abandons the personalistic basis of the Biblical conception of God….
It will not surprise us to find that speculation has run the whole gamut – from attempts to re-transform the impersonal En-Sof into the personal God of the Bible to the downright heretical doctrine of a genuine dualism between the hidden En-Sof and the personal Demiurge of Scripture.”
– Gershom Scholem “Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism” Shocken Books p.11-12