The Zohar is the central work of the Kabbala and Jewish mysticism; written by Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai in the Galilean Cave, during his period of enforced hiding from the Romans. Bar Yochai was a disciple of Rabbi Akiva, and was the recipient of a living tradition of Kabbalah from his master, but he is the one who recorded it for posterity in this work, whose name means “The Splendor,” or “The Brilliance.”
It first became known in the thirteenth century. The Zohar is actually composed of several works, the most well-known that of the commentary of the five Books of Moses. Because of its esoteric nature, the Zohar was not published until 1558 when it appeared in Mantua, Italy amidst some controversy.
Numerous commentaries have been written on different parts including those by R. Moshe Cordovero, the Gaon of Vilna, and R. Gershon Henoch Lainer of Radzyn. R. Dovid Luria (Kadmus Sefer HaZohar) and R. Isaac Chaver (Magen V’Tsina) wrote works to prove the antiquity of the Zohar. It is a complex work of varying levels of difficulty. It has inspired many generations to a deeper understanding of the Torah. R. Pinchas of Koretz, one of the Hasidic masters and an associate of theBa’al Shem Tov commented that he could not exist without the Zohar.