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Studies in Ecstatic

Studies in Ecstatic Kabbalah
This One
6C- 3 HB- J FL
SUNY Series inJudaica: Hermeneutics, Mysticism
Editedby Michael Fishbane, Robert Goldenberg, and
Arthur Green
Studies in
Ecstatic Kabbalah
StateUniversityof NewYork Press
StateUniversity of NewYork Press, Albany
1988 StateUniversity of NewYork
All rights reserved
PrintedintheUnitedStates of America
Nopart of this book may beusedor reproduced
inany manner whatsoever without writtenpermission
except inthecaseof brief quotations embodiedin
critical articles andreviews.
For information, address StateUniversity of NewYork
Press, StateUniversity Plaza, Albany, N.Y., 12246
libraryof CongressCataloging^PublicationData
Idel, Moshe, 1947-
Studies inecstatic kabbalah.
(SUNY series inJudaica)
Bibliography: p.
Includes index.
1. CabalaHistory. 2. Ecstasy (Judaism)
3. Abulafia, AbrahambenSamuel, 1240-ca. 1292.
I. Title. II. Series.
BM526.I344 1988 296.8*2 87-6522
ISBN 0-88706-604-6
ISBN 0-88706-605-4(pbk.)
Preface vii
Acknowledgments xi
Abbreviations xiii
1. AbrahamAbulafiaandUnioMystica 1
2. Was AbrahamAbulafiaInfluencedby theCathais? 33
3. AbrahamAbulafiaontheJewishMessiahandJesus 45
4. TheInfluenceof Sefer 'Or HaSekhel onR. Moses Narboni
andR. AbrahamShalom 63
5. Mundus Imaginalis andUkkutei HaRan 73
6. Ecstatic KabbalahandTheLandof Israel 91
7. Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 103
References 171
Subject Index 173
Author Index 175
Index of Works Cited 177
Thehistory of theKabbalahconsists of alongseries of ideological
developments, whichtracetheperegrinations of Kabbalists andtheir
beliefs fromplacetoplace, country tocountry, andevenfromonecontinent
toanother. Theimpact of early Kabbalistic writings inProvenceat the
endof thetwelfthcentury was felt inCatalonia, wherelarge-scaleKab-
balistic treatises werecomposed and disseminated; this phenomenon
recurredby themiddleof thethirteenthcentury inCastile. Sincethesecond
part of thethirteenthcentury, Kabbalistic writings becomearather common
Spanishphenomenon, withafewinsignificant exceptions outsideof Spain.
Onemajor exception, however, is thedevelopment of theecstatic Kabbalah
inItaly andGreece, whichwas disseminatedsometimebeforethearrival
of theclassical SpanishKabbalah. Thoughit was of Spanishextraction,
theecstatic Kabbalahwas rejectedat theendof thethirteenthcentury by
theSpanishKabbalists, whofelt that its most important representative,
R. Abulafia, was abetenoireof theclassical Kabbalah. This development
was inspiredby thebanishment of Abulafiaby R. ShelomobenAbraham
IbnAdret, themost important Halakhic authority of theSpanishJewry.
However, asidefromtheanarchic potentialities inherent inAbulafia's
claims toberecognizedas prophet andMessiah(raisingthefears of both
SpanishandItalianJews), his ecstatic Kabbalahwas phenomenologicaliy
different fromthebasic moodof theSpanishKabbalah. Inlieuof the
theosophical understandingof thedivineessenceadvocatedby boththe
CatalonianandCastilianKabbalists, Abulafiaacceptedaphilosophically
orientedtheology congenial toalmost all of Maimonides' basic tenets.
viii Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
Inlieuof atheurgical understandingof thecommandments, theecstatic
Kabbalahconceivedthesereligious activites as fraught withallegorical
meanings, directingthemystic tocontemplatethespiritual worldrather
thaninfluencingit throughtheintentional performanceof thecommand-
ments. For Abulafiathesummumbonumwas theattainment of astateof
ecstasywhichhedesignatedas prophesy, andwhichincludedrevelatory
experiences understoodtoreflect thebliss of theworldtocomeand
themessianic state, whichwas envisionedas anallegory of thespiritual
Thecombinationof thehistorical fact of Abulafia's banishment and
theprofoundphenomenological differences betweenthetwotheologies
explains thedisappearanceof theecstatic Kabbalahfromthespiritual
landscapeof JewishmysticisminSpain. Subsequently, Abulafiadissem-
inatedhis peculiar typeof mysticismincountries wheretheinfluenceof
theSpanishRabbinic authority was not dominant. Theresults of his
propagandist efforts werenot, accordingtohis ownconfession, successful,
but his Kabbalahbecame, nevertheless, aconstant component of someof
themost important developments intheItalianandByzantineKabbalah.
Theecstatic Kabbalahreachedterritories whereAbulafiahimself didnot
visit as part of his efforts tospreadhis views. Already inthenineties of
thethirteenthcentury, conspicuous traces of his mystical techniques and
experiences canbelocatedinalmost all Kabbalistic writings extant from
theLandof Israel. Somenovel commondenominators inthesewritings
includeelements stemmingfromSufic mysticismas well as thosethat
reflect theinfluenceof Abulafia's works. This Sufic andSufi-liketrans-
formationof Abulafia's ecstatic KabbalahintheEast is oneof thesubjects
of thepresent collections of essays. Writtenafter thecompletionof my
thesis onAbulafiahimself, most of theessays survey, for thefirst timein
afocusedmanner, theencounter of JewishmysticismarrivingfromSpain
withEasternmysticismas it was cultivatedby Muslims andby Jews who
wereinfluencedby Sufic mysticism.
This episodeinthehistory of theKabbalahhas beenrelatively ignored
by modernscholars. Centeredonthetheosophical SpanishKabbalah,
theinterest of many scholars has not encompassedtheproblems posedby
ecstatic mysticismnor has it exploredimplications emergingfromthe
synthesis betweenEasternmysticismandtheEuropeanKabbalahas it
was exposedby Abulafia. Inmy view, therepercussions fromthis synthesis
for thelater development of Jewishmysticismweretremendous: theover-
emphasis ontheimportanceof devekut, or mystical union, of hitbodedut
(either as seclusionor as mental concentration), or theintroductionof
theequanimity as havingaparamount mystical value, restructuredthe
bosomof Jewishmedieval mysticism, andovertly affectedthepeculiar
Preface ix
spiritual physiognomy of someaspects of theSafedianKabbalah, and
later on, ledtotheformationof Hasidismas amystical phenomenon. Some
of theissues mentionedabovewill bediscussedinthefollowingpages,
thoughsomecrucial matters concerningtheinfluenceof theecstatic
Kabbalah, onHasidismfor example, remainbeyondthescopeof the
present collectionof essays.
Thetopics dealt withherearerelatedeither totheecstatic Kabbalah
andits founder, R. AbrahamAbulafia, or tothedevelopment of the
Kabbalahupuntil themiddleof thesixteenthcentury. I havedeliberately
ignoredtheimpact of theAbulafianKabbalahontheJewishItalian,
Byzantine, andChristianKabbalah; theseareissues tobepursuedin
Thepresent essays werewrittenduringthelast decade, andtheoccasion
of their Englishtranslationwas anopportunity toupdatetheminaccordance
withrecent findings andstudies. Thoughnosubstantial changes were
introducedinthetranslation, someissues wereelaboratedupon, and
someof thenotes inChapter 7werecondensed. Inaddition, topresent
amoreunifieddiscourse, previously publishedworks havebeencross-
referenced, andtheterminology has beenadjustedfor consistency among
thevarious translations.
Chapter 1is forthcominginathirdvolumeof studies editedby
I. Twersky, whichis devotedtoJewishMedieval History andLiterature.
ThereHebrewpassages fromAbulafia's manuscripts areadduced.
Chapter 2is atranslation, withsomeadditions, of aHebrewarticle
printedinIyuunvol. 30no. 2[1981] pp. 133-140.
Chapter 3is atranslationof aportionof my Ph.D. thesis doneby
Mrs. Martel Gavarin; it was printedinImmanueivol. 11, Fall 1980pp. 64-80.
Chapter 4is atranslationof aHebrewobservationprintedinAJSreview
vol. 4[1979] pp. 1-6, Hebrewpart.
Chapter 5is aslightly enlargedversionof aHebrewarticlepublished
inEshel Beer-Sheva, Studies inJewishThought vol. II [1980] pp. 165-176.
Chapter 6is atranslationdoneby Mr. Naftali Greenwoodof an
essay publishedinShalemvol. 3[1981] pp. 119-126. TheEnglishtrans-
lation, printedined. RichardI. Cohen, VisionandConflict intheLand
of Israel [Jerusalem-NewYork, 1985] pp. 102-110, contains someadditions
Chapter 7was publishedinits fullest forminHebrewinDaat vol. 14
[1985] pp. 35-82andibid. vol. 15[1982] pp. 117-120. A shorter English
translation, doneby Mr. JonathanChipman, was publishedined. Arthur
Green, JewishSpiritualityvol. 13of WorldSpirituality[NewYork, 1986]
pp. 405-438. Inits present form, this essay is amuchlonger versionof
theEnglishtranslation, thoughsomeof thenotes of thefull Hebreworiginal
Mr. MenahemKalushhas translatedchapters 2, 4, 5, andthelast
sectionof Chapter 7.
AJSReview Associationof JewishStudies Review
BN BibliotequeRationale
HTR HarvardTheological Review
HVCA HebrewUnionCollegeAnnual
J AOS Journal of AmericanOriental Society
JJS Journal of JewishStudies
JQR JewishQuarterlyReview
JTS JewishTheological Seminary
MGWJ Monatschrift fiir dieGeschichteund Wissenschaft des
PAAJR Proceedings of theAmericanAcademyfor JewishResearch
REJ Revuedes tudes Juives
Chapter 1
Unio Mystica
R. Moses benMaimonMaimonidesis themost prominent Jewish
author of theMiddleAges. Hewas asober lawyer, animportant philo-
sopher andphysician, aninfluential spiritual leader, andthesubject of
fervent devotionas well as bitter attacks. Heis unquestionably acentral
figureinJewishphilosophy. His works havebeendisseminated, debated,
interpreted, andprintedagainandagain.
R. AbrahamAbulafia, was adifferent figure; of poor halakhic
education, andamediocrethinker if judgedas aphilosopher. Like
Maimonides, however, hewas thesubject of admirationand bitter
critiques. Unquestionably, heis acentral figureinJewishmysticism.
Abulafia's works weredisseminated, debated, andinterpreted, but not
printeduntil thesecondpart of thenineteenthcentury, whenless than
onepercent of his prolific literary output was editedby AdolphJellinek.
Thesober Maimonides andtheenthusiastic Abulafiaare, primafacie,
twoantipodes of theJewishmedieval intellectual andspiritual arena.
Nevertheless, Abulafiais oneof thefirst commentators of Maimonides"
Guideof thePerplexed, thefirst scholar whoat least temporarily made
his livingteachingtheGuidetostudents, andtheonly author whohas
writtenthreecommentaries onthesecrets alludedtoby Maimonides in
his book.
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
Abulafia's deep interest inMaimonides' chef d'oeuvre might be
explainedmerely as abiographical incident; hebegantostudy theGuide
intheearly sixties of thethirteenthcentury,
years beforehereceivedthe
first revelationat Barcelona, in1270.
However, this is not sufficient.
Abulafia's contemporaries, Kabbalists likeR. Isaac IbnLatif, R. Moses
deLeon, andhis ownstudent, R. JosephGikatilla, begantheir intellectual
careers under theinfluenceof Maimonides, or at least avidly interested
inhis teachings.
A fewyears later, however, they shiftedtowardtheo-
sophical speculations
or neo-Platonic thought
, becomingcritical towards
Maimonides andAristotelianism, or, at least, indifferent tothis brand
of thought. ThesingleKabbalist whoremainedrelatively faithful to
Maimonides' teachings was Abulafia, despiteatremendous shift inhis
Thedifferingattitudes toward Maimonidean thought amongthe
Kabbalists aretheresult of twodifferent metaphysical stands. The
theosophical Kabbalists, representedby GikatillaanddeLeon, focused
their interest uponthenatureof tensefirot or divinepotencies, which
aresituated abovethetenseparateintellects central to Maimonides'
metaphysics. Accordingtothetheosophical Kabbalists, theAristotelian
philosophy is concernedwitharealminferior tothesefirot; touseLouis
Gardet's term, this viewcanbecalled"undistinctionhierarchis6e," or, a
hierarchical distinction.
Abulafiadidnot accept theimportanceof the
sefirot as aspecial realmbeyondthetenseparateintellects; roughly
speaking, heagreed with Maimonides' metaphysics, but differedby
emphasizingthesignificanceof thespiritual possibilities inherent inthe
Aristotelianscheme. Abulafiawas interestedintheintensificationof the
spiritual life, not inthediscovery of newrealms for contemplation.
Themedieval Aristotelianism, accordingtoMaimonides, is primarily
adescriptivesystem: it includes longdiscussions onthenatureof God.
theuniverse, Torah, andman, whereas its prescriptivepart is rather poor
andvague; it recommends Aristotelianworks as themaintexts of anideal
curriculumwhichproposes theindirect perceptionof God's attributes
throughthemediumof contemplationof nature.
Abulafia's doctrineis almost exclusively prescriptive; his acceptance
of theMaimonideanschemecontinues until his last works; however, he
addedelaboratetechniques for attainingmystical experiences inthis life,
which, though obviously non-Maimonidean, could beunderstood in
ToillustrateAbulafia's useof philosophical, mostly Maimonidean,
terminology, I shouldliketoquoteapertinent passage, fromoneof
Hans Jonas' papers:
AbrahamAbulafiaandUnioMystica 3
Without anantecedent dogmatismtherewouldbenovalidmysticism.
Andmysticism, let it benoted, wants tobe"valid", namely, morethan
arevel of feeling. Thetruemystic wants toput himself intopossession
of absolutereality, whichalready is andabout whichdoctrinetells
him. . . Havinganobjectivetheory, themystic goes beyondtheory; he
wants experienceof andidentity withtheobject; andhewants tobe
abletoclaimsuchidentity. Thus, inorder that certainexperiences may
becomepossibleandevenconceivableas validanticipations of an
eschatological future, or as actualizations of metaphysical stages of
being, speculationmust haveset theframework, theway, andthe
goallongbeforethesubjectivity has learnedtowalk theway.
ThoughJonas was exclusively concernedwithancient texts, Hermetic
or patristic, his diagnosis of therelationbetweenphilosophy andmysticism
is surprisingly adequatealsofor Jewishauthors likeAbulafia. Aristotelian
thought, (mainly its psychological theories as interpretedby Maimonides,
Avicenna, andAverros), suppliedtheframework andthegoal. The
specific techniques, wereinheritedfromother sources, or partly invented
by Abulafiahimself.
I shouldliketoelaboratehereuponthegoal of
Abulafia's mystical activity (i.e. unio mystica) andits sources inthe
philosophical medieval heritage. I supposethat someof Abulafia's
mystical experiences wereinterpretedby him, as unitivestates.
Beforeproceedingwiththediscussionof Abulafia's viewof unio
mystica, someremarks uponScholem's opinionof uniomysticainJudaism
arepertinent. AccordingtoScholem,
it is only inextremely rarecases that ecstasy signifies actual unionwith
God, inwhichthehumanindividuality abandons itself totheraptureof
completesubmersioninthedivinestream. Eveninthis ecstatic frameof
mind, theJewishmystic almost invariably retains asenseof thedistance
betweentheCreator andHis creature... hedoes not regardit as consti-
tutinganythingsoextravagant as identity of Creator andcreature.
This viewof themost intimateconnectionof thehumansoul with
Godas adhesionor communionversus uniomysticaseems tobean
important specific illustration of Scholem's Hegelian
theory of the
emergenceof mysticism.
Tohim, thevery existenceof mysticismis
possibleonly after twoperiods of religious development: themythical
epoch, when"theabyss betweenManandGodhas not becomeafact of
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
theinner consciousness"; andtheperiodof "classical religion" whenthere
was "avast andtranscendental BeingandMan, thefinitecreature." A
thirdperiod, whenthephenomenonof mysticismbecamepossible, is, in
Scholem's view, theromantic periodof religion: "Mysticismdoes not deny
or overlook theabyss; onthecontrary, it begins by realizingits existence,
but fromthereit proceeds toaquest for thesecret that will closeit, the
hiddenpaththat will spanit." Therefore, mysticismcanberegardedas
theHegeliansynthesis, whichincludes boththethesisthefirst period
whichdenies thedivinetranscendenceandtheantithesis, wherethe
transcendenceis central. Soalsointhecaseof uniomysticaaccordingto
Scholem: eveninits extremeforms, thegapbetweentheDivinity andthe
humancannot betotally bridged.
SinceScholem's denial of theextremeformof uniomysticain1941,
nocloseexaminationof this thesis was undertakenby scholars of Jewish
whereas experts of other religious mysticismunconditionally
acceptedit andusedit intheir studies.
I shouldliketoarguethreepoints: (1) that Scholem's view, while
correct ingeneral
andinsofar as it concerns thetheosophical Kabbalah
(i.e. themainstrainof Jewishmedieval mysticismwhichdeals withthe
natureof thesefirot andtherelations betweenthecommandments and
divineharmony) is, wrongwithregardtothesecondimportant brandof
Kabbalah, or theecstatic or prophetic Kabbalah. (2) that thedivergence
of thetwotypes of Kabbalahonthis issue, stems fromtheir differing
conceptions of man, as well as thenatureof Divinity. And(3) that the
influenceof philosophical psychology ontheecstatic Kabbalahis themain
reasonfor theemergenceof theextremetypeof expressions concerning
uniomysticainthemysticismof Abulafiaandhis disciples.
I wouldnow
liketoexplorethis last assertionandits implications concerningthenature
of thevarious forms of Jewishmysticism.
Maimonides' Guideis basedupontheassumptionthat imitatioDei
canbeachievedinthepractical domain, withhumansciencebeinglimited
totheterrestrial realm.
Inother words, mancannot attainanaccurate
knowledgeof theseparateintellects, or of God's nature, afortiori theunion
of his soul or his intellect withthemwhilealive.
Nevertheless his immediate followers have openly rejected the
Maimonidean reticenceregardingthepossibility of amystical union.
His son, R. AbrahamMaimuni, asserts that: "by theunionof his (i.e. the
righteous) soul andintellect, withtheactiveintellect, heandhebecome
AbrahamAbulafiaandUnioMystica 5
R. Samuel IbnTibbon, thefamous translator of theGuide,
andoneof themost important devotees of Maimonides' thought, writes:
Thesoul thenunites withtheIntellect andthey becomeonesinglething,
for then, thesoul becomes divine, of ahigher order, immortal as is the
Intellect withwhichit has united, theIntellect [I say] whosebeingis
Both authors continued philosophical traditions already existing in
twelfth-century Spanishthought;
but their flagrant contradictionwith
thedoctrineof "thegreat eagle" indicates that ashift towards amore
mystical standtook placealready at thebeginningof thethirteenthcentury
inthevery strongholds of Maimonideanthought.
Their explicit statements about thepossibility of aunionwiththe
activeintellect notwithstanding, evidenceabout anactual experienceof
suchaunionis reportedneither inMaimuni's, nor inIbnTibbon's works.
Moreover, inIbnTibbon's passage, theunitiveexperienceis explicitly
connectedwiththeeschatological conditionof therighteous, whereas
Maimuni refers, inthecontext of his discussiononunion, toaRabbinic
dictum, implicitly givinghis thought aneschatological turn. Therefore,
thoughtheunion, eventotal fusion, of thehumansoul or intellect with
theactiveintellect, was theoretically well-knowninMaimonideancircles,
it was neither aconfessionof apersonal experiencenor aprescriptionfor
atypeof religious lifeinthis world. IbnTibbon's standonunionrepresents
anattempt toinfuseinMaimonides' thought anAverroistic direction;
AbrahamMaimuni may havealsobeeninfluencedby this brandof
thoughSufic material may haveinfluencedhimas well.
Therefore, thetwogreatest authorities onthematter of Maimonides'
thought, precedingthoseof Abulafia, explicitly acceptednon-Maimonidean
Averroistic conceptions of unitinguniomysticawiththeactiveintellect.
Abulafiaseems toignoreMaimuni's works, writteninArabic inthe
relatively remoteEgypt; however, heknewat least oneof IbnTibbon's
written in Hebrewand in Abulafia's geographical vicinity,
Provence, andhecouldevenread, inhis intellectual ambience,
Hebrewtranslationof someof Averroes' most significant texts dealing
withthepossibility of conjunctionwiththeactiveIntellect.
Inhis Commentary ontheSecrets includedintheGuide, Abulafia
explicitly states that theultimatetransformationof humanintellect into
theintellectus agens, or evenGod, takes placeduringthemystical
experience. Speakingabout theperfect actualizationof theintellectual
faculty by theactiveintellect, Abulafiaasserts that:
heprophesies, accordingtotheentity whichcauses himtopass from
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
potentiality intothefinal andperfect actuality andheandhebecome
oneentity, inseparableduringthis act.
ElsewhereAbulafiaelaborates upontheprocess of prophesying:
The[placeof the] beginningof thereal prophecy
is theinner intellectual
whichis createdintheheart throughtheagency of seventy
languages, by the22sacredletters, all of thembeingcombinedinthe
heart, invirtu, by theprocess of combinationof letters doneby the
intellectual faculty, andinactuby intellectus agens, whichis divine,
religious, andprophetic.
Andfromhim[theinner intellectual faculty]
therewill beanemanationontheimaginary faculty andfromthe
imaginary [faculty] [theemanation will pour upon] theappetitive
[faculty] andfromtheappetitive[faculty] onthesensitive[faculty] and
fromthesensitiveonthedesignative[faculty] whichis designedonthe
book. Andit [theprophesyingemanation] will alsoturntotheinverse
directionandwill reachahighstatus. It will separatefromthedesignated
[status] [andwill turn] tothesensitive[faculty] andfromthesensitiveto
theappetitiveandfromit totheimaginativeandfromit totheinner
rational cogitative[and] designative[faculty] andfromit totheprophetic
[faculty] andfromit tothe[intellectus] agens andwill unitewithit after
many hard, strongandmighty exercises, until theparticular andpersonal
prophetic [faculty] will turnuniversal, permanent, andeverlastinglikethe
essenceof its cause, andheandhewill becomeoneentity.
Abulafiadescribes what seems tobeacompletecircle.
God, andthentheintellectus agens, theemanationdescends uponthe
humanfaculties andturns intoawrittenmessage; thereafter it returns to
its origin, causingtheascensionof theintellectual faculty andits fusion
withthedivineintellectus agens. A comparisonof this passagewithother
of his writings, enables us toperceivethis quotationas dealingwiththe
transformationof spiritual effluencefromtheintellectus agens (elsewhere
denoted as "primordial speech")
intoawrittenbook, through the
mediationof thevarious humaninner senses, functioningas anorganof
this transformation. However, theparticular intellect, whileservingas a
channel for thedivinecommunicationtomen, is itself activatedandis
enabled, by theuseof techniques baseduponlinguistic elements, tounite
withtheintellectus agens. It is obvious that Abulafia's terminology was
attentively chosen: thehumanintellectual faculty is nameddibbur whereas
theuniversal intellect ("dibbur qadmon") andeachof thehigher separate
intellects aredescribedas "dibbur"
Thehumanprophetic faculty is ""particular andpersonal" vis & vis
theuniversal prophetic faculty. Thesimilarity of theseterms conveys the
possibility of continuity betweenhumanreasonandtheactiveintellect:
AbrahamAbulafiaandUnioMystica 7
theparticular canturnuniversal sinceeachis but another aspect of the
sameintellectual essence. AccordingtoAbulafia: Thedivineseparate
intellect andthehylic emanatedintellect aretwovalidwitnesses, though
they areone."
Wecanhardly miss theAverroistic backgroundof this
statement: Thoughthis intellect is only thelowest amongtheseparate
intellectsaccordingtotheacceptedviewof medieval Arabor Jewish
Aristoteliansit seems that aperfect unionwithit still deserves thetitle
of uniomystica, sinceit is thetotal fusionof thehumanintellect witha
comprehensiveentitythedivineactiveintellect. Also, becausethe
spiritual natureof this intellect seems tobe, accordingtoAbulafia,
similar toGod, aclear distinctionbetweentheunionof thehumanintellect
withtheintellectus agens, or withGod, is rather difficult:
"image" inthis context is anamewhichdesignates thenatural form,
whichis [theformof] thespecies, andit is thesoul, whichis thehuman
rational intellection, whichis similar tothedivine[rational intellection]
withwhichit is unitedandfromwhichits existence[stems] andfromIt
is its being, providenceandperpetuity. This is why it is writtenthat
[man] was createdinGod'is imageandlikeness. Andthemeaningof this
secret is that "image", whichis thenameof thesoul whichsurvives after
thedeath, theperpetuity of its survival depends uponits likeness toits
Creator, concerningtheintellection, theexistenceandtheeternity and
thedominion, until this image's namewill belikethenameof its Master,
andit [image] is thespecial nameof theIntellectus Agens, animagelike
his image, as it is writtenonit andGodcreatedmaninHis Image, inthe
imageof GodHecreatedhim. Theduplicationof thesewords hints to
thecreator andtothecreature, whichis calledwiththenameof the
creator; this fact hints that they [theCreator andthecreature] areone
entity, inseparable.
Theambiguity of theidentity of theMaster, theArtifactor, is crucial:
theseterms may standfor bothGodandtheIntellectus Agens, thelatter
beingdenominated, as seenabove, as divine. Thesoul becomes "similar
tothedivineintellection" and, furthermore, wereadabout "its likeness to
its creator". It is obvious that accordingtoAbulafia, thelast termof
referenceof thesoul is the"divine", beit theactiveintellect, or beit the
supremeDeity. Theintellectual humanfaculty is assumedtoreachthe
most similarity tothedivineattributes whilealive, inorder toassureits
post mortemsurvival. Thetwokinds of intellections completely fuseina
supremeact of intellectual love:
Thename[of God] is composedfromtwoparts sincetherearetwoparts
of love
[dividedbetween] twolovers, andthe[parts of] loveturnone
[entity] whenlovebecameactuated. Thedivineintellectual loveandthe
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
humanintellectual loveareconjunctedbeingone. Exactly sothename
[of God] includes [thewords] oneone,
becauseof theconnectionof
whichis identical withtheintellect in[its] existenceuntil heandhe
becomeone[entity]. This is the[great] power of man: hecanlink the
lower part withthehigher one, andthelower [part] will ascendandthe
higher [part] will descendandwill kiss theentity ascendingtowards it,
likeabridegroomactually kisses his brideout of his great andreal desire,
characteristic of thedelight of both, fromthepower of thename[of God].
Thesimilarity of this passagetothequotations fromSitrei Torahis
obvious; but inthelast descriptionof theconjunctionbetweentwokinds
of intellections, thereis nomentionof theactiveintellect at all, only the
"divineexistence" beingviewedas theentity withwhichthe"human
existence" is united. This is alsothecaseinAbulafla's interpretationof
Moses' transfiguration:
His higher soul longedtounitewithher root, whichis thebeginning
without end, andtheendwithout beginning. . . andGod, may Hebe
exalted, has poureduponhim, out of theefflux of His Goodness . . .
until Hecausedhis intellect topass slowly fromits humanpotentiality
andcausedit tobecomedivineactuality.
Heretheactualizationof thehumanintellect is synonymous withits
becomingdivine. This process of deificationby intellectionis anatural
event, since:
all theinner forces andthehiddensouls inmanaredifferentiatedinthe
bodies. It is however inthenatureof all of themthat whentheir knots
they returntotheir origin, whichis onewithout any duality,
andwhichcomprises themultiplicity.
Interestingly enough, Scholemhas interpretedthis passageas dealing
withtheconnectionbetweenthehumansoul and"thestreamof cosmic
lifepersonifiedfor him[Abulafia] intheintellectus agens of thephilo-
sopher." Nevertheless, Stace, apparently deliberately ignoringScholem's
interpretationof thetext, writes:
Theuntyingof theknots of thesouls means their liberationfromthe
fetters of finitudesothat they returntotheir origin, whichis theInfinite
It seems that Stace's intuitiononthereal significanceof Abulafia's passage,
canbecorroboratedby other discussions foundinthewritings of the
AbrahamAbulafiaandUnioMystica 9
Kabbalist. Onthesamepage, Abulafiaindeeddescribes maninthese
whichis man, whocomprises all thestfirot%
andwhoseintellect is theactiveintellect; andwhenyouwill untieits
knots, youwill beunitedwithit [theactiveintellect] inauniqueunion.
Theaffinity betweenAbulafia's descriptionof Divinity as comprising
themultiplicity andhis perceptionof manas comprisingboththeten
sefirot andtheactiveintellect, is obvious. This perceptionof Abulafia's
intentiontocomparemanandhis intellect withDeity, is corroboratedby
his ownstatement inoneof his untitledworks:
. . . andsinceGodwantedus, Heannouncedtous ... themysteries of
this world, whichis sealedwithHis name,
* inorder tountieall theknots,
by whomthey [theknots] wereknottedaccordingtoHim[thename]
andwithit [thename] wewerecomposited, sothat weareabletobecome
[spiritual], loosefromall remainingcompositions, andhewill
remainuncomposite, neither thecompositionof his natural disposition,
nor material composition, andweshall becomeinnovatedentities,
possessingsimple[spiritual] ideas, separatedof any matter andcomposited
of all forms; weshall becomethecaused[entities], of all thedivinecauses,
thesimplest of thembeingcompositedout of all theothers andthemost
compositeof thembeingthesimplest one[themost spiritual].
Accordingto Abulafia, theuntying of knots results inatotal
spiritualizationof humanintellect, whichleaves thematerial knots and
becomes boundtospiritual bonds, passingfromthemost composited
beinginthematerial realm, tothemost compositedentity inthespiritual
world(i.e. formedout of theformstheideasseparatedfrommatter).
This total transformationrenders thestrippedhumanintellect similar to
God, whois presentedas themost compositeout of thesimplest [i.e.
spiritual] entities. It seems that Godis thefirst compositeentity, whereas
manis thelast (i.e. ultimatecompositeone).
Man thereforeundergoes aspiritual transitionfromhis natural
conditionas acompositeentity inthematerial realm, tohis status as a
compositeentity inthespiritual realm, thus makinghimsimilar toGod
and, accordingtothepassages out of Abulafia's letter, makinghimcapable
of formingaperfect unionwiththeactiveintellect and, afterwards, with
This gradationis evident fromAbulafia's statement inhis ffayyei
thebenefit of theknowledgeof thename[of God] is its beingthecause
to Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
of man's attainment of theactual intellectionof theactiveintellect and
thebenefit of theintellectionof theactiveintellect is theultimateaim
of thelifeof theintellectual soul andit is thereasonof thelifeof the
next world; this aimis theunionof thesoul, by this intellection, with
Here, theKabbalist unequivocally states that thesoul canunitenot
only withtheactiveintellect but withGodHimself, evidently asserting
thepossibility of thesupremeuniomystica. Accordingtoanother text of
Abulafia, if themystic:
has felt thedivinetouchandperceivedits natureit seems right and
proper tomeandtoevery perfectedmanthat heshouldbecalled
"master" becausehis nameis liketheNameof his Master beit only in
one, or inmany, or inall of His Names.
For nowheis nolonger
separatedfromhis Master, andbeholdheis his Master andhis Master
is he; for heis sointimately united
withHim, that hecannot by any
means beseparatedfromHim, for heis He. .. andthereis nodifference
betweenthem, except that his Master has his supremerank by his own
right andnot derivedfromother creatures, whileheis elevatedtothis
rank by theintermediary of creatures.
This passageis of utmost importancefor theunderstandingof Abulafia's
viewof uniomysticaas well as Scholem's viewof Abulafia. TheKabbalist
directly asserts that after theidentificationof themystic withhis Master,
bothof themareonthesamerank: it is thesupremerank; thedifference
betweenthemis merely "historical": thehumanintellect becomes universal
post remy whereas theMaster is universal anterem. Furthermore, the
connectionbetweenthemystic andtheMaster is soclosethat "hecannot
by any means beseparatedfromHim, for heis Him." Therefore, Scholem's
translationof theword"dibbuk" as "adhering" seems tomiss thepoint.
Since, accordingtoAbulafia, thereis nomoreseparation, why not regard
theconjunctionas anoutright union? Scholemhas attemptedtoattentuate
theunitiveovertoneof theformula"Heis he" or "huwahuwa", by
interpretingit as a"famous formulaof advancedMoslempantheism."
However, thecontext wheretheformulaoccurs does not support this
opinion; as apantheistic affirmation, without unitiveinsinuation, this
formulamay appear only as aconfessionwhichis not connectedtoa
transformationof themystic's personality. However, whensuchatrans-
formationis explicitly asserted, theformula"hu' hu'" indicates arecog-
nitionof thenatureof thenewstatethemystic has reached. It is not the
"unity of being" "wafcdat al wugud" that is affirmedby Abulafia, but the
unionof beingwithGod.
AbrahamAbulafiaandUnioMystica 11
Tosupposethat this passagedeals withuniomysticais confirmed
alsoby thetransfer of theDivineNameor Names tothemystic. This
transfer is already knowninJewishmysticism, inconnectionwithEnoch's
translationintoanangelMetatron. Intheancient Jewishmysticism, a
metamorphosis of thepatriarchintoahighangel is accompaniedby his
receivingoneor seventy divinenames, althoughtheconcept of unionis
unknowntotheancient texts.
Thesimilarity of Abulafla's assertionabout themystic whoreceives
adivinename, totheancient Jewishviewof Enoch's translation, is obvious.
Likethecaseof Enoch, Abulafiasuggests adeeptransformationof the
mystic's personality, whichtakes placeduringtheunitiveexperience.
Beforeleavingour discussionof uniomystica, let mepresent an
intriguingpassagefoundinatreatisewhichwas writteneither by Abulafia,
or moreprobably, by oneof his disciples:
Hetoldme: Thouart my son, this day I havebegottenyou[Psalm2,7],
andalso: Seenowthat I, evenI, amhe[Deut. 32,39], andthesecret [of
theseverses] is theunionof thepoweri.e. thesupernal divinepower
calledthesphereof prophecy
withthehumanpower, andit is also
said: 11[Jes. 43,11].
Therefore, besidetheformulae"Heis He", and"I amHeandHeis I" we
get theformula
I -1": its Biblical sources notwithstanding, thesignification
of this phraseis givenby theKabbalist as unionof thehumanandthe
divine. Wemay thenask theintentionof theauthor whohas chosento
usetheformula"I - I" inlieuof "I amHe", sinceinbothcases, thebasic
meaningis themystical union. Inother words, whois thereal speaker,
God, as intheBiblical sources, or themystic, whomay pronouncethis
formulaas theassertionof his identity withGod(perceivedas theI-ness)?
I aminclinedtoaccept thesecondsolutionfor tworeasons: (1) Preceding
theabove-mentionedpassage, theauthor quotes amidrashic interpretation
onthemeaningof thename"Eheyehasher Eheyeh":
Andit is written: I amwithyouintroubleetc. [Psalms, 91,15] andthis
is inentirety whenyouwill bewithHim. But if youarenot withHim,
Healsowill not bewithyou; however, if youarewithHim[then] from
your flesh;
andI shall tell you: "But my dwelling," [signifies] "But I am
withyou" [andsignifies] I shall beadwelling. This is theway our [ancient]
sages interpretedthis secret inconnectionwiththenameI shall be
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
whatever I shall be, andtheHoly, may Hebeblessed, saidtoMoses:
Moses, bewithmeandI shall bewithyou. Andtheadducedproof [for
this interpretation] is fromtheverse: TheLordis thy shadeuponthy right
hand[Psalms, 121,5] as it is exposedinMidrashHashkem.
