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In Part One: Foundations, the author explains that the Zohar is the central text of Kabbalah which is the spiritual heritage of all humanity. Kabbalah is not religious in the traditional sense of the term and isn't based on literal interpretations of scripture. Logical analysis is however an important tool for investigating spiritual matters. But logic in Kabbalah can take paradoxical forms. The authorship and structure of the Zohar and its relationship to the Hebrew alphabet are discussed here, as well as the dissemination of the Kabbalah. Here I have also found one of the clearest and most accessible explanations of the Ten Sefirot and the Tree of Life.

Part Two: Teachings, deals with creation, the Big Bang and the place where science and metaphysics meet. This section contains interesting discussions of fear, awe and the love of God, concealment, revelation, mercy, judgment, chaos, the Shekhina, temperance and certainty. Throughout, there are passages from the Zohar followed by Rav Berg's engaging and illuminating commentary which explains the working of concepts like Chesed (kindness), Gevurah (strength), Tif'eret (balance) and Malchut (the earthly realm) with practical examples. It includes the famous story of the donkey driver and includes analyses of the nature of desire, the significance of strangers, chaos which is evil, and the Shekhina (The Presence).

Part Three: Transformations, encompasses subjects as diverse as Noah and the flood generation, the story of Isaac, Jacob and his vicissitudes, Joseph's adventures, the golden calf, David and Batsheva. Other revelatory sections discuss concepts like soul mates, immortality, forgiveness, the reason why the wicked appear to be so strong, and how to connect to the Source of Life. In the conclusion, the author explains how Kabbalah may be used as a practical guide for transforming fragmentation and chaos into unity and fulfillment. The Zohar provides a bridge between everyday consciousness and our inner powers of transformation. And indeed, its surprise happenings, sudden insights and epiphanies have a salutary effect on the mind. In addition, the Zohar enables one to disconnect from darkness and negativity by reuniting us with the Creator's light.

