The translation of a rare Jewish text is almost done, thanks to Berkeley scholar Daniel Matt. This May, publishers will release the final volume of the authoritative English translation of The Zohar.

The Zohar’s origins date back to 13th-century Spain when a man named Moses de Leon claimed to have found a collection of ancient manuscripts, but scholars believe he was actually the author.

Matt knew the translation wouldn’t be easy. He also worried that intensive study of the mystical writings would exhaust him spiritually. But then in 1995, he got a phone call. A woman named Margot Pritzker was interested in paying for the full translation. Her family owns the Hyatt Hotels. Matt wasn’t interested, but agreed to meet with Pritzker and her rabbi. She asked how long it would take.

“And I said 12 to 15 years. And Margot said to me, you’re not scaring me. And at that moment, I turned a corner, and I basically said, OK, I’ll do it.”

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