HeretheDivinity is completely passive, andHis activity is describedas
purely reactivetothehumaninitiative. Themeaningof theappelation
"1shall bewhatever I shall be" is, inthis Kabbalist's view, "I shall be
wherever youwill be". Inother words, theactivationor actuationof the
humanintellect is tantamount tothedwellingof theDivinewithinthe
Furthermore, theduplicationof thedivinename: "I shall bewhatever
1shall be" is clearly relatedtothe"I -1" inthepassageimmediately following
our quotation. Thedivineexistence, then, seems tobetantamount toits
I-ness; bothareclosely correlatedtohumanintellectual activity.
Becauseof this correlation, it seems that thephrase: "I - I" is an
exclamationby amystic, indicatinghis awareness of becomingdivine.
(2) An interestingparallel to our analysis of thepassages of Sefer
HaMalmad, canbeadducedfromadiscussionof theSpanishphilosopher
andtheosophist, IbnSabin. Professor ShlomoPines has kindly drawn
my attentiontoaninterestinginterpretationof Al-Hallaj's dictum"'Ana
al-Haqq", foundinIbnSabin's, YemeniteAnswers toSicilianQuestions**
accordingtotheSpanishauthor: "I" is relatedtotheterm"anniyah",
whichcanbeconceivedbothas "existence"includingdivineexistence
as intheregular philosophical usageof this term,
andas "I-ness".
Therefore, Al-Hallaj's exclamationexpresses, accordingtothis view, not
only theidentification, or identity, of aparticular mystic withGod, but
alsothepossibility of applyingtheI-ness totheGodheadby themystical
unionof humanwithdivinity, or as aresult of suchanevent.
It is worthremarkingthat Abulafia's mysticismincludes not only the
transformational unitivecomponent, but alsoalimitedpantheistic facet;
accordingtothis Kabbalist, thevarious intellectual parts of theexistence
arepart of onecontinuumfi*
Intellect is aterm[applied] totheentity whichrules over everything,
i.e. thefirst causeof all; andit is
calledtheformof theintellect. The
[term] intellect is also[applied] totheentity separatedfrommatter,
whichis emanated
fromthefirst cause; by themeans of this emanation
thefirst entity rules over themovingheavens.
He, may He
AbrahamAbulafiaandUnioMystica 13
beexalted, is thesimple
intellect. The[term] intellect is thenameof
thefirst causewhichis closeandacts uponwhatever exists beneaththe
andthis is theactiveintellect whichcauses [theemergenceof]
theintellect inthehumansoul. Thereforetherearethreestages, all three
beingbut oneessence; God, His emanationwhichis separated[from
matter], andtheemanationof this emanationwhichis attachedtothe
soul andthesoul is attachedtoit inavery tenacious way, thoughthe
two[i.e. thesoul andtheemanationof God's emanation] arebut one
Essentially, all theintellectual phenomenaareone; therefore, theactual-
izationof thehumansoul is tantamount toher divinization, or toput it
inAbulafia's ownwords:
thegrasping[of thesoul] thehumanintellect whichis emanatedfrom
theseparatedactiveintellect, causes theunionof thesoul toher God;
this unionis thecauseof thesoul's eternal life, similar tothelifeof
her God.
Theacquisitionof theintellect renders mansimilar tothesupernal man
(i.e. thespiritual world):
thesupernal manhas four [elements] whichare: soul,
andthefirst causeof all; soalsothe
terrestrial manhas four [elements] whichare: soul, emanatedintellect,
separatedintellect andthefirst causeof all.
Theintegrationof intellectual forces intothehumanaggregatum
joins themtothespiritual continuumwhosefirst part is God.
intellect is ahumanizedGod; therefore, thetotal unionof humansoul to
God, andevenher fusionwithHimcanbeeasily deductedfromthe
commondenominator of Godas intellect, intelligibiliaandintellection,
andseparateintellectsall of whicharevarious aspects of thespiritual.
This viewmay bedefinedas a"limitedpantheism", andis describedby
Abulafiaas thepresenceof theseparate(i.e. thespiritual) everywhere.
A visual representationof Abulafia's intellectual pantheismis foundinthe
collectaneawhichincludeexcerpts from'Or HaSekhel; thereaflameis
painted, withGodat its top, whileits lowest point is humanintellect.
Theimmediatesourceof Abulafia's viewis obvious; it is Aristotelianism
whichpresentedGodas theintellect, intelligible, andintellection.
conceptionwas introducedinJewishthought by R. AbrahamIbnEzra
andendorsedby Maimonides intheGuide*
Jewishphilosophers, however,
never intendedtointegratetheir perceptionof Divinity intoamystical
approachthat uses theintellectualizationof Godas ameans tobridgethe
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
gapbetweenthehumananddivineintellect. Moreover, Maimonides
stressedadistinctionbetweenthehumanmodeof intellectionandthe
Weseeagaintheemergenceof oneof Abulafia's mystical
views (i.e. theintellectual pantheism) as anelaborationof already existing
philosophical conceptions.
The texts discussed above, convincingly indicate that Abulafia
maintainedthat thehumanintellect canfusewiththeactiveintellect and
evenwithGodHimself. This view, explicitly baseduponphilosophical
epistemology, places Abulafiaamongthe"mystical theorists", touse
Dodds' terminology.
Thequestionmust beaskedif thesetheoretical
statements couldbeconnectedwiththedetails of Abulafia's biography;
anaffinity, or affinities betweenhis texts andhis lifewouldindicatethat
general assertions, relevant for all "prophets" (i.e. mystics) aremeaningful
alsofor Abulafia's ownspiritual activity. It seems tomethat thereare
reasons tobelievethat Abulafia's mystical theory regardingthepossibility
of uniomysticacorresponds toother pertinent biographical events, such
as thefollowing:
a) Abulafiainherited, or developed, highly complicatedtechniques, whose
final purposewas toattain"prophecy" (i.e. amystical experience). These
techniques areexclusively baseduponlinguistic elements, suchas those
mentionedintheanalysis abovewhereinthecombinations of letters and
thedivinenames werementioned. Thoughthereis noexplicit statement
onthepractical arrival of uniomysticathroughtheuseof thesetechniques
inAbulafia's extant writings, wecannot ignorethepossibility that suchan
experienceindeedoccurred. Mystical experiences of other typesrevelatory
or demonic experienceswere related in Abulafia's autobiographical
b) Thefirst andmost elaborateddiscussions onthenatureof theunion
of humanintellect withhigher entities, occur inSitrei Torahandinthe
commentary toSepher HaYashar. Bothwerewrittenin1280whenAbulafia
was forty years old. This agewas consideredby philosophers andKabbalists
includingAbulafiahimselfas theacmeof humanintellectual develop-
ment. Abulafiaexpressedthis viewintwobooks writtenin1280.*
Therefore, it wouldseemreasonabletolink theemergenceof discussions
about uniomysticawiththoseabout theperfectionof theintellect tothe
sameyear. This wouldindicatethat Abulafiareachedaunionwiththe
"divineexistence" in1280. This year was of utmost importancefor
Abulafia's spiritual life; it was thedatewhenhewas supposedtomeet
AbrahamAbulafiaandUnioMystica 15
thePope. Theencounter never took place, however, becauseof thesudden
deathof thePope.
It may bepertinent tothis discussiontoremark that
theprecedingyears wereaperiodof intensiverevelations, whichinspired
Abulafiatomeet withthePope.
c) In1279Abulafiabeganthewritingof aseries of prophetic books. The
last of them, andthesingleextant one, was composedin1288.
commentary totheBookof theTestimony, writtenin1280inRome,
includes intercalations of phrases stemmingfromtheoriginal book, and
besidethem, Abulafla's interpretations.
saidthat hewas thenat Romeand[God] revealedhimwhat he
shall doandwhat heshall say inHis Name, andhewill announceto
everyonethat: TheLordreigneth, let thepeopletremble[Psalms, 99,1]
. .. Andhesaid: andI havecalledhis nameShaddai likeMy name
its secret
is thecorporeal Shaddai andyoushall understandits meaning.
Andhealsosaid: Heis I andI amHe; andit is forbidden
this issueinamoreexplicit fashionthanwas already done. But thesecret
of thecorporeal name
is theMessiahof GodandMoses will rejoiceetc.
Theintent of this cryptic passageis toconvey theMessianic installation
of Abulafiaas thespiritual Kingof Israel. As part of theprocess, his name
is changedtoShaddai. Abulafiaprobably hints that he, namely, "the
corporeal Shaddai" is theMessiahof God. Inthis context, theoccurrence
of theformula"Heis I andI amHe" is highly significant: its affinity to
theother formula, "Heis he" is obvious, andits connectiontoAbulafia
is almost explicit. It seems, therefore, that theprophetic andmessianic
tension, whichcharacterizes this periodof Abulafia's life, is fraught with
anadditional dimension: theexperienceof amystical union. A decisive
pieceof evidencemarking1280as theyear whenAbulafiaexperienced
mystical unionis foundinffayyei Ha'OlamHaBa\ themost important
handbook of ecstatic techniques, writteninRomein1280:
inthis manner heshouldtransposeall its letters [of theDivineName]
frontwards andbackwards, usingmany tunes ...
andhemust master
very well thesecrets of thelawandtheir scienceinorder torecognize[the
meaningcf thecombinations of letters resultingfrom] thetransposition
of thecombinations andhis heart will becomeawareof theintellectual,
divineandprophetic mental concept. Andthefirst thingwhichwill come
out of thecombination[of letters] duringhis concentration
uponit, is
theemergenceof fear andtremblinguponhim, thehairs of his headwill
standupwhereas his limbs will convulse. Afterwards, if heis worthy [of
this experience] theSpirit of thelivingGodwill dwell uponhim. .. and
hewill feel as if his wholebody, fromtiptotoe, wereannointedwith
theunctionoil, andhewill betheMessiah
* of GodandHis messenger
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
andhewill becalledtheangel" of God, andhis nameis likethename
of his Master
whichis Shaddai whichwas namedas Metatron,
Angel of Presence.
Here, Abulafiais not only theoretically examiningtheunionwithMetatron
(i.e. theactiveintellect), but alsothecorporeal andspiritual phenomena
accompanyingthis experience. A passageassertingthe"apotheosis" of
themystic occurs inthecommentary toSefer HaMeli? writtenin1282
at Messina:
By his intellect he[themystic] becamesuperior totheir species
hebecamedifferent fromthemandbecame[part of] another species,
after hewas human.
AccordingtoAbulafia, themystic's duty is toremaininthespiritual state
knownas theunitiveexperience. Theonly reason"toreturnfromGod"
or toescapethis state, is whenthereis anurgent needtoinstruct thepeople,
inorder tobringthem"under thewingof theDivinePresence."
It seems thereforethat Abulafia's "objective" treatment of theproblem
of theunionbetweenthehumanandthedivineintellects reflects not only
his acceptance of philosophical epistemology, but also his personal
experiences whichoccurredexactly thesameyear. Inother words,
AbulafiareadMaimonides inAvicennianandAverroistic keys, decoded
his ownspiritual adventures accordingtoMaimonides' teachinginthe
Guide, andaddedphilosophical conceptions out of Arabic philosophy.
At this stageinour discussion, wemust seriously questionAbulafia's
useof Maimonides' teachings andhis Guideas apoint of departurefor
his non-Maimonideanviewof uniomystica(whichprobably points toa
real mystical experience). It is obvious that philosophy suppliedhimwith
concepts andterms, but why didhestick totheGuidet interpretingits
secrets whichhint at thepossibility of mystic union, insteadof commenting
upontheSongof Songs?
It seems that oneanswer canbefoundinAbulafia's peculiar method
of interpretingtheGuide. Incontrast toall theother commentaries on
theGuide, whichfollowthesequenceof chapters as they arewrittenby
theauthor, Abulafia's threecommentaries exclusively treat thethirty-six
secrets which, inhis view, arehiddenintheGuide.
Hecomments upon
eachof thesecrets, bringingtogether other pertinent discussions inthe
Guide, andattemptingtouncover Maimonides' remarks ontheway the
book is tobedecoded.
Why was Abulafiasoeager toreveal Maimonides'
secrets? It is becauseof his feelingthat heis theMessiahandhis period
is worthy of suchadisclosure.
What is thenatureof thesesecrets?
AbrahamAbulafiaandUnioMystica 17
AccordingtoAbulafia, Maimonides' Guide(I, 71), has reconstructedthe
lost secrets of theLaw, the"Sitrei Torah". Sincebiblical stories areviewed
as allegories of spiritual progressionof thehumansoul,
accordingtoAbulafia, is aimedat directingmantoattaintheprophetic
experience. By decodingMaimonides, then, Abulafiahas revealedthe
trueJewishpathof theultimatefelicity
apathrelevant toeveryone,
AccordingtoMaimonides andAbulafia, theGuideis acrucial stage
wherebiblical secrets wererecrystallized, after their loss duringtheexile
period. Abulafiaseems tohaveperceivedhis commentaries as furthering
thedisclosureof thesecrets, whichweregermanetohis ownmystical
experiences. Hehas foundinMaimonides not only areliablesourceof
philosophical terminology, but alsoarespectableandauthoritativeinter-
mediary betweenbiblical spirituality, as hehas conceivedit, andhis own
spiritual experiences. Moreover, thephilosophical terminology servedas
keys toself-understanding, andas away of communication; inAbulafia's
period, theAristotelianepistemological concepts werealready spread
amongtheJewishintelligentsia. Abulafiauses theterminology toconvey
thesignificanceof his mystical experiences as heunderstoodthem, though
they arealmost totally absent intheshort descriptions of his visions. We
may addtoHans Jonas' view, that speculationwas oneof themainsources
for thelanguageusedinspeakingabout intellectual mysticism, by observing
that philosophical jargonmoldedtherawmaterial of theinner experience
intomessages that becameintelligibletotheeducatedaudience. The
occurrenceof philosophical terminology inAbulafia's work alsoseems to
beadeliberateattempt toallureor attract philosophically biasedJewish
scholars tohis Kabbalah, inthat it servedtobridgephilosophical scholar-
shipandthemoreadvancedstages of Kabbalistic training.
It is worthwhiletocompareAbulafia's transformationof Maimonides'
philosophical systemwithaparallel phenomenoninChristianmysticism.
Meister Eckhart similarly transforms anduses philosophical material,
includingMaimonides' Guide, as startingpoints for his owntheosophy.
Inbothcases, Aristotelianelements serveas important instruments for
theformulationof intellectual mysticism. AccordingtoEckhart, "God
and1, weareoneinpureknowledge."
The phenomenological affinity between Abulafia and Eckhart's
mystical useof Aristotelianconcepts is remarkable. Thoughthey were
of different mental andspiritual constitutions, they casually usedand
misusedphilosophical views inorder toexpress their intuiti mystici. Like
other prominent mystics, suchas Pseudo-Dionysios, Shankaraor Ibn
Arabi, they express their experimental knowledgeof Godinphilosophical
idioms; therespectivephilosophical systems servedtoexplainidiosyncratic
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
experiences in universal terms, thereby transformingtheperceptions
of their unitivelives intointellectual formulations.
Themystical achievement accordingto Abulafia, consists of the
fusionof thehumanintellect andtheactiveand/or thedivineintellect.
This is madepossibleby thereductionof ideal humanbeingtoits
intellectual faculty. This reduction, or simplificationis thesinequanon
for anindividual's attainment of theuniversal or thedivine. Theprophetic
Kabbalahcanproperly bedescribedas theway of disintegratingthe
humanaggregatum, andunitingits highest component withits source;
other facets of thepersonality, thematerial or theemotional, aresuppressed.
This typeof intellectual mysticismneeds, theoretically speaking, neither
thehalakhic way of life, nor theJewishcommunity as ameans for its
consummation; thetechniques of Abulafiaarenon-halakhic ways of
cleavingtoGod, andthey canbeperfectly exercisedonly incomplete
Thesetwofeatures sharply distinguishtheecstatic Kabbalah
fromthemaintrends of Kabbalahingeneral; almost all other types of
Kabbalaharechiefly interestedinthehalakhic dromenon, which, when
performedaccordingtotheKabbalistic intention, aredirectedtorestoring
theprimordial dynamic unity inthebosomof therevealeddivinity: the
tensefirot. This typeof activity requires highly educatedandspiritually
powerful personalities, whoareabletoperformtheKabbalistic ritual.
This performanceemploys all of themainfacets of thehumanbeing
andintegrates theKabbalist inthecommunal rituals. Thetheurgical
Kabbalah, as opposedtotheecstatic one, was theosophically oriented
andonly secondarily interestedinthemystical accomplishment of every
Kabbalist. This theurgical trendis acontinuationof ancient Jewish
conceptions concerning theultimateroleof theperformanceof the
Abulafia's Kabbalah, basedontheAristotelianviewof Godas the
intellect, theintelligible, andtheintellection, was unabletoinfluence
processes inthedivinerealm, nor was it interestedinseriously discussing
themeaningof theactual performanceof Jewishcommandments; it was
concernedonly withtheultimateintellectual rationaleof somecommand-
ments. This typeof Kabbalahthereforerepresents amajor departure
fromthedevelopment of themedieval Kabbalah. Themost important
symptomof this departureis its urgetoimmerseintotheoceanof Divinity
insteadof theeffort tocontributetothedivineharmony. Thoughdeeply
interestedintheperfectionof theindividual, theecstatic Kabbalahends
AbrahamAbulafiaandUnioMystica 19
withhis completedisintegration; this is obviously thecontinuationof the
philosophical tendency tosuppress thenon-intellectual parts of thehuman
personality, reducinghimtoapurely intellectual being.
Thetheurgical Kabbalah, notwithstandingits theosophic tendency,
aimedat theamplificationof theKabbalist's capacities; or, touseJungian
terminology, thetheurgianKabbalist underwent aprocess of individu-
vis k vis the"regression" of theintellect intothebosomof divinity
accordingtotheprophetic Kabbalah. Inother words, Jewishmysticism
may bedescribedas arealmwhoseborder withphilosophy is aregion
of passivecontemplationandwheretheinhabitants tendtowards solitude
andintellectual inwardness. Governingthis parcel is theactiveintellect,
whereas its Lordis Aristotle's self-intellectingfirst cause.
Intheoppositedirection, Jewishmysticismis agreater domain,
deeply penetratedby halakhic activity, whereenergizedcontemplationis
attainedincommunal worship. This realmis directly governedby divine
potencies or powersthesefirotwhoselordis either theNeoplatonic-
biasedconcept of EinSof, or, morerarely, theconcept of theanthropo-
morphic supernal essences formingthehiddenprimeval Adam.
ecstatic Kabbalahpresents themystic as areceptacleof divineemanation
andenergy; aquasi-femaleintellect impregnatedby theactiveintellect
whichis treatedas amale.
Inthetheurgical Kabbalah, themystic is
viewedas asourceof energy whichis projectedintotherealmof sefirot;
thelast of them, Malkhut, is sometimes conceivedas thesupernal wifeof
Thebasic divergencebetweenthetwotypes of Jewish
mysticismmay beillustratedby acomparisonof twodicta: thetheosophical
Kabbalahwouldprefer as its sloganthebiblical verse, "Andthou, Solomon
my son, knowthoutheGodof thy father, andservehim" (I Chronicle,
28,9). Here, knowledgeof Godis presented, but only inanticipationof the
proper religious service, thelatter beingtheultimatepurposeof man.
Abulafiaandhis disciples, however, wouldchoosethewell-knownmaxim
"Hewhoknows himself knows his Lord," whosemetamorphoses were
tracedby A. Altmann. Knowledgeof Godis treatedas thehighest
perfectionof man, andit is explicitly connected, accordingtoseveral
medieval philosophers, withman's unionwiththeactiveintellect.
Thetypology abovenotwithstanding, I shouldliketopoint out what
seems tobeastrikingdiscrepancy betweenour descriptionof theprophetic
Kabbalah, andthepersonality of its most important exponent, Abraham
Abulafia. Hewas indeedavery activefigure, roamingfromcity tocity
andacquiringdevotees anddisciples throughhis teaching, prolific writings,
andintensivepreachingtoJews andChristians. Nevertheless, this activity,
fraught withmessianic overtones, was considered, by Abulafia, tobea
necessary evil, obviously inferior totheexperienceof beingwithGod.
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
Thus, his public activity was consideredanescapist interruptiontothe
Most of the above-mentioned texts remained in long-forgotten
manuscripts, and, primafacie, exert littleinfluenceonthedevelopment
of JewishandEuropeanthought. Nevertheless, it seems that somethemes
of Abulafia's thought foundtheir way toalarger intellectual audience
thanonemight expect. TheSitrei Torahis extant inat least twenty-five
andsmall portions of it wereprintedanonymously.
Furthermore, it was translated, together withother works of Abulafia,
intoLatin, andit becameoneof thecornerstones of PicodellaMirandola's
Kabbalah, as thelateHaimWirszubski has convincingly proved.
shouldliketosuggest that Pico's viewonman's unionwithGodmight be
influencedby Abulafianviews.
Ontheother hand, Abulafia's passagefrom'Or HaSekheU dealing
withhumanintellectual loveand"divineintellectual love", was copiedby
alatefifteenth-century author andprintedonehundredyears later. For
thetimebeing, thelast phraseis closest tothewordingof Spinoza's famous
expression, "amor dei intellectualis."
NotestoChapter 1
Thewritingof this study was madepossibleby agrant fromMemorial
Foundationfor JewishCulture.
1. SeeMoritz Steinschneider, "DieHebr&ischenCommentarezum'Ftihrer'
des Maimonides", Festschrift A. Berliner (Frankfort, 1903): 345-363; Altmann,
"Maimonides' Attitude" pp. 200-219; Idel, AbrahamAbulafiapp. 8-12, Wirszubski
2. Cf. Adolf Jellinek, Bet Ha-Midrash, vol. Ill (Jerusalem, 1938) p. XLI
3. SeeIdel, "AbulafiaandthePope", p. 1-2n.3.
4. IsadoreTwersky, "ReligionandLaw** inReligioninaReligious Age(ed.
S. D. Goitein, Cambridge, Mass., 1974) p. 74.
5. SeeScholem, Major Trends pp. 194-195.
6. SeeS. O. Heller-Willensky, "Isaac IbnLatifPhilosopher or Kabbalist.**
InJewishMedieval andRenaissanceStudies, ed. A. Altmann(Cambridge, Mass.
AbrahamAbulafiaandUnioMystica 21
1967) pp. 185-237.
7. Louis Gardet, Etudes dephilosophic et demystiquecomparies (Paris,
1972) pp. 268-270; seealsoScholem, Major Trends, pp. 23-4.
8. Idel, TheMystical Experiencepp. 13-71. Abulafiawas deeply influenced
by Maimonides
theory of prophecy: seeidem, AbrahamAbulafiapp. 86-128and
comparetoAltmann"Maimonides* Attitude** p. 206.
9. Hans Jonas,
Mythand Mysticism: A Study of Objectificationand
InteriorizationinReligious Thought** Journal of Religion49(1969) pp. 328-329.
10. Idel, TheMystical Experiencepp. 22-24.
11. Scholem, Major Trends pp. 122-123: comparealsopp. 55-56; idem,
Kabbalahpp. 174-176; idem, TheMessianic Ideapp. 203-204. A morecautious
formulationcanbedetectedinScholem*s relatively latepaper "Mysticismand
Society** Diogenes, vol. 58(1967) p. 16: "TheJewishmystics usedthetermdevequth
todenotethis ultimateaim. Theterm, meaningliterally "cleaving** or "adhering**
toGod. . . Thenecessity tocompromisewithmedieval Jewishtheology dictated
this terminology, not theact itself, whichmayor may not includeastateof
mystical union.**
Scholem*s assumptionthat theuseof therather ambiguous termdevequth
was dictatedby theneedtocompromisewithJewishtheology, i.e. thephilosophically
biasedthought, is not supportedby thefollowingdiscussion; not only has Abulafia
beeninfluencedby philosophical unitiveterminology; wecanfindphilosophical
texts whichopenly speak about thepossibility of total unionwithGod: see, e.g.
thestatement of oneof Abulafia*s contemporaries, R. Isaac benYeda*yahwho
wroteabout theNaziritethat by thedisattachment of his soul frommatter and
thepurificationof his intellect, hewill findadirect presenceof God"andhis soul
will cleavetoHiminacompleteandunseparableunion, whichlasts forever.**
CommentaryonAvot (Jerusalem, 1973) p. 65. cp. alsotop. 62andfor another
discussionof thesameauthor, adducedinMarc Saperstein"R. Isaac b. Yeda*ya:
A ForgottenCommentator onthe*Aggada** REJ% vol. 138(1979) p. 31. Saperstein
has themerit tohaveestablishedthereal author of this commentary.
OnAbulafia's influenceonR. AbrahamShalom, afifteenth-century Jewish
theologian, seeChapter IV whereI haveevincedtheinfluenceof Abulafia's
descriptionof uniomysticain'Or Ha-Sekhel.
12. Theunfoldingof theHegelianmoldof Scholem's viewwas briefly
described by Natan Rotenstreich, JudaismandJewish Rights (HaKibbutz
HameuchadPublishingHouse, 1959) pp. 119-120(Hebrew).
13. Scholem, Major Trends pp. 7-8.
14. Minor exceptions arethestatements of Tishby, TheWisdomof the
Zohar, vol. II p. 289n. 69; Gottlieb, Studies pp. 237-238; Altmann, Faces pp. 78-79,
89-90, andnote38below. Seealso, Idel, Kabbalah: NewPerspectives ch. III-IV.
15. SeeRobert C. Zaehner, HinduandMuslimMysticism(University of
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
London, 1960) p. 2; andAt Sundry TimesAnEssayintheComparisonof
Religions (London, 1958) p. 171.
16. SeeIdel, Kabbalah: NewPerspectives ch. III-IV.
17. Weareconcernedhereonly withAbulafia's ownviewof uniomystica;
theviews of his followers canbethesubject of another study; seeIdel, Kabbalah:
NewPerspectives ch. IV andessay VII below.
18. SeeShlomoPines, TheLimitations of HumanKnowledgeAccordingto
Al-Farabi, IbnBajja, andMaimonides" InStudies inMedieval JewishHistory
andLiterature, ed. I. Twersky (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard U. Press, 1979)
pp. 82-109; alsoPines,
Les limites delametaphysiqueselonAl-Farabi, ibnBajja
et Maimonides . . . ," inMiscellaneaMediaevalia, Vol. 13/1(Berlin, NewYork,
1981) pp. 211-225. This agnostic positionnotwithstanding, Maimonides was
consideredby someJewishandChristianKabbalists as agenuinemystic: see
GershomScholem, "Maimonidedans 1'oeuvredes Kabbalistes" Cahiers juifs 3,
(1935) pp. 103-112; ChayyimWirszubski, "Liber RedemptionstheEarly Version
of R. AbrahamAbulafia's Kabbalistic Commentary ontheGuideof thePerplexed
intheLatinTranslationof Flavius Mithridates,** inDivrei Ha-AkademiaHa-Lelimit
Ha- Yisraelit Le-Mada'im, vol. Ill (Israeli Academy of Science, Jerusalem, 1970)
pp. 139-149. This
Kabbalization** of Maimonides is generally connectedwith
conceptions belongingtoAbulafia
^Kabbalistic school. I subscribetoPines'
. . . Maimonides is nomystic. His intentionis not torecommend
progressivedetachment fromtheknowledgeof all things that arenot God, but
tofurther that kindof knowledgeby teachingpeopletoavoidmisplacedreferences
toGod's essence": inthe"Translator's Introduction" toTheGuideof thePerplexed,
tr. S. Pines, (Chicago, 1963) p. xcvi. For amystical interpretationof Maimonides'
thought seeDavidBlumenthal "Maimonides* Intellectualist Mysticismandthe
Superiority of theProphecy of Moses" Studies inMedieval Culturevol. X (1981)
pp. 51-67.
19. Milhamot HaShem(Hanovre, 1840) p. 22. SeeVajda, Recherches,
p. 27n. 2.
20. Samuel IbnTibbon, Ma'amar YikkawuHa-Mayyim(Presbourg, 1837)
p. 91. SeeGeorges Vajda"AnAnalysis of theMa'amar Yiqqawuha-Mayimby
Samuel b. JudahIbnTibbon" JJS, X (1959) p. 147n. 28; idemRecherches,
p. 26n. 3.
21. CompareR. Yehudahha-Levi's presentationof thephilosophic viewin
Kuzari I, 1; IV, 13cf. Vajda, Recherches p. 23n; idem, "AnAnalysis", p. 147n. 28.
22. Vajda, Recherches p. 27n. 2.
23. As pointedout by Vajda, Recherches, pp. 27-28n. 3.
24. Maimuni highly appreciatedIbnTibbon, andcouldbeinfluencedby his
Averroistic view.
25. Seethebibliography referredtoby GersonD. Cohen, "TheSoteriology
AbrahamAbulafiaandUnioMystica 23
of R. AbrahamMaimuni" PAAJR, 35(1967) p. 25n. 2.
26. SeeIdel, "OntheHistory** p. 16. Abulafiauses IbnTibbon*s translationof
27. Abulafia*s teacher, R. Hillel benSamuel of Verona, introducedhimto
theGuideandalsocopiedat length, parts of Averroes* treatiseontheconjunction
withtheactiveintellect (seen. 28below) inhis work Tagmulei HaNefesh. Though
this book was writtenonly years after themeetingof AbulafiawithR. Hillel, it
seems reasonabletosupposethat R. Hillel couldbeoneof thesources of Abulafia's
knowledgeof Averroes; onHillel*s usageof IbnTibbon*s translation, seeJosephB.
Sermoneta, Hillel benSamuel benEleazer of VeronaandHis Philosophy(Ph.D.
thesis, University of Jerusalem, 1961) pp. 355-401(Hebrew).
28. SeeJ. Hercz, Drei Abhandlungeniiber dieConjunctiondes separaten
Intellects mit demMenschenvonAverroes (Vater undSohnXaus denArabischen
iibersetzt vonSamuel IbnUbbon, (Berlin, 1869); seealsotheanonymous undated
Hebrewtranslationof Averroes' Vber dieMdglichkeit der Conjunctionoder iiber
denMateriellenIntellect, ed. LudwigHannes (Halle, 1892). Ontheproblemof
unioninAverroes seeAlfredIvry "Averroes onIntellectionandConjunction"
J AOS86(1966) pp. 76-85andPhilipMerlan, Monopsychism, Mysticism, Meta-
consciousness (TheHague, 1963).
29. Sitrei Torah, Ms. Paris, BN 774, fol. 140a.
30. Ibid., fol. 155a. Comparethis text tothequotationwhichR. Isaac of
Acrequotes inthenameof R. Nathan, inhis book Me'irat 'Einayim, cf. essay VII
n. 50. R. Nathan, whichinmy opinion, was astudent of Abulafia, describes the
descent of thedivineintellect, throughtheintellectus agens until thelevel of human
soul whichis lower thanthepassiveintellect, andthenthehumansoul's returnto,
andunionwith, thedivineintellect. Ontheaffinity of R. Nathan's text toan
Averroistic viewseeHercz (n. 28above) p. 22(Hebrewpart). R. Nathanseems
tohavebeenoneof Abulafia's disciples: seechapter V.
31. "Amitat HaNevuah"
32. "Dibbur Penimi"
33. This expressionoccurs againinAbulafia*s other work, Ifayyei Ha'Olam
HaBa\ Ms. Oxford, 1580, fol. 1la; whichwas composedinthesameyear as Sitrei
Torah, namely, 1280.
34. Comparetothecirclewhichoccurs inIbnal-SidAl-Batalyawsi*s (1052-
1127) Bookof theCircles: seeDavidKaufmann, DieSpurenAl-Batlajusis inder
judischenReligionsphilosophie(Leipzig, 1880) p. 25(Hebrewpart). Thoughthe
elements of thesetwocircles arenot identical, they shareacommonfeature: the
intellectus agens is consideredboththeoriginandtheendof man's psychological
activity. Furthermore, inthequotationfromAbulafia's Sitrei Torah, heuses the
concept of "prophetic faculty** inthis seems tobetheuniquepassageinall of
Abulafia's numerous works whereit occurs. This concept may stemfrom
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
Al-Batalyawsi's viewof "theprophetic soul**; seeKaufmann, ibid. pp. 15-16
(Hebrewpart). Moreover, accordingtobothAl-Batalyawsi andAbulafia, the
prophetic faculty unites withtheintellectus agens: seeKaufmann, pp. 15-16.
Finally, Abulafiauses inhis Sitrei Torahtheterm"ma'agalei ha-me?iut," (the
circles of existence) which, thoughmissinginAl-Batalyawsi's work, conveys a
concept central toits outlook (seeMs. Paris, BN 774, fol. 118a). Al-Batalyawsi's
book might havebeenalready translatedby 1280, whenAbulafiahadwrittenhis
Sitrei Torahby Moses IbnTibbon(accordingtoColetteSirat, REJ 138(1979)
p. 505, IbnTibbon's last datedtraductionwas donein1274). It is alsopossiblethat
another Hebrewtranslationof this work, doneby R. SalomonIbnDaud(See
BenjaminRichler, Kiryat Sefer, vol. 53(1978) p. 577) may bedatedinthemiddle
of thethirteenthcentury, if R. Makir, for whomthetranslationwas dedicated, is
thesonof R. Sheshet Nasi, whoflourishedinthefirst thirdof thethirteenthcentury
35. "Dibbur Kadmon" cf. Abulafia's epistlecalledVe-Zot U-Yihudah, ed.
by Adolf Jellinek, Auswahl Kabbalistischer Mystik, (Leipzig, 1853) vol. I p. 16
(HebrewPart); thereAbulafiadescribes theunionof theinner intellectual faculty
withthesupernal logos. Ontheintellectusagens as "speech** (i.e. reason), seeIdel,
AbrahamAbulafiapp. 92-93. Theascensionof theintellectual faculty beyondthe
"primordial speech** (i.e. theintellectus agens), andits readiness toreceivethe
"divinespeech** probably points tothepossibility of contact betweenthehuman
andthedivine. Comparetothequotationadducedinnote50fromIfayyeHa'Olam
36. Sitrei Torah, Ms. Paris, BN 774, fol. 131b.
37. Sitrei Torah, Ms. Paris, BN 774, fol. 120a.
38. 'Or HaSekhel, Ms. Vatican, 233, fol. 115a. Comparealsotoanother
passagefromthesamework printedanddiscussedby FrancescoM. Tocci, "Una
Tecnicarecitativaerespiratoriadi tiposuficonel libroLaLucedell'Intellettodi
AbrahamAbulafia,** inAnnali dellaFacoltadi LingueeLetteratureStranieredi
Ca' Foscari, vol. XIV, 3[1975] p. 227. Onpage236, n. 36, Tocci asserts that
"devekut*\ whichoccurs intheAbulafiantext is "analogomanoidenticoaquello
di uniomystica."!
39. "Love" (inHebrew, "Ahavah") is formedof letters whosenumerical
valueis 13: twoloves 13-1-13=26: seenote40below. Abulafia's theory onthe
natureof loveis mainly Maimonidean, thoughthesexual imagery is morepro-
nounced: seeIdel, TheMystical Experience, ch. IV. Georges Vajda, VAmour de
Dieudans latheologieJuiveduMoyenAge(Paris, 1957) pp. 203-204, 299.
40. Thedivinenameis composedof four letters whosenumerical valueis 26.
InHebrew, "one"*Efoadis formedfromletters whosenumerical valueis 13;
twice"one** is thereforethenumerical valueof thedivinename. Seenote39above.
