Joel Hecker is a leading scholar of Jewish mysticism and an associate professor at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Penn. Hecker is part of a team that together has spent nearly two decades working on a new English translation of the Zohar, a landmark project that produce the first unabridged translation, with commentary, of the original Aramaic text. Hecker visited Toronto last fall and spoke about Kabbalah and the Zohar at Makom: Creative Downtown Judaism. The CJN spoke with him by phone.Excellent interview and you should read it all. Two brief excerpts, the first on the recent history and immediate prospects of the Pritzker/Matt translation:
What’s been your role in the team of translators?And second, an answer to the question in the headline:
The primary translator was Prof. Daniel Matt. He started work on this 18 years ago and was working on the project full-time until about seven years ago, when the project’s sponsors, Margot and Tom Pritzker of Chicago, decided they wanted it finished before 2022. They hired two of us to do the last three volumes. Danny completed translating through Volume 9, and myself and Nathan Wolski, an Australian scholar, split the last three volumes.
Is it finished?
I’m dealing with copy editing now at the end of Volume 12. So Volume 12 will be published in May. Each volume is being published individually. They started to be published in 2004 and have, on average, come out every one to two years.
Why translate it into English?For past posts on the Zohar, Joel Hecker, and the Pritzker/Matt Zohar translation project, start here and follow the many, many links.
Because it’s the most important text in the mystical Jewish tradition. It’s a value to spiritual seekers both Jewish and not. Until now, the Zohar has been largely restricted to academic or religious scholars. With the richness and spiritual creativity you find here, it’d be a shame to limit it to such an elite and exclusive few.