Research Query: Why is the image of an apple orchard central to Kabbalah (Zohar, Ari)? 

Natan Ophir's picture

Research Query: Why is the image of an "apple orchard" central to Kabbalah (Zohar, Ari)? True, the core idea of תפוחים (usually translated as apples) as relating to romantic love is found in Song of Songs 3, 3 and 8,5, but why does the Zohar refer to the Garden of Eden as ‘The Orchard of Holy Apples’ – קדישין תפוחין חקל Chakal Tapuchin Kadishin (e.g. Zohar 3:271a)? Why is the Shechina equated with the Sefira of Malchut as an Apple Orchard? Why does the ARI use the theme of Chakal Tapuchin Kadishin in his poetic Shabbat meal song? אַתְקִינוּ סְעוּדָתָא דְמַלְכָּא. דָּא הִיא סְעוּדָתָא דַּחֲקַל תַּפּוּחִין קַדִּישִׁין. Is this a reaction to the Christian idea of apple as the forbidden fruit in Eden? Please respond to Dr. Natan Ophir at NatanOphir21@gmail.com

P.S. The earliest historical cue I could find so far is Talmud Taanit 29b where Rav identifies the smell of the field that Isaac senses with Jacob (Genesis 27, 27) as שְׂדֵה תַּפּוּחִים. But are these indeed “apples” as we know them today?

 

Indeed, G. Scholem believed that it is based on the BT Taanit 29b that you already mentioned in your question here (see Pirkei Yesod BeHavanat HaKabbalah, p. 134 n. 34). Yehuda Libes, however, developed it in his detailed discussion in a long f.n. in his article "HaMashiakh shel HaZohar", in: "HaRaayon HaMeshikhi beIsrael", pp. 146-148 n. 224.

In addition, taking in account that it can be (also) the result of an influence of several non-Jewish sources, perhaps it might be a good idea to take a look in these two interesting articles:
1. Eugene Stock McCartney, How the Apple Became the Token of Love, Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, vol. 56 (1925), pp. 70-81.
2. Benjamin Oliver Foster, Notes on the Symbolism of the Apple in Classical Antiquity, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, vol. 10 (1899), pp. 39-55.

Admiel Kosman
Potsdam University

Dear Dr. Ophir,

In addition to the references in Professor Kosman's reply, see Eitan Fishbane, The Art of Mystical Narrative: A Poetics of the Zohar (New York, 2018), 252-257.

On non-Jewish traditions concerning the apple see further A.R. Littlewood, "The Symbolism of the Apple in Greek and Roman Literature," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, 72 (1968): 147-181; idem, "The Symbolism of the Apple in Byzantine Literature," Jahrbuch der österreichischen Byzantinistik, 2 (1974): 33-59; idem, "The Erotic Symbolism of the Apple in Late Byzantine and Meta-Byzantine Demotic Literature," Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 17, 1 (1993): 83-104.

Regards,

Liran Yadgar (Monterey, CA)