41. Ms. Paris, BN 774, fol. 118a.
42. VeZot LiYihudah, (seenote35above) p. 20. I acceptedScholem*s
AbrahamAbulafiaandUnioMystica 25
translation, almost entirely, seeMajor Trends, p. 131; ontheforces andsouls
distributedinbodies, comparethesecondtext adducedinnote38above.
43. Onthemeaningof this phraseseeScholem, Major Trends, p. 131; Idel,
TheMystical Experiencepp. 134-137. OnbindingandloosingseealsoMircea
Eliade, "The"Gods whoBinds" andtheSymbolismof Knots" Images andSymbols
(NewYork, 1969) pp. 92-124; J. DuncanM. Derrett, "BindingandLoosing(Matt.
16:19; 18:8; John, 29:23)" JBL 102(1983) pp. 112ff.
44. W. T. Stace, MysticismandPhilosophy(LondonandBasingstoke, 1972)
p. 116.
45. Jellinek, Auswahl (n. 35above) p. 20.
46. This termstemmingfromtheGuide, II, 40occurs several times inthe
Abulafianliterature: seeMs. Sassoon, 290, p. 234andtheanonymous works Ner
'Elohim, Ms. Munchen, 10, fol. 143a; theanonymous work Sha'arei Zedek, Ms.
Jerusalem, 8 148, fol 55b-56a. However, it seems that Maimonides* description
of manindicates theresult of theprocess of creation, whereas Abulafia's useof
thephrasepoints totheontological status of humanity. Cf. alsothematerial
referredtoby note72below.
47. Ms. Sassoon290, pp. 234-235. "Notarot" is obviously apun: it may
meanboth"remaining** and"untied".
48. AccordingtoJewishancient texts, theworldwas createdby andwas
sealedwiththenameof Godat thetimeof creation: seeNicholas Sed, LaMystique
cosmologiquejuive(Paris, Berlin, NewYork, 1981) pp. 79-131. Abulafiapresents
his teachingas atechniqueof untyingtheknots whichemergewiththecreationof
theworldor of man.
49. This verbmeans "tostriponeself" andfiguratively points totheseparation
frommateriality. Seealson. 69below.
50. Ms. Oxford1580, fol. 41b. Seealson. 35aboveand71below.
51. Abulafia*s commentary tohis Sefer HaYashar, writtenin1279, Ms. Rome,
Angelica, 38, fol. 31b-32a; Ms. Mtinchen, 285, fol. 26b. I havegenerally accepted
Scholem*s renderingof this passage.
52. SeeJosephDan, "TheSeventy Names of Metatron" Proceedings of the
EighthWorldCongress of JewishStudies, DivisionC (Jerusalem, 1982) (English
Section) pp. 19-23.
53. Scholemtranslated"adhering".
54. Theapparently earliest knowntext whichuses thephrase"hu* hu*" in
thecontext of Enoch's translationintoMetatron, was writtenby athirteenth-
century anonymous Kabbalist, whosediscussionremainedinMs. Oxford, 1947,
fol. lOa-lOb. It is pertinent toour discussionthat Enoch*s translationis dueto
his intellectual activity, theancient mystic conceptionof corporeal ascensionand
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
metamorphoses beinginterpretedherefiguratively. ComparealsotoR. Bajriya
benAsher onGenesis V, 24, whoasserts that Enochcleavedtothesupernal light
throughhis endeavour tounderstandthenatureof Metatron. Seealson. 98,
123, below.
55. Ms. Oxford1649fol. 206a.
56. Thecomparisonof thesephrases totwopassages above(notes 37-38)
convincingly evinces that herewehaveanelliptic expression, whichpoints tothe
divineintellectual power andthehumanintellectual power.
Galgal ha-Nevu'ah": "thesphere[or circle] of prophecy** may standfor
theunionof thetwopowers intoonesphereduringtheprophetic experience;
Comparetotheviewof theanonymous Kabbalist, adiscipleof Abulafia, whowrote
inhis work Sha'arei Zedek, Ms. Jerusalem, 8 148, fol. 55a:
becauseYod, whoseformis asemispherewill movewhenever itsspherewill be
fulfilled... andthis isthematter of theterrestrial manwhowill ascendandbecome
supernal [man], Le. themanwhois [sitting] uponthechair.
Here, theperfect sphereor circlestands for theperfect man, whois, inAbulafia*s
view, theprophet. ComparealsotoSha'arei Zedek, fol. 56ab. Inanother anonymous
treatiseof Abulafianmold, Ner 'Elohim, Ms. MQnchen, 10, fol. 139a, welearn
about theprophetic visionwhichis connectedwith"thesphereof law.** Seealso
Idel, Kabbalah: NewPerspectives, ch. IV.
58. Sefer ha-Mai mad, Ms. Oxford1649, fol. 205b. For aninterestingparallel
tothis usageof theformula
I amwhat I am** seeEckhart*s assertionthat
wholly that I am, I shouldbeGod**, cf. C. F. Kelley, Meister Eckhart onDivine
Knowledge(NewHavenandLondon, 1977) p. 210andp. 273, n. 85. For the
influenceof Maimonides onEckhart andtheparallelismbetweenthelatter*s and
Abulafia*s relationtoMaimonides seeScholem, Major Trends p. 126, andnote
59. Theauthor obviously hints totheverse"Frommy fleshI beholdGod"
(Job, 19:26). For themystical interpretations of this verse, seeAltmann, "The
Delphic Maxim" pp. 208-213andChapter VII below, n. 132, wherereferences to
interpretations fromtheworks of another ecstatic Kabbalist, R. Isaac of Acre,
60. Onthis MidrashseeH. G. Enelow"MidrashHashkemquotations in
Alnaqua's Menorat ha-Maor" HUCA4(1927) pp. 311-343, especially p. 319.
Comparealsotothequotationdiscussedinmy paper "TheMagical andTheurgic
Interpretationof Music inJewishSources fromtheRenaissancetoHassidism"
Yuval, vol. 4(1982) p. 47(HebrewSection), andIdel, Kabbalah: NewPerspectives,
ch. VIII, par. I.
61. Louis Massignon, Receuils des textes inedits concert ant Vhistoirede
mystiqueenpays d'Islam(Paris, 1929) p. 127. SeealsoR. C. Zaehner, Hinduand
AbrahamAbulafiaandUnioMystica 27
MuslimMysticism(London, 1960) pp. 113-114.
62. Franz Rosenthal "Al-Sayhal-Yunani andtheArabic Plotinus Source"
Orientalia, vol. 21(1952) pp. 478-480, ShlomoPines, "Ecrits Tlotiniens' Arabes
et Tradition'Porphyrienne'" inLeNeoplatonisme(Paris, 1971) pp. 303-313.
63. Thetext translatedaboveis thesummary of Abulafia's discussioninhis
'Or HaSekhel Ms. Vatican, 233, fol. U7b-118b, as it is foundintwocollectanaea
of Kabbalistic materials: Ms. Oxford, 1949, Ms. Paris BN, 776, fol. 192b. The
slight differences betweenAbulafia's versionandthat inthecollectanaeawill be
pointedout inthefollowingfootnotes.
64. "and... of theintellect" missingin'Or HaSekhel
65. InAbulafia's work: "fromall matter" ("Mikol bomer").
66. "anemanationemanated" inAbulafia: "sekhel nishpa'"
67. Herealengthy discussiononthenatureof theintellect andintelligibilia
occurs inAbulafia's work.
68. "However .... intellect" missingin'Or HaSekhel
69. I.e., themost spiritual intellect; seealsonote49above.
70. Somestatements onthevarious religious terms referringtotheactive
intellect, occurs in'Or HaSekhel
71. 'Or HaSekhel Ms. Vatican233, fol. 119b. Comparetothetext referred
72. Ibid., fol. 119a. cf. thematerial referredtoinnote45above.
73. I.e., animamundi9 whichis referredtoas "thesoul of heaven": "nefesh
ha-shamayim" 'Or HaSekhel fol. 118a.
74. I.e., thehumanintellect; comparetotheprior quotationandtonote36
75. I.e., thetenintellects separatedfrommatter or only theactiveintellect:
seeGuideI, 68(Pines' translation, p. 164).
76. Thesupernal worldis referredtoas supernal manalsointhecollectanaea
mentionedabove(note63): "TheSupernal Manpoints totheSupernal World, the
Spiritual [One] that is theworldof theSeparateIntellects." Ms. Paris, BN 766,
fol. 193a.
77. 'Or HaSekhel, Ms. Vatican, 233, fol. 118a. ComparetotheGuideII.6
(Pines' translation, p. 264) ontheforces whichpervadereality; this discussionof
Maimonides is quotedinoneof Abulafia's commentaries onthesecrets of theGuide,
Sefer Ifayyei HaNefesh, Ms. Mttnich, 408, fol. 90b.
78. Ms. Paris, BN 766, fol. 192b. ComparetoMaimonides* statement that it
is impossibletodividethespiritual realmintheGuide11,4. SeealsoIdel, "Between
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
theConcept of Sefirot as Essenceor Instruments inRenaissanceKabbalah** Italia,
vol. Ill, no. 1-2pp. 99-100, n. 70(Hebrew).
79. Metaphysics 1072b, 18-27. SeeRichardMcKeon, TheBasic Works of
Aristotle(RandomHouse, NewYork, 1941) p. 880.
80. Seehis commentary onExodus, XXXIV, 6. IbnEzraasserts inhis treatise
YesodMora, ch. X, that thesoul cancleavetoGod. IbnEzrainfluencedAbulafia*s
thought andheis quotedby himseveral times.
81. Guide, I, 68(Pines* translation, p. 163); Hilkhot Yesodei Torah, II 6, 10.
82. Ibid. I, 55.
83. SeeE. R. Dodds, PaganandChristianinanAgeof Anxiety, (Cambridge,
1969) p. 70.
84. SeeIdel, "OntheHistory," p. 8.
85. Idel, "AbulafiaandthePope," pp. 8-9.
86. Ibid. pp. 2-6.
87. Idel, AbrahamAbulafia, pp. 13-15.
88. Ibid. p. 14.
89. Ms. Rome-Angelica, 38, fol. 14b-15a, Ms. Mttnchen, 285, fol. 39b.
90. I.e., theauthor, namely Abulafia.
91. Seeabovethetexts fromSefer ha-Yashar andthequotationfromIfayyei
Ha'OlamHaBa\ citedimmediately below.
92. "Sod" its meaningis gematria: seen. 94below.
93. literally "impossible".
94. The Hebrewphrases: "corporeal name""HaShemHaGashmi,** the
Messiahof God, "Mashiafr HaShem" andMoses will rejoice"YsmabMoshe"
havethenumerical valueof 703.
95. Ms. Paris, BN 777, fol. 109a.
96. Onthis issueseeIdel, TheMystical Experiencech. II.
97. "Behitbodeduto": for this significanceof thetermseeChapter 7.
98. A clear punuponthedoublemeaningof theroot m-sh-fo: "toannoint"
and"Messiah**. It is worthremarkingthat Enoch*s transformationintoahigh
angel, oneof the"Glorious Ones", is describedas annointment withoil: seeII
Enoch, Lelivredes Secrets d'Henoch, ed. A. Vaillant (Paris, 1952) 26; 18-27; 2.
Abulafiaregardedthemystic unioninterms very closetoEnoch's translation: see
notes 52, 54above.
99. InHebrew"mal'akh" signifies alsomessenger.
AbrahamAbulafiaandUnioMystica 29
100. Cf. BT, Sanhedrin, fol. 38b.
101. TheHebrewletters of Shaddai andMetatronhavethesamenumerical
values, i.e. 314. Cf. alsotheaforecitedpassageout of Sefer Ha'Edut.
102. Ms. Rome-Angelica, 38, fol. 9b; Ms. Mttnchen, 285, fol. 12b.
103. I.e., thehumanspecies, whichis describedbeforehandas including
figuratively beasts andanimals, incomparisontothenatureof themystic.
104. IntheRomemanuscript, theversionis "'Eloah" i.e. God, andI prefer
thereadingof theMttnchenMs: "'Elohi" "divine".
105. Ifayyei Ha'OlamHaBa\ Ms. Oxford, 1582, fol. 79b. SeealsoIdel,
AbrahamAbulafiapp. 404-405. Comparealsotothesequel of thepassagequoted
abovefromthecommentary of Sefer HaMeli
106. For thelist of thosesecrets, seeIdel, AbrahamAbulafia, p. 9.
107. Cf. Maimonides' IntroductiontotheGuide(Pines' translation, pp. 6-7).
108. SeeIdel, "AbulafiaandthePope", p. 3.
109. Cf. Idel, AbrahamAbulafiapp. 185-192, 239-240.
110. Thetitles of Abulafia
^threecommentaries onthesecrets includedin
theGuidearehighly significant: a) Sefer HaGeulahtheBook of Redemption;
b) Sefer Ifayyei HaNefesh\ht Book onthe[Spiritual] lifeof theSoul; c) Sefer
Sitrei TorahtheBook ontheSecrets of theLaw. Sincethesecommentaries are
but threeversions of asinglelist of secrets, it seems that their titles are, at least
partially, synonyms: thereal redemptionis thetruelifeof thesoul whichcanbe
attainedthroughknowledgeof thesecrets of thelaw. Seeespecially Abulafia's
statement inhis introductiontoSitrei Torah: "All thesecrets [of theGuide] are
thirty-six, andwhoever will meditateupontheminorder tounderstandthemby
themeans of speculationandtocomprehendtheir real meaning, hewill beredeemed
(Levit. XXV, 31)". Ms. Paris, BN 774, fol. 117a. Here, Abulafiahints tothe
redemptiveroleof the36secrets, skillfully usingthepunupon"Ge'ulahtifriehlo"i
lo=36; Heregards thetwopurposes of theGuideas theexplanationof the
homonimies intheBibleandof theparables foundintheprophecies, whereas the
twoaims of his commentary aretheexplanationof thecauseof thelifeof the
intellectual soul andof theworshipof Godout of love; cf. Ms. Paris, BN 774,
fol. 115b.
Therefore, intheintroductiontoSitrei TorahAbulafiaovertly hints toboth
theredemptionandthespiritual lifeof thesoul, as emergingout of Maimonides'
Guide. Inhis introductiontoIfayyei HaNefesh, weread:
I will openmy mouth(tospeak) without parables or allegories inorder tosavethe
intellectual soul fromtheelements... andI shall tell her secrets.
Ms. Mttnchen, 408, fol. lb. Again, thethreemainmotifs occur together the
salvationof intellectual soul by disclosureof secrets.
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
111. SeeR. ShelomobenAbrahamIbnAdret, Response(Vienna, 1812)
fol. 71c-72ano. 548wherehecharacterizes Abulafia's books as amixtureof
philosophical discussions and"gematriaot" bothof themusedinAbulafia^exegesis
of theJewishtexts. Comparealsothedescriptionof oneof Abulafia's students to
adialoguewithhis master, "why thendoyou, Sir, composebooks inwhichthe
methods of thenatural scientists arecoupledwithinstructionintheHoly Names?"
Heanswered: "For youandthelikes of youamongthefollowers of philosophy,
toallureyour humanintellect throughnatural means, sothat perhaps this attraction
may causeyoutoarriveat theknowledgeof theHoly Name." Adducedby
Scholem, Major Trends, p. 149.
112. Meister Eckhart, DiedeutschenWerke, vol. I, ed. J. Quint (Stuttgart,
1938) p. 90. Cf. Kelley, Meister Eckhart (n. 58above) p. 26. Eckhart, like
Maimonides andAbulafia, designates Godas Intellect; heasserts, likeAbulafia,
that thehumanintellect canbeassimilatedtotheunconditional Intellect (see
Kelley, p. 204, 235). Moreover, accordingtoKelley (p. 205) "whencontemplation
is pure. . " thetermI or Selfhoodrefers totheLight of Intellect-as-such" and
comparethis viewtoour discussioninpart IV above, especially n. 87.
113. Abulafiaseems tobethefirst Kabbalist whostresses theimportanceof
solitudeas aconditionfor Kabbalistic spiritual activity; seeIdel, TheMystical
Experience, pp. 37-39.
114. AccordingtotheZohar, thehighest spiritual status: theneshamah, is
acquiredby themeans of Kabbalistic performanceof commandments. Salomon
Munk's remark that theZoharic psychology is influencedby thephilosophical
viewof conjunction, is tobetakencumgranosalis; seehis Melanges dephilosophie
juiveet arabe(NewYork, 1980) pp. 279-280.
115. SeeMosheIdel "TheImageof ManabovetheSefirot". Daat, vol. 4
(1980) pp. 41-55(Heb.).
116. Idel, TheMystical Experience, pp. 184-194, andseeabove, note38.
117. SeeChapter 7n. 66.
118. SeeR. Meir benSalomonIbnAvi Sahulah's definitionof Kabbalahas
thescienceof thetensefirot andmystical significanceof thecommandments. Cf.
Scholem, Les origines delaKabbalep. 48.
119. Altmann, "Delphic Maxim" p. 228; seealsoAltmann"IbnBajjaon
Man's UltimateFelicity" Studies inReligious PhilosophyandMysticism(Ithaca,
NewYork, 1969) pp. 73-107.
120. SeeIdel, AbrahamAbulafia, pp. 42-43n. 43; ontheinfluenceof this
book seep. 12.
121. SeeLJqqutei Shikhehahufeah(Ferrara, 1556) fol. 23r-35v.
122. fjaimWirszubski AChristianKabbalist Reads theLaw, (Jerusalem,
AbrahamAbulafiaandUnioMystica 31
1977) pp. 23, 30-31, 38(Hebrew); Comparealsohis articlereferredtoinnote18
123. SeeOratioontheDignityof Man, trans, by A. Robert Caponigri,
(Chicago, 1967) pp. 8-9, 14, especially pp. 9-10wherethetransformationof Enoch
into"theangel of divinity" i.e. "malakhHaShekhinah", is referredto. Compare
note54, 98above. Ontheinfluenceof Maimonides* concept of deathby kiss on
Pico's viewof mors osculi seeIJaimWirszubski, ThreeStudies inChristianKabbala
(Jerusalem, 1975) pp. 11-22(Hebrew); cf. Edgar Wind, PaganMysteries inthe
Renaissance(PenguinBooks, 1967) pp. 154-157.
124. SeeChapter 4below.
Chapter 2
Influencedby theCathars?
heexposureof relationshipbetweenKabbalistic ideas andideas
foundoutsideof Judaismis avaluablemeans of understandingthe
development of theKabbalah. Gnostic andneo-Platonic influences were
notedby scholars as havingbeeninstrumental informingthecharacter of
theKabbalah, yet muchwork remains inexplicatingtheserelationships.
Recent attempts havebeenmadetoprovetheinfluenceof twoaddi-
tional streams of thought fromtheMedieval periodupontheKabbalah.
Y. Baer wrotethat thereligious movement originatedby JoachimdeFiori
influencedtheauthor of theSefer Ra'ya Meheimna andthe Ttkkunei
whereas Shulamit Shafrar posits acloserelationshipbetween
theideas of theCathars andthoseof theSefer HaBahir .
that thereis acloserelationshipbetweentheCathars andoneof theworks
by R. AbrahamAbulafia.
This paper will examinetheseclaims of simi-
larity as well as thepossibleinfluenceof theCathars uponAbulafia, as
proposedby S. Shafear.
Shafear wavers betweentwodesignations regardingtheideas found
amongboththeCathars andAbulafia. Thetitleof her articlespeaks of
"sharedimages andideas." Elsewhereinthearticlesheassumes that the
ideas foundinAbulafia's work "areanalogous toclassic conceptions and
images foundinboththetheology andthepopular belief of theCathars"
(p. 351). By theendof her article, these"analogous" and"sharedimages
andideas" becomedefiniteinfluences: "It seems tomethat theseshared
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
images andideas arenot merely isolateddevelopments inthepersonal
Kabbalistic doctrineof Abulafia, rather, they arearesult of Cathars' in-
fluenceonAbulafia's spiritual atmosphereandconceptual framework
duringaparticular periodof his life" (p. 360). Wethus findaclear desig-
nationof "similarity."
I will not beconcernedherewiththepossibility of ashared"spiritual
atmosphere," betweentheCathars andAbulafia, sinceI doubt whether
suchconcerns canbear muchfruit. However, indications of direct Catharic
influenceonAbulafia's ideas andimages, if they doindeedexist (as Shafrar
claims), wouldconstituteanimportant discovery inthehistorical research
of theKabbalah. Therefore, athoroughinvestigationof theseclaims
is important.
Shafrar analyzes brief quotes fromAbulafia's commentary onthe
Sefer Yeprah. Basedontheambiguous meanings of thesequotes, she
draws aweighty conclusion: Abulafia's ideas regardingtheplaceof Satan
intheworld, andthefunctionheperforms therein, comevery closeto
what the"moderateCathars" believed. Inthecourseof her article, Shafrar
explains that, accordingtothese"moderate" Cathars, althoughSatandid
not indeedcreatetheworld, heassistedGodinthework of creationand
becamethe"mover of theworld,"
andtheonewholaiddownthelaws of
nature. Shecontinues: "This is thecase, inlikedegree, accordingto
Abulafia. For althoughtheworldwas createdby God, . . . Satanis the
mover of bodies. Therefore, theembodiment of motionis Satan. This is
tosay that hehas apart inthecreationof theworld. For Abulafiasays
that he(Satan) rules inthis world." (pp. 3S3-3S4) Beforewegointoan
analysis of theabstrusequotationuponwhichtheauthor bases her state-
ment, wewill examineAbulafia's opinions regardingthenatureof Satan
fromthosesources wherehis meaningis not obscureor opentovarying
InSefer Mafteaft HaSefirot (Abulafia's commentary tothebiblical
book of Numbers), weread: "Andthephilosophers brought proof torefute
all of thesethoughts andillusions, andsaidthat demons donot exist. Yet,
whatever receives aform, that is generatedandcorrupted, is thedemon,
andtheimaginationis Satan, thekingof all demons."
areassociatedherewithSatan: heis thematerial realmthat changes form,
andheis thepower of theimagination. Thefirst designation, whichis most
relevant toour discussion, recurs inother texts by Abulafia. InSefer '0?ar
'EdenGanuz hewrites: "Andso, this intermediary betweenus andGodis
calledSatan, andheis alsocalledJob. Heis calledSatanbecauseheis
theevil body
andhas nodurability or [real] substance. But heroams
theearthandwanders about init,
for heis therealmof thegeneratedand
corruptedmatter, i.e. thematter of thefour elements."
Was AbrahamAbulafiaInfluencedbytheCathars? 35
This conceptionof Satanis not new. For example, acontemporary
of Abulafia, R. ZerafriahbenShe'alti'el Hen, inhis commentary tothe
book of Job, explains theconcept of Satanas follows: "Themeaningof
Satanis thematerial world, i.e. thesenatural individuacomposedof both
matter andform... for thelevel of thematerial, beneaththelevel of the
formis calledSatan... andmatter denotes that whichundergoes genera-
tionandcorruptionandis constantly changing; whereas theforms of the
species donot deteriorate."
Accordingtothesewritings, Satanis adesignationfor thenatureof
matter whichis constantly changingform(i.e. Satanis thecharacteristic
of matter that comes intoexistenceandpasses away). This is aphilosophical
concept whosesourceis inthewritings of Aristotle, andis giventhename
"Satan" inthewritings of AbulafiaandZerafriahbenShe'alti'el Hen.
Giventhis background, wecannowexplainAbulafia's statement inPerush
Sefer Yetfrahthat was examinedby Shaman
AdamandEve, whoaremy father andmother, arebloodandink and
includetheseventy nations. Andfromthemyouwill knowthat all grass
is seedjust as all seedis grass, withtheformof semenwhosesecret is
Metatron, Angel of theCountenance, whois theAngel of Hosts, the
motionof theheavenly spheres withinwhichnatureimpartedthemotions
of thebelly. Andfromthemyouwill understandthat Satancauses motion
inbodies, for thebody of motionwas Satan, andthis worldwas created
by means of (theletter) He(of theTetragrammaton), as wehavealready
indicatedin(our explanationof) thesecret of theletter Yod(of theTetra-
grammaton). Weshall thereforeindicatenowthesecret of theHe, for by
YodHe, Godis theeverlastingfortress. PlaceaVav uponthefortress
"*ur," together withYodHesothat by YodHeVav Tetragrammaton
is theeverlastingfortress, (of both) this andthecomingworld. Fromthis
youwouldknowthat thecomingworldwas createdwiththeYod, and
this worldwas createdwiththeHe. Andwhenyoucombinethemyou
will findwithinthemboth, glory (Hod) andvaporous mist (Ed), which
correspondtojoy andsighing. NowtheHeandtheHeandfive(Hamishah)
takentogether arethesecret (i.e. thenumerical value) of theSatan. And
indeedherules inthis worldandhas nopart inthecomingworld."
Thepairs "AdamandEve," "my father andmother," and"bloodand
ink," all havethenumerical valueof seventy. What is impliedis that
"Adam," "my father" and"ink" represent theformativeaspect of existence,
whereas "mother," "blood," and"Eve" represent thematerial aspect of
existence. This interpretationis borneout, beyondadoubt, by Abulafia's
commentary tothesecrets of Maimonides' Guideof thePerplexedwhich
hecalledSitrei Torah. There, inthecourseof explainingformandmatter,
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
hewrites thefollowing: "But I will tell yousomethingnew, andwill curtly
explainit. Knowthat "AdamandEve" havethesamenumerical value
as "my father andmother" andtheir secret is "bloodandink."
Moreover, inthecourseof Abulafia's commentary onSefer Yeprah
wefindother examples of pairs of opposites.
Thesepairs, inmy opinion,
contrast thespiritual aspects of existence, as they aresymbolizedby Meta-
tron(Angel of theCountenance, or Angel of Hosts) whois theActive
Intellect, withthematerial aspects of existenceas they aresymbolized
by Satan, semen, andsoforth. Suchacontrast continues inthecommentary:
AccordingtoTalmudic tradition, thecomingworldwas createdby the
letter Yod. This letter, accordingtoAbulafia's Kabbalah, symbolizes
theActiveIntellect, andonewhocleaves toit acquires theworldtocome.
At times, theYodalsosymbolizes thetenseparateintelligences. Theworld
(i.e. thematerial world), was createdwiththeletter He. Thewords of
R. JosephGikatilla, whoinhis Sefer Ginnat Egoz characterizes thematerial
worldas follows: "Knowthat theaspect of theworldcomposedof complex
adulteratedforms was saidtohavebeencreatedwiththeletter He, i.e. the
fivestructures built fromtenparts. Indeed, regardingwhat thesages have
said, that theworldtocomewas createdwiththeletter Yod, howgoodly
andhowpleasant whentenparts areformedthat arepurewithout inter-
combination, adulteration; for theworldtocomeis theworldof the
intellect, of simplicity without adulteration."
Wereturntothewords of Abulafiawho, inhis commentary toSefer
indicates that Satanrules over theadulteratedworld(i.e. the
worldcomposedof formandmatter). Comingintoexistenceandpassing
out of existenceoccurs only inthis worldandnot intheworldtocomein
theworldof theintellect thereis noadulteration. Satan, whomoves the
bodies, is merely asymbol for thecontinuous movement of theforms that
modify matter. Heis not "thefallenangel" (theopinionof the"moderate"
Cathars), andnot thepartner of Godinthecreationof theworld. Heis
merely adesignation, bothinthewritings of R. AbrahamAbulafiaand
R. ZerabiahbenShe'alti'el Hen, whichis usedtodescribeanaspect of
matter, or matter itself, but hehas noindependent existence.
Wecandrawaparallel betweenAbulafiaandtheCathars only if we
fail toanalyzethewords of Abulafia. Uponanalysis of Abulafia's Perush
Sefer Yeprah, however, all similarity ceases toexist. This is alsotruewith
regardtothesectionof PerushSefer Yetfrahquotedby Shafear.
It is worthtakingnote, that thewarpandwoof (theCross) whichis
undoubtedly thecovenant of Esau, theAngel of Abomination, rules
accordingtotheTorah, at thegateof chaos. They aretwelvetens of failure,
whichare120. Heis thesecret of thegate, andthehousewithincollects
Was AbrahamAbulafiaInfluencedbytheCathars? 37
thefruit of thebodies. Heis theheadof thecomers, heis theAngel of
theElements, andbeingflesh, heteaches us thesecrets of illicit forms of
sexuality. His aspect is theelement of theflesh, front andback, andin-
cludes thevisions of fire... includingtwoangels, right andleft.
Relyingonpart of this quote, Shafrar writes that Abulafiais repulsed
by sexuality andreproduction, andsheposits arelationshipbetweenSatan
andreproduction(p. 3S6). Infact, aclosereadingof thetext does not
reveal anallusiontoSatan, nor is sexual reproductionexplicitly mentioned.
What is mentionedare"thesecrets of forbiddensexual conduct,
* andthe
meaningof these"secrets" is indicatedinAbulafia's work, IJayyei Ha'Olam
HaBa\ wherehewrites:
Thesecrets of illicit forms of sexuality, thesecrets regardingthe
creationandthesecrets of theChariot, all of themDivinesciences, are
highly exaltedtopics. Indeed, thesecrets of thecreationinvolvethe
natural sciences, thesecrets of theChariot involvethewisdomregarding
theGodhead, andbothareDivineSciences, andnoformof humanscience
cancomprehendthem[...] Indeed, thesecrets of illicit forms of sexuality
arematters of Torah, whosetruemeaningthephilosophers didnot com-
prehend. They alsodidnot call it by that name. However, thetrueTorah
that makes wholeall that is deficient, informs us of this. Andalthough
thesesecrets alsoincludethesecrets of thecreationandtheChariot, we
knowthis particular secret fromAdamandEve, whorepresent everyone
inthelikeness of formandmatter. For they aretheonset andthebegin-
ningof theentirework of creation, andso, thefirst Adamis likenedto
formandEve, his spouse, createdfromhis rib, is likenedtomatter.
Wehavejust readtheauthoritativedefinitionof "thesecrets of illicit
forms of sexuality." They refer to, insymbolic form, therelations between
matter andform. Wefindherenoproscriptionof sexual activity, nor
dowefindadefiniteconnectionbetweensex andSatan.
Inthis setting, wecanunderstandthewords of Abulafiainhis com-
mentary toSefer Yeprah"Andwhenyouattachtheserpent toAdam
andEve, youfindthat manis asatanjust as satanis aman."
words, whenweaddthepower of the(illusory) imaginationtomatter
andform, or tomatter andintelligence, thenmanbecomes transformed
intoasatan, sincethepower of illusionis foundwithinman.
theimplications of therelationshipamongAdam, Eve, theserpent, and
Satan, Abulafiawrites inIfayyei Ha'OlamHaBa':
It is writtenintheMidrash
: "as soonas womanwas createdSatanwas
createdwithher" andit is written
"Samael is theSatanwhorides onthe
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
serpent, andhebeguiles thewoman," His measureis inanimatematter
(Golem) for heis thecamel (Gamal)
whocarries aheavy load. Heentices
thepotential humanintellect beforeit becomes actualized
it fromgraspingthetruth. . . Indeedthetruly intelligent person, whois
thetruehumanbeing, will not beenticedintofollowingtheknowledge
of thewomanwhois enticedby theSerpent.
Weturnnowtothelast topic associatedwithSatan. Abulafiawrites:
"Andwithinthebloodis SatanandwithinSatanis blood."
Shafrar finds
further indicationof Catharic influenceinthis sentence(p. 3S6). However,
it seems tomethat thesentencewas borneby anideafoundinMaimonides
Guideof thePerplexedwherehesays that thepower of imaginationis
foundonly amonglivingorganisms whopossess aheart.
this ideatothebloodandtheimagination. For example, hesays,
of thebloodthat is held[!] for it is thecauseof error, andfromit theimag-
inationis createdandheatedupi.e. fromthebloodcirculation. Rather,
cleavetointelligenceandit will cleavetoyou."
As wesawearlier, "Satan" is atermdenotingtheillusory imagination.
Heretoowefindarelationbetweenthepower of theillusory imagination
that causes error
andthetraditional portrayal of Satanas theonewho
causes error. However, wemust emphasizethat wearenot dealingwith
thepopular conceptionof Satan, but of theMaimonideanconceptionas
it was portrayedby Abulafia. Accordingly, Satanis theAngel of Death,
theevil inclination, theillusory imagination.
Continuingfromthelast quotefromthecommentary of Sefer Yetfrah,
Abulafiagoes ontosay, "Youwill understandby (observing) thosewho
haveSatanintheir bellies, whoaresatisfiedby thefat wheat berry, the
wheat madefat insmoke(!); all aregrasses, whichincludeall grass. Thus
fat wheat is called"seventy* andis thegrainof theHe."
Shahar, this text is influencedby aCatharic text whichreads, "fumus
positus interrafaciebat pulchrablada." Shahar translates "fumus" as
smoke, despitethefact that as of thetwelfthcentury
fumus" alsocarried
thedefinitionof "fertilizer" (as Shahar points out innote27). Yet, inorder
tomaketheCatharic passagecoincidewithAbulafia, shechosethedeno-
tation"smoke" for "fumus", althoughit is contextually strained. Even
if weweretoaccept this translation, themeaningof thesentenceinthe
Catharic text, whichconceptually associates wheat grainwith"fumus",
is far fromthemeaninginAbulafia's text, wheretheassociationis deter-
minedby anumerological device. Inaddition, therelationbetweenthe
words of Abulafia, "Youareman, youareangel, andyouareSatan,"
andthevery general Catharic conceptionindicatedby theauthor (p. 357)
is untenable. Abulafiahimself explains, unequivocally, themeaningof
Was AbrahamAbulafiaInfluencedbytheCathars? 39
this sentence. InPerushSefer HaMeli? hewrites, "Manis obligedtobecome
angel, duetohis intelligence, Satanonaccount of his illusory imagination,
andhumanonaccount of his feelings."
Wefindherethreeways toattain
knowledge, andmanis testedby his preference.
I will nowexamineanother oneof Shafear's conclusions regarding
Abulafia's writing. Again, I will quotethesectioninits entirety, more
fully thandidShahar.
Andtherevolution(gilgul) fromgenerationtogeneration, andits
dominionwith"generationtogeneration," this is my remembrancefrom
generationtogeneration. A generationgoes andagenerationcomes. Thy
nameis eternal andthy remembranceis fromgenerationtogeneration
This havingbeensaid, wemay statethat themoonis themeasurefor
all heavenly bodies.
Accordingtotheauthor, oneought tounderstandthis sectionas a
discussionof thetransmigrationof thesoulinher words, its "metamor-
phosis." Sheadduces this fromaquotationfromEcclesiastes, "ageneration
goes andagenerationcomes," which, as far back as Sefer HaBahir, was
interpretedas referringtometempsychosis. Also, theword"gilgul" (which
canbetakentomeantransmigrationof thesoul) indicates totheauthor
that Abulafia, liketheCathars, believedinthetransmigrationof thesoul
(p. 3S8). Evenif suchananalysis weretrue, weneednot assumeCatharic
influence, sinceboththeSefer HaBahir andtheGeronaSchool of Kab-
balists believeinmetempsychosis. Therefore, this belief, if foundinAbula-
fia's writings, is not anovel one. Indeed, thereis nodoubt that Abulafia
didnot intendtheword"gilgul", inthis context, tomeanmetempsychosis.
A fewlines later weread, "Andtous it is commonknowledgefromthe
revolutions. . . . whichrevolvefrom216to216revolutions, etc."
as inthesectionquotedby Shafrar, themeaningof "gilgul" is "revolution"
or "cycle," andit is clearly associatedwiththemovement of theheavenly
bodiesinthis instance, themoon. Suchwas thetopic under discussion
inthis manuscript (ff. 11-12), whereinwefindnoreferencetothesoul. This
again, instructs us that theremoval of aquotefromits context will likely
causeadistortionof its sense.
Finally, I will address certainnotions of timeandplacementioned
inShafear's article. Thetimeof thewritingof Abulafia's PerushSefer
Yezirahy fromwhichwequoted, is not known. However, theauthor believes
that is was writtenbetween1270-1275, inSpain. For thesakeof strength-
eningthis assumption, shequotes Abulafia's autobiographical work,
'Ozar 'EdenGanuz. Thequoteadducedby Shafear speaks ingeneral, of
thewritings of Abulafia. AlthoughI havenoclear proof, it seems tome
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
that thetimeof writingof thePerushSefer Ye?irahwas approximately
1289, not 1270-75, andits placeof compositionwas Italy, not Spain. I
makethis claimbecausesevenof thetenmanuscripts fromthis work appear
intheir respectiveeditions after thework Vezot LiYihudahan epistle
sent fromSicily toBarcelonaat theendof the1280s.
If I amcorrect,
this work was not writteninaCatharic-influencedregionat all, andwe
neednot assumethat Abulafiahedgedaway fromthis work at alater date,
as Shafrar suggests (p. 359).
Tosummarize, whenthemeaningof Abulafia's text appears obscure
(whichis quitefrequently thecaseinhis writings), onemust searchthor-
oughly throughhis other writings tofindatext that clarifies theobscurity.
Inmost instances suchasearchwill result inaclear, or at least partially
clear, interpretation.
Generally, thesolutionis tobeassociatedwith
widespreadphilosophical beliefs of themedieval period, suchas therela-
tionshipbetweenmatter andform, or intellect andimagination.
Parallels betweenAbulafia's writings andconcepts outsidetheJewish
sphere, interestingthoughthey may be, cannot beadducedbeforemaking
athoroughanalysis of Abulafia's works andachievingclear understanding
of them. Nonetheless, it is most reasonabletoassumethat Abulafia's
sources for thetopics dealt withinthis paper aremorelikely tobefound
amongthephilosophies of his contemporaries rather thanamongthe
writings of theCathars.
NotestoChapter 2
1. Seeinparticular Scholem, Les Origines delaKabbale.
2. Y. Baer, "Hareka* Hahistori shel haRayaMehemna" inZion5(1940) pp. 1-44.
3. S. Shabar,
HakatarismVeReshit HaKabbalahBeLanguedoc** Tarbiz 40
(1971) pp. 483-508.
4. S. Shafrar, "Ecrits Cathares et Commentaired'AbrahamAbulafiasur
'LeLivredelaCreation,' Images et Idtes Communes'* Cahiers deFanjeaux12
(1977) (Juifs et JudaismedeLanguedoc) pp. 345-361. [All parenthetical pagecita-
tions refer tothelast articlementionedhere.]
5. Intheauthor*s words:
lemoteur decemonde.** Shehowever does not
bringany parallel for this expressionfromany Catharic sources.
6. MS. Milano-Ambrosiana53fol. 180a.
7. InHebrew, "guf ra*" =359="Satan** (numerically). This numerological
equationrecurs inAbulafia^Sefer Ifayyei Ha'OlamHaBa\ andits sourceis, as
Scholempointedout, fromR. BarukhTogarmi, commentary onSefer Ye?irah.
Was AbrahamAbulafiaInfluencedbytheCathars? 41
This Rabbi was Abulafia's teacher (seeScholemMS. p. 28.) TheseareTogarmi's
words: "Thesecret meaningof Satanis
guf ra
(evil body), the"gush
afar" the
clodof dust. Thus onemay say dust (theelement of earth) is Satan." (Scholem,
AbrahamAbulafia, p. 233.
8. Job1:7"Earth" inthis verseis interpretedas "matter" andSatanwho
"wanders" is seenas the"illusory imagination" associatedwithmatter.
9. MS. Oxford, 1580, fol. 134a.
10. Uqvat EnoshCommentaries onJob, ed. Y. Schwartz (Berlin, 1868)
p. 181 SeealsoR. Ya'akov Anatoli, another author wholivedinItaly before
AbulafiaandZerabiah: "AndthenameSatanrefers but tonaturethat tends
towards matter" (Sefer MalmadHaTalmidim[Lyck, 1866] f. 184a). Seealso
Nafrmanides' Kitvei Haramban, ed. Chavel (Jerusalem, 1963) vol. I, p. 24: "The
sages of Israel associatedall of thosenames (theangel of death, theevil inclination)
tohim(Satan) for they believedthat heis indeedanangel, not anatural phenomenon
or oneof thepowers." Nafemanides attacks heretheideas of theMaimonideans
regardingSatan, andtakes for himself adifferent approach.
11. MS. Paris, BN. 768fol. 11a.
12. MS. Paris, BN. 774fol. 166a.
13. "Shekol
esev zera
" (all grass is seed) ="shekol zera
4 4
esev" (all seedis
grass) ="shikhvat zera
" (semen) ="Bitenu'at Hagalgal" (inthemotionof the
heavenly sphere) ="Tenu
at habeten" (themotions of thebelly) ="hasatanyaniya
hagufot" (Satanwill set bodies inmotion) =999. By contrast, "Metatronsar
hapanim" (Metatron, Angel of theCountenance) ="sar ?eva'ot" (Angel of the
Hosts) =999.
14. PublishedinHanau1615fol. 56b.
15. "He" +"He" +"bamishah" i.e., 6+6+353=365, whereas "hasatan" =364.
However, accordingtotheexegetical principles of numerology onedigit makes no
16. MS. Paris BN. 768fol. 10a: "Sheti va
erev" (warpandwoof) ="Berit
(covenant of Esau) ="Sar hato
evah" (angel of abomination) - "Besha
ar hatohu"
(at thegateof chaos) ="Yod-bet 'asarot** (twelvetens) =
ar uvayit" (gateand
house) ="kibbu? peri hagufot" (collectionof thefruit of thebodies) ="roshpe'ot"
(headof thecorners) ="sar hayesodot" (Angel of theElements) ="shebe
(withinillicit sexual relations) - "yesodhabasar, panimveafcor" (theelement of
theflesh, front andback) ="mar'ot ha'esh" (theimages of fire="shnei mala'khim,
yaminusemol" (twoangels, right andleft) =988. Expressions like"twoangels"
or "front andback" refer topolarities existinginhumannaturederivingfromthe
polarity of matter andform.
17. MS. Oxford1582fol. 5b-6a. MoreonAbulafia's viewontheconcept of
Arayot andits MaimonideanbackgroundseeM. Idel "Sitrei
Arayot inMaimonides'
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
Thought" ineds. S. Pines-Y. Yovel Maimonides andPhilosophy(Dordrecht, Boston,
Lancaster 1986) pp. 79-91.
18. Indeed, elsewhereinSefer Ifayyei Ha'OlamHaBa' weread: "Andthe
secrets of illicit forms of sexuality refer totheseductionof Eveby theserpent. For
heis theadulterer andit was hewhoplacedthecontaminationwithinher" (MS.
Oxford1582fol. 6b). However, as wereadinwhat follows weseethat Abulafiais
not referringtosexual relations but totherelationof imaginationandmatter (i.e.,
potential intelligencetoform(i.e. activatedintelligence).
19. MS. Paris BN. 768fol. 11a. Shafrar translates: "Quandtuchangeras [sic]
serpent avec Adam" (pp. 352, 354). Nodoubt thetruemeaningis otherwise: when
youadd("tishtatef" attach) "serpent" ('nafyash') to"'AdamHava" [i.e., numero-
logically"nafcash" =358+"'AdamHava" [=64] =422] they equal [thenumerical
valueof] theexpressions "ha' AdamSatan'efyad" (manis aSatan) as well as
'hasatan'Adam'efyad' [Satanis aman] [=422]
20. For the"Catharic" interpretationof this passage, seeShafrar p. 354.
21. Genesis Rabba17, Theodor-Albeck edition(Jerusalem1965) p. 157.
22. Pirkei deR. Eliezer chapter 13, alsoMaimonides' Guideof thePerplexed
II, 30.
23. InboththeMidrashandMaimonides' Guide, thetext reads "kesh'iur
gamal" (likethemeasureof acamel). Abulafiaengages inaplay onwords"gamal"
(camel) ="gelem" or "golem" (inanimatematter), bothwords beingcomposedof
thesameletters. This, inorder toindicatethat Satanwhorides ontheserpent is
thepower of imaginationthat rides on(theass'hamor' i.e. matter). This is based
onthephilosophical notionthat theillusory imaginationis containedinthepower
of matter (also,
bamor'ass, contains thesameletters as 'bomer'matter). See
Maimonides' Guide11, 36. Regardingtheword-play "gamal""gelem" or "golem"
seeAbulafiaSefer 'Ozar'EdenGanuz MS. Oxford1580fol. 128bandalsoM. Idel,
"Types of RedemptiveActivities intheMiddle-Ages" ined. Z. Baras, Messianism
andEschatologyACollectionof Essays (Heb.) (Jerusalem1983) pp. 255, 260
andthenotes there.
24. This refers toEvewhosymbolizes matter as well as thepotential intellect
that was definedintheGuideas afaculty inherent inthehumanbody andinseparable
fromit; seeI, 72. By contrast, Adamsymbolizes form, or intellect inactu, upon
whichtheillusory imaginationholds nosway.
25. MS. Oxford1582fol. 6b-7a, correlatedandcorrectedby MS. Paris BN. 777
fol. 107a-107b. It is reasonabletoassumethat Abulafia, unlikeother commentators
onMaimonides' Guide* II, 30, does not clearly distinguishbetweenSatanandthe
26. MS. Paris BN. 768fol. Ua"Ve-hadambohasatan" (withinthebloodis
Satan) ="ve-hasatanbohadam" (andSatan, withinhimis theblood) =422.
27. Maimonides* Guide, I, 73, introductory note.
Was AbrahamAbulafiaInfluencedbytheCathars? 43
28. MS. NewYork, JTS 1801fol. 10a. Thetext of this uniqueMS. is faulty.
Wemay assumearelationshipbetweentheword'dam* (blood) andtheword
'dimayon* (imagination, illusion) evenbeforeAbulafla*s positedassociationbe-
tweenthem. Numerologically, 'hadimiyon' (theillusory imagination) =
hadam* (circulationof theblood) =115.
29. Sefer Ifayyei Ha'OlamHaBe' MS. Oxford1582fol. 4a. Thereweread:
... theimaginationwhichcauses thehumanintellect toerr.**
30. Maimonides* GuideII, 12; Abulafia, Sitrei Torah, MS. Paris BN. 744
fol. 171b. Inhis Sefer Ifayyei Ha'OlamHaBa' regardingSatan, weread: "Donot
removeyour thought fromGodfor any reasonintheworld, andevenif adogor a
cat or amousejumps infront of you, or somethingelsethat wasn't withyouinthe
house, they areall acts of Satan. For heroams themindandgives birthtothings
that havenoexistenceat all, andheis appointedonall.** [Publishedby Scholem
MSSp. 29]. Thedescriptionof Satanas onewhoroams themindis inmy opinion
associatedwiththeblood, andthecharacterizationof Satanas appointedonall
things that havenoreal existencecorresponds tothenatureof theillusory imag-
inationas depictedinMaimonides* writings. Regardingthis, seeZ. Harvey,
HaRambanve-Spinozaal Yedi'at Tov Vera
* inIyyun28(1978) p. 178note76.
Weought toemphasizethat the"acts of Satan** i.e., theappearanceof thevarious
animals arenothingbut figments of theimaginationthat occasionally embody
frighteningforms. Inthecircleof Abulafia's students thedemonic element of the
illusory imaginationbecomes moreemphasized. However, this emphasis is aresult
of Sufi influence. Seebelowch. 5.
31. MS. Paris BN. 768fol. 11a. This entiresectionis basedonthenumero-
logical equations mentionedinnote19: "Satanbabeten** (Sataninthebelly) =
"masbia'** (satisfies) ="bitahshemenah** (fat wheat) ="be'ashan** (insmoke) =
asavim** (grasses) ="kol
esev" ="shiv'inT (seventy) ="gargir heh** (thegrainof
theletter He) =422. Despitemy searchinthewritings of R. AbrahamAbulafia, 1
haveyet tofindareasonableexplanationfor theterm"fcitahshemenah** (fat wheat);
however it is reasonabletoassumethat it is anallegorical designationfor matter.
32. MS. Paris BN. 768fol. 16a.
33. MS. Rome-Angelica38fol lib; comparewith
O?ar 'EdenGanuz "The
partnership[shittuf] betweenintellect andimaginationis likethepartnershipbe-
tweentheangel andSatan.** [MS. Oxford1580fol. 55b].
34. MS. Paris BN. 768fol. 12a.
35. MS. Paris BN. 768fol. lib.
36. Incidentally, Sefer '0?ar 'EdenGanuz is not anautobiography of Abulafia,
as Shabar supposes (pp. 358-359), but a200foliowork of whichonly onefolio
engages inautobiographical details.
37. SeeIdel, AbrahamAbulafiapp. 25-26andnote170.
38. I foundnodivergencebetweentheconcepts foundinAbulafia's Perush
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
Sefer Ye?irahandhis other writings. Quitethecontrary. His other works aidin
understandingthis work, as wehaveseenabove. This contrasts withShafoar's
claimthat "portions of PerushSefer Ye?irahconstituteadivergencenot only from
traditional Jewishdoctrines, but alsofromAbulafia's other works" (p. 359).
Chapter 3
uringtheMiddleAges, Jews andCristians arguedthequestionof
thetruefaithindialogue, polemics, andpublic religious debates.
Themost pressingandacutechallengetoJudaismwas thequestionof the
identity of theMessiahwhomtheChristians claimedhadalready come
inthepersonof Jesus of Nazareth. Themost commonanswer among
Jewsalthoughthemost dangerous, was absoluterejectionof Jesus as
theMessiah. This positionhadvarious literary expressions of greater and
lesser subtlety. A literary parody foundinSefer Toldot Yeshu,
Jesus as amagician. Infacetofacedebates, however, theJews didnot
daremock Jesus, andlimitedtheir rebuttal toarefutationof theChristo-
logical interpretationof Scripture. Thesedebates wereforceduponthe
Jews whohadnointerest inanopenconfrontationwiththedominant
religion. R. AbrahamAbulafiatook auniquepositiononthequestionof
Jesus andattemptedtoconduct adialoguewithChristians as well. In
elaborationof this, I will first discuss theepisodeof Abulafia's visit to
As early as theageof twenty, Abulafialeft Spain, because"thespirit
of Godawokemeandmovedme, andI left thereandby sea, andondry
landcamestraight away tothelandof Israel. It was my intentiontogoto
theSambation river.''
This occurredintheyear 1260. About tenyears
later, Godappearedtohimandcommandedhimtogoandspeak withthe
Pope. This revelationtook placeintheyear 1270. His attempt togainan
Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
audiencewiththePopeoccurredontheeveof RoshHashanaintheyear
1280. Abulafiaset thedateof theEnd(thetimeof redemption) for the
year 1290, andit seems that for Abulafia, thesemessianic events occurred
every decade.
Nowlet us consider thecircumstances of Abulafia's missiontothe
Pope. Closereadingof apassageinSefer Ha'EduOindicates that thedate
of themeetingwiththePopewas possibly determinedby arevelationthat
AbulafiahadinBarcelonaintheyear 1270(theyear "El"of God). The
ninthyear, followingthat revelation, wouldbetheyear 1280approximately.
Inour opinion, thephrase, "as Hecommanded" at theendof thepassage,
may beunderstoodtoalludenot only tothedeed, but alsotothetimeof
its execution. If this interpretationis correct, it is useful tocomparethis
passagetoasectionof theZohar,
writteninthe1280s, whichdescribes
thecomingof theMessiah, andthedeathof theruler inRome.
I shall seehim, but not now[Num. 24:17]. Someof thesethings were
fulfilledat that time, somelater, whilesomeareleft for theMessiah We
havelearnedthat Godwill oneday buildJerusalem, anddisplay acertain
star flashingwith.. .
andit will shineandflashfor seventy days. It will
appear onthesixthday of theweek, onthetwenty-fifthof thesixthmonth,
andwill disappear ontheseventhday after seventy days. Onthefirst day
it will beseeninthecity of Rome, andonthat day, threelofty walk of
that city shall fall, andamighty placeshall beoverthrown, andtheruler
of that city shall die Inthat timemighty wars will ariseinall quarters
of theworld.
AaronJellinek madeacomputation, andfoundthat PopeNicholas III
diedonthetwenty-secondof August 1280, whichwas thetwenty-fifthof
Elul 5040. It follows that thestatement of theZohar about thetwenty-fifth
day of thesixthmonth(that is, Elul)theday onwhichtheruler of Rome
woulddieconforms totheday of thedeathof Nicholas III!
Abulafia's report of his missionparallels theabovedescriptioninthe
Zohar Heattests that hewent tothePope"ontheeveof RoshHashana"
that is, onthetwenty-ninthof Elul.
Bearinginmindthat bothsources
concernevents of messianic importance, onecanassumethat bothsources,
theZohar andAbulafia, treat oneandthesameevent: thedeathof Pope
Nicholas III. It is difficult todeterminewhether theZohar reflects apar-
ticular event, Abulafia's missiontothePope. It is morethanreasonable
toassumethat aJudeo-Spanishtraditionabout thedateof theappearance
of theMessiahonRoshHashanaeve, intheyear 1280, was thesourceof
Abulafia's revelation, beingknowntoRabbi Moses deLeonas well. In
his description, however, theauthor of theZohar attributedtheevent to
AbrahamAbulafiaontheJewishMessiahandJesus 47
Nowlet us returntothestory of Abulafia's attempt togainapapal
audience. Abulafiawent toSorianonear Rome, despitetheextremeper-
sonal danger involvedinhis attempts towinapapal interview. Heknew
that thePopehadorderedthat "they shouldtakehimoutsidethecity,
andburnhiminthefire, and(for that) thewoodwas placedbehindthe
inner gateof thecity." InSefer Ha'Edut, Abulafiaemphasizedhis willing-
ness toendanger himself. Thebook was written"as atestimony between
himself andGodthat hewas ready tosuffer martyrdomfor thesakeof the
loveof His commandment."
AbulafiainterpretedthePope's death* tobe
"atestimony of divineprovidencethat Hesavedhimfromhis enemy."
InSefer Ha'Ot
AbulafiaattributedthePope's deathtotheactual power
of theDivineName. "His adversary died, unrepentant, inRomeby the
power of theNameof theLivingandEternal God." Onthesamepage
Abulafiastates, "His Namefashionedmy tongueintoaspear withwhich
I killedthemthat deny Him, andI killedhis enemies by arighteous judge-
ment." This stands alongsideAbulafia's report inSefer Ha'Edut
"thePopediedsuddenly ... becauseof aplague." This event undoubtedly
Inseveral books, wereadof
Abulafia's vigorous propagandafor his views. InSefer Ha'Ot
"Andintothehandof Zakhariah, Godgavethegift of graceandaportion
of mercy. Sohewent about thelands of theGentiles whereIsrael aredis-
persedandbegantospeak andconcludedas hebegan, for heproclaimed
theNameof God, theLordof theworld, fromits beginningtoend, and
didnot waiver totheleft or theright.
Only afewof thesages of Israel werewillingtolistentohimspeak the
Wisdomof God, andtheexalteddegrees of its ways... andtherearosethose
whodeniedthesupremewisdom, thosewhoweresmittenwiththestroke
of death, andthey spokegrandly against theLordandHis annointed, and
against all thosewhojoinedhim." InSefer HaYashar, Abulafiawrites,
"AndRaziel saidthat inmany places hecalledout tothepeopleandabjured
theholy peopletosanctify theNameandtolearnit properly."
introductory poemtoSefer (fayyei Ha'OlamHaBa'vtc read, "Youshall
reviveagreat multitudewiththeNameYahandyouwill skiplikealion
inevery city andfield."
WhenAbulafiarealizedthat theJews hadturneda
deaf ear tohis word, hetriedhis luck at influencingtheChristians. Sohe
writes inSefer Ha'Ot, "AndGodcommandedthat hespeak totheGentiles
of uncircumcisedheart andflesh, andhedidso. Hespoketothem, and
they believedinthemessageof God. However, they didnot returntoGod,
becausethey trustedintheir swords andbows, andGodhardenedtheir
impure, uncircumcisedhearts."
Abulafia's attempts tomeet withChristians andtoexpoundhis re-
ligious conceptions didnot leadtoasofteningof his criticismof that
64Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
religion. Anoutstandingexampleof his uncompromisingattitudeto
Christianity, andincertainmeasurealsotoJudaism, as understoodby
his Jewishcontemporaries, is tobefoundinhis versionof thefamous
taleof thethreerings. Abulafiawas oneof thefirst writers inEuropeto
employ it.
His versionof this parablehas beenprintedseveral times,
but only partially ineachcase. This discussionwill bewell servedby quoting
thecompleteversionof thetaleas it appears inAbulafia:
It is well knownamongthenations for sometimethat our peoplewere
thefirst toreceivetheTorahfromGod. Nonationdenies this, andwhat
is acknowledgedpublicly by all does not needfurther proof. If so, that
whichoriginates intheSourceof all is superior toits counterparts. Its
languageis superior toall languages. That Hespoketoall that Hesaid
tothis peopleintheir particular languageandthat Hecommandedthat
all bewrittenintheir alphabet bear witness tothis. Furthermore, what
Hewroteonthetwotablets of stonewas writtenintheholy language
[Hebrew] whichpersists until this day as alivingtradition. This remains
truewhether Scriptureis tobeunderstoodbothliterally andesoterically
or inonly oneof thesetwoways. If onewill say, "It is true, but Hesays
that that nationwas unworthy of that highdegree, andHeexchanged
themfor another nationandchangedtheir laws andcommandments, and
diminishedtheir scripture.** Behold! Onewhosays this must admit of
necessity totheexalteddegreeof that scripture, andtotheexalteddegree
of its language, andalphabet. After heconcededtheprincipal matter,
hecametoquestionits value, becausehesawthat it was lackingthethree
virtues mentionedbefore. Wealsowill not contest thematter of that
scripture's sensibledeficiency, for if weweretodeny thesensible, we
wouldhavetodeny theintelligible. This is becausethesensibleprecedes
theintelligibleinnature, althoughtheintelligibleprecedes thesensiblein
degree[. . . .] However, wealsowill acknowledgethetruth. Today, the
[Hebrew] Scripturelacks thosethreevirtues, but this is not becauseit has
beenexchangedfor another. Rather, thematter resembles that of aman
whohadabeautiful pearl whichhewantedtogiveas aninheritancetohis
son. Whilehewas instructinghis soninthematter of wealth, sothat the
sonwouldrecognizethevirtueof thepearl, andwouldvalueit inthe
sameway, thesoncametoanger his father. What didthefather do? He
didnot want togivethepearl toanother man, for if thesonwouldrepent
andpleasehis father, hewouldlosehis inheritance. Rather, thefather
cast thepearl intoapit, for hesaid, "If my sondoes not repent, 1donot
want himtoloseit. Whilehedoes not repent, thepearl will remainhidden
inthepit. Whenherepents, I will immediately takeit fromthere, and
giveit tohim." All thewhilethat thesondidnot repent, theservants of
his father usedtocometohimandtroublehim. Everyonewouldboast
that his lordhadgivenhimthepearl, but thesondidnot pay attentionto
them, becausehehadnointelligence. After awhile, they soaggrievedhim
AbrahamAbulafiaontheJewishMessiahandJesus 49
that herepented, andhis father forgavehimandbrought thepearl out
of thepit andgaveit tohim. Theservants hadtoexert themselves and
offer many words of apology. This has happenedtous inthematter of
thosewhosay that Godhas takentheminexchangefor us, for all the
whilethat wedonot makepeacewithGod, as wehavesinned. Wehave
nomouthtoanswer them. However, whenwewill repent, andHewill
returnour captivity, thosewhoshameus nowwill beashamedbeforeus
whenthey seethat Godhas returnedour captivity. They will seethat
their thought andimagewerefigments of theimagination, andthat we
havebeenafflictedfor our sins, but all havebeenabsolved. As of today,
wehavenot attainedthat exalteddegreetowhichweexpect to riseat any
time. For this reason, thedisputationcontinues about whois belovedof
Godandwhohas thetruth, weor our enemies. This will persist until that
Judgewill comeandtakethepearl out of thepit andgiveit toHis chosen,
tous or tothem
Thentheabsolutetruthwill becomeperfectly clear,
andtheprecious treasurewill becomeradiant andreturntoits rightful
owners, thoseworthy toinherit it, thosewhoarecalled"sons of God."
Jealousy andstrife, disputationandhatred, will cease, andmereimagina-
tions will beremovedfromtheminds of men. Then, eachandevery man
will consider his fellowmantobelikehimself, just as mancanseeevery
oneof his limbs, andthat every limbis himself, every part of every limb
altogether is himself. Thenmany will goabout andknowledgewill increase;
nolonger will anyoneinstruct his fellowmanandsay, "KnowGod," for
all shall knowtheNamefromthegreatest tothesmallest, for theearthwill
befilledwiththeknowledgeof Godas thewater that covers theocean.
Sincethematter is so, all agreethat for all timethechosenlanguageis
theholy tongue[Hebrew].
Closestudy of this passageindicates that Abulafiamadeuniqueuse
of this tale. Certainnarrativeelements that appear inmost of theother
versions arenot tobefoundinhis rendering. First, inmost versions the
story speaks of threeidentical rings, of whichoneis theoriginal andthe
others arecopies. Their identical appearancemakes it impossibletodis-
tinguishbetweenthem. This, of course, resembles theconditionof religion
intheMiddleAges, whenit was impossibletoknowwhichoneof thethree
monotheistic religions was true. Thetales of thethreerings was composed
inanagnostic andtolerant spirit. All threereligions appear outwardly to
haveequal value, andnostandardof measurement exists inthepresent to
gaugetheir veracity. Inoppositiontothis, Abulafiaclaims that thereis
only onepearl
andthat the-servants merely pretendtohavethepearl in
their possession. This variationalters the"liberal" spirit of theoriginal
story. Abulafiaimplies that Christianity andIslamarenot evencopies of
Judaism. They areavainpretense, havingnotheological basis at all.
Second, ingeneral literary tradition, thestory speaks of threesons who
50 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
areequal intheir father's system. Other rings weremadesoas toprevent
arguments. InAbulafia's version, thereis only oneson, andtheservants
arehis rivals.
Fromtheoutset, Abulafiadenies thepossibility of anequal
contest betweenthereligions. Third, Abulafia's most interestinginnovation
inthestory that noneof thecontestants has thepearl inhand, thepearl
beinghiddenaway all thetime, is that threereligions exist. Inhis view,
evenJudaismdoes not possess religious truthinits entirety.
theJews arebest endowedtoattainthis truth, becausethey are"thesons
of God"andnot servants. Whenreligious belief is cleansedof illusory
opinions, Judaismwill betheuniversal religion. This process will reach
its conclusionwiththearrival of theMessianic Age, whenknowledgeof
thetrueGodwill break downthebarriers betweenthereligions.
Inanother context, Abulafiadiscusses theroleof theMessiahwho
will effect thenegationof thedistinctionbetweenthereligions andarecog-
nitionof thetrueGod. InSefer MafteahHaShemot,
hesays of thethree
religions: "Inthefuture... all threereligions will knowthesupremeName
as it is said, Tor thenI will turntothepeopleapurelanguagethat they
may all call upontheNameof theLord.' [efaniah3:9]. Thegreat wisdom
of theredeemer shall bethecauseof this knowledge. Of himit was said
[Isaiah52:13] 'Beholdmy servant shall deal prudently [beintelligent], he
shall beexaltedandexcellent, andshall bevery high.'
Inthekabbalah[tradition], it is said, 'Heshall bemoreexaltedthan
Moses, andmoreextolledthanAbraham; andhigher thantheministering
angels; greater thanany man.' " Thestatement, quotedhereinthename
of "kabbalah", canbefoundinseveral midrashim.
However, it is amore
likely assumptionthat Abulafiadrewthegeneral ideafromapassage,
attributedtoNabmanides, whichhas beenpreservedinseveral manuscripts.
Accordingtothat source, theMessiahis superior toAbraham, Moses, and
theministeringangels, because"noneof themapproachedthetrueknow-
ledgeof Godas closely as theMessiah... thereforeIsaiahsaidthat hewill
beof superior intelligence, for hewill havegreat knowledgeof theHoly
BlessedOneandwill haveanexaltedandexcellent knowledgeof His Name,
blessedis He, morethanall that was createdbeforehim."
refers toanother virtueof theMessiah: "Furthermore, hewill convert
many nations toJudaism." It shouldbenotedthat this discussionof the
Messiahby Nabmanides is atheoretical one. Abulafia, however, un-
doubtedly hadhis ownmessianic activity inmind. This is evident in
Abulafia's diversionfromthetypology whichMaimonides determined
as criteriafor recognitionof thetrueMessiah"TheMessiahwill not be
wiser thanMoses, but will only besimilar toMoses." [Code: Laws of
DidAbulafiaconsider himself tobewiser thanMoses?
InAbulafia's story of thepearl, heclaims that thesonis not yet inpossession
AbrahamAbulafiaontheJewishMessiahandJesus 51
of thepearl, but that oneday thesonwill receiveit. Accordingtothe
allegory, Abulafiasawhimself makinggreat innovations inreligionwhich
wouldleadtotheperfectionof all mankind.
Abulafia's positiononthequestionof Jesus versus theJewishMessiah
clearly reveals his attitudetowardChristianity. InSefer MafteahHa-
Similarly, theseal of thesixthday of theweek is that
of Jesus of Nazareth. However, theseal of theseventhday of theweek,
whichis half of theTetragrammatonis [that of]... theKingMessiah." In
thebook, Ifayyei Ha'OlamHaBa\ writtenseveral years beforeSefer
MafteahHaShemot, this ideaappears inaslightly different form:
However, theNameYah[ YudHeh\ whichis foundinmany verses of
theHagiographa, andinafewplaces intheProphets, andleast of all in
theTorah, is part of theentireproper Nameof God. It is half of this Name,
andit is at thebeginningof theName, andit is at its end. Nowalthough
half of theNameis as thewholeName, seethat this half of theNamesig-
nifies themystery of theKingMessiahwhichis theseventhday, andrules
over thebody of theSatanwhosenameis Tammuz, as theverse,
womenweepingfor Tammuz** [Ezekiel 8:14]. This was oneformof
idolatry, worshippedby thewomenof ancient times. Themystery of
theseasonof themonthof Tebet, knowntothekabbalists, explains the
matter of onehalf of theName; themystery of theseasonof themonth
of Tammuz explains thesecret of theother half of theName. Thev/hole
Nameis indicativeof theperfectionof theseasonof themonthof Nissan,
andhalf of thewholeNameis indicativeof theseasonof themonthof
Tishrei. This is thesecret of Aries andLibra. Oneis Tebet, andtheother
is Tammuz.
Thetwopassages contradict oneanother, for, inboth, theMessiah
is associatedwiththeseventhday. Abulafia's connectionof thetwois
baseduponagematriahthat bothwords haveanumerical valueof 453.
Thesecondquotationstates that theHewbrewwords for thebody of Satan
andTammuz, alsohaveanumerical valueof 453, thesameas that of the
word"Messiah". However, therelationbetweentheMessiahandthebody
of Satanis oneof ruler andsubject, which, inAbulafia's opinion, expresses
therelationbetweentheJewishMessiahandJesus. InSefer Mafteah
HaShemot, Abulafiadescribes theseals of thesixthandseventhdays of
theweek, whichcorrespondtoJesus andtheMessiah. Welearnabout the
natureof theseseals inacompositionby oneof Abulafia's students, Sefer
Hakdamah"Know that thesixthday has thenumerical valueHenri&
threehundredforty-five, andis theactiveforcewithinthehalf of theDivine
Name, Yah. However, theseventhday is signifiedby thehalf of theName,
Vav-Heh, andis thesecret of theKingMessiahwhowill comespeedily in
52 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
our days. All his activity will befoundedupontheletters vav-hehandalso
upontheletters yud-hehwhicharethemystery of thesixthday. Inthe
Messiah's days, theNamewill bewhole, andhe[theMessiah] will complete
all thework of creation, as theversesays, "Vayekhulu ha-shamayimand
theheavens werecompleted..." (Genesis 2:1). This quotationclearly states
that theseal of thesixthday is theabbreviationYud-Heh. Theseal of the
seventhday, however, is Vav-Heh, anabbreviationof thesentenceabove,
Nowlet us returntothepassageinSefer ffayyei Ha'OlamHaBa'.
Thereferencetotwohalves of thedivinenameis tobeunderstoodtomean
Yud-HehandVav-Heh. Further proof that this was thewriter's intention
canbefoundinthementionof thepairedmonths, NissanandTishrei, Aries
andLibra. Inseveral places inhis writings, Abulafiamentions that the
"squaring" of theletters yud-hehis equivalent to121andrepresents the
constellationof Aries.
As inthepassagefromSefer ffayyei Ha'Olam
HaBa\ ananalogy is madebetweentheKingMessiahandtheletters vav-
Therefore, onemay assumethat theletters yud-hehcorrespondto
thebody of Satanor Tammuz, andinconsequencetoJesus of Nazareth.
It is possiblethat AbulafiaassociatedthecrucifixionwithMaimonides'
remark intheGuideof thePerplexed(111:29), about the"strangedeath"
of Tammuz. Thedescriptionof therelationshipbetweentheMessiahand
Jesus as that of aruler andslaveis supportedby remarks inSefer Mafteafr
"TheGreek Christians call himMessiah. That is tosay lord,
(adonei) that man, anallusiontotheverse, "Theman, thelord(adonei)
of theland, spokeroughly tous" [Genesis 42:30]. This means that he[the
JewishMessiah] shall standupagainst him[Jesus]. Hewill informeveryone
that what Jesus saidtotheChristians, that heis God, andthesonof God,
is completely false, for hedidnot receivepower fromtheUnifiedName.
Rather, all his power depends uponanimage, hungupontheTreeof Know-
ledgeof goodandevil, whilethematter of theMessiahrelies upontheTree
of Life. It is thepillar whichupholds all. Jesus, however, was hungbodily
becauseherelieduponamaterial tree, whileaspiritual matter, whichis
divineintellect, gavetheMessiaheighteenyears of lifeandof these, two
years remain."
