The Cover Page of the 1851 Livorno Zohar on the Torah

The cover page of an old Zohar published in Livorno, Italy, by Shlomo Belforti in 1851. My single volume has Leviticus (Vayikra), Numbers, (Bamidbar) and Deuteronomy (Devarim) and was likely volume three of five volumes. I purchased it from Professor André Elbaz around 2004 who likely collected it from Morocco.

The following translation of the cover page and very interesting comments about it were made by a friend of mine. See below or click here for a larger scan of the Zohar cover page.


By the Godly Tanna
Rabbi Simon ben Yohai ZLH"H (May He be Remembered for Life in the World to Come)
Part Four - the Book of Bamidbar (Numbers)

Including everything contained in the previous edition that was printed in this fair city.

The work has been influenced, directly and indirectly, by the edition of the famous city of Constantinople, a place of great beauty. The effort began when several wealthy patrons, men of valour, agreed to finance the project. Alas, we experienced considerable difficulty finding scholars worthy of the task. Then three of my close friends came forward, men of great wisdom and understanding, Rabbis SOLOMON LEONI, ISAAC MILLIOL and ELIJAH BEN AMOZEG, may God be with them. They agreed to join the publishers and to add several new unique features for this edition.

An item of particular importance, is the INDEX to the Zohar compiled by ELIJAH BEN AMOZEGH. This index lists all the teachings of Rabbi Simon ben Yohai in the Talmud and the Midrashic literature and relates them to Kabbalistic doctrine in the Zohar. It is based on the book BEN YOHAI by Rabbi Moses Kunitz (Vienna 1815). This edition was printed using a new easy to read font, on paper, white as snow, producing a book of unparalleled beauty.

May the grace of God be with all those involved in the project - Amen.

Here in the city of LIVORNO [Italy]
in the year 5611

Printed by Solomon Bilforti and his Partner, May God Protect Them

The outer frame consists of four verses from the Bible, which allude to the hidden doctrines of the Kabbalah and are all quoted in the Zohar;
  • Top left: Daniel 12:3 And they that be wise (Maskilim) shall shine as the brightness (Zohar) of the firmament;
  • Bottom left: Psalms 119:18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
  • Bottom right: Psalms 25:14 The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.
  • Top right: Psalms 91:1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.


1./ The verse from Daniel 12:3 in the top left of the frame is particularly interesting. It contains one of the two occurrences (along with Ezekiel 8:2 ) in the Bible of the word Zohar. The middle word, which spells ZOHAR, along the top of the frame is marked with dots on the letters Zayin , He and Resh. Note that there are no dots on the first letter, Kaf, which is a prefix, meaning "as the" in the context of the verse, but is not part of the name of the book. This same verse is also quoted in the beginning of the Tikunei haZohar: Rabbi Shimon arose and began with these words before the Shekhina. He began and said: “The enlightened will shine like the brilliance (zohar) of the heavens” (Dan. 12:3) The “enlightened”, this refers to Rabbi Shimon and his friends." The term "Maskilim", because of this verse, has traditionally been used to denote those adept in the Kabbalah. Ironically, in the nineteenth century it was applied to followers of the Haskalah - the secular Jewish enlightenment, which rejected mysticism. Elijah Benamozegh who, according to the SUNY Press review, "constantly integrated this Jewish esoteric tradition into the currents of Western European philosophy", provides a rare example of a Maskil, in both senses of the word.

2./ The names written in large bold letters are: Solomon (Shelomo) Leoni, Isaac (Yitshaq) Millul and Elijah (Eliyahu) Benamozegh -- the three scholars who collaborated to produce this edition. Benamozegh was the most prominent member of the group. The book Philosophy and Kabbalah by Alessandro Guetta contains an analysis of his life and work. Pages Pages 101-102 of this book deal with the Livorno 1851 edition of the Zohar and emphasizes especially the importance of the thematic index he is credited for here.

3./ The traditional method of indicating the date of a book's publication is to quote a portion of a verse from the Bible, with a positive and uplifting message and to place marks above letters in the verse whose numerical values add up to Jewish year, minus 5000. The verse chosen for this work was Psalm 18:28 (18:29 in the Hebrew Bible, cf. II Samuel 22:29 ). Note the three dots above the four letters of the word "Tav(400) - Aleph(1) - Yud(10) - Resh(200)", (Thou wilt light), on the line near the bottom of the page, to the left of the pencilled in date - 1851, which add up to 611. This denotes the year 5611 (1850 -1851) .

4./ The sixth line is interesting.

Including everything contained in the previous edition that was printed in this fair city.
See at the bottom for the Zohar al ha-Torah published in Livorno, Italy in 1815 (with a hand-drawn page). That is certainly "the previous edition that was printed in this fair city. " Another question about this line: Why are there three dots above the letter ayin at the end of the line? The translator writes as follows:

Another scholar, Michael Sebban, suggests the "city this Naomi / fair city" citation from Ruth alludes to the sadness of exile. Sad perhaps because, whenever a pious Jew is reminded of a fair city, they immediately think of the loss of Jerusalem and the destruction of the second temple in 70 CE. See below for another usage of this expression from another book printed in Livorno.

Michael Davidson
sleepless3 at gmail

The cover page of the 1851 Livorno Zohar on the Torah

The cover page of the 1851 Livorno Zohar on the Torah

The cover page of the 1815 Livorno Zohar on the Torah (with a hand-drawn page) being the "the previous edition that was printed in this fair city". The biblical quotes framing the page are the same as for the 1851 edition above, as is the title. The other text and names are different.

Zohar al ha-Torah Published in Livorno, Italy in 1815 (with a hand-drawn page).
From the Iraqi Jewish Archive of the American National Archives and Records Administration.
See article in Preserving the “Iraqi Jewish Archive” - Doris A. Hamburg

From another book printed in Livorno using the "this city Naomi", fair city, expression. (image contributed by Michael Sebban)

Michael Davidson
sleepless3 at gmail

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