Having widely investigated the esoteric side of many spiritual traditions, I have found this brief study of the Zohar of great worth. There are correspondences with other mystical paths but also significant differences. I was surprized to discover for example, a seeming acceptance of the idea of reincarnation, unusual in Western spirituality. Sure there are many directly contradictory statements but after the initial frustration, pondering these eventually does reveal a bigger picture and more profound insight. I have found this work extremely valuable in better understanding some key concepts of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The book concludes with a bibliography, index and short biography of the author.
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on 12 February 2009
This book perpetuates the cult of Berg's "Kaballah", to be distinguished from genuine Jewish Mysticism, Christian Kaballah (i.e. Agrippa etc.), and even the imaginative/daft Golden Dawn and Thelemic developments. By tackling the major text of the Zohar, Berg is attempting to hijack and re-invent Kaballah as his own exclusive and very expensive brand. Truth has always been hazy and obscured in "genuine" kaballah as it has in other traditions (i.e. Hermes Trimegestrous, de Geblin's Tarot, ad infinitum). But Berg, like a genuine cult leader, makes outrageous claims and is not to be trusted. For example, the Zohar is not thousands of years old, but is in fact a late medieval text historically proven to be written by Moses de Leon.
Berg's is not a "school of mysteries", but another new-age cult (with fulfilment equated to being rich) in pseudo ancient Jewish fancy dress. If you want to pay to be mislead, deluded and ripped off, Berg's your man. If you are interested in the history of the Kaballah, Scholem's works would be recommended. If you want to practice Kaballah....well Kaplan's "Meditation and the Bible", or even Gareth Knight's hermetic Christian books would be recommended. But even with these, the QBL shows itself as a tricky tradition with plentiful dubious claims. However, these recommended versions although quirky are at least sincere attempts to convey what is in essence beyond communication.
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on 13 August 2005
A good introductory book to what the Zohar is (22 volumes fundamental for Kabbalistic teachings). Rav Berg comments on selected passages from the Zohar and the Bible itself and explains their meaning in an utterly new dimension. I quite liked the frequent comparision of the Zohar with Quantum Physics.
One might or might not agree with all that it is written but it is worth reading. It definetly opens the door to a whole new idea of thinking and looking at the usual common things that surround us daily, starting from the Old Testament!
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on 30 August 2012
The author of 'The Essential Zohar', Rav P.S. Berg,(real name Feival Grugerger), is a larger than life controversial figure within modern kabbalistic circles. You either love his interpretations or throw up your hands in despair. He readily admits(p.12) that his book is both simple and non-scholarly, as he does not rely on balanced argument, by including counter exegetical opinions of other writers.
The Zohar proper contains a mystical commentary on the Pentateuch/The Torah,
written in Aramaic and Hebrew, which purports to be the composition of Rabbi Simon ben Yochai(2nd century C.E.), concerning the revelation the Almighty communicated to him.
If we allow that the pentateuchal portion or Zohar proper, is indeed to be dated from the 2nd century, then we are left with large sections of much later Pseudipigrapha which many eminent Kabbalah scholars have attributed to Moses de
Leon of Granada Spain, who made the collection available to the Public in
1300 C.E. Whereafter it became the fundamental Book of the Jewish Kabbalah,second only to the Bible in importance.
The frame of the Zohar if we can call it such, is interpolated and augumented with unique determinate tracts and formal discourses which as a corpus fabricate an irregular but comprehensive summary of Jewish esoteric literature and knowledge. This of course being centred on the Almighty's
nature,His character and His measurable scope.
The mystery of the Tetra-grammaton(i.e. the four letters of the unutterable
name of YHWH);the unfolding creative process of the Universe as an embodiment
of harmony and order.
Having attended thus, the very nature of the soul as the animating principle of human life, was treated alongside a dissertation on Heaven and
Hell. The latter theme exercised the consciousness and sub-consciousness of
the inner man, which vied with the several functions of Angels.
Following this was the necromantic practice of magic. Signs and causes respecting the astrological interpretations of heavenly bodies on human affairs was measured to a certain degree.
Ethical considerations loomed large, while there were also invocations to Prayer as a means to spiritual communion with God.
Equally, sombre challenges were encountered in the abstruse meanings of the precepts of the Decalogue and the rituals involved in formulary observance and its custom and practice.
To those who believe the Zohar in its entirety is a source book of Divine knowledge, I would point to others who see it as a bundle of mostly medieval superstition given credibility by the gullible.
What we can say with some degree of clarity, whatever our standpoint, is that its origins are unproven. Form critical methods have shown the collection to be the work of several hands, even if only in its redactive stages.
There is a hotchpoch of selective information given by Berg,even though he
trys to systematise the speculative and contradictory in his'Book of Splendour'. However, what pious readers need is a God centered ethic of sufficiency,not the philosophical debris of thought that clearly rely on wild
speculation and contain elements of Gnostic self-awareness.
Rav P. S.Berg makes his acceptance of the Zohar and its kabbalistic lore an unconditional premise. He wilfully disregards its uncertain provenance for the sake of a continuity that is untenable as the contents are without doubt composite and not from a single hand.
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on 6 March 2015
This was the first book I read relating to the Kabbalistic practices and quite honestly it blew me away. I found the writing and explanations very easy to understand. If you are looking into understanding what a Kabbalist is then this is a must read first book. I have since read many of Rav Bergs books and they all have the same easy flow.
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on 5 February 2011
In this book the author, Rav P.S. Berg, embarks on quite a monumental task: to disclose the wisdom of the Zohar - the most influential and important of all kabbalistic texts - in a readable and easy to understand format and also aimed at everyone, regardless of faith or religion. The Zohar is a very complicated and difficult text, which requires careful study and a more than passable acquaintance with Torah and Talmud.

I started to read this book quite eagerly but -alas!- I was disappointed almost right from the start. This task clearly and painfully has proven too formidable for Mr. Berg. The book is divided into three parts: an introduction to the Zohar and its history followed by an exploit of some general teachings and in part three an analysis of various well-known biblical stories and concepts. I somewhat enjoyed reading parts 1 and 2, but definitely lost interest in part 3, which read more like a biblical exegesis than anything else.

To me, the book never fulfilled its promise of unlocking an all-encompassing, profound and life changing wisdom, as propounded in the introduction. At no point in the book did I get the feeling that something substantial, something really valuable had been revealed. "Be nice to each other, and be a good person" seems to sum it up. All too true, but we probably don't need reference to the Zohar for this!

Another point that made me rapidly loose interest is the almost constant reference to various 'kabbalistic wisdoms', that we as readers have to take at face value in order to follow Berg's reasoning. And unfortunately, he needs to use this technique too often when dealing with a document so intricately intertwined in a vast body of knowledge and wisdom.

To me the title "Essential Zohar" does not cover the contents of this book, as I feel it hardly touches the surface of what the Zohar really has to offer humanity. I would not recommend this book to serious students of Kabbala, the mysteries or judaeica.
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on 8 December 2012
Bought this as a gift for someone and it was what they wanted and said that it was an interesting read so all good
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on 22 October 2015
The Essential Zohar has everything you want to know about life...Knowledge is power ;)
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on 7 April 2015
My kind of book for sharing information on a particular subject
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on 27 February 2015
hocus pocus mumbo jumbo.wastage of time.
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