Themeaningof thesectionis cleanAbulafia, whohadbeentheMessiah
depends upontheTreeof Life, thedivineintellect,
or theActiveIntellect. Jesus reliedupontheTreeof Knowledgeof Good
andinventedanimaginary religion
whichspeaks about matters
of convention, goodandevil. Thesuperiority of AbulafiatoJesus resembles
that of theintellect totheimaginationor thebody. Again, wereadinSefer
"Theerror of theChristians inour timeconcerns
Jesus, sonof Pantera; thehiddenmatter of Jesus is that hewas abastard,
AbrahamAbulafiaontheJewishMessiahandJesus 53
conceivedduringhis mother's menstrual impurity. That bloodis the
mystery of primordial matter of whichall createdthings aremadeand
whereby they bear acommonname." Themeaningof this seems tobethat
Abulafiaconsideredmenstrual bloodtobematter whichcantakeonall
again, Jesus is representativeof matter incontrast withthespiritu-
ality of theJewishMessiah. It seems tous that asimilar polarity is tobe
foundinanother of Abulafia's works,
"themessiah, sonof Joseph, was
borninthephysical realm, but themessiah, sonof David, was borninthe
metaphysical realm." It canbeassumedthat AbulafiaidentifiedtheMessiah,
sonof Joseph, whowas bornnaturally withthebody, andtheMessiah, son
of David, withthemetaphysical intellect. Inhis book, Ifayyei Ha'Olam
Abulafiaexpresses this by means of gematriahequations of terms
whoseHebrewletters haveanequivalent numerical value, for example,
"David, Messiah, sonof Jesse"; by themethodof permutation, onerealizes
thesecret teaching, "Davidsonof Jesseis themessiah," andalso"The
messiah, sonof David, is alad" (na'ar). Thelatter is anallusiontothewell-
knownidentificationof theHebrewwordna'ara. lad, withtheangel
Metatronwhorepresents theActiveIntellect. It is possiblethat Abulafia
consideredthedeathof thebody, parallel tothedeathof theMessiah, the
sonof Josephtobeapreconditionfor theappearanceof theMessiah, and
thesonof David, whorepresents theintellect. If wegoonestepfurther,
wecanassumethat Abulafiaalsohadinmindthedeathof Jesus, whose
father was namedJoseph. Inas early asourceas TractateSukkahf a
parallel is drawnbetweenthedeathof theMessiah, sonof Joseph, andthe
deathof theEvil Inclination. It is possiblethat Abulafia's statement con-
tains anallusiontothis Talmudic source. Thereis aparallel discussionof
goodandevil interms of thedichotomy of body andsoul inAbulafia's
Sefer HaMeli?.
There, Abulafia's remarks concernArmilus,
dary adversary of theMessiah: "However, thesages saidthat theentire
nationof KingArmilus shall fall beforeyou. SodidGodassureus that He
wouldsavehimfromhis enemy. Armilus is thefirst kingandis thirteen
years his senior, for whenArmilus begins tofall, heshall always fall.
Thesages notedthat thenameArmilus signifies Satan, andis thename
of theEvil Inclinationwhichis theangel of death." Thesectiondescribes
thevictory of theMessiahover Armilus. However, Armilus, thesonof
becomes Satanhimself. Thewar betweenArmilus andtheMessiah
becomes awar betweenthebody andthesoul. Inthecontinuationof the
abovequotation, Abulafiawrites, "andit is anallegory concerningthe
powers whichat times areweakened, andtheintellect. Inany case, one
must strengthenthepowers of theintellect andremoveanyonewhoinany
way prevents theattainment of intellectual apprehension."
Inthis connectionit is proper tomentionAbulafia's viewthat Jesus
54 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
is "analiengod." InSefer Sitrei Torah, hewrites about Jesus, "That man
foundedanewreligion, as evidencedby theremainder of thenationwhich
is calleduntil this very day by thenameattributedtohimby his andtheir
consent. They arecalledChristians, annointedones, becausehenamed
himself theannointedone, theMessiah. TheTorah, however, calledhim
'analiengod.' Understandthis well, for it is agreat secret."
hereis that thenumerical valueof thewordYeshu(Jesus) has thesame
numerical valueof 316as theHebrewwords for an"aliengod" (elohei
nekhar). This is anexplicit polemic against theChristianbelief that Jesus
is God. For Abulafia, Jesus is thebody, theimageof Satan, or analien
god. All told, thesenames haveaclearly negativeconnotation. This
assumptioninnoway restrictedAbulafia's applicationof gematriahwhich
heusedinorder toprovethat Jesus is mentionedintheBible. Later, Flavius
andPaulus deHeredia
madethesameclaim, andit seems
that they wereinfluencedby Abulafia's works.
Nowlet us returntoAbulafia's statement inSefer MafteafyHaShemot
about theKingMessiahandJesus of Nazareth. Wehavetriedtoprove
that Abulafia's intentionwas tohint that, indegree, theMessiahis equiva-
lent totheintellect, whileJesus is equatedwithmatter. Ironically, this
particular anti-Christianclaimfoundits way intoaChristianwork of
Kabbalah. TheChristianauthor seems tohavedrawnuponthestatement
of Sefer Hakdamah, quotedabove. TheHakdamahauthor seems tohave
beenreluctant toreveal thesuperiority of theJewishMessiah; beforethis
passage, hewrites, "Knowthat what I amtoreveal toyouis oneof the
most hiddenthings. Godforbidif thenationof Edomweretoknowof it!
This wouldconstituteagreat danger."
Ironically, what theauthor of
Sefer Hakdamahwantedtoconceal foundits way toJohannes Reuchlin,
oneof thescholars of Edom. Inhis book, DeArteCabbalistica, hewrites,
"Scribitur inlibrocabaleHacadmaQ.), thesecret of theKingMessiahthat
heshall comespeedily inour days andthat by theletters vav-heh, andalso
by theletters yud-hehwhicharethemystery of theseventhday, all his
activity will commence, andthat His Nameis whole, andthat all thework
will becompletedby His hand."
Undoubtedly, Sefer Hakdamahwas
Reuchlin's sourceinspiteof theslight corruptioninthespellingof the
title. It is surprisingthat Reuchlinignoredtheanti-Christianmeaning
of thestatement. Was heawareof this tendency, omittingit fromhis
quotation, or was it missinginthesourcefromwhichhedrew? This quo-
tationfromSefer Hakdamahis tobefoundinMs., NewYork, JTS, 1887
(formerly Halberstamm444). However, thewords, "equals Henri?" and
"thekingof Edom" aremissing.
G. Scholemhas already venturedthat
Reuchlinhadthis manuscript beforehim.
Thecontinuationof Reuchlin's
discussionis worthly of attention, as hespeaks of thetransitionfromthe
AbrahamAbulafiaontheJewishMessiahandJesus 55
sixthday totheSabbath, whichalludes tothepassagefromtheactiveto
NotestoChapter 3
1. This evaluationof Jesus is thesubject of arecent study by MortonSmith,
Jesus theMagician(London: 1978). Smithcollectedmaterial fromnon-Jewish
sources describingJesus as amagician.
2. MS. Oxford, 1580fol. 165a.
3. MS. Rome-Angelica, 38, fol. 10a; MS. Munich285, fol 36a. Abulafia's
missiontothePopehadamessianic goal, andwas perhaps motivatedby aconcep-
tionfoundinNabmanides' debatewithPabloChristiani. A. H. Silver has already
takennoteof this. SeeA. H. Silver, AHistoryof Messianic SpeculationinIsrael
(NewYork: 1927), p. 146. SeealsoScholem, Major Trends, p. 127f.
4. Zohar III, fol. 212b; inEnglishtranslation: TheZohar, trans. M. Simon
andH. Sperling, V, p. 322. SeeA. Jellinek, Beyt HaMidrasch, III, p. XXXVI If.;
A. Posnanski, Schiloh(Leipzig: 1904), p. 166, n.l; A. Geiger, NachgelasseneSchrifi
ten, III, p. 26n.
5. Onthe'star of theMessiah', seeP.T. Ta'anit, 4, halakha6, andMidreshei
Geulah, ed. YehudaEvenShmuel (Jerusalem: 1954), p. 102.
6. SeePerekEliyahuinMidreshei Geulah, p. 52: "Onthetwenty-eighthof
Elul, theMessiahwhosenameis Ynonshall emergefromtheeternal mountains
andwill makewar withtheIshmaelites." SeeMidreshei Geulah, p. 114.
7. MS. Rome-Angelica, 38, fol. 10a. InNafymanides'account of his disputation
withPabloChristiani, hewrites that theMessiah"will comeandwill issuecommands
tothePope, andtoall thekings of all thepeoples... andwill work signs andwonders,
andwill havenofear of themat all. [J. D. Eisenstein, Ozar Wikuhtim(NewYork:
1928), p. 90]. Seenote3above, concerningthepossibleinterconnectionof Abulafia^
missiontothePopeandthis statement by Nabmanides.
8. Abulafianever succeededinmeetingwiththePope. ThereforeIsrael Fried-
lander's claimthat "AbrahamAbulafia... inorder toescapedeath, renouncedhis
belief inthepresenceof thePope,** is completely unfounded! SeeIsrael Friedlander,
"JewishArabic Studies,** JewishQuarterlyReview(n.s.) Ill (1912-13), pp. 287n.,
428. Friedlander probably basedhis viewuponthat of Graetz whowrites: "Possibly
hetoldthePopethat hetootaught thedoctrineof theTrinity.** HeinrichGraetz,
Historyof theJews, IV (Philadelphia: 1949), p. 7. SinceAbulafianever met the
Pope, it was impossiblefor himtotell thePopeabout theexistenceof adoctrine
of theTrinity. Rather, Abulafiathought that "Themasters of theKabbalahof
Sefirot thought tounify theNameof God, andtoavoidany belief intheTrinity.
Therefore, they declaredHimtobeten, for theGentiles claimthat Heis threeand
56 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
that threeareone. I foundthat afewof themasters of Kabbalahbelievethis and
say that thedivinity is tenSefiroU andthat tenareone. Behold! They haverendered
Himas multipleas possible, andhavecompoundedHimas muchas possible, for
thereis nomultiplegreater thanthat of ten.** AbrahamAbulafia, "Epistle,** in
A. Jellinek, Auswahl Kabbalistischer Mystik(Leipzig: 1853), p. 19. It seems tome
that Graetz*s error was causedby his relianceuponM. Landauer*s attributionof
apoemwhichbegins, "'AyafcedEl" ("I shall unify Godaccordingtothereligion
givenby Him.**), toAbulafia: SeeUteratursblatt des Orients 28(1845), p. 473. In
this poemthefollowinglineappears, "Why didhemaketensayings intothree?
Does theprincipleboughhaveabranch?... didhementiononly threeof His praises
andleft unmentionedHis scores of praises?** Hadthis poembeenwrittenby
AbulafiatherewouldbesometruthtoGraetz*s proposal. However, theauthor of
this poemis R. Asher benDavid, aProvencal kabbalist wholivedduringthefirst
half of thethirteenthcentury, andwithwhomAbulafiahadnoconnectionwhat-
9. Publishedby A. Jellinek in"Sefer HaOt; Apokalypsedes Pseudo-Propheten,
undPseudo-Messias AbrahamAbulafia,** Jubelschrift zumsiebzigstenGeburtstag
des Prof H. Graetz (Breslau: 1887), p. 67.
10. MS. Rome-Angelica, 38, fol. 10a.
11. Inthis context it is alsoworthmentioninganother parallel betweenan
episodeinAbulafia*s career withtraditions about theMessiahthat is, Abulafia^
detentioninRomeafter thedeathof thePope. InSefer Ha'EduuMS. Rome-
Angelica38, fol. 10a, Abulafiastates: "InRome, theMinorities seizedhim, and
hewas heldintheir cloister for twenty-eight days.** InSefer Zerubavel (Midreshei
Geulah, p. 73) wefindthefollowing: "Hesaidtome: I amGod's anointedone, and
I havebeenimprisonedhereat Romeuntil thetimeof theEnd.**
12. Ibid., p. 78; "Zakhariah** is oneof several appelations by whichAbulafia
calledhimself. "Raziel** is another.
13. MS. Rome-Angelica, 38, fol. 41a.
14. MS. Oxford, 1582fol 3a.
15. p. 76.
16. This parableis well documentedinIslamic sources. SeeL. Massignon,
"LaLegendedeTribus Impostoribus et ses Origines Islamiques,** OperaOmnia, I,
pp. 82-85. This parablewas well knowinItaly duringAbulafia's time. SeeCecil
Roth, "HaReka* HaHistori Shel Mafcbarot Immanuel,** Assqf Festschrift (Jerusalem:
1953), p. 455.
17. SeeM. Steinschneider, HebriiischeBibliographieIV (1861), p. 78, n. 7;
idem, XII, p. 21; Mosey VIII (1885), pp. 359-361(Italiantranslation). TheStein-
schneider versionwas copiedby I. Zinberg, AHistoryof JewishLiterature(New
York: 1974), Vol. IV, p. 70n.
18. Sefer 'Or HaSekheU MS. Vatican, 233, fol. 37b-39b.
19. SeeSteinschneider, HebrUischeBibliographic, IV, p. 78. Thetext reads:
andthey will giveus." Undoubtedly, this versionis aless thanaccuraterendering
of Abulafia's words. SeeA. Berger,
TheMessianic Self Consciousness of Abraham
AbulafiaA TentativeEvaluation," Essays onJewishLifeandThought Presented
inHonor ofSalo Wittemayer Baron(NewYork: 1959), p. 59f., n. 19.
20. Professor S. Pines has informedmethat asimilar parable, inwhicha
"pearl" figures insteadof a"ring" is tobefoundinadebatebetweenaNestorian
patriarchandaMoslemat theendof theeighthcentury. SeeTimothy's Apology
for Christianity, ed. A. Mignana(Cambridge: 1928). WoodbrookeStudies No. 2,
p. 88f.; alsoS. Pines, "TheJewish-Christians AccordingtoaNewSource," Pro-
ceedings of theIsrael Academyof Sciences andHumanities, Vol. II (1956), p. 37f.,
n. 139.
21. TheGentilelanguages arealsodescribedas the"handmaidens" of the
Hebrewlanguage. InSefer Ha'Ot, p. 71,"... twolanguages, Greek andLatincame
intoexistenceinorder toservetheJewishtongue. Thepower of bothis inter-
connectedaboveandbelow, for their power was hungandbounduponthecross,
fastenedwithnails." This clearly indicates that Christianity alsofigures among
theservants intheparable. SeeAbulafia's interpretationof thetermanti-christos
22. Oneof Abulafia's disciples, theauthor of thebook, Ner Elohim, differed
withhis master. Inthis parableof thepearl, Abulafiaexpressedhis belief that in
theMessianic Era, theideal religionwouldmakeits appearance. "Pay noattention
tothebelief of every peoplethat they aloneserveGod, andthat all others are
idolators, for all thesages of theother nations admit that Godspoketotheprophets
of that nationwhichis uniquely His andinstructedthat people, concerningthe
trueway of divineworship. Onewhostates otherwiseis most certainly mistaken.
However, this mistakeshall not becorrecteduntil thecomingof Elijahwhopro-
phesiedduringthetimeof theprophets, andis still alive. Hewill reveal himself,
andby prophecy, hewill demonstratewhois inerror, andwhois not. Therefore, his
nameis Elijah(Eliyahu) theprophet (ha-Navi) for theletters of his nametell of the
truthof his prophecy. For thetwonames containedwithinhis namemay befurther
dividedintothree: thefirst of twoletters, andtheoneafter that of four letters"
(MS. Munich10, fol 156b-157a). ThenameEliyahuha-Navi (ElijahtheProphet)
is subdividedintothreenames as follows: El, YHWH, ha-Navi. This mnemonic
was already suggestedby AbrahamIbnEzra. SeeY. L . Fleischer, "Rabbenu
AbrahamIbn'EzraB'?arfat," MizrahU-Ma'aravIV, (1938), p. 358; alson. 33.
SeealsoWerblowsky, Karo, p. 270.
23. MS. NewYork, JTS 843, fol. 68b. A. Berger publishedaportionof this
quotationinhis "TheMessianic Self Consciousness," but mistakenly attributed
it toSefer Mafteah Halfokhmah.
24. SeeMidrashTanhumah(Buber edition). 1, p. 139, andthesources cited
by SolomonBuber inn. 138.
25. SeeNeubauer-Driver, TheFifty-ThirdChapter of IsaiahAccordingto
58 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
theJewishInterpreters (NewYork: 1969), Vol. I, pp. 76, 82.
26. Maimonides, however, describes theMessiahinterms approximating
thoseof theMidrash. "WhenthetrueKingMessiahwill ariseandwill prevail, and
will beexcellent, andexalted..." (Code, Laws of Kings, XI:4). This passagehas
beendeletedfrommost editions of theCode. Maimonides refrainedfromoffering
as detailedadescriptionof theMessiahas foundintheMidrashim, mentioned
aboveinnote24; for example, whomtheMessiahwouldexcel, andabovewhom
hewouldbeexalted. This reticencewas promptedpossibly by Maimonides* desire
not torank theMessiahaboveMoses.
27. MS. NewYork, JTS, 843, fol. 80a. Thepassageis difficult toreadin
28. MS. Oxford1582, fol. 71b. This passagebears themarkedinfluenceof
Maimonides' remarks about Tammuz intheGuideof thePerplexed111:29. See
alsotheCommentaryonEzekiel of R. DavidKimfri (Ez. 8:14).
29. MS. Paris, BN 776, fol. 184b. Whentheletters of thenameHenri? are
rearranged, it becomes thewordNo?ri (Nazarene, of Nazareth). Therefore, this
is anallusiontoJesus. Undoubtedly, Abulafiaandhis disciples relieduponan
earlier sourcewhichstatedthat thesixthday is signifiedby theletters yud-heh,
andthat theseventhday when'theheavens werefinished" (Gen. 2:1) is signified
by theletters vav-heh(Payehulu//ashamayin). InSefer Meirat Eynayim(MS.
Munich17fol. 42b), R. Isaac of Acrewrites, This worldwas createdby theletters
yud-heh, that is thesixthday, Kom//ashishi, yud-heh, andtheworldtocomewas
createdby theletters vav-heh, Payehulu//ashamayim(andtheheavens were
completed) whoseinitials arevav-hah." This statement does not appear inamessi-
anic context. Thehomiletic alsoappears inSefer Get HaShemot, Abulafia's first
work (MS. Oxford1658, fol. 90b): That [theTetragrammaton] is alsodividedinto
twonames ... after thelikeness of theMerkavahwhichhas twoaspects, thesensible
andtheintelligible, as wehavestated. Theseareindicativeof twoworlds which
arethis worldandtheworldtocome." Notably, themorecommontraditionspeaks
of thesuperiority of theName, yud-hehtotheName, vav-heh. InSefer Ofar ffayyim
(MS. Moscow-Gttnzburg, 775fol. 226b), R. Isaac of Acreexpressedtheopinion
that, TheNameYHWHcontains bothbody andsoul, bothasimpleandsuperior
spirituality andalower, compoundspirituality. Thefirst half of theName, yud-
heh, is certainly thesecret of thesuperior simplesubstancewhichimparts efflux
andthelatter half, vav-heh, is undoubtedly thesecret of thelower, compound,
receptivesubstance. For this reason, thesweet singer of Israel, theanointedone
of theGodof Jacob, didnot say,
HalleluhuHalleluhu" (PraiseHim! PraiseHim!
lit. Praiseheh-vav) but always said, 'Halleluyah* (Praiseyud-heh). R. Isaac of Acre
relieduponatraditionthat hefoundinR. AbrahamIbn'Ezra's work, Sefer HaShem,
chapter VIII (Fiorda: 1834), fol. 19a, "Howweighty arethewords of our ancient
sages of blessedmemory whosaidthat theupper worldwas createdby half of the
DivineName.** However, inchapter IV of Sefer HaEmunahVeHaBitahonof
R. JacobBenSheshet (printedinthecollectedwritings of Nabmanides, ed. Chavel,
Vol. II, p. 363) weread,
I foundanallusiontothis andsupport for this intheverse,
'Let theheavens begladandlet theearthrejoice
(Ps. 96:11) inwhichthefirst letters
of thewords of theverseformtheName, YHWH. TheverseattributedtheName,
yud-heh% totheheavens andtheName, vav-heh, totheearth, andthesecorrespond
tothetwoworlds. Thereafter, I foundthat R. AbrahamIbnEzrahadmentioned
thematter another time, inhis liturgical poemfor theselihtot of theDay of Atone-
ment. Hewrote, ". . . theupper worldwithYud-Heh>andthelower worldwith
30. Seehis epistle, Sheva' Netivot HaTorah, printedinA. Jellinek, Philosophic
undKabbalah, Vol. 1(Leipzig: 1853), pp. 10, 18. It seems tomethat thepaired
months NissanandTishrei haveasignificancebeyondthat derivedfromthis
numerical calculation(gematriah). Jesus was killedinthemonthof Nissan, while
Abulafiawent tospeak withthePopeontheeveof RoshHashanahclosetothe
monthof Tishrei. However, this parallel presents adifficulty. Nissanthemonth
inwhichJesus was killedhas anumerical valueinHebrewof 121. This corresponds
totheNamevav-heh, whoseletters aretheinitials of theseventhday whichsym-
bolizes themessiah! It is alsopossible, of course, toconnect theName, yud-heh,
tothesixthday of thecrucifixion. Accordingtomost sources, this occurredon
"Passover eve." InB.T. Sanhedrin, fol. 43a(cf. withDikdukei Sofrim, IX, p. 126).
Jesus of Nazarethwas afamiliar of theking, andthey hung
himonPassover eve.** If theword"eve" is understoodliterally, this means onthe
fifteenthof Nissan, whichis equivalent totheletters yud-heh. 31. This analogy is
alsoworthy of mention. Thesixthday, theday of thecrucifixion, is called"the
accursedone** by Christians. InHebrew, thewords YeshuHanozri (Jesus of Naza-
reth) havethenumerical valueof 671, thesameas thevalueof thewords, yomhashishi
(thesixthday). SeeN. T. Luke, XXIII: 54andN. T. Mark, XV:42.
32. MS. NewYork, JTS 843, fol. 81b. This text is quotedinpart by A. Berger
in"TheMessianic Self Consciousness,** p. 57, n. 11. Thereis aplay onwords here.
Thewordadonei (Lord) is readas "anti". Abulafiameans tosay "anti-Christ.**
33. Sefer Mafteaht HaShemot was writtenintheyear 1289, exactly eighteen
years after therevelationinBarcelona.
34. IntheMiddleAges, it was commonplacethat thewoodof thecross came
fromtheTreeof Knowledgeof GoodandEvil. SeeR. Nelli, "LaLegendeMedievale
duBois delaCroix,** Folklore20:4(1957), pp. 3-12.
35. TheHebrewworddemut (likeness) means theimagination, andis con-
trastedwiththeHebrewwordzelem(image) whichdenotes theintellect.
36. MS. NewYork, JTS 843, fol. 81a. InHebrew, thewords YeshubenPandera
haveanumerical valueof 713whichis thesameas that of thewords, "Yeshmamzer
benhanidah" (thereis abastard, conceivedinmenstrual impurity). Onthemeaning
of thenamePandera, seeJ. Klausner, Jesus deNazareth(Paris: 1933), pp. 20f., 23,
andM. Smith, Jesus theMagician, p. 46f.
37. SeeIgeret Sheva' Netivot HaTorah, publishedby A. Jellinek, inPhilo-
sophic undKabbala. Vol. / (Leipzig: 1853), p. 17. InSefer GanNa'ul, Abulafia
60 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
makes another connectionbetweenJesus andmatter: "AndGodappointedhim
over thelandof Egypt (Ere? Mfyraim), anddarkness fell uponJesus of Nazareth."
(MS. Munich58, fol. 329b). Again, thewords YeshuHaNo?ri havenumerical
valueequivalent to671whichis thevalueof theletters of thewords Erez Mifraim,
thelandof Egypt. Onthelandof Egypt as ametaphor for matter, seeIdel, Abraham
Abulafia, pp. 190-192.
38. Sefer Ozar EdenGanuz, MS. Oxford, 1580, fol. 102a. Cf. this is tothe
remarks of Rabbi Levi benAbraham, acontemporary of Abulafia. InSefer Livyat
Ifen(MS. Vatican192, fol. 28a), R. Levi comparedthemessiah, sonof Joseph, to
thepractical intellect andthemessiah, sonof David, tothespeculativeintellect.
Theopinionof R. Levi concurs withthat of Abulafia, that theMessiahrepresents
humanintellect, developedtoits greatest extent. SeeVaticanMS. 192, fol. 57b.
Onthis particular conceptionof Abulafia, seeIdel, (ibid.), p. 396ff. For theinter-
pretationof theMessiahas "acquiredintellect," seeD. R. Blumenthal, "Was There
anEasternTraditionof MaimonideanScholarship," Revuedes Etudes Juives,
138(1979), p. 64.
39. MS. Oxford1582, fol. 67b.
40. B. T. Sukkah, fol. 52a. IntheMiddleAges, thedeathof Jesus was identified
withthedeathof themessiah, sonof Joseph, mentionedinTractateSukkah. See
H. Wirszubski, Flavius Mithridates; SermodePassioneDomini (Jerusalem: 1963),
p. 121, n. 4. Notably, Isaac Abrabanel consideredthetraditionabout thedeathof
themessiah, sonof Joseph, tohavebeenthesourcewhichinfluencedtheformulation
of thehistorical imageof Jesus. SeeMashmia' Yeshu*ot (1644), fol. 13c; Ma'ayanei
HaYeshu'ah(1607), pp. 45, 74. TheSabbatean, AbrahamCardozo, compared
Jesus tothemessiah, sonof Ephraim. Hewrites: "Thefirst messiah, rootedinthe
shells [inevil] is Jesus of Nazarethwhocorresponds tothemessiahsonof Ephraim.
Insofar as his [Jesus'] originis withSamael, whosoemanateduponhimthat he
becameagod, accordingtothosewhobelieveinhim..." This text was publishedby
G. ScholeminStudies andTexts ConcerningtheHistoryof SabbatianismandIts
Metamorphosis (Jerusalem: 1974), p. 289(inHebrew).
41. MS. Rome-Angelica38, fol. 6a-6b. MS. Munich285, fol. Ua.
42. SeeY. Dan, HaSippur Halvri BeYmei HaBaynayim(TheHebrewStory
intheMiddleAges) (Jerusalem: 1974), pp. 40-43, andnotes.
43. Ibid., p. 40f.
44. MS. Rome-Angelica38, fol. 6b; MS. Munich285, fol. 11a. SeealsoMS.
Rome-Angelica38, fol. 7b.
45. MS. Munich341, fol. 160b. This passagehas beendeletedfromseveral
manuscripts; SeeMS. NewYork, JTS 2367, MS. BritishLibrary 757. Inother mss.
suchas Paris 774, thewords, "messiah** and"messiahs**, i.e., "Christians** aremissing.
46. SeeWirszubski*s remarks inFlavius Mithridates, Sermo, p. 40, n. 3.
47. F. Secret, "L*Ensis Pauli dePaulus deHeredia," Sefarad26(1966), p. 101.
AbrahamAbulafiaontheJewishMessiahandJesus 61
HerediamentionedAbulafiaseveral times inthis composition. SeeSecret^article,
p. 98.
48. A gematriah, similar totheonementionedhereappearedinawork written
beforethat of Abulafia. SeeM. Idel; "TwoNotes onR. Yair b. Shabetay's Herev
Piphiot," Kiryat Sefer 53(1978), p. 214, n. 14(inHebrew). SeealsoIsaac Abrabanel
inhis Maayanei HaYeshu'aK part XI, chapter 8.
49. MS. Paris, BN 776, fol. 184b.
50. Inthe1517edition, p. XVIII, andalsointheBasleeditionof 1587, p. 637.
Intheversionwhichappears inGiovanni PicodellaMirandola's OperaOmnia
(Basle1557) Vol. I, p. 769, theword"three" appears insteadof theword"perfect".
SeealsoF. Secret, LaKabbale(Aubier: 1973), p. 89f., wherehetranslatedReuchlin's
work. Inadditiontothis attributioninLatin, Reuchlinquotedthetext inits entirety
inHebrew. Reuchlin's quotationis comparabletotheversionfoundinSefer
51. Fol 12a.
52. G. Scholem, OntheKabbalahandits Symbolism(NewYork, 1969), p. 180.
InReuchlin, theendof thepassagediffers fromthat foundinMS. NewYork. One
must ask whether Reuchlinhadanother manuscript beforehim. Suchamanuscript
wouldbesimilar toMS. NewYork, but wouldhaveawordingcloser tothat of
Reuchlin. Thematter deserves investigation.
53. SeeAbrahambar Qiyya, MegUlat HaMegalleh, ed. Poznanski (Berlin:
1924), pp. 57-58. Ontheonehand, Bar Hiyyaspeaks of thepassagefromthesix days
of creationtotheSabbathas thepassagefromthis worldtothat of theMessianic
Era, andontheother, as apassagefromthecreationof material bodies tothe
creationof thesoul.
Chapter 4
TheInfluenceof Sefer 'Or
HaSekhel onR. MosesNarboni
andR. AbrahamShalom
Moses Narboni was amongthefirst of theJewishphilosophers
whowereinfluencedby Kabbalistic ideas. Inhis writings there
aresomeallusions totheopinions of theKabbalists,
instances heenters intomoreextendeddiscussions of thoseideas, overtly
indicatingthat they involveKabbalistic issues.
It is worthnotingthe
particular usethat Narboni makes of Sefer 'Or HaSekhel, writtenby R.
Wefindtwocitations of this book intheworks of Narboni, where
hequotes directly, almost verbatim, without mentioningasource. Further-
more, herelates theseAbulaflanideas as his ownopinions. Thesetwo
citations appear inNarboni's commentary toKawanot HaPhilosophim
(TheIntentions of thePhilosophers) by AbufcamidAl-Ghazzali.
Sefer Vr HaSekhel CommentarytoIntentions of the
MS. Vatican233fols. 125a-b Philosophers
MS. Paris BN 956fol. 209a.
A) And the level of attainment of the A) Regardingthelevels of attainment of
prophets whospeak andwhocomposeworks theprophets, thosewhospeak andcompose
is greater thanthelevel of theprophets who works of prophecy aregreater thanthosewho
64 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
keeptheir prophecy tothemselves. And
thosewhoaresent onaprophetic mission
areevengreater. Andthosewhochangeany
aspect of thecourseof natureinorder to
verify that they weresent by Godareof a
higher order thanall of theabove.
Ibid., fols. 113b-114a
Bl) Andwhenone's intellectual attainment
includes all of theareas of intellectual pursuit
under his domain, it is tobeexpectedthat
hewouldreceiveabundant effluencefrom
this attainment. Throughthis hewill also
beabletogivepartial formfor ashort
durationtoaspects of thematerial world,
intheformof natural functions, withinthe
domainof existencethat arises andpasses
away. Andbecausenatureinandof itself
continues tosubsist, this person's effect on
anaspect of thenatural planewill last
longer thantheamount of timeof that
mental functionof theprophet, whichis not
continuous withhim. Thereforeit is fitting
toassociatethefunctionthat changes nature
inaccordancewiththemental functionof
theprophet, theOnewhois thefirst cause
of this change, i.e., toGod.
keeptheir prophecy tothemselves. And
thosewhoaresent onaprophetic mission
aregreater thanthecomposers of works. And
thosewhochangethecourseof any aspect of
naturetoverify that they weresent by God
areof ahigher order thanall of theabove.
Ibid., fol. 208a
Bl) AndI say that becauseahumanbeingis
separatefromtheActiveIntellect duetoits
beingapartial intellect his beingcomposed
of acomplex nature, andbecausehis union
withtheActiveIntellect is not permanent,
thereforetheoperationof theprophet is
different fromtheoperationof anangel in
that it is only partially effectivedueto
aspects of thecomplex makeupof human
naturethat remains withintheprophet and
does not cleavetotheActiveIntellect. And
theenactmentsof thehumanbeingwill not
continuetosubsist likethemanifestations
of thepartial forms enactedby theActive
Intellect, whichdoes not abidecontinuously
withtheprophet. Indeedit is thecompre-
hensionthat is thereasonfor wonders, as
indicatedintheprophetic stories towhereit
is written:
And hefell uponhis face**
[Numbers 16:4], "andtheGlory of God
appeared totheentirenation" [Leviticus
9:23]... I donot knowtowheretheGlory
of Godwent whenit departedfromour
Master Moses, whenheceasedtocontem-
platethe wonders and removed himself
B2) Andbecausetheprophet wouldattain
realizationof Godonly throughknowledge
of theNamejust as theconsummatephilo-
sopher will attainknowledgeof theDivine
only through knowledge of His effects,
therefore, weandthosewhocamebeforeus
areinagreement inattributingthehuman
enactment that differs fromtheusual func-
tion, totheDivinePower, andwesay that
it is withthePower of theNamethat the
prophet didwhat hedid.
B2) Andknowthat becausetheprophet
will attainGodthroughtheineffableName,
inaccordancewiththeviewof theTorahists,
just as thephilosopher attainsknowledge
of theDivinethroughobservingHis mani-
festations, thereforetheTorahists attributed
theparticular manifestationsinnaturethat
differsfromtheusual mode, tothepower of
theNameof God, andthey saidthat it is
withthepower of theIneffableNamethat
theprophet enactedwhat hedid. Andwe
attributethis totheveritableunionwith
TheInfluenceof Scfcr 'Or HaSekhel 65
As it is manifest primafacie, thefirst quotationis citedby Narboni
almost verbatim. Withregardtothesecondcitation, thesituationis
different. Thefirst sectionof thesecondquotefromSefer 'Or HaSekhel
underwent partial changes inthehandof Narboni
. Yet, eveninthis
sectionwefindpreservedsomeelements of theturnof phraseof Abulafia,
suchas "partial forms" {jurot fclkiyot), inplaceof "partial form" (jurah
helkit) of Abulafia,
or "theActiveIntellect" whichdoes not abide
continuously with"theprophet" ("[hasekhel hapo
eI\ mi?adsheloya'amod
sekhel hanavi' tamid7mmo") inplaceof "themental functionof the
prophet whichis not continuous withhim" ("po'al sekhel hanavi' shehu
immotamid") inAbulafia.
Thesecondsectionof thepassageconveyedby Narboni withfewer
changes fromAbulafia's original version. A questionthereforearises
regardingtheopeningwords of thesecondquotationby Narboni: "And
I say that ..." Is this simply acaseof plagiarism, or is this designation
justified, giventhenovel formtheauthor uses toconvey Abulafia's words
(inother words, thedesignation"andI say" is not intendedtorefer tothe
secondpart of thesecondquotation)?
It seems tomethat oneanswer tothis questionmay befoundin
Narboni's commentary toMaimonides' Guideof thePerplexed, which
was writtenafter Narboni's book onTheIntentions of thePhilosophers.
There, hesays:
AndI say, that intheinstancewhenthemindof theprophet is concentrated
onpartial forms, his (miraculous) enactment wouldtakeeffect only on
that part; as was thecasewiththesplittingof theseaof reeds, wherenot
all of thewaters of theworldwereparted. Inthoseinstances of unstable
cleaving, theintendedwonder wouldlikewisenot standnor wouldthe
sign(manifest bedrawn). AndwhentheIneffableNamewas tothe
prophets likeuntoaconcisetablet correspondingtotheFirst Form, the
effects therefromwereattributedtowhat is calledthe
First Cause"
amongthephilosophers, andit wouldbesaidthat it was withthepower
of theIneffableNamethat theprophet enactedthat whichtorethepattern
away fromthenatural cause.
This quotationis essentially asummary of Abulafia's ideas, whichNarboni
usedinhis commentary toKawanot HaPhilosophim. Heretoo, Narboni
presents ideas as his ownwhenKeuses therubric of "andI say ..." to
convey thosesameideas that appear insection2of quotationB. I would
thereforeconcludethat this is aninstanceof plagiarismonthepart of
Wemay findother examples of this kindof "borrowing" from
Abulafiaonthepart of Narboni. I refer, again, toAbulafia's 'Or HaSekhel
66 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
fromthesamepagecitedfor quotationA. Herewearedealingnot with
tract borrowing, but withareconstructionby Narboni basedonthe
MS. Vatican233fol. 125a
And when the previously indicated
imaginary mental graspceases toexist, and
her memory is erasedfromthehearts of
thosewhofeel andmentatethen
swallowupdeathforever, andtheLord
Godwill wipeaway tears fromall faces;
andthereproachof His peoplewill Hetake
away fromoff all theearth; for theLordhas
spokenit** [Isaiah25:8]. Inother words, the
secret of theIntellect will berevealedafter
MS., Paris BN 956fol. 201b.
Andwhentheredemption, whichis
thetruesalvation, arrives, theprophecy
designates that: "Hewill swallowupdeath
forever, andtheLordGodwill wipeaway
tears fromall faces; andthereproachof
His peoplewill Hetakeaway fromoff all
theearth; for theLordhas spokenit** [Isaiah
25:8]. This is anallusiontothegraspof
Conspicuously, thesetwoauthors interpret theprophecy of Isaiah
inasimilar way; Narboni conceives theemergenceof humanintellect as
theessenceof salvation, whilethis conceptionis alsocritical toAbulafia's
viewof salvation. Inanother work Abulafiawrites, "AndtheMessiah
will becalled thematerialized humanhylic intellect, andheis the
Similar borrowingof Abulafia's writing, appears inawork entitled
Neveh Shalomby R. AbrahamShalom, afifteenth-century Spanish
As other scholars havealready noted, Abulafiaandhis work have
beenrecognizedby AbrahamShalom.
Inaddition, however, wecan
demonstratethat AbrahamShalom, likeNarboni beforehim, madeuse
of Abulafia's work without acknowledgingthesource.
A conspicuous
exampleof this involves apassagealready analyzedinthefirst essay of
this volume.
MS. Vatican233fol. 115a.
Thename[of God] is composedof two
parts sincetherearetwoparts of love
[dividedbetween] twolovers, and[parts of]
loveturnone[entity] whenlovebecame
actuated. Thedivineintellectual loveand
thehumanintellectual loveareconjuncted
Neveh Shabm
(Venice, 1575) fol. 87a-b.
Andthis is thepower of Man, whocan
bindthelower aspect withthesupernal in
suchaway that thelower aspect rises up
andcleaves tothesupernal, andthesupernal
descends andkisses that whichrises, and
this is themeaningof theverse
TheInfluenceof Scfcr 'Or HaSekhel 67
beingone. Exactly sothename[of God]
includes [thewords] oneone,becausethe
connectionof thehumanexistencewiththe
divineexistenceduringthe intellection
whichis identical withtheintellect infits]
existenceuntil heand hebecome one
This is thegreat power of man:
hecanlink thelower part withthehigher
[one] andthelower [part] will ascendand
cleavetothehigher andthehigher [part]
will descendandwill kisstheentity ascending
towards it, likeabridegroomactually kisses
his bride
out of his great andreal desire,
characteristic tothedelight of both, from
thepower of thename[of God].
of God) ascendinganddescendingonit**
[Genesis 28:12]. For theintellectsrisefrom
thelower depths by way of theladder of
wisdomandthepraiseworthy intellectsde-
scendtowards themduetothetrueadoration,
for thesakeof their mutual pleasure, inthe
power of theName. Andinasimilar mode,
does theDivineIntellectual love, as heraises
himself (!) fromthebaseexistencetothe
supernals. Andtheascent tothesupernal
intellect consists of contemplatingone* cause,
andthedescent tothehumanintellect is in
amodethat is graspabletothebaser exis-
tenceandthefunctionof thebody.
Asidefromthechangeintheorder of sentences fromtheway it
appears in'Or HaSekhel AbrahamShalommodifies oneof Abulafia's
ideas inthat theunity experiencedby thebrideandgroomis absent from
R. AbrahamShalom's words. Inits placeis theimageof theladder of
wisdom. This indicates anintellectual flavor opposedtotheecstatic
imagery exemplifiedby Abulafia.
However, onemotif important toAbulafia, that of thelovebetween
theDivinity andthehumanbeing, expressedas thelovebetweenthe
separateintellect andthehumanintellect, is identical inbothShalom's
work andAbulafia's. Theideaof the"DivineIntellectual Love" that
turns towards man, andthe"HumanIntellectual Love" that turns towards
God, is noteworthy. Wehavehereanapproachthat differs fromthat of
Crescas. Thelatter alsospeaks of theloveof theDivinefor thehuman,
but hedoes not characterizeit as "intellectual."
A conceptionsimilar tothat of Abulafiamay alsobefoundinLeone
Ebreo's Dialoghi d'Amore, andwecomeacross it inamodifiedformin
theworks of Spinoza.
NotestoChapter 4
1. Alexander Altmann:
Moses Narboni*s Epistleon Shhir Koma** in
Alexander Altmann, ed. JewishMedieval andRenaissanceStudies (Cambridge,
Mass. 1967) pp. 242-253.
2. SeeNarboni*s commentary to Maimonides* Guideof thePerplexed,
Ya'akov Goldental, ed. (Vienna1852) fol 49a; alsoKavvanot HaPhUosophim
(Commentary toAl-Ghazzali*s Intentions of thePhilosophers) MS. Paris BN.
fol. 178aandothers. As Altmannpointedout inthearticlecitedabove, p. 243,
68 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
Narboni's sympathetic approachtoKabbalahchangedlater inhis life, andin
Narboni's commentary toMaimonides' Guide, headoptedacritical attitude.
3. For further bibliographical information, seeIdel, AbrahamAbulafia
pp. 24-25.
4. For moreinformationregardingthis commentary, seeMoritz Steinschneiden
DieHebrUischenUebersetzungendes Mittelalters, reprint ed. (Graz 1956) pp. 311-
5. This manuscript is acollectionof philosophical writings brought together
by thecopyist, under thetitleSassonLimmudim(TheJoy of Learning). It was
writtenduringthelast thirdof thefourteenthcentury. For moreregardingthis
manuscript, seeGeorges VajdaSefer TikktmHaDe'ot LeYitzhakAIbalag(Jerusalem,
1973) pp. 10-11. Thewords of Abulafiaalsoappear unalteredinvarious other
manuscript editions of Narboni's CommentarytotheIntentions of thePhilosophers,
amongthem, MS. Rome-Casanatense156fol. 130a; MS. Parma2301, fols. 391a-b;
MS. Paris BN. 908fol. 162a, andothers. Contrastingly, wefindthis text indifferent
form, inmany important details, inMS. Paris BN. 909fol. 132b, whereweread:
"SaidMoses (Narboni), thespeakers amongthem, andthewriters of books are
of ahigher order thanthoseprophets whowould(!) not composebooks, whoare
not onas highalevel as thosewhodidcomposebooks." It seems tothis writer
that thejust-quotedversionof Narboni's words is areworkingof thefirst quotation
that occurs intheoriginal text of Narboni. Seebelow, note9.
6. This versionis foundinidentical forminmanuscripts mentionedinnote5.
It was already publishedby ColetteSirat "Pirkei MosheLeMosheNarboni" in
Tarbi? vol. 39(1970) p. 294.
7. Theimportant novel ideathat appears inNarboni's work, but not in
Abulafia, inthefirst quotationof B, is theemphasis onthe"partialness" of the
humanintellect. This "partial intellect" whenit cleaves totheActiveIntellect
becomes transformedintotheuniversal intellect. Becauseof this, at themoment
of "Devekut" (unionwiththeActiveIntellect) oneis abletochangethecourseof
nature. This idea, whichis influencedby IbnSinais mentionedby Narboni just
beforethesectionquotedinB 1(MS. Paris BN. 956fol. 208b): "Andaccordingto
IbnRushd(!) humannaturederives fromAngelic nature, andtherefore, thepartial
intellect may, as Rabbi AbrahamIbnEzrapoints out, whencleavingtoAll, enact
inthehylic matter of theworld." Apparently Narboni is alludingtoIbnEzra's
commentary toNumbers 20:8: "Andwhenthepart knows thewholehecleaves to
thewholeandinitiates inthewholesigns andwonders." SeealsoIbnEzra,
Numbers 22:28. It is worthnotingthat asimilar conceptiontothat of Abulafia's
'Or HaSekhel may befoundinSefer Ginzei HaMelekhby R. Isaac IbnLatif
(publishedinKokhvei Yizbak28(1852) p. 12, chapter 4: "Thenatureof thehuman
intellect is not tobeactually completeandwhole, but rather, whenoneperceives
theforms of theworld, ingeneral andinparticular, inaway congruent toone's
mental grasp, then[heperceives] thewhole, andthewholeis inhim. Andthus,
whenone's knowledgeextends [to] all of theparticulars of existence, heis thento
TheInfluenceof Scfcr 'Or HaSekhel 69
befoundwithinthemall, whenalso, thenatural forms andtheabstract forms are
engravedinhis perceptioninaveritableway, thenall is inhim. Andthecompleted
personwhoholds themall inhis mind, it may indeedbepossiblethat throughhis
agency anewformmay temporarily manifest itself inexistence, inaccordance
withtheDivineWill, throughmiraculous means.** IbnLatif, andlikewise, Abulafia
after him, donot mentionthepartialness of theintellect andits transformation
intothewhole. SeealsoC. Sirat (note6above) pp. 292-295; andAviezer Ravitsky,
TheAnthropological Theory of Miracles inMedieval JewishPhilosophy** ined.
I. Twersky Studies inMedieval JewishHistoryandLiterature[Cambridge, Mass.,
1984] vol. II pp. 246-248.
8. Fol. 38b. Thephrase"torethepatternfromthenatural course** is found
inthewritingof Al-Ghazzali, whowrites (thefollowingquotationis brought in
Al-Ghazzali*s nameinSefer Hapalat HaHapalahMS. Paris BN. 956fol. 297b):
Thesigns that tear away fromthenatural coursesuchas thetransformationof
astaff intoaserpent.**
9. This versionis preservedinmanuscripts mentioned innotes above.
However, inMS. Paris BN. 909fol. 157bandinMS. Paris BN. 347fol. 113bwe
read(regardingtheintellect andtheimagination):
Heis enclothedinfalsehood,
whichis death. This is tosay that thepower of theimaginationenclothes itself in
death, whichis thecauseof thedemiseof themind, for whenonefollows illusions,
onenegates one*s goingafter trueknowledge. Therefore, theprophet whenhe
says, 'Hewill swallowdeathforever* means tosay that at thetimeof theredemption
this power of theimaginationwill disappear, and[only] theintellect will remain.
This is themeaningof 'For theLordhas spokenit* or (theintellect) will occupy
his place.** Inmany ways, this versionis closer tothespirit of Abulafiathanthe
versionpreservedinmost manuscripts.
Apparently, under theinfluenceof Narboni, theanonymous author of Sefer
Toldot 'Adam(Ms. Oxford836fol. 159a) writes:
ontheseparateintellect, andwiththepower of prophecy, theDivinePerceptions (!)
arecleansedfromall materiality andfromtheperceptionof imagination, which
is thepower of materiality. This is because'hewill swallowdeathforever*. In
consequence, thegreat salvationwill come; thetruesalvationandcomplete
redemption, after whichtherewill benofutureexile.** Regardingthis work,
writtenduringthefifteenthcentury, seeIdel, Abulafiap. 15, note3; p. 118, note93;
idem, TheMystical Experiencep. 224.
10. Sefer HaMeli? MS. Rome-Angelica38, fol. 9a; MS. Munich285fol. 13a.
RegardingAbulafia*s opiniononthis matter, seeidel, TheMystical Experience
pp. 127, 140.
11. SeeAdolphJellinek, Auswahl Kabbalistischer Mystik (Leipzig1853),
Germansection, p. 17, note5, whichrefers toSefer NevehShalom, discourse5,
chapter 4. AlsoQayyimMichal, inSefer 'Or Halfayyim(Frankfort 1891) p. 117,
whichrefers todiscourse5, chapter 9anddiscourse9, chapter 9. AlsoH. A.
Davidson, ThePhilosophyof AbrahamShalom, (Berkeley andLos Angeles 1964)
p. 15, note164. It is important tonotethefact that thequotationfromAbulafia's
70 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
'Or HaSekhel occurs inthework of anauthor whosenameis AbrahamShalom,
sincethis book of Abulafiawas dedicatedtotwodisciples of Abulafia, oneof
thembeingR. AbrahambenShalomComti! Quotations fromAbulafia's works
inSpainareexceptiontotherulethat this kabbalist is abanishedperson, and
theoccurenceof acitationfrom'Or HaSekhel inthework of AbrahamShalom
may betheresult of apossiblefamiliar relationshipbetweenthelatethirteenth
century follower of Abulafiaandthemiddlefifteenthcentury Spanishauthor.
12. Seediscourse5, chapter 4, fol. 65b, inadditiontothequotationindicated
onfol. 64b. Also, discourse5, chapter 11fol. 81a. This was almost entirely
influencedby Abulafianideas; these, inadditiontothequotes brought with
attributionfrom'Or HaSekhel.
13. This refers tothenumerical valueof "'ahavalT (l
e) =13+"'ahavah"
(13again) =26; as well as "'efcad" (one) =13+'chad(13again) =26. 26is the
numerical valueof theTetragrammaton. This indicates thenatureof theunity
achievedby thecleavingthroughloveof thehumanmindtotheDivine. More
ontheerotic imagery usedby AbulafiaseeIdel, TheMystical Experiencech. 4.
14. "Heandheareone.** This is theacceptedversionthat expresses the
unity betweenthehumanintellect andtheDivineintellect inthewritingof the
Jewishphilosophers. Seeabove, essay I, andIdel, TheMystical Experience
pp. 126-127.
15. CompareAbulafia, inSefer Ifayyei HaNefeshMs. Munich408fol. 65b:
. . . Thecleavingof all of one's attentiontotheNameof theEnactment is the
secret of thebrideandgroom." Intwoplaces Abulafiaindicates thenumerical
equivalenceof "ta'anug" (pleasure) =539and"fyatanvekalah** (groomandbride).
Seealsothefragment that appears after Sefer HaZeruf by adiscipleof Abulafia,
Ms. Paris BN. 774fol. 35a.
16. Thewords of R. AbrahamShalomprovideaninterestingexampleof
howtheterm"theladder of wisdom" becomes "theladder of ascension**an
almost ecstatic expression. Regardingthesetwoterms andtheir history, see
Alexander Altmann: "TheLadder of Ascension" inStudies inMysticismand
ReligionpresentedtoG. G. Scholem(Jerusalem1967) pp. 1-32; onpp. 11-12he
makes atoosharpdistinctionbetweenthesetwoconcepts.
17. Georges Vajda, L'Amour deDieudans latheologieJuiveduMoyenAge
(Paris, 1957) pp. 263-264.
18. SeeH. A. WolfsonThePhilosophyof Spinoza(NewYork 1969) vol. 2,
p. 304ff; p. 310. It is worthnotingthelinguistic similarity betweentheexpression
"intellectual loveof God** andthewell-knownexpressionof Spinozaamor dei
intellectualis. Tobesure, theimplicationof this expressionintheworks of
Spinozais different thanits meaninginthewritingof R. AbrahamShalomand
Abulafia. Withthelatter twoit refers toGod*s loveof Man, whereas withSpinoza
it refers toMan*s loveof God. However, likeSpinoza, Abulafiaassociates love
withintellectual perception. Webringherethewords of Abulafiafromhis book
TheInfluenceof Scfcr 'Or HaSekhel
Sitrei Torahacommentary toMaimonides* Guideof thePerplexed(Ms. Paris
BN 774, fol. 120b.): "For theword"?elem" (image, likeness) refers tothenatural
form, whichis thespecies form. Andthis is theanimatingsoul whichis the
humanintellectual perception, andis similar totheDivine, andcleaves toher
andis brought intoexistencetherefrom. It tends totheDivineandpreservation
andexistenceareeternal." The"humanintellectual perception** andthe"Divine"
correspondtothelovebetweenhumananddivineinSefer 'Or HaSekhel
Chapter 5
Mundus Imaginalis
andLikkutei HaRan
hetheory concerningtheexistenceof aplurality of worlds is among
thetopics that, fromtheKabbalah's conception, was consideredto
beof paramount importance. Relyingonprimarily neo-Platonic philo-
sophical doctrines, Kabbalists developedcomplex theories that involved
largenumbers of "worlds." Clarificationof themeanings andimplications
of theseworlds was undertakenby G. Scholem. It is our intentionhere
toconcernourselves withtheconcept of
OlamHademut" (whichwe
translate, followingCorbin's term, as "Mundus Imaginalis") andwiththe
circlewhereinthis termappeared.
Intwoof his articles Scholemrefers totheterm"Mundus Imaginalis
whichappearedinaKabbalistic work containingalist of thefiveworlds:
"Therearefiveworlds, whichindescendingorder are: TheWorldof
Divinity, TheWorldof theIntellect, TheWorldof theSouls, theMundus
Imaginalis, andtheWorldof theSenses." Scholemwas baffledby the
useof theterm"'Olamhademut": inhis opinionit occurs intheontological
positionwherethe"Worldof Formation" wouldappear intheneo-Platonic
Thelanguageof theaforementionedquotemakes apreciseunder-
standingof theconcept underlyingthetermMundus Imaginalis difficult.
Wewill thereforeattempt torender this termmeaningful, by examining
twodiscourses that have, as yet, escapedtheattentionof scholars. One
of theseis takenfromLikkutei HaRan, aKabbalistic collectionwhere
74 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
theabove-mentionedquoteappears. Immediately followingthis section,
thetext continues:
And1cameacross asecret of supernal profundity. Know, that the
worldof theDivinity refers tothemost highly exaltedstructure. The
Worldof theIntellect represents the"Diadem" andalthough(all is, both
are) one, this is thecaseonly inpotentia, for "womankindis anation
Understandthis. Theworldof thesouls corresponds to
thesupernal man, i.e. toMetatron, andtheMundus Imaginalis cor-
responds toSandalfon, for heis themaster of images andforms that
confuseandfrightenandcausetremblingintheprophets andbringharm
tothesons of man. Theworldof thesenses is that whichis perceivedby
Alternatively, theDivineWorldcomprises thethreesupernals
they arethesecret of theworldtocome, TheWorldof theIntellect is the
androgyne[MaleandFemale]. Inaddition, I say that theWorldof the
Divinity symbolizes that whichis abovetherealmof purethought, the
Worldof theIntellect represents thethreesupernals,
theWorldof Souls,
theandrogyne, theMundus Imaginalis, MetatronandSandalfon, from
one: goodimages, fromtheother: thecontrary [i.e. thebadimages]. The
Worldof theSenses is that whichis perceived(by thesenses).
FromtheRan[anacronymof theauthor's name]: RegardingMoses, to
whomGodshowedtheentirelandandall of thepast andfutureupto
thelast day; this occurredthroughtheagency of thesecret of theenclothe-
ment of existencebeforehim, beforehis eyes, withintheMundus Imagi-
nalis. Hewhounderstands will understand.
Elsewhere, inSefer EvenSappir* by R. ElnathanbenMoses Kalkish,
wecomeacross thetermMundus Imaginalis:
Noonecantruly knowHim[God] throughthat whichis revealed,
except that heseparates Himself fromtheWorldof theSenses, removes
himself completely therefrom, andturns his attentionentirely tothe
supernal world. Fromtheseherises uptotheworldof thesoul. This
realmis recognisableonly after removingone's attentionfromtheMundus
andall of its aspects. Thenoneperceives thesustenanceand
everlastingness of thesoul. Andif oneis gracedwithDivineassistance
onecanremoveoneself abovetheWorldof theSoul andperceivethe
Worldof theDivinity. This is what themaster of theprophets perceived.
If wecomparethecharacteristics of theMundus Imaginalis inthe
works wehavequotedabove, withthoseof theterm AlamAl-Mithar%
Mundus Imaginalis andLikkuiei HaRan
(i.e., theMundus Imaginalis as it appears inSufi texts), wefindthat before
us wehaveaSufi concept inHebrewgarb. Thesimilarity is not only one
of terminology, but alsoof conceptual content:
A. InbothKabbalahandinSufismwefindtheMundus Imaginalis
inanintermediatepositionastagebetweenthephysical worldandthe
spiritual world
. Inat least oneinstancewecanpoint toacorrespondence
betweentheKabbalistic conceptionof thefiveworlds, andtheSufi con-
ceptionof theWorldof Ideas, theWorldof theIntelligences (that are
separatedfrommatter), theWorldof theSouls, theMundus Imaginalis,
andthephysical world.
B. InLikkutei HaRanthedemonic natureof theMundus Imaginalis
is clearly recognizable. They are"forms that confuseandfrighten, and
causetremblingintheprophets andbringharmtothesons of man."
Sandalfonis thesourceof thesenegativemanifestations, as theendof
thefirst quoteattests. AccordingtoSufism, theMundus Imaginalis was
thesourceof demons, andit is therethat sinful souls receiveretribution
C. Theprophetic character of theMundus Imaginalis is recognized
inbothLikkutei HaRanandinthewords of R. ElnathanbenMoses. In
Sufi literaturewefindtheangels of theMundus Imaginalis that materialize
whenthey becomerevealedinthis world
Inour opinion, thesecorrespondences areasufficient indication
that conceptions commontobothreligious systems liebehindthemeaning
of theterm. Withbothsystems coincidingintimeandplace, wecanassume
that hereis anexampleof Sufi influence, inthat this systemappears in
Sufi literaturealready inthetwelfthcentury, andwas further developed
by Ibn'Arabi andhis disciples duringthethirteenthcentury
Wewill nowattempt toestablishduringwhichperiod, andinwhich
circleof Kabbalists this Sufi termenteredKabbalistic literature. For this
purposewewill analyzetheidentificationof SandalfonwiththeMundus
Imaginalis foundinLikkutei HaRan.
Thenegativeassociationof theMundus Imaginalis vis kvis Sandalfon
arenot foundduringtheTalmudic-Midrashic period. Inthefewsources
fromthis body of literaturewherethis angel appears, heis givenbotha
positiveandimportant function.
However, duringthethirteenthcentury
wefindachangeinthestatus of this angel, andthis changeis reflected
inLikkutei HaRan.
InLikkutei HaRanandintheTalmudic-Midrashic sources as well,
theidentity of Sandalfonis relatedtothat of Metatron. But Sandalfon
is "Taller thanhis companionby adistance[of] [taking] 500years [to
and"stands behindtheChariot",
whereas Metatronis the
Angel of theCountenance.
Thefirst sourcewherenegativefeatures areassociatedwithSandalfon
76 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
is Sidrei ShimmushaRabba, composedapparently duringthesecondthird
of thethirteenthcentury:
Intheseventhhall is Sandalfon, pureandfirmwhoworks power-
fully inheavenandearth. Hecreatedtwogreat ones intheformof foetuses
inthemother's womb. Shegives themthespirit of life. It is hewhobrings
deathtothecreatures of earthwithadrawnfiery swordthat is not con-
sumed. Andall creatures of earthandall whoruleintheair of the
firmament areunder his domain. Inhis handis theability toenclothe
thelight of theMost HighKing, andtoenclothetheprophets at thetime
of their prophecy, their spirits [enclothed] withtheray of thespirit, and
their bodies, withthebrightness of his body.
HereSandalfonis portrayedas boththeAngel of Death, whobears
afiery sword, andas thesourceof theenclothement of theprophets. These
twofunctions recall thefirst quotefromLikkutei HaRanwherewefind
that Sandalfonbrings
harmtothesons of man." Thereheis alsoasso-
ciated, albeit negatively, withtheprophets. However, as inTalmudic-
Midrashic sources, Sandalfonis "higher" thanMetatron, who, according
toSidrei ShimmushaRabba, is appointedontheSixthHeavenly Hall.
A clear conceptual change, regardingthestandingof Sandalfonand
Metatron, occurs duringthesecondhalf of thethirteenthcentury, among
Kabbalists whowereclosetoR. AbrahamAbulafia. Inthecommentary
of Sefer Yeprahwrittenby Abulafia's teacher, R. BarukhTogarmi, we
read: "Theintellect is Metatron, andtheRam[Aries] Sandalfon. Manis
bull, theintellect [is the] [DivineForce] Shaddai. Manis the[young] ass,
theintellect [and] thesense[s]."
This quotecontains threegroups, each
havingfour components, andeachof thesegroups contains thenumerical
valueof 999: "theintellect is MetatronandtheRamSandalfon" ="Man
is theox andtheintellect Shaddai [DivineForce]" ="Manis theass, the
intellect, thesense[s]." Theimplicationof theseoppositions is explained
by Abulafia's remarks regardingtherelationshipbetweenMetatronand
Inhis opinion, Metatron, Angel of theCountenance, is theActive
Intellect, whereas Sandalfonis thetermdenotingmatter andSamael.
Inhis Sefer HaMelammedweread:
Theimprint andseal that forms thehumanrealmis calledSandalfon.
Heis called
'Ofan" [thewheel], whenit is written(intheBible) without
theletter vavas it appears intheverse[Ezekiel 1:15] "I beheldandthere
was onewheel ['ofan] upontheearth," andit was explained[intheTalmud,
ffagigah13b] (that) this refers toSandalfonwhoseheadis inthefirmament
andwhosefeet areonthegroundandhebinds crowns for his Master.
Mundus Imaginalis andLikkuiei HaRan
Andheis undoubtedly themover of thebody andhis nameis alsoSamael
andfromhis power thelivingwerecreated.
A similar viewmay befoundinAbulafia's work Sefer Ifayyei Ha-
'OlamHaBa\ whereweread:
At thebeginningtheriver is unified, andafterwardit separates to
different streams. Andtheriver of natureis unifiedat thebeginning,
andis entirely oneentity, truly withnoseparation. This is likeuntothe
primamateria, whichEzekiel called"ofan" andof whichour sages said
that this is Sandalfon; heis theprimeelement andheis indeedtheplace
of thebody. Thus, our sages havesaidthat his headis inthefirmament
andhis feet areontheground, andhebinds crowns for his Master. This
is becausehis Master is [thesourceof] his subsistence, for werehenot to
bindcrowns hewouldbecorrupted. Yet, fromthesecrowns issues con-
stant existenseandbecauseheis all, heis not corruptedandhis body too
is not corrupted. For "Sandalfon" has thenumerical valueof "body that
is not corrupted" [guf velo' yipassed], whereas "his Creator" [kono]
contains thenumerical valueof "andHeis not corporeal" [ve-einoguf].
Indeed, Sandalfon, as thecreator of thebody is alsoinacertainway
[*al panim] created[nifalim, i.e. thesameconsonants as in
al panim],
as it is inthesecret [of theprohibition] "yeshall havenoother gods instead
of ['al panay] Me." Andhis headis inthefirmament andhis feet areon
theground. This is thesecret of thecreatedness of gods as "others," i.e.,
thosewhoarenot thepreexistents of [all] thepreexistents as am1, for
Inthosetwoforegoingquotes, Abulafiaestablishes anassociation
betweenseparateconcepts: theidentificationof Ezekiel's "wheel" ('ofan)
withSandalfon, inaccordancewiththeTalmudtractateHagigah, and
anassociationof this "wheel" withMaimonides' interpretationof it as
PrimaMateria" (inGuideof thePerplexed, III, 2).
Thus, wehave
theidentificationof Sandalfonwiththe"wheel" andthePrimaMateria.
Beingassociatedwithmatter, Sandalfonpersonifies all that is negative
innature, andtherefore, Abulafiaassociates himwithSammael. InSefer
Ifayyei HaNefesh Abulafiaways explicitly: "MetatronandSandalfon
aretwoministeringangels; onegoodandtheother evil."
Intheworks of Abulafia's disciples thepolarizationbetweenMetatron
andSandalfonis expressedinaformsimilar tothat of Sefer Ifayyei Ha-
Nefesh; inSefer Ner '.Elohimweread:
Thesouthernpoint [pole] is always calledtheAngel of theCoun-
tenance, for therewefindtheheadof the[astrological] dragon[Teli].
At thenorthernpoint [pole] is its tail, andher nameis theAngel of the
78 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
Back. Thoseappointedover themareMetatronandSandalfonrespec-
tively, or wemay say, Michael andGabriel
. Theright handedattribute,
compassion, is at theheadandat theendis theattributeof Judgment,
Thesewords arenodoubt influencedby Abulafia's doctrine. Rabbi Isaac
of Acrewrites:
Knowthat thewords of Rabbi Eliezer regardingthetwoSeraphim
servetoindicatethetwoCherubimmentionedabove. Whenit is said
"fromHis right side" this indicates theattributeof compassion, whois
Metatron; andinthesupernal realmthis refers to[oneSephiraattribute
of] "Tiferet" [beauty]. Whenhesaid"fromtheleft side" this refers to
theattributeof Judgment, andits supernal aspect, the[sephiraof the]
However, themost interestingdiscourseinthis regardis in Sefer
Sha'arei Zedekby ananonymous student of Abulafia.
Thereasonfor thoseinstances whenwementiontheseNames and
motivatethemandyet, they donot function, is because[their functionis]
they areprecededby twocauses: thefirst is thepreparation; withregard
toall of theseforms, combiningthemtoperfect harmony, intheessence
of their formation. As they receivetheir naturefromwithinthenature
of Sandalfon, theAngel of theBack, therefore, whenoneattempts to
removeone's thought frombeneathhis domain[and] theDivineassis-
tancedoes not reachhim, for this assistancecomes fromthesideof Meta-
tron, Angel of theCountenance. [This is themeaningof] what our sages
said"theattributeof Judgement withholds," i.e., Sandalfon, whokeeps
thegateandbinds andshuts all thesupernal gates andsends his angels,
whoaresabotagingangels, etc. If this bethecase, thenif one's thought
departs andis not accompaniedby Divineassistance, andhecannot
returntohis natural state, that onewouldbeindanger fromevil spirits,
demons anddevils.
Thegeneral context of this quotefromSefer Sha'arei Zedek refers
tothechantingof DivineNames inorder toattainprophecy. According
tothequoteabove, twopossibilities avail themselves: first, that of Divine
assistance, (i.e., theeffluenceof theintellect whosesourceis Metatron,
theAngel of theCountenancewhogives effluencetotheprophet). This
possibility corresponds tothe"positiveimages" whosesourceis Metatron,
accordingtoLikkutei HaRan. Thesecondpossibility is ameetingbetween
thesoul of theprophet andthemessengers of Sandalfondemons and
Mundus Imaginalis andLikkuiei HaRan
evil spiritswhoareparallel tosimilar forms that confuseandfrighten
theprophets accordingtoLikkutei HaRan. Another point that indicates
arelationshipbetweenLikkutei HaRanandSha'arei Zedekis thefact
that theanonymous author of Sha'arei Zedekdeclares that hewas familiar
withSufi techniques for attainingecstasy.
Apart fromthese, wefind
anumber of other characteristics sharedby Likkutei HaRanandthe
school of Abulafia:
A) Abulafiaandhis disciples arecharacterizedby their discussions
regardingtherelationshipbetweenthesoul, or intellect, andthesupernal
world, andtheerotic natureof this relationship.
This is alsofoundina
sectionof Likkutei HaRan, whereweread:
Weshouldnot removeour thoughts fromtheDivinity, andour
intellectual soul shouldalways belongingandpiningtoperceivethe
Supernal, whichis symbolizedby theeffluenceof theDiadem. Andone
shouldbesweet toHer as oneis sweet toawomanwhoreceives effluence
fromher Man, wholoves her withapowerful love. Andif youact thus,
shewill cleavetoyoualways inveritableunion.
Inaddition, amongAbulafiaandhis disciples,
as well as inLikkutei
HaRan, theeffluenceof theintellect is calledthe"seed." Accordingto
theauthor of Likkutei HaRan, Malkhut (theDiadem) is femaleinrelation
tothesefirot and
maleinrelationtotheseparateintellects andthesouls
of man, duetothefact that theeffluencethat comes fromher totheintel-
lectual soul is liketheseedthat comes fromamantothebowels of the
woman, andas amanbecomes older inyears, sotoo, his mindwhichis
suchlikeeffluence(?) grows withhim."
B) Themixtureof philosophical concepts, numerology andletter
combination, characterizes thewritings of Abulafiaandhis disciples.
Theseelements alsoappear inLikkutei HaRan. Inasectionpublished
by G. Scholemweread:
WhenGodgazedintoHimself, fromthis gazingwas foundtheprimal
intelligence, whichis thebindingthat cleaves totheessenceof created
existence*. For Heincluded[withinHimself] theWorldof theIntellect,
theWorldof theSoul andtheWorldof theSenses, for Heis theGreat
man[macroanthropos] whoencompasses all of thepresent world. For
themanof thesenses is themicrocosmandthemanof theintellect is
themacrocosm. His countenancesymbolizes theentireWorldof the
Intellect, thesupernal world, andtheWorldof theSeparateIntelligences,
andhis feet symbolizetheWorldof theSenses, theWorldof Combined
Forms ingeneral, thelower world, thenatural world. His takingflight,
as theversestates [Isaiah6:2] "[he] shall fly** refers totheintermediate
80 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
world, theworldof theheavenly bodies. Noticethat (theword) fshesh')
[six: thenumber of wings] contains thesamenumerical valueas theword
"kesher", andtheword"kenafayim" [wings] has thenumerical valueof
e?em" [essence]. Thus, "sheshkenafayim" [six wings] ="kesher
e?em" (bindingwiththeessence) Le., theprimary intelligencethat binds
theessenceof createdexistence, fromthefirst createdlevel tothelast
createdlevel. Theseconsist of threeessences: oneessenceof theWorld
of theIntellect, theessenceof theWorldof theSoul, andtheessenceof
theWorldof theSenses. Thus, threetimes (theword) "
e?em" (essence)
contains thenumerical valuesix hundred, i.e., theword"shesh" (six)
andthetwoletters that formtheword"shesh" havethenumerical value
of threetimes theword"kenafayim" (wings).
sheshkenafayim" (six wings) symbolizes theentire
existenceis foundinthewritings of Abulafia, inhis Sefer Sitrei Torah,
wherehemakes useof exactly thesenumerological devices tomakehis
point: "shesh" =600="kesher" (binding); "kenafayim" =200="*e?em".
What is missinginAbulafiais theneo-Platonic flavor foundin Likkutei
HaRan. Indeed, this neo-Platonism, together withtheconsiderationof
thesephirot (Divineattributes) as being(onewith) theDivinity, although
not present inAbulafia's writings, is acharacteristic of Sefer Sha'arei Zedek,
C) InLikkutei HaRanweread:
Our teacher, thesageRan: TheCommunity of Israel [Knesset Yisrael]
symbolizes the(ingathering, group) of thesouls of therighteousof Israel,
uponwhomis drawn[Divine] mercy andWill [...] Andnot all of thesouls
of thebody areindicated, but only theintellectual soul.
Similar ideas arefoundinSefer 'Or HaMenorahwrittenwithinAbulafia's
As for thepower of speech, whichis thesoul of speechthat receives
theDivineeffluence, this is called
theCommunity of Israel" [Knesset
Yisrael], whosesecret meaningis theActiveIntellect.
LikeSefer 'Or HaMenorah, Abulafiaemploys theterm"Knesset Yisrael"
tosymbolizethewhole, perfectedperson.
D) Theuseof theword"demut" (image) as meaning"dimiyon"
([illusory] imagination) is widespreadinthewritings of R. Abraham
andis reflectedintheHebrewtermfor Mundus Imaginalis
It seems tothis writer that theparallels providedthus far indicate
that theauthor of Likkutei HaRanwas closely alignedwiththecircleof
Mundus Imaginalis andLikkuiei HaRan 81
R. AbrahamAbulafia. Wc will nowattempt toidentify theauthor.
Thefirst indicationcomes fromtheintroductory sentencetothe
quotationcitedat thebeginningof thepaper, regardingthefiveworlds:
"I, YHC lookedintotheKabbalahof Ran."** Inmy opinion, "YHC"
indicates R. Isaac of Acre. Inhis work, Me'irat Einayim, theexpressions
or "andYHB/SNR/ DITO"
occur quiteoften.
Wemay assumethat intherelatively latemanuscript, wherein Likkutei
HaRanis preserved, theletters "SNR DITO" aremissingandtheletter
C (appears) inplaceof abet for they look almost identical.
