The Origins of the Zohar
The Zohar is the major book of Kabbalah. According to tradition, the Zohar was written during the 2nd century C.E by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai (most modern academy scholars relate the writing of the Zohar to Rabbi Moshe Di-Leon, most of the Kabbalists refer it to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai). The legend says that Rabbi Shimon and his son were hiding in a cave near Peki’in in the Upper Galilee, Israel for thirteen years and studied there the whole time. After they left the cave a group of sages joined them and together they wrote the Zohar in another cave not far from Meiron in the Upper Galilee. This assembly of ten men is called “The Idra Raba”. “Idra Raba” in Aramaic means “The Great Assembly”. The Zohar tells us that this group was chosen with Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai to write the Zohar because they were united.
It is important to emphasize that it does not mean that the secrets of the Zohar were revealed only to Rabbi Shimon. In fact, his teacher, Rabbi Akiva, and many others before, had a complete knowledge of Kabbalah.
Many believe that the first Kabbalist was Adam, but for all Kabbalists the beginning of Kabbalah, the way we know it, was by Abraham the patriarch who wrote Sefer Yetsira – The Book of Formation.
According to tradition, the first time that the secrets of the Kabbalah have been revealed in public was on Mt. Sinai, by Moses. However, it is important to emphasize that many have studied and understood the secrets of the Kabbalah but only few were able to teach this wisdom to others.