- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Jason Aronson Inc. Publishers; 1st Jason Aronson Inc. Ed edition (7 July 1977)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1568213832
- ISBN-13: 978-1568213835
- Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.4 x 23.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,184,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Bahir Hardcover – 7 Jul 1977
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The Bahir is one of the oldest and most important of all classical Kabbalah texts. Until the publication of the Zohar, the Bahir was the most influential and widely quoted primary source of Kabbalistic teachings. The Bahir is quoted in every major book on Kabbalah, the earliest being the Raavad's commentary on Sefer Yetzirah, and it is cited numerous times by Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (Ramban) in his commentary on the Torah. It is also quoted many times in the Zohar. It was first published around 1176 by the Provence school of Kabbalists; the first printed edition appeared in Amsterdam in 1651. The name Bahir is derived from the first verse quoted in the text (Job 37:21), And now they do not see light, it is brilliant (Bahir) in the skies. It is also called the Midrash of Rabbi Nehuniah ben HaKana, particularly by the Ramban. The reason might be that Rabbi Nehuniah's name is at the very beginning of the book, but most Kabbalists actually attribute the Bahir to him and his school. Some consider it the oldest kabbalistic text ever written. Although the Bahir is a fairly small book, some 12,000 words in all, it was very highly esteemed among those who probed its mysteries.Rabbi Judah Chayit, a prominent fifteenth-century Kabbalist, writes, Make this book a crown for your head. Much of the text is very difficult to understand, and Rabbi Moshe Cordevero (1522-1570), head of the Safed school of Kabbalah, says, The words of this text are bright (Bahir) and sparkling, but their brilliance can blind the eye. One of the most important concepts revealed in the Bahir is that of the Ten Sefirot, and careful analysis of these discussions yields much of what will be found in later kabbalistic works, as well as their relation to anthropomorphism and the reason for the commandments. Also included is a discussion of reincarnation, or Gilgul, an interpretation of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the Thirty-two Paths of Wisdom, and the concept of Tzimtzum, the self-constriction of God's light. Part One provides a modern translation of the text; Part Two is Aryeh Kaplan's commentary.
About the Author
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan was born in New York City and was educated in The Torah Voda'as and Mir Yeshivot in Brooklyn. After years of study at Jerusalem's Mir Yeshiva, he was ordained by some of Israel's foremost rabbinic authorities. He also earned a master's degree in physics and was listed in Who's Who in Physics in the United States. In the course of a writing career spanning only twelve years, Rabbi Kaplan earned a reputation as one of the most effective, persuasive, scholarly, and prolific exponents of Judaism in the English language. He died on January 28, 1983, at the age of 48.
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After reading the introduction I found myself actually reading a large portion of the commentary before realising that I had barely touched upon the text itself. The text is a beautiful treat of esoteric writing which would be understood by very few, the commentary itself attempts to elucidate this cryptic writing and for the most seems perfectly on point. It would be best read as intended, to take in the text on its own and see what can be understood through exploring the writing in a meditative state, The commentary can almost be read as a book in itself if you already have a form of understanding what is being explained, but even the commentary is of course speaking of concepts which require some form of mystical work and vision to truly understand. As someone who is most closely a Hermetist, it is fascinating to read into this area and see the way that the Jewish mystics have interpreted the universal workings and relationship to the Divine and also to explore the beautiful hieroglyphic language of Hebrew and the joyous coding of the Hebrew scripture. I am exploring this alongside study of the Zohar and Sepher Yetzirah, and though the concepts of Divinity may already be understood it is just beautiful to see it stated in such a way and fascinating to see it all stated in such an expansive manner and to learn more about such misunderstood Hebrew scripture which has been so unfortunately rejected by the so called "rationalists" in our world. Perhaps if these people were able to understand the Qabalistic keys then they would not so blindly reject the notion of "God" as can even in this sense be explained through modern science as it finally catches up with the truths of the Ancients.
It is plain to see, even more so from his work with the Sepher Yetzirah, that Rabbi Kaplan has truly been raised to the Greater Mind and he is one of the only writers on the subject of Qabalah with whose writing I can really connect. This is a subject which has been greatly diluted and profaned by the New Age movements even since the writers on the Golden Dawn. Many write on Qabalah, many hold the concepts in theory, but it seems that very few writers truly understand.
I mention this history, because Kaplan is a practising kaballist and he accepts many of the traditional claims as to the kaballah's extreme antiquity and it's divine origins. For an alternative, more objective and scholarly but nevertheless sympathetic understanding of the real history, the works of Gershom Scholem would be preferred.
Where Kaplan excels, is in connecting with the mystical reality behind the tradition. He knows his stuff and unlike other contemporary kaballist, Philip Berg, he is teaching the Kaballah as Kaballah, not as a New Age money making machine.
The Bahir is not as well known or as famous as the Zohar. Kaplan has therefore done us a service in translating it here. The text is clearly and lucidly rendered into English. Obscure and baffling as it is at first, Kaplan provides and exhaustive commentary but also shows us how to read it - non linearly, like a lattice, with passages referring and echoing off each other everywhere. The Bahir is a beautiful book, full of the joy, wisdom and divine humanism of the Kaballah. A real book of hope.
My only regret is that Kaplan never did a version of the Zohar itself. It would have been so helpful!
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