Inorder tostrengthenthehypothesis that thecompiler of Likkutei
HaRanis R. Isaac of Acre, I will point toanumber of themes that appear
inbothLikkutei HaRanandinthelater writings of R. Isaac of Acre:
A. Thefirst is theparableof thecoloredglass, whichexplains the
variegatedoutcomes of theunifiedDivineeffluencewithout indicating
Likkutei HaRan
MS. NewYork JTS 1777
fols. 32b-33a
Fromour sageRan: Knowthat the
completesimplicityintheepitomeof com-
pleteness is duetotheveritableExistence
of theHoly One. BlessedbeHeandas for
theart of theconstruction[combiningof
complex forms], fromthesmallest of the
small tothegreatest of thegreat, noneof
themareas such, fromthepart of the
Holy OneandHis BlessedName, but rather,
only fromthepart of thecreatedbeings
whoreceivetheeffluenceitself whereinthere
is nocombinationor construct whatsoever.
All is simpleinutter, completesimplicity.
Toillustratethis inaparable: observethe
rays of thelight of thesun, spreadingon
many partitions of glass [i.e. onvarious
colors of glass], eachdifferent fromthe
other. Then, thelight will changewiththe
changeof thecolor of glass, andif theglass
bered, youwill seethecolor of thelight
as red, andif green, thenit will appear
green, andif saffron, thenit will appear
saffron, andif blue, thenblueit will appear.
not onthepart of thesun*s rays, which
arepureandnot complex, not addedtoor
reduced, therays remaininsimplicity, and
Sefer Oxar Hayyim
MS. Moscow-GUnzburg775,
fols. 176a-b
thesecret of theunity of theeffluenceof
theUniqueMaster, comingfromwithin
Him, andtheunity of theUniqueMaster,
unifiedinHis effluence. This parablealso
applies tothesecret of therays of the
supernal soul withinapersonandtheunity
of thesoul inher rays. Youmay understand
this basedonwhat I heardfrommy master,
of blessedmemory, words whicharetoone*s
palatelikethetasteof goodhoney: A palace
is madewithmany windows facingeast and
west, andwithinthewindows arecut glass,
andeachpieceof glass is its ownunique
colorthisoneall blue, this all black, this
all red, this all green, this all saffronand
this combiningtwocolors, whereoneis
unliketheother. Nowwhenthelight of the
sun[passes through] them, therays that
strikethewalls[of thepalace] arevariegated,
withmany colors, eachdifferent fromthe
other, andnoneliketheother, tothepoint
that onewhosees themwill wonder andsay
that thesedifferences areduetothelight
of thesun! Andthis indeedis not thecase,
for thechangeis dueonly tothereceptors
of therays, i.e., tothemany coloredglasses
82 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
thechangeis not inthelight that passed
throughtheglass; it is theglass alonethat
receives thechangeandthecomingtobe
andpassingaway, not thesunat all. So
too, inthecaseof thevery natureof God,
Blessed by He, who acts without being
affectedby another for Heis thePrimary
of all Primaries.
that areset inthewindows. Sotoowemay
understandtherays of theeffluenceof the
UniqueMaster, Oneandunchanging, without
additionor diminution. IndeedHis works
are variegated beyond investigation and
infinite, all of theminaccordancetothe
natureof thecreatures whichreceiveHis
It is reasonabletoassumethat the"teacher" mentionedin Sefer
'0?ar Ifayyimis theauthor of Likkutei HaRan, andthus, wearereferring
totheteacher of R. Isaac of Acre.
B. Theparticular designationof Sandalfonas "Themaster of images
andforms that confuseandfrightenandcausetrembling..." alsooccurs
in-0?ar Ifayyimof R. Isaac of Acre: "Sandalfonis thesecret of thefire
that inflames andcauses fear andtrembling."
C. InLikkutei HaRanwecomeacross theacronym
" twice
(the Four Worlds: V4?ilutemanation, iferi'ahcreation, ye?irah
formation, andV4siahaction), andthis acronymappears for thefirst
timeinKabbalistic literature, inthewritings of R. Isaac of Acre.
D. Thedesignations, "Supernal Man" referringtoMetatron, Angel
of theCountenance, and"TheManof theSenses" referringtomanas
microcosmrecur inbothLikkutei HaRanandSefer '0?ar Ifayyim.*
These, andother indications, (seenote3) point totheidentity of the
compiler of Likkutei HaRan. I assume, after havingstudiedSefer Me'irat
'Einayimby R. Isaac of Acre, that thenameof his teacher is contained
As weknow, R. Isaac oftenusedacronyms inreferringtohis sources
as well.
Intheopeningpassageof alongdiscoursedescribingthedescent
of theDivineeffluenceandtheascent of thesoul, hesays: "Fromthe
mouthof Rabbi NathantheWise, I heard... Wemay thus reasonably
assumethat wecanidentify "Ran" as referringtothesageR. Nathan,
andtheacronymMoharan(MHRN) is decipheredas A/ori /febakham
Rabbi Nathan(my teacher, thewiseRabbi Nathan).
Theanalysis of quotations fromSefer Me'irat 'Einayimand Sefer
ShoshanSodot leads metoconcludethat theopinions of R. Nathanare
closeinconceptual outlook tothoseof R. AbrahamAbulafia, andwe
may assumethat R. Nathanwas thesamepersonas Abulafia's close
disciple, whoherefers toas "Rabbi NathanbenSe'adyahu".
A quotation
fromSefer 'EvenSappir alsopoints tothecircleof R. AbrahamAbulafia;
therein, wefindmany discussions takenfromthewritings of Abulafia
andhis disciples.
Theforegoingdiscussioninforms us that withinthecircleof R.
Mundus Imaginalis andLikkuiei HaRan 83
AbrahamAbulafia's disciples (i.e., inthewritings of R. Nathanandinthe
anonymous work Sha'arei Zedek), therebegantobecloser associationto
Sufism. This is affirmedby thepresenceof Sufic meditationmethods in
thetext of Sha'arei Zedek, andby our knowledgeof thesources of some
views expressedinLikkutei HaRan. Thegeographic rangeof thepenetration
of Sufisminecstatic Kabbalahwill bediscussedinthefollowingessay; it
shouldbementionedthat this influenceleaves its mark not only inthe
works of R. Nathanandtheauthor of Sha'arei Zedek, but alsointhe
works of R. Isaac of Acre,
whowas oneof theforemost Kabbalists of
NotestoChapter 5
1. SeeG. Scholem
'OdPa'amal Sefer 'Avnei Zikkaron," inKiryat Sefer
vol. 7(1930-1931) p. 461; idem. "Hitpatfcut Torat Ha'Olamot BeKabbalat Ha-
Rishonim,** inTarbiz, vol 3(1932), pp. 42, 46.
2. Kiryat Sefer, vol. 7, p. 461; Tarbi?, vol. 3, p. 46, whereScholemdescribes
theMundus Imaginalis as theworldof thespiritual nature.
3. Shabbat, fol. 62b. This aphorism, as areferencetothelast sephirah,
referredtoas 'Atarahor theDiadem, is alsofoundinSefer '0?ar Ifayyimby R.
Isaac of Acre, MS. Moscow-Gtinzburg775fol. 173b.
4. It is reasonabletoassumethat thesourcefor thedesignationof the"three
supernal (sefirot)** as theDivinity, is theBookof Bahir, paragraph140, inthe
Margoliothedition, whichoffers atheosophical explanationof theword
[then]: thealephrefers tothethreesupernals, andthezayin(numerical valueof 7)
refers tothesevenattributes of construction. For aChristianexplanationof this
division, seeIjayyimWirszubski:
Pico*s CompaniontoKabbalistic Symbolism"
inStudies inMysticismandReligionpresentedtoGershomScholem, [Jerusalem,
1967] pp. 358-361. Seealso'Iggeret Ifamudot by R. Eliyahuof Genazzano(London
1912) pp. 29, 39ff.
5. This conceptionalready appears intheworks of R. Azriel of Gerona; see
Scholem*s discussionof it inTarbiz vol. 2(1931) p. 431andalsoinMoses Narboni's
commentary toIfai BenYoktan, MS. Paris BN. 914, fol. 149b. Seealsothe
collectanaeaof R. YofeananAlemanno, MS. Oxford2234fol. 126b, ff.
6. MS. NewYork JTS 1777(EMC 699) fol 33a. Likkutei HaRanappears inthis
collectionof Kabbalistic varia, onfol. 32a-34a, andaportionof this was published
by ScholeminTarbi? vol. 3, pp. 44-46. Thequotebrought inthis articlealso
appears inSefer 'Avnei Zikkaronby R. AbrahamAdrutiel, MS. NewYork JTS 1746
(EMC 651) fol. 3a-3b. However, Adruteil omits someimportant words regarding
theMundus Imaginalis. I quotethis sectionfromSefer 'Avnei Zikkaron: "And
theDivineWorldrefers tothat whichis beyondtherealmof purethought. The
84 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
Worldof theIntellect refers tothethreesupernals, andtheWorldof theSouls
refers totheandrogyne[MaleandFemale], andtotheentirestructure. The
Mundus Imaginalis refers toMetatron, Angel of theCountenance, andSandalfon.
Alternatively, theDivineWorldrefers tothethreesupernals, theWorldof the
Intellect refers totheWorldof theStructure. Alternatively, theWorldof the
Divinity refers totheconstruction, i.e., tothesix sons towhomKingDavid
alludedintheverse[I Chronicles 29:11] ToYou, ohLord, aretheGreatness and
thePower,' etc. TheWorldof theIntellect refers totheDiadem('Atarahi.e. the
last Sefirah) andalthoughthey areall unified, this is only inpotentia, not in
actuality, becausefemales areanationapart. Understandif youaremaster of
your soul. TheWorldof Souls refers totheSupernal Man, Metatron, theAngel
of theCountenance, andtheMundus Imaginalis refers toSandalfon, whobinds
coronets for his Master. TheWorldof theSenses is thesensibleworld."
7. Ms. NewYork JTS 1777fol. 34a. Onanother instanceof theoccurrence
of theviewthat Moses has receivedthecapability toseethepast andthefuture
seeM. Idel
R. YehudahHallewahandHis '?afnat Pa'aneafc'" [Heb.] Shalem
vol. 4[1984] pp. 131-132n. 32andespecially Pieter W. der Host, "Moses' Throne
VisioninEzekiel theDramatist" JJSvol. 34[1983] p. 28.
8. Ms. Paris BN. 728fol. 14a. This interestingwork, writteninthemiddleof
thefourteenthcentury, has not yet gainedtheattentionof scholars. Instudying
it onefinds that theauthor copiedsections of various Kabbalistic works, without
indicatinghis sources. Regardingthis work, seeM. Idel, inKiryat Sefer vol. 51
(1977) p. 487. Sec alsochapter VII n. 63.
9. Regardingthis term, seeFazlur Rahman: "Dream, Imaginationand'Alam
Al-Mithal" inIslamic Studies, vol. 3(1964), pp. 167-180(henceforthreferredto
as 'Rahman'). Also, H. Corbin: "LaResurrectionchez MullaSadraShirazi" in
Studies . . . G. Scholem[n. 4above], pp. 71-115(henceforth, Corbin). Seealso
Corbin's article"Mundus Imaginalis oul'imaginaireet Timaginal" inCahiers
InternationauxdeSymbolisme, vol. VI (1964), pp. 3-26.
10. Rahmanpp. 169-170andnote7; alsoCorbinp. 109. For another
occurrenceof 'Olamhadimiyon, atermclosely relatedtotheSufic 'alamaUmithal
seethepassageout of theHallewah's Zqfnat Pa'aneahseeIdel [n. 7above],
pp. 132-133.
11. H. Corbin: L'imaginationcreatricedans leSoitfismed'IbnArabi, [Paris,
1958] p. 262, note233.
12. Rahmanp. 170andnote8; Corbinp. 109.
13. Rahmanpp. 170-171; Corbinp. 99.
14. Rahmanp. 171ff; especially inCorbin, passim.
15. GershomScholem, JewishGnosticism, MerkabahMysticismandTalmudic
Tradition, [NewYork 1960] pp. 52-53, note30.
Mundus Imaginalis andLikkuiei HaRan
16. Hagigafol 17b.
17. G. Scholem, EncyclopediaJudaica(1972) Vol. 14col 827-828.
18. G. Scholem, Tarbi? 16(1945) pp. 202-203.
19. SeealsoZohar 11fol. 202b. TherewefindSandalfonappointedover the
seventhfirmament. However, intheZoharic layer Ra'yaMeheimnawefind
Sandalfonas thesourceof judgments. SeeZohar 111fol. 29b: "Andtheanimating
soul (nefesh) that rules duringtheweek, Sandalfon, issues fromtheThroneof
20. ScholemAbrahamAbulafiap. 236. Thetext publishedthereinis faulty,
andis correctedhereininaccordancewithMS. Paris BN. 770.
21. Someof thematerial that will bequotedinthecourseof this articlewas
analyzedinIdel AbrahamAbulqfia, pp. 105-106.
22. MS. Paris BN. 680fol. 307a"Po'el haguf* (themaker of thebody) =280
="Sandalfon** (numerically). This sectionrefers totheremark intheTalmud
regardingSandalfon, inNiddahfol. 25b. Thedivisionbetweenthefunctions of
MetatronandSandalfon(Sama'el) is clearly noticeableinSefer TikkunHaDe'ot
by R. Isaac Albalag, [Jerusalem1973]. Wereadonp. 58: "It is saidthat Metatron
is theAngel of Israel andSandalfonis theAngel of Esau, i.e., their guides.
Undoubtedly, bothareappointedover theguidanceof all people. Theguidance
of oneinhibits theguidanceof theother. Theway that they guidethepersonis as
follows: Thenatural energy is theprimary completeness, it is thevitality function
withinwhichis thesubsistenceof thebody. Andthemental potency provides the
final completeness. It is theconsciousness, whereinlies thesubsistenceof the
soul . . . andthenatural aspect is calledtheevil inclination, andits function, i.e.,
thenatural inclination, is theevil angel andtheSatanwholeads astray andcauses
harm, etc.** Seealsoibid. p. 60. ThedistinctionbetweenMetatronas thesource
of intelligence, or of thesoul, andSandalfonSama'el as thesourceof thebody,
parallels well withSefer HaTemunah[Lemberg, 1896] fol. 56a: "Metatronand
Sandalfon: onerules fromtheearthtotheheavens intheir entirety, andheis
Metatron, andonerules theearthandall that is uponher, andheis Sandalfon.
Onebrings thesouls tothebody, Metatron, andonebrings the[physical] imprint
andformtothefoetus anddetermines whether it bemaleor female, andheis
Sandalfon.** Sandalfonas thesourceof thematerial realmis alsomentionedin
Sefer Tehillot HaShemby R. Samuel IbnMotot (MS. Vatican255fol 54a): "The
universal soul... is composedof twoparts: theintellectual andrational part; the
functionof thesoul that inandof itself, speaks, whichthesages of theKabbalah
calledMetatron, andbeneaththequality of thesoul is thelevel of theformfrom
whichissues thematerial realm, whichthey calledSandalfon.** Duringapproximately
this samehistorical periodwereadfromSefer HaPeliy'ah[Korez 1784] fol. 16
col. c: MetatronandSandalfon: twoangels aretheguides. "Metatron, Angel of
theCountenanceguides his sons andsuffers their tribulations andpleads mercy on
their behalf, andSandalfontheAngel of theBack whois entirely composedof
86 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
judgment." It is reasonabletoassumethat theviewof theauthor of Sefer HaPeliy'ah
was influencedby theschool of Abulafia, for inthis work wefindextendedsections
takenfromtwoof Abulafia's works Sefer Ifayyei HaNefeshandSefer GanNa'ul.
Theanonymous author of Sefer HaMal'akhHaMeshiv(MS. BritishLibrary 766
fol. 106a) weread: "Sandalfonis thepowerful firewhosits near tothesecret of
theShekhinah. Heemits sparks of fireandflamewhichareall-consuming, and
all areinfear of him." Regardingthis work andits author, seeIdel, "Inquiries,"
andalsoG. Scholem"HaMaggidshel R. Yosef Taita?ak" Sefunot OS, vol. XI
(1978) pp. 69-112, andTarbiz vol. 5(1934) p. 185, andnote1. It is likely that the
termSpiritus naturaewhichappears inKabbalaDenudataby Knorr vonRosenroth,
vol. I, pp. 261-262, andrefers toSandalfonalsoreflects therelationshipbetween
Sandalfonandthenatural or material realm.
23. MS. Oxford1582fols. 25a-25b. This sectionis basedonthenumerological
implications of 280: "Sandalfon=280='yesodhaguf (theelement of thebody) =
'guf velo* yipas
ed(thebody is not corrupted) ='guf lekono' (abody for his master)
='po'al haguf (theactivity of thebody) ="al paninT (onthefaceof) ='nifalim' (the
results of) ='lekadmonim' (for thepreexistent ones) ="anokhi kadmon' (1amthe
uncreated); 'lekono' (for his creator) =192='ha'el 'enoguf (Godis not corporeal)
='velo' ha'el koafr guf (andGodis not acorporal function); "elohim'afcerim'al
panay' (other gods insteadof Me) =625='elohimnifalim'afcerim' (Alienand
24. Maimonides' words areleft unexplained, but most commentators tend
toexplaintheterm"ofan' as referringtoprimal matter.
25. MS. Munich408fol. 70a.
26. MS. Munich10fol. 130a. Thenorth, whichhereis associatedwith
Sandalfon, is associatedwithSama'el inthewritings of Abulafia. InSefer Get
HaShemot (MS. Oxford1682fol. 106a) hewrites: "Theleft siderefers tothe
northerly one,' whois theevil inclination." It is worthnotinginthis connection,
thewords of R. Isaac of Acre, whoinSefer '0?ar Jfayyim(MS. Moscow-Gtinzburg
775fol 167a) writes: "And(thevowel note) ?ere, whichis writtenas twopoints,
refers tothetwoanvils mentioned, Metatron, Angel of theCountenance, and
27. Thecorrespondence: MichaelSouth; GabrielNorth, is mentionedin
MidrashGenesis Rabba, 1:3.
28. Seeparaphraseby R. Isaac of Acre, of acommentary onPirkei deR.
Eliezer publishedby G. Vajda: "Isaac d'Accoet JudabenNissim," REJ115(1956)
p. 67. InSefer '0?ar Ifayyim(MS. Moscow-Gttnzburg775fol. 126a) weread:
"Theattributeof sternjudgment andSandalfon, whois thesecret of thebull, and
thesecret of theforest, is thepower of thenight." Seeabove, note26.
29. Regardingthis work, seeG. Scholem: "Sha'arei edekMa'amar Be-
KabbalahMeaskolat R. AbrahamAbulafiaMeyufcas leR. ShemTov (IbnGaon?)"
inKiryat Sefer vol. 1(1924-25) pp. 127-139. WequotedfromtheJerusalemMS.
Mundus Imaginalis andLikkuiei HaRan
8 148fols. 74a-74b. InMS. Milano-Ambrosiana, 60wefindasectioncontaining
material very similar tothis work. Thereweread(ff. 42b-43a): "Thesearenecessarily
twoopposites andthey arecalledby twonames basedontheir opposition: the
aspect of existence, mercy, theright side, andthecountenance, andheis called
Sandalfonintheaspects of negation, sternjudgment, theleft sideandtheposterior."
Wemay assumethat theterm"Metatron" is missing, andought toappear between
thewords "countenance" and"and".
30. Kiryat Sefer 1pp. 132-133.
31. Idel, TheMystical Experience, pp. 184-190.
32. MS. NewYork JTS 1777fol. 33b.
33. Idel, TheMystical Experience, pp. 190-195.
34. MS. NewYork JTS 1777fol. 33a.
35. Tarbi* 3, p. 45.
36. Comparewiththewords of R. ShemTov IbnFalakerahinSefer Moreh
HaMoreh[Presburg, 1837] p. 50: "Andanancient sageremarkedthat theperception
of theBlessedDivinity inthis worldwouldbindthis worldwithoneropesothat
it wouldnot moveor stray." Comparealsowiththewords of R. JosephIbnCaspi,
Sefer Maskiyot Kesef [Frankfurt auMain, 1848] p. 75.
37. MS. Paris BN. 774fols. 134a-134b. Theconnections betweenthis section
of Likkutei HaRanandAbulafia's discussionof thesubject of 'kenafayim' revolved
aroundtheideaof man-microcosm, cosmos-Great Man(macrocosm). This fact
andthefact that bothAbulafiaandtheauthor of Likkutei HaRanuseidentical
numerologies, suggest that thereexistedarelationship, albeit perhaps only aliterary
one, betweenthetwo.
38. MS. NewYork JTS 1777fol. 34a.
39. MS. Jerusalem1303fol 28b. Regardingthis work, seeIdel, Abraham
Abulafiap. 79.
40. Idel, TheMystical Experience, pp. 211-212.
41. Idel, AbrahamAbulafia, p. 79.
42. MS. NewYork JTS 1777, fol. 33a. Thebeginningof this quoteis omitted
fromSefer 'Avnei Zikkaronby R. AbrahamAdrutiel. Seenote6, above. It is worth
notingthat thedescriptionof theMS. NewYork JTS 1777, apparently writtenby
R. Yaakov Toledano, mentions R. Isaac of Acre; this refers, however, toalater
sectionof theMS.
43. Pp. 44, 75. This acronymmay bedecipheredas follows: Yi^bak //aa*ir
BenShmuel N R DeminAcco71bbanehPetikonen(Isaac theYoung, sonof
Samuel, may Godguardhim, of Acre, may it berebuilt andre-established). It is
worthnotingthat R. Isaac of Acredidnot always makeuseof this particular
88 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
acronymtoindicatereferencetohimself. HealsousedAHYDA (>4mar //aa'ir
KUhak DeminAcco) (saidtheyouth, Isaac of Acre). SeeGottlieb, Studies p. 232.
Another acronymheusedwas VYHBDATO, whichoccurs inSefer 'Avnei Zikkaron
(occurringas well as inSefer Me'irat 'Einayim). Sec G. Scholem
Sefer 'Avnei
Zikkaron' Kiryat Sefer 6(1929-1930) p. 261.
44. Pp. 44, 50, etc.
45. This sectionis alsoquotedinSefer 'Avnei ZikkaronMS. NewYork JTS
1746(ECM651) fols. 3a-b. A parablesimilar tothesetwoversions is alsofoundin
theworks of Stevenbar Sudaili; seeG. Widengren, "Researches inSyrianMysticism,
Mystical Experiences andSpiritual Exercises," Numenvol. 8(1961) p. 195. Another
parallel occurs inSefer JJovot HaLevavot Sha'ar HaBebinahchapter 1, andalso
inSefer Zurat Ha'Olamby R. Isaac ibnLatif (Vienna1860, p. 40): "For the
revealedlight, depictedas whitening, does not actually changecolor for every
individual, anddoes not receiveany color fromoutsideitself. Rather it is likethe
rays of thesunthat reachglass lanterns, wherethecolor of thelight changes
correspondingtothecolor of theglass; not that thelight itself changes, for it
does not receivecolor fromanythingoutsideitself." SeeS. Heller-Wilensky "Isaac
IbnLatifPhilosopher or Kabbalist?" ined. Alexander AltmannJewishMedieval
andRenaissanceStudies (Cambridge, Mass. 1967) p. 208note163. It is worth
notingthat inboth"Likkutei HaRan' andinIbnLatif wecomeacross theterm
'nivra* rishon* (primal creation). I intendtofocus onthis termelsewhere. Seealso
further inthis article, note52. Theterm"
eser mar'ot" (tenmirrors) was ingeneral
useamongst Kabbalists as asymbol for thesefirot, but without referenceto
different colors. SeeG. Scholem"Colours andTheir SymbolisminJewish
TraditionandMysticism" inDiogenes vol. 108(1979) p. 98andn. 44. Thesimile
of thetenmirrors alsoappears inKabbalistic variafromtheschool of R. Shelomo
benAbrahamibnAdret of Barcelona; seeMS. Vatican202fol. 60aandMS. Parma
1221fol. 110b. Later wefindit inthewritings of Moses Narboni, inhis commentary
tolfai benYoktan, seeVajda, Recherches pp. 379, 399. However, sincethe
generationof theExpulsionfromSpain, weobserveacombiningof thesimiles
of themirror andthecoloredglasses, dueapparently totheinfluenceof Sefer 'Avnei
Zikkaronor its sources; SeeGottlieb, Studies p. 422, note77.
46. MS. Moscow-Gtinzburg775fol. 130b.
47. SeeG. ScholeminTarbi? vol. 3pp. 59-60. If weassumethat thecompiler
of Likkutei HaRanwas R. Isaac of Acre, thenthesourceof theacronym'ABYA
(thefour worlds: 'A^ilut [emanation], Beri'ah[creation], Ye?irah[formation] and
'Assiah[action]) wouldseemtohavebeeninKabbalistic circles far fromtheZohar
andits various strata. Cp. however toG. Scholeminibid. pp. 60-61, wherehe
asserts that R. Isaac of Acrereceivedthedoctrineof thefour worlds either from
other Kabbalists "whowerecloseinspirit totheseauthors (i.e. of theUkkunei
Zohar), or fromthewritings of Kabbalists of thegenerationof R. Moses deLeon,
whicharenolonger extant." Intheaforementionedarticle(p. 63, note2) Scholem
notes theuseof theacronym'ABYA
inLikkutei HaRan, but hewas of the
opinionthat this work was composedduringthefourteenthcentury.
Mundus Imaginalis andLikkuiei HaRan
48. MS. NewYork JTS 1777ff. 32a-b, andMS. Moscow-Gttnzburg, 775
fol. 141b.
49. SeeVajda, ibid., note29onp. 64.
50. Me'irat 'Eynaimp. 222: seeIdel, TheMystical Experiencepp. 133-134
andthepertinent footnotes.
51. Idel, TheMystical Experiencep. 134. Scholem, (Tarbi? 3p. 48.) cautiously
chosenot todecipher theacronym'HaRan,' however, Georges Vajda, inhis book
JudabenNissimIbnMalka(Paris, 1954) p. 79, note2) speaks of R. Nissimas the
author of Likkutei HaRan.
52. Regardingthesimilarities betweenR. Isaac of AcreandSefer Sha'arei
Zedek, seeGottliebinStudies p. 233note7. I intendtobringadditional material
onthis as well as onother issues inLikkutei HaRaninacritical editionof
Sefer Sha'arei Zedek.
53. A brief survey of theconnections betweenKabbalahandSufismmay be
foundinG. Scholem: "A NoteonaKabbalistic TreatiseonContemplation," in
Melanges offerts aHenri Corbin, [Teheran, 1977] pp. 665-670.
Chapter 6
Ecstatic Kabbalah
andtheLandof Israel
lthoughanumber of JewishmysticsKabbalistssettledinPalestine
inthethirteenth century, their presencedid not contributeto
thedevelopment of aKabbalistic school of thought. Weknowalmost
nothingof theoutcomeof R. Jacobha-Nazir of Lund's decisiontovisit
Nafrmanides, whoexertedconsiderableinfluenceamongthe
Barcelonamystics, thefollowers of his Kabbalistic views, was nonetheless
unsuccessful inmotivatinghis disciples tosettleintheLandof Israel,
it wouldseemthat his migrationtoPalestinedidnot leadtothecreation
of anindependent Kabbalistic tradition. Similarly, R. AbrahamAbulafia,
whoreachedPalestinein1260, left noimprint there. His principal aim
was tosearchfor thelegendary SambatyonRiver,
uponhis reachingAcre,
however, his searchcametoanendduetothewar whichthenragedbetween
theMameluks andtheTatars in'EinHarod('EinJalud).
retracedhis steps, leavingnodescriptioninhis works of Palestineand/
or Acre.
Intheearly 1270s, Abulafiabeganthestudy of the"Kabbalahof
names," disseminatingthis methodamonghis students andfollowers,
bothpersonally andinwriting. In1287, whiletravelingthroughSicily,
hecomposedShomer Miprah
at therequest of "that fineandlearned
youngman, R. Solomonha-Kohen, sonof thelateMoses ha-Kohenof
GalileeintheLandof Israel, whocalleduponmetocomposeawork on
theprocedures of thePriestly Blessing."
Abulafiatestifies elsewherethat
92 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
R. Solomonhadbeenoneof his students: "andinhonor of theafore-
mentionedfinestudent R. Solomon.. ."* This is clear evidencethat oneof
therabbis of PalestinehadlearnedAbulafia's Kabbalistic doctrines from
Abulafiahimself, as early as 1287.
Four years later, R. Isaac benSamuel of Acreleft for Spain, andan
examinationof this Kabbalist's writings reveals clear indications of the
influenceof Abulafia's mystical thought. Theseareespecially apparent
in'Ozar ffayyim, awork whichincludes descriptions of R. Isaac's visions
andmystical practices.
Furthermore, MS Sassoon919, whichcontains
material from'0?ar Jfayyim, makes mentionof "themystic sageR. Joseph
benSolomonof blessedmemory of Galilee, of theprovinceof Safed"
(p. SO). Thethreeauthors wehavementionedareidentifiedwithGalilee,
andtwoof themareassociatedwiththethought of R. AbrahamAbulafia.
Totheseweshouldaddafourthscholartheauthor of Sha'arei
Thetitlepageof this manuscript reads: "This book was written
by R. Shem-Tov of Spainamonghis other works; heis of thecity of Leon
andis agreat kabbalist. This work was writteninUpper Galilee."
ever, inadifferent manuscript of thesamework-MS Gaster 954weread:
"This work of truekabbalah, inspiringof wisdomandunderstanding, was
completedintheyear 55(heh-nun) inthemonthof Marfreshvanin
Whether theyear (heh-nun) referredto1290or 1295and
whether weaccept thelocationeither as Upper Galileeor as Hebron, we
are, inany case, providedwithadditional evidenceconcerningtheties
betweenAbulafiaandhis Kabbalistic methods, andtheKabbalists of
Palestine. Inless thanadecadebetween1287whenShomer Mi?vah
was written, and1295nearly all theevidencepertainingtotheKabbalah
inPalestineis associatedwiththeKabbalistic methodology of Abulafia.
This fact is particularly noteworthy inlight of theminimal influenceof
Abulafia's mysticismamongSpanishKabbalists at theendof thethirteenth
andthebeginningof thefourteenthcenturies. Hereit is most probable
that R. SolomonbenAbrahamIbnAdret's sharpattack onAbulafiaand
his "prophetic Kabbalah" deterredSpanishKabbalists fromfollowingthe
pathof "prophetic" mysticism.
A moreimportant questioninthecontext of this discussion, however,
is why therabbis of Palestinewereinfluencedby precisely this school of
thought. It seems tomethat at least apartial answer may bederivedfrom
aperusal of theworks of R. Isaac benSamuel of Acreandof theauthor
of Sha'arei Zedek. TheseKabbalists weregreatly influencedby theteach-
ings of Abulafia, but their writings containafurther characteristic lacking
inAbulafia's thoughtonethat is of interest tous. Inthewritings of his
Easternfollowers inmysticism, theKabbalahof AbulafiaacquiredaSufic
Ecstatic KabbalahandtheLandof Israel
Inpractical terms, this phenomenonmay beexplainedintwoways.
Thefirst holds that Abulafia's teachings reachedPalestineandencountered
various Sufic concepts. His students subsequently effectedasynthesis be-
tweenthetwosystems. Thesecondpossibility, however, seems tobethe
morereasonable; it assumes theexistenceof aSufic-Jewishstreamof
thinkingintheEast prior tothedisseminationof Abulafia's Kabbalah.
Whenwordspreadof this school of mysticismwhichis similar inseveral
respects toSufic andYogaelementsscholars of Easternlands sought
ways tolearnAbulafia's teachings. Consequently, R. SolomonbenMoses
of Galileewent toSicily tolearnthem. Thereafter, writers suchas R. Isaac
benSamuel of Acre, andtheauthor of Sha'arei ZedekemphasizedSufic
fundamentals withinworks whereAbulafia's influenceis apparent.
Thehypotheis that Sufic-JewishtraditionexistedintheEast, andlikely
alsoinPalestine, may well besupportedby aseries of studies undertaken
inrecent years whichshowclearly that anunbrokensuccessionof writers
intheNear Eastprincipally inEgyptwereprofoundly influencedby
Sufic perceptions. S. D. Goitein
has shownthat R. AbrahambenMoses
benMaimonandhis colleagueR. AbrahamIbnAbu-Rabiyahe-Hasid
joinedanexistingPietist circle. Sufic influenceextendedintoR. Abraham
benMoses benMaimon's circleitclf,
andaclear mystic trendmay be
discernedinawork apparently writtenby R. Obadyah,
sonof R. Abraham.
Furthermore, ananonymous author whoapparently livedinthefifteenth
century continuedtoabsorbSufic influence.
Wehave, then, anunbroken
chainof authors, all of Easterncommunities, whodevelopedamystical
trendunder Sufic inspiration, startingfromthefirst thirdof thethirteenth
century. Inthis context, weshouldalsomentionPerakimbe-Hatfahah
(chapters onBeatitude) attributedtoMaimonides, that was composed
apparently intheEast,
andinwhichSufic principles arerecognizable.
Giventhis environment, thereis noreasontowonder why Abulafia's ecstatic
Kabbalahmeriteddistributionandwhy Sufic principles wereblendedwith
his techniques.
A different questionworthy of expandeddiscussionhereis whether
theKabbalists wehavementionedabsorbedAbulafia's views andsuper-
imposedthemonSufic concepts, eachindependently of theothers, or
whether thereexisted, infact, acircleof PalestinianKabbalists inwhich
Sufic principles wereblendedwiththeKabbalahof Abulafia. It would
appear that therewas indeedsuchadistinctivecircleinPalestineandthat
wearenot dealingwithanumber of individuals withasimilar approach.
Thegeographic proximity of Acre, whereR. Isaac benSamuel received
his education, andGalilee, homeof R. SolomonbenMoses, andtheclose
time-frame(as wehavenoted), tipthescales infavor of theassumption
that therewas arelationshipbetweenthetwoauthors. If theevidence
94 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
concerningSha'arei ZedekhavingbeenwritteninUpper Galileeis correct,
it points further toaconcentrationof Kabbalists inarelatively restricted
geographic environment.
'0?ar Jfayyim, writtenby R. Isaac benSamuel, andSha'arei Zedek
sharecertainsimilarities inseveral areas.
1. EphraimGottliebhas already remarkedonanidentical taleconcerning
IbnSina's useof wine, whichappears precisely inthesetwoworks.
2. Bothworks providethesameinterpretationof theTalmudic dictum
foundinShabbat 152b, concerningstudy of theKabbalahafter theage
of forty.
3. Bothof theseKabbalists, unlikeAbulafia, depict thedanger of death
whileinastateof ecstasy, as if it weretheexperienceof sinkingintoan
this may beaSufic motif.
Abulafia, however, describes this
peril interms of beingconsumedby agreat flame.
4. As I haveshownintheprecedingessay, theSufic-influencedKabbalistic
material availabletoR. Isaac of Acre, whichis associatedwithhis mentor,
is similar totheapproachinSha'arei Zedek.
Especially interestingevidenceregardingtheexistenceof theKab-
balistic circleinwhichR. Isaac benSamuel of Acreparticipated, andwhich
dealt withtheteachings of Abulafia, appears in'Ozar ffayyim.
And1heardfrommy lateteacher . . . that "youth" is anappellationfor
theancient one, for heis theeldest of all creatures, andshouldbesocalled,
andnot calledayouth. Andhesaidthat this is but anappellation, for in
Arabic they call theelder "shekh** [shin-300, khqf-20, totalling320], and
thesecret of youth[na'ar: nun=50, 'ayin=70, resh=200, totalling320] is
also"shekh**. Oneof thestudents asked: "Surely, however, inArabic one
says 'shekh* as if writtenwithayod''sheikh*. Andwhat is donewith
theremainingHen* [yod]"!
