The Aramaic Language of the Zohar

Resources for studying Kabbalah in the original language


What is the Zohar?

The Zohar, revealed to the world in medieval Spain, is the fascinating text at the heart of Kabbalah.    

Here is an introductory talk on the Zohar by Judy Barrett: Embarking on the Sea of the Zohar

Here is a brief “course” on the Zohar, with excerpts and comments: Zohar Introductory Course

Most of the Zohar is now available in an excellent English translation by Daniel Matt, see this link and this article on English translations of the Zohar. But like any work of literature it is best read in its original language. This website is to help anyone who would like to try to read the Zohar in its particular language, a kind of Aramaic, with or without the help of a translation.

Reading Aramaic

The Aramaic language is closely related to Hebrew, and Jewish Aramaic texts like the Zohar are written in the same alphabet that is used for Hebrew. Here is the Aramaic/Hebrew alphabet (aleph-bet), read from right to left:

א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט י כ ל מ נ ס ע פ צ ק ר ש ת

If you do not happen to know Hebrew, you should start by learning this alphabet as well as the various lines and dots used to indicate vowel sounds, and getting used to reading right to left. There are various Jewish traditions of pronouncing Aramaic and Hebrew; we recommend a relatively simple pronunciation along the lines of modern Israeli Hebrew.

Here is a lesson booklet on this topic. If you use this booklet (a 59-page pdf file, by Justin Jaron Lewis) please let us know how it goes and if you have any suggestions.

Here are some learning suggestions for beginners, from Judy Barrett.

Here from another WordPress website is a list of on-line resources for learning the aleph-bet and basic sounds.

And here are some other interesting on-line resources; if you use them, or find others of interest, let us know.

A tutorial with videos

Audio file for the aleph-bet, from this tutorial

Aleph-Bet Song by Debbie Freedman, of blessed memory

A good audio tutorial

A series of tutorials in a somewhat different pronouncing tradition, with historical roots in Spain where the Zohar was first revealed

The rest of the resources on this website build on these basics to teach some of the core vocabulary and grammar of the Zohar’s Aramaic. We can also offer personal lessons, see “tutoring/donations“.

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