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Rav Yaakov Emden infamously wrote a scathing polemic against the Zohar called Mitpachas Soferim. My impression is his conclusion is that it is neither ancient nor authoritative, and is a forgery by Rav Moshe de Leon.

Yet, from what I've seen and heard, he heavily refers to and quotes from the Zohar in his siddur Beis Yaakov. This surprises me, as why would he reference something he felt was a forgery? How can this inconsistency be reconciled?

(Perhaps my premises are wrong, which would be a good answer. However, I don't want answers that understand like the Chida in Shem HaGedolim, who suggests that Rav Yaakov Emden didn't really mean what he wrote in Mitpachas Seforim).

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You are incorrect to say Rav Emden wrote a scathing polemic against the Zohar. You can read Mitpachas Sefarim yourself here.

See his opening line:

הנה כל עצם ספר הזוהר, קדוש הוא כעצם השמים לטוהר

He believed the work to be holy and didn't seemed bothered about who actually authored it:

כי קדוש הוא הספר ומחברו, יהיה מי שיהיה. 

What he writes is certain criticisms about misunderstandings and false attributions to the Zohar of what he believed to be heretical ideas by contemporaries of his he considered heretics.

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  • You do realize the heretical statements he discusses are in the Zohar itself – robev Feb 9 '20 at 2:38
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    That is incorrect. Please quote from this seffer where he quotes directly from the Zohar and says it is heretical. The few lines he disagreed with he says were added in by forgery. His main point is that people misunderstood what the Zohar wrote and based on those assumptions made heretical statements. He compared the Zohar to the copper snake Moshe Rabbeinu made. עתה אמרתי לא טוב הוא ספר הזהר מנחש הנחושת שעשה מרע"ה, להביט על ידו אל האלהים, ואחר שראה חזקיהו המלך שיצאה ממנו תקלה לדורות, שהביטו לנחש מוחש מוכחש, עמד וכתתו להפיק רצון מאת ה', והודו לו. – user6591 Feb 9 '20 at 3:24
  • "That is incorrect. Please quote from this seffer where he quotes directly from the Zohar and says it is heretical. The few lines he disagreed with he says were added in by forgery." Doesn't your last sentence contradict your first sentence? It's either in the Zohar or it isn't. If it was added to the Zohar, it's still in the Zohar...I feel like you're misunderstanding me. – robev Feb 9 '20 at 3:45
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    Apparently I am misunderstanding you. If 99.9% of a work is holy and wonderful according to him, except for three ideas which he refuses to accept were part of the original work, and then some heretics misinterpret some other points from in there, that is not a critique of the work as a whole. It is an endorsement of the work, with a warning to read carefully. – user6591 Feb 9 '20 at 4:23

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