It is not Isaac's responsethat concerns us here, but rather theevidence
that Abulafia's teachings werestudiedinateacher-student framework.
Furthermore, whiletheteacher either knewnoArabic or acceptedAbulafia's
traditionby which"shekh" was writtenwithout theletter "yod"
* the
students didknowArabic; onewas theanonymous student whohadposed
thequestion, andthesecondwas R. Isaac of Acrehimself. R. Isaac's tes-
timony does not hint at wherethis discussiontook place; intheory, he
couldhavelearnedAbulafia's teachings inItaly, whileonhis way from
PalestinetoSpain, or inSpainitselfthoughthis possibility does not seem
reasonabletome. I knowof noevidenceinrelationtoSpainconcerning
Abulafia's disciples' circulatinghis teachings there. Sicily, ontheother
hand, was Abulafia's bastionbut at present wehavenoevidencecon-
Ecstatic KabbalahandtheLandof Israel
cerninghis students
activities after 1291.
It is thereforemorereasonable
toassumethat R. Isaac of AcrelearnedAbulafia's Kabbalahfromoneof
his disciples inPalestineandnot ill Sicily. Inthis context, thefact that a
possiblesonof R. SolomonbenMoses of GalileeR. JosephbenSolomon
is mentionedinamanuscript that includes material from'0?ar Ifayyim9
may besignificant.
Onefurther pieceof evidenceshouldbeaddedtothearguments we
havecitedas proof of theexistenceof Abulafia's KabbalahinPalestine.
Inmaterial belongingtoR. Nathan(whowas, inmy opinion, R. Isaac
of Acre's mentor andalso, apparently, adiscipleof Abulafia
) there
appears auniqueSufic concept whoseparticulars areknowntous only
throughEasternSufism. Thefirst evidenceconcerningasystemof five
worlds, includingoneof theimagination'alamal-mithal, or 'olamha-
demut inthephrasingof thecollections basedonR. Nathan's work
appear only inthethirteenth-century commentary of Abdel Rizak al-
Kashani onawork of Ibn'Arabi.
Thus R. Nathan's Hebrewmaterial
reflects atraditionput intowritingintheEast inthethirteenthcentury.
It is difficult toassumethat thesynthesis betweenR. AbrahamAbulafia's
concepts andthoseof Sufismwhichis undoubtedly of Oriental origin
foundits way totheWest withinashort periodof timeandonly there
becameknowntoR. Isaac benSamuel of Acre. Inmy view, this Kabbalist
servedas themainconduit for transmissionof theKabbalistic-Sufic syn-
thesis fromtheOrient totheOccidentafascinating"migration" of
Kabbalistic theory whichwas lockedintoarestrictedcircleinthirteenth-
century Barcelona.
Abulafia, whoabsorbedtheteachings of this group,
conveyedtheseconcepts toItaly andGreeceanddevelopedthemover the
1270s and1280s. By theendof thelatter decade, his teachings hadreached
Palestinewherethey blendedwiththePietist-Sufic trendof thought, and
thenreturnedinthe1290s toSpain. There, theKabbalistic-Sufic synthesis
hadparticular influenceontheKabbalistic doctrineof worldsaninfluence
discernibleinthewritings of R. ElnathanbenMoses KalkishandR.
It seems, however, that Abulafia's doctrines continuedtobear fruit
inPalestineitself after thethirteenthcentury as well. Thework Baddei
Ha-Aron, composedinPalestineby R. Shem-Tov IbnGaon, contains a
descriptionof avisionof aTorahscroll intheformof acircle, avision
very similar tothat witnessedby R. Isaac benSamuel of Acieanddescribed
in'Ozar Jfayyim.
Abulafia's PalestinianKabbalistic doctrines spread
writtenby R. JudahAlbotini inJerusalemintheearly sixteenthcentury,
is basedentirely onR. Abulafia's Ifayyei Ha'OlamHaBaandon Sha'arei
Zedek. Abulafia's influenceis visibletooin'EvenHaShohamby R. Joseph
96 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
Ibnaiab(Jerusalem, 1S39). Thegreatest of theKabbalists of Safed,
suchas R. SolomonbenMoses Alkabeg, R. Moses Cordovero, andespe-
cially R. HayyimVital wereinfluencedby Abulafia's ffayyei Ha'Olam
HaBa' and 'Or HaSekhel A sizeablecollectionof sections takenfrom
Abulafia's mysticism, foundinamanuscript copiedby MenahemPapu
(oneof theBeit-El Kabbalists),
is but onesourceof evidenceof thedeep
impact Abulafia's techniques hadontheBeit-El group. Inaddition, traces
of mystical-Sufic synthesis foundin'Ozar tfayyimareapparent inthe
writings of R. JudahAlbotini
andR. HayyimVital, andinR. Elijahde
Vidas's work, Reshit Ifokhmah.
It appears thenthat R. AbrahamAbulafia's kabbalahunderwent a
turningpoint towardSufismwithits acceptanceby theKabbalists of
Palestineinthethirteenthcentury. This development, andtheextreme
spiritualizationof Judaismapparent inAbulafia's ownwritings, areappar-
ently thefactors responsiblefor thenearly total absenceof discussionof
thespecial status of theLandof Israel or of exceptional useof symbols
linkedtheretoinprophetic Kabbalah. At first sight, this seems paradoxical;
theSpanishKabbalists andespecially thebook of Zohar developthe
symbolismof theLandof Israel andlocatethecentral work of Kabbalah
there, whilethemystics of Palestineitself seemtohavenothingtosay on
thesubject! Wesay "seemto," becausethemystical systems whichstress
extremeecstatic experiencetendtodowngradeacceptedreligious ritual,
whileobjects associatedwiththat ritual, suchas theTorah, theTemple
andits appurtenances, become, inthesystemof Abulafia, labels or symbols
of internal eventsstations inthespiritual lifeof themystic.
This does
not holdtrueinmoderatemystical systems suchas theKabbalahof sefirot
(DivineEmanations)systems inwhichthemystic's spiritual liferevolves
aroundritual, draws sustenancefromritual andstrengthens it. Onewho
feels indirect proximity totheDeity has nofurther needfor any suchmeans
of ascent; at least, sucha"journey" cannot beessential.
But if ecstatic
Kabbalahdidnot makeanimportant contributiontotheenrichment of
theconcept of "theLandof Israel" as amystical symbolas didtheZohar
it is nonetheless truethat theLandof Israel, Palestine, madeagreat con-
tributiontothis school of thought. This contribution, ironically, was
nurturedby Muslimmysticism.
NotestoChapter 6
1. SeeG. Scholem, "FromResearcher toKabbalist" (Hebrew), Tarbi? 6
(1935): 96-97.
2. R. SolomonbenSamuel Petit is anexception; heexpoundedTorahinthe
Ecstatic KabbalahandtheLandof Israel
yeshivaof Acre, thoughheleft behindnoKabbalistic writings. Evidenceof his
mystical teachings may befoundinR. Isaac of Acre's Me'irat 'Einayim. See
H. Graetz, Historyof theJews (Philadelphia, 1956), vol. IV, pp. 626-628.
3. Seetext publishedby A. Jellinek, Beit ha-Midrash, (Jerusalem, 1938) part
3, p. XL.
4. J. Prawer, AHistoryof theLatinKingdomof Jerusalem, 2(Hebrew) (Jeru-
salem, 1971), pp. 420ff. ConcerningAcreas agateway for travellers at thetime,
seeA. Grabois, "Acreas theGateway of JewishImmigrationtoPalestineinthe
Crusader Period,** Studies intheHistoryof theJewishPeopleandtheLandof
Israel, 2(Hebrew) (Haifa, 1972), pp. 93-106.
5. It has beenpreservednearly inits entirety inMS Paris BN 853, fols. 38a-79a.
I haverecently identifiedthreepages belongingtothis book fromGenizamaterial
(MS CambridgeT-S, Ar. 48.194) sent tomeby Dr. Paul Fentonfor identification.
It seems reasonabletoassumethat theexistenceof theleaves of precisely this
Abulafianwork intheGenizamaterial is relevant tothesubject of this article,
namely our assertionthat Abulafia's treatisewas inthehands of Orientalperhaps
Sufi-biasedJews. Details onthis treatisemay befoundinIdel, AbrahamAbulafia,
p. 18.
6. MS. Paris BN 853, fol. 44b.
7. Ibid., 79a.
8. Concerningthis work, seeGottlieb, Studies pp. 231-247.
9. Concerningthis work, seeG. Scholem, "Sha'arei Zedek: A Kabbalistic
Essay of theSchool of Thought of R. AbrahamAbulafia, attributedtoR. Shem
Tov (IbnGaonT)** (Hebrew), Kiryat Sefer 1(1924): 127-139.
10. MS. Jerusalem8 148, fol 18a.
11. SeeScholem, MSS, p. 34.
12. SeeResportsaof Solomonb. Adret, part 1, sect. 548.
13. SeeG. Scholem,
A NoteonaKabbalistical TreatiseonContemplation,**
Melanges Offerts aH. Corbin(Teheran, 1973), p. 670, no. 3; Scholem(Note9above)
p. 132.
14. N. Wieder, Islamic Influences onJewishWorship(Oxford, 1947); S. D.
Goitein, "AbrahamMaimonides andhis Pietist Circle,** JewishMedieval and
RenaissanceStudies, ed. A. Altmann(Cambridge, Mass., 1967), pp. 150ff.; S. D.
Goitein, "R. AbrahamMaimonides andhis Pietist Circle** (Hebrew), Tarbi? 33
(1964): 181-197. ConcerningAbrahamMaimonides's relationshipwithAcre, see
Grabois (above, n. 4), p. 102-103.
15. For asummation, seeG. D. Cohen, "TheSoteriology of R. Abraham
Maimuni," PAAJR35(1967): 75-98; 36(1968): 33-56.
98 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
16. G. Vajda, TheMystical Doctrineof Rabbi Obadyah, grandsonof Moses
Maimonides,- JJS6(1955): 213-225; seenow, Fenton(ed.), TheTreatise.
17. F. Rosenthal, "A Judaeo-Arabic Work under Sufic Influence," HUCA15
(1940): 433-484. ConcerningtwoJewish-Sufic manuscripts inArabic, seeVajda
(above, n. 16), p. 222; FentonTheTreatisep. 62n. 89-90.
18. Ed. D. H. Baneth(Hebrew) (Jerusalem, 1939). Onp. XXVII, Davidowich
notes that Arabic andHebrewmanuscripts werewrittenin"SyrianMughrabi
Rabbinic" hand. This work was little-knownintheWest. As Vajdahas shown, of
thetwopassages quotedby Steinschneider, only one(that of DonBenvenisteben
Lavie, of theearly fifteenthcentury) indeedparallels Perakimbe-Hazlahah. The
secondandlater quotationwas discoveredby VajdainR. JosephYaabe?^com-
mentary onAvot. SeeG. Vajda, "UneCitationnonSignalteduChapitresur la
Beatitudeattribut &MoiseMaimonide," REJ 130(1971): 305-306. Wieder (above,
n. 14), pp. 45-46, assumedthat R. Abraham, thesonof Maimonides, is thereal
author of this treatise, whereas Fenton(above, n. 16), pp. 44-46, proposedR.
'Obady&hR. Abraham's sonas thepossibleauthor. Thepresent author pointed
toacertainaffinity betweentheconcept "worldof imagination" inR. Natan's
R. Isaac of Acre's mastercollectanaeaandtheviewof theimaginativefaculty in
theChapter onBeatitude, seeIdel, "R. JehudaHallewahandhis book afenat
Pa'aneafc" (Hebrew), Shalem4(Jerusalem, 1984): 119-148.
19. Perakimbe-Ha?labahp. 11; seealsonotes 22-23below.
20. GottliebStudies p. 233, n. 7.
21. Seemy articleconcerningtheprohibitionof study of kabbalabeforethe
ageof forty, AJSReview5, sectionB (1980): 8-10; seealsothesimilar usageof the
expressionadamkatanas microcosmos inAbulafiaandR. Isaac of Acre, andthe
occurrenceof thesamephraseinSha'arei Zedek. Cf. M. Idel, "TheWorldof Angels
inAnthropomorphic Shape" (Hebrew), I. TishbyFestschrift (Jerusalem, 1984),
p. 57, n. 215; Idel, "Kabbalistic Materials fromtheSchool of Rabbi Davidben
YehudahheHasid" (Hebrew), JerusalemStudies inJewishThought, II, 2(1982-
1983): 177-178, n. 40.
22. SeeSha'arei Zedek, MS. Jerusalem8 148, fol. 65b, and'0?ar Ifayyim,
MS. Moscow-Gflnzburg775, fol. 161b; seealsoGottliebStudies, p. 237.
23. SeePerakimbe-Hazlabah, p. 7, line14. Themeaningof shekiy'ah(sinking)
toboththesekabbalists, andinPerakimbe-Hazlahah, is that of devekut withthe
spiritual world, theuniversal intelligenceor theuniversal soul. Wemay findsimilar
applicationof this concept inIbnTufayl's Ifai BenYoktan. SeeS. S. Hawi, Islamic
NaturalismandMysticism(Leiden, 1974), pp. 150-151.
24. Idel, TheMystical Experiencepp. 120-121.
25. Seechapter V above.
26. MS. Moscow-GUnzburg775, fol. 131b. Cf. theextant fragments of '0?ar
Ecstatic KabbalahandtheLandof Israel
Ifayyim, MS. Sassoon919, p. 217: "Oneday duringthis month, I, ayoungman,
was sittinginthecompany of veteranstudents wholovedwisdom"; afterwards,
R. Isaac relates adiscussionconcerningthegolem. Weshouldmentionherethe
descriptionof R. Isaac's teacher in'0?ar Ifayyim, MS. Moscow-Gtinzburg775,
fol. 100a:"... as I havereceivedfromtheparagonof his ageinmatters of modesty,
kabbalistic wisdom, philosophy, andsecrets of thecombinations of letters, hewas
most wontoinstruct meinthetensefirot of belimahandintheways " This de-
scription, whichis not inkeepingwithwhat weknowabout R. AbrahamAbulafia
himselffor hedidnot tendtodeal inpneumatic contemplationof tensefirot
is nevertheless inkeepingwithhis theory, ablendof philosophy andcombinations
of letters. Weshouldnotethat theadditionof "kabbalistic wisdom" apparently
refers todealings intensefirot. Suchstudy, inadditiontophilosophy andcombin-
ations of letters, is foundinSha'arei Zedek. Inonesurvivingfragment of '0?ar
Ifayyim, MS. NewYork JTS, 2263, fol. 14b, R. Isaac discusses aconversation
betweenhimself and"agenuinekabbalistic scholar (who) camefromDamascus
withkabbalistic wisdom"; this sagereveals tohimamethodinvolvingcombination
of theletters of God's name.
27. Idel, TheMystical Experience, p. 134.
28. Thediscussiondeals withasectionof awork by R. AbrahamAbulafia
entitledIfayyei Ha'OlamHa-Ba\ SeeMS. Oxford1582, fol. 53a, andIdel, The
Mystical Experience, pp. 116-118.
29. Inthat year, duringwhichthetraces of R. AbrahamAbulafiawerelost,
R. Isaac left Palestine.
30. Onthis, seechapter 5above.
31. H. Corbin, CreativeImaginationintheSufismof Ibn'Arabi (Princeton,
1969), pp. 360-361, note19.
32. In1270/1271, R. AbrahamAbulafiaparticipatedinacircletowhich
R. BaruchTogarmi belonged. It shouldbenotedthat R. AbrahamibnQisdai had
translatedAlgazali's Mo'oznei ZedekinBarcelonaagenerationearlier, andthis
work contains abrief descriptionof Sufism. It is likely that Sufic concepts well-
knownintheWest, suchas inthequotations foundinIfovot HaLevavot, contributed
toacertainextent tothecrystallizationof "prophetic" kabbalaintheearly 1250s.
Theimpressiontheseconcepts left, however, is rather weak. ConcerningAlgazali's
descriptionof theSufis, seeG. C. Anawati, L. Gardet, Mystiquemusulmane(Paris,
1961), pp. 186-187.
33. Seechapter V above.
34. SeeIdel, TheMystical Experiencepp. 109-116and'EvenSapir by R.
ElnathanbenMoses Kalkish, MS. Paris BN 727, fol. 10a. ConcerningR. ShemTov
IbnGaon's dealings inkabbalaof letter-combinations, seeD. S. Levinger, "Rabbi
ShemTov benAbrahamIbnGaon" (Hebrew), Sefimot 1(1963): 17. Concerninga
possiblerelationshipbetweenthecommentaries of R. ShemTov andR. Abraham
100 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
Abulafiaonthedictummin'ubeneikhemminha-higayon, seeIdel (above, n. 21),
appendix, n. 17.
35. SeeG. Scholem, M. Beit Arte, IntroductiontotheBook"Ma\amar Mesharei
Kitrin" byR. Abrahamben-Eliezer ha-Levi (Hebrew), (Jerusalem, 1978), pp. 15-16.
36. MS. Musajoff 30, film22858, Institutefor theMicrofilmingof Hebrew
Manuscripts, JNUL, Jerusalem.
37. SeeScholem, MSS., p. 226, n. 2. Ontheinfluenceof aSufic viewonthe
Safediankabbalist R. JehudahHallewah, seemy article(above, n. 18).
38. Gottlieb, Studies p. 238, n. 14, p. 246, n. 25; M. Pachter, Homiletic and
Ethical Literatureof SafedintheSixteenthCentury(unpublisheddoctoral dis-
sertation, Hebrew, Jerusalem, 1976), p. 370, n. 48; andseebelow, n. 40. Theun-
publishedsectionof Sha'arei Kedushahby R. HayyimVital mentions R. Isaac
explicitly. See, e.g. MS. BritishLibrary, Margoliouthcat. 749, fol. 16b, inwhich
thematter under discussionis therelationshipbetweenthesoul andtheDivine
Presence. Inhis work Sefer HaShemot, R. Moses Zacut cites inthenameof R.
HayyimVital atraditioninthenameof R. Isaac benSamuel of Acre. Seealso
R. HayyimJosephDavidAzulai's comments inMidbar Kedemot, part 8, section
17, item11.
39. Idel, AbrahamAbulafia, pp. 174-177. ConcerningtheKa'abaandthe
well-preservedtablet of theSufis, seeG. C. Anawati andL. Gardet (above, n. 32),
pp. 59-60; seealsoCorbin(above, n. 31), pp. 384-385.
40. WeshouldmentionhereR. Isaac benSamuel of Acre's commentary on
thedictum"Prophecy does not dwell outsidetheLandof Israel**: "Thesecret of
'outsideof theLand* (Israel) andof theLandof Israel*... The'Land* ['ere?] does
not signify theearthof dust (i.e., thegeographic land), but thelumpof dust (i.e.,
thehumanbody) inwhichsouls dwell. The'Land* is thepalaceof thesouls; it is
fleshandblood. Thesoul that dwells inearth[ba-'are?] whichderives fromJacob's
seed(i.e. stock) certainly dwells intheLandof Israel. Evenif thesoul dwells out-
sidetheLand(i.e., geographically), theShekhina(i.e. thePresenceof God) will
rest uponit sinceit is definitely intheLand(i.e. earth) of Israel But thesoul which
dwells intheLand(i.e., geographically) whichdoes not derivefromtheseedof
Jacob... whois Israel, our father, certainly dwells 'outsidetheLand* evenif it is in
theLandof Israel, insideJerusalem. Neither will theShekhinahdwell uponit, nor
thespirit of prophecy, sinceit is certainly 'outsidetheLand*.** ('0?ar Ifayyim, MS.
Moscow-Gtinzburg775, fol. 94a). Here, theLandof Israel has becomeanappella-
tionfor every member of thePeopleof Israel; aDivinePresencecapableof radiating
only onthesesouls is aSufic motif recurringin'0?ar Ifayyim(fol. 71b). SeeWer-
blowsky concerningtheappearanceof this motif inthekabbalaof Safedandits
connectionwithR. Isaac benSamuel of AcreandwithSufism: Werblowsky, Karo
pp. 58-59. SeealsoGottlieb, Studies, p. 242.
Concerninguseof this Sufic motif ininterpretingtheGreek mythrelatedby a
ChristiantoR. Isaac of Acre, seeIdel, "Prometheus inJewishGarb" (Hebrew),
Ecstatic KabbalahandtheLandof Israel
Eshkolot 5(1980): 119-121; andabove, n. 38. Seealsomy article, "TheLandof
Israel inMedieval Kabbalah** Landof Israel: JewishPerspectives ed. L. Hoffman
(NotreDame, IN: NotreDameUniversity Press, 1986), pp. 178-180.
Chapter 7
Hitbodedut asConcentration
inEcstatic Kabbalah
Individual andcommunityinJewishspirituality
Rabbinic Judaism, morethanas thereligionof apeople, took shape
as thereligionof Jewishcommunities. Fromthetimethat theTemple
cult ceased, thosecommandments applyingtoIsrael as anationceased
tohavevalidity or contemporary force; themost significant religious-
social framework that remainedandwas evenstrengthenedfollowing
thedestructionof theTemplewas thecommunity, whosefocus was the
synagogue. Thecommondivineworshipprayerwas transformedinto
thecenter of religious life; it requiredtheassemblingof tenmenas an
essential preconditionfor theperformanceof many of its most important
components. Halakhic thought madethegatheringof thecommunity a
moreandmoreessential part of thereligious cult andrejected, directly or
indirectly, tendencies towardindividualistic separatism. Prayer, Torah
study, circumcision, andmarriagebecameunderstoodas events which
theindividual performs withinsociety andinwhichhemust participate.
Solitude, as areligious valueor as ameans of attainingreligious ends,
was preservedas apart of sacredhistory: thesolitudeof Moses onMount
Sinai, that of Elijahinthedesert, andthat of thehighpriest intheHoly
of Holies becameideals that werepart of theheritageof thepast. The
individual was nolonger abletoachieveperfectionby separationfrom
thecompany of other men: hewas nowrequiredtojointheminorder
104 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
toachievereligious wholeness.
This tendency, theliterary expressions of whichappear intheTalmud
andtheMidrash, was inheritedby theKabbalah. Thevery fact that several
of its leadingthinkerstheRABaD(R. AbrahambenDavidof Posqui-
ires, ca. 1125-1198), theRaMBaN (R. Moses benNafcman, 1194-1270),
andtheRaShBA (R. SolomonbenAbrahamIbnAdret, ca. 1235-1310)
were themselves Halakhic authorities, and simultaneously communal
leaders, is sufficient proof of theneedfor continuity. TheKabbalists
acceptedtheframework of themizwot as self-evident andfought for its
strengtheningandprotectionagainst challenges, bothinternal andexternal.
Thestrikingly small number of original prayers composedby theKabbalists,
theexegetical natureof Kabbalistic literaturefromits earliest inception,
and, aboveall, thenonexistenceof separateKabbalistic groups
or societies
whoseparatedthemselves fromtheorganizedframework of thepeopleas
awhole, areall indirect evidenceof aconscious anddeliberatetendency
intoafocus of controversy anddivision
amongthemembers of thecommunity. Wethus findhereaninteresting
phenomenon, different fromanalogous processes inChristianity andIslam,
regardingtheorganizationof groups withmystical tendencies.
Inthelatter tworeligions, mysticismis associatedwiththeformation
of brotherhoods or monastic orders, andmost of themystical literature,
whether Christianor Moslem, is writtenwithintheir framework. It follows
fromthis that thefull realizationof thelifeof thespirit is connected, in
bothreligions, withthechoiceof away of lifemarkedly different from
that of most of their coreligionists. This way of lifeis sometimes charac-
terizedby separationfromthelifeof the"lay" society; at other times the
monk or devoteemay continuetobeactivewithinsociety but will observe
special norms andpractices. Theseorganizational forms arebasedupon
thevoluntary acceptanceof limitations andobligations over andabove
thosenormally acceptedas religious norms onthepart of their members.
Theassumptionis that theserules of behavior constituteaframework
that makes thedevelopment of thelifeof thespirit possible.
speaking, theestablishment of organizations of this typeis associatedwith
thequest by theseor other individuals for personal religious or spiritual
The"mobile" andnomadic character of bothChristianand
Muslimreligious orders alsostems fromthis.
At thetimeof its inceptionas ahistorical phenomenon, theKabbalah
didnot knowof any special organizational system; therewerenospecific
practices or customs designedespecially for theKabbalists.
lifewas generaly strengthenedby intensifyingthespiritual effort invested
inthefulfillment of themipvot, whichas such, wereobligatory uponthe
entirepeople, or by deepeningtheunderstandingof thereasons underlying
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah
themi?wot. At times, non-Halakhic means of attainingcommunionwith
Godwereset, but theseweredesignedsoas not toconflict evenindirectly
withthefulfillment of themi?wot. Moreover, thecarryingout of these
practices was, inany event, extremely limitedintimeandwas not intended
toreplacetheHalakhic framework. Nor didthey demandfor themselves
authority comparabletothat of theHalakhah.
Inpractice, Kabbalah
may bedefinedas asort of regulaof theJewishreligion: becauseof the
broadscopeof theHalakhic system, thefulfillment of the613command-
ments couldbeseenas areligious challengewhich, despiteits beingnorma-
tive, allowedfor departurefromthenormwhenthemi^wot wereperformed
withKabbalistic intentions. If theregulainChristianity was intendedto
addreligious demands, expressedinbothinternal andexternal behavioral
changes, theKabbalah, generally speaking, was concernedwithinner
changeand, at least inthebeginning, didnot tendtoaddor detract from
theHalakhic norm. Theexternal differenceinbehavior betweentheKab-
balist, thephilosopher, andtheHalakhist was far smaller thanthat between
amonk andalay Christian. If suffices tocontrast theabstentionfrommar-
riageas adecisivefactor intheformationof monasticismor thespecial
dress of boththemonks andtheSufis withthetotal absenceof anythingof
this kindamongtheKabbalists. Put differently, thetransformationof an
ordinary JewintoaKabbalist didnot involveany discontinuity inhis
outwardbehavior, as opposedtowhat generally happenedtoonewho
joinedaSufi brotherhoodor amonastic order.
Against thebackgroundof what wehavesaidabove, theappearance
of thefirst discussions of thereligious valueof seclusion(hitbodedut) in
medieval Jewishtexts must beseenas indicationof external influence.
This is clearly thecaseinthediscussions of thesubject inthebook Ifovot
HaLevavot (Duties of theHeart) by R. BahyahIbnPaquda
of theeleventhcentury), inwhichtheSufi influenceis clear, this phenomenon
reappears inthecircleof Pietists (Hasidim) associatedwithR. Abraham
Maimonides (1186-1237).
I wishtodiscuss herethespecific meaningof thetermhitbodedut
withinaparticular Kabbalistic school, namely, that of prophetic Kabbalah
foundedby R. AbrahamAbulafia
andtheinfluenceof that school upon
theKabbalahof Safed. I will analyzethetexts inwhichthetermhitbodedut
has thespecific meaningof "concentratedthought," as part of aclearly
definedmystical technique. This meaningmay havebeeninfluencedby
theSufi understandingof inner contemplation
or spiritual meditationor
by theSufi terms tagridor tafrid, whosemeaningapproximates that of
hitbodedut insometexts of ecstatic Kabbalah.
This meaningdoes not appear inany of themajor Hebrewdictionaires.
Nor havestudents of Jewishphilosophy or of theKabbalahdiscussedthis
106 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
meaningof theterm, but thereis nodoubt that this understandingwill
contributetoamoreexact interpretationof several important philosophic
texts that until nowhavebeendifferently understood.
TheSufi background
Theconnectionbetweenpronouncingthenameof Godandhitbodedut,
inthesenseof seclusioninaspecial place, is already present inSufism.
Thesimilarity of Abulafia's approachtothis subject totheSufi system
is well known, andoneneednot assumethat this is merechance.
It is
possiblethat helearnedof this approachfromhis teacher, R. Baruch
Togarmi, whowas apparently of Easternbackground, tojudgeby the
name. Sufismmay alsohaveinfluencedAbulafiadirectly,
thereis noevidencefromhis writings that hehadany contact withMuslim
Thepreciseway inwhichcertainSufi elements enteredAbulafia's
thought must remainanopenquestion; however, it is appropriateto
discuss here, inrelationtohitbodedut, adescriptionof theSufi practice
of dhikr, whichwas likely tohavebeenknowntoJewishauthors fromthe
mid-thirteenthcentury on: I refer toapassageinR. AbrahamIbnQasdai's
Hebrewtranslationof awork by thePersianMuslimtheologian, jurist,
andmystic, AbuHamidAl-Ghazali (1058-1111), knownas Moznei Zedek.
TheSufi "path" is portrayedintheHebrewversionas follows:
I decidedtofollowthis path, andI took counsel withanoldteacher of
theSufi worshipas tohowI ought tobehaveregardingcontinual reading
of thebooks of religion.
Andheansweredmethus: Knowthat thepath
towards this matter is tocut off andceasecompletely all of thosethings
by whichoneis attachedtothis world, until your heart will not think at
all of wife, or children, or money or homeor wisdomor rulership. But
bringyourself toaplacesuchthat their presenceor absencebecomes a
matter of indifference. Thensecludeyourself inacorner
withthedivineserviceof thecommandments as ordered, andsit witha
heart empty of all thoughts andworry, andlet all your thoughts beonly
of thesupremeGod.
Andaccustomyour tongue
tosay thenameof
thelivingGod, let it not ceasetocall upontheLordcontinually, as inthe
sayingof theprophet, "let themnot depart fromyour mouth.** Andall
this inorder tounderstandGodandtoapprehendHim, until youreach
thestagethat, wereyoutoallowyour tonguetomoveby itself, it would
runquickly tosay this, becauseof its habit todothis thing. Andafter-
wards accustomyourself toanother thing, that is, tomeditateinyour
heart andsoul, inyour thoughts alone, without any movement of your
tongue. Andthenbecomeaccustomedtoanother thing, that thereremain
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah
inyour heart only themeaningof thewords, not theletters of thewords
or theformof speech, but only thesubject itself, abstract, firmly fixed
inyour heart, as somethingobligatory andconstant. Thechoiceis inyour
handonly uptothis limit. After that thereis nochoice; youcanbut con-
stantly removethesickness of destructivelustsbut after that your own
[free] will ceases, andyours is only tohopefor that whichmay appear, of
theopeningof thegates of mercy, what is seenof Himtothosewhocleave
totheexaltedName, whichis asmall part of what was seenby the
prophets [...] but thelevel of thosewhoclingtoGodcannot betold, nor
their exaltedqualities, andtheir imagination, andtheir [moral] virtues.
Thesearetheways of theSufis.
Thefinal goal of theSufi path, as describedinthis Hebrewtext, is to
clingtoGod. Theessenceof this clingingis discussedimmediately before
Andtoalways hopeandwait for Godtoopenfor himthegates of mercy,
as thesethings wererevealedtothosewhoclingtoHimandtotheprophets,
andtheir souls acquiredthat perfectionof whichmanis capablenot
throughlearning, but by separationfromthis worldandhitbodedut and
castingoff all desires, andmakinghis goal toreceiveGodwithall his heart
andall his soul. Andwhoever shall bewithGod, Godwill bewithhim.
AccordingtotheHebrewversionof Al-Ghazali, theSufis hadafixed
pathby whichthey attainedcommunionwithGod, whichinvolvedseveral
clearly delimitedstages: (1) separationfromtheworld; (2) indifferenceor
equanimity; (3) solitude(hitbodedut); (4) repetitionof God's name; and
(5) communionwithGod. Despitethegeneral similarity betweencertain
of thevarious stations ontheway towarddevequt (clingingtoGod) in
Al-Ghazali, andparallel steps inAbulafia, thedifferencebetweenthe
approaches of thesetwomystics is clear. First, equanimity is mentioned
neither inany of Abulafia's ownwritings nor inthebook Sha'arei Zedek,
whichbelongs tohis circle. Second, inAl-Ghazali, hitbodedut refers to
physical solitudeinasecludedroom, whereas inAbulafiait is sometimes
understoodinthis way but at other times, whereit is apreconditionfor
pronouncingthenames of God, it is understoodinthesenseof theconcen-
trationof one's mental activity. Third, therecitations inAl-Ghazali differ
fromthoseinAbulafia: Al-Ghazali proposes pronouncingthenamewith
one's tongue, inone's heart, andfixingits meaninginone's thought;
Abulafiaproposes readingthenameandcombiningits letters inwriting,
verbally, andinone's thought. Fromthis, it follows that wecannot base
his systemuponthat of Al-Ghazali, at least not directly andnot infull.
108 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
Hitbodedut inthewritingsof AbrahamAbulafia
Most of thediscussions of hitbodedut that werewrittenprior to
Abulafiasawit as anactivity engagedinby Moses, theprophets, andthe
pious menof ancient times. Theapproachof bothJewishphilosophers
andKabbalists was basedontheassumptionthat prophecy was apheno-
menonof thepast. For this reason, their discussions of this subject must
beseenprimarily as literary activityexegesis of theBibleor of talmudic
sayingsrather thanas rules for actual practice.
This situationwas radically changedinthewritings of Abulafia. As
onewhosawhimself as aprophet andmessiah, hebelievedthat his particular
formof Kabbalahpavedtheway for mystical experiencefor all whowould
followhis path. For this reason, thetoneof his writingis clearly practical;
his writings, fromwhichweshall quotebelow, areintendedas guides to
"prophecy" for his contemporaries, andtheautobiographical hints therein
leavenodoubt that hehimself followedthesetechniques andenjoyedtheir
fruits. Thesetwofacts areclear signs of theactualizationof thediscussion
concerninghitbodedut, whoseeffects arealsofelt amonglater Kabbalists,
under thedirect or indirect influenceof Abulafia's writings.
Inthecommentary onhis work Sefer Ha'Edut, writtenontheoccasion
of his abortiveattempt in1280tomeet withPopeNicholas III, Abulafia
ThePopecommandedall theguards of his house, whenhewas inSoriano...
that shouldRaziel
cometospeak withhiminthenameof theJews, that
they takehimimmediately, andthat henot seehimat all, but that hebe
takenoutsideof thecity andburnt Andthis matter was madeknown
toRaziel, but hepaidnoattentiontothewords of thosewhosaidthis, but
hepracticedhitbodedut andsawvisions andwrotethemdown, andthus
cameabout this book.
Thecloseconnectionbetweenhitbodedut andrevelationis better
explainedif weassumethat Abulafiaconcentratedinorder toreceivean
illuminationwhichwouldguidehiminthis critical situation, whenhewas
alsopressedfor time. Fromwhat weknow, Abulafiaarrivedat thepalace
inSorianoright at thetimehewrotethesethings, sothat it is difficult to
imaginethat hefoundahouseor roominwhichtosecludehimself, as he
advises inhis other writings. It is clear that this is not acasual suggestion,
nor ahistorical descriptionof theprophets, but afirst-handaccount of the
useof hitbodedut inorder toattainrevelation. Hitbodedut inthesense
of concentrationappears tohavebeenpart of away of life, andnot only
asporadic activity performedintimes of troubleor danger. Inanepistle
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah
knownas TheSevenPaths of theTorah(Sheva' Netivot HaTorah), Abulafia
enumerates alonglist of works whichhelearned, but whichdidnot bring
But noneof this brought metoapprehensionof theActiveIntellect, to
thepoint that I couldtakeprideinprophecy, that I couldfulfill theverse,
"For inthis shall theproudmantakepride..." [Jeremiah9:23] until I re-
ceivedthis apprehensioninactuality, andI placedmy soul inmy hands
accordingtotheway of theKabbalists, inknowingtheNamealone. Yet
nevertheless therewerestrongobstacles
against mebecauseof my sins,
andthey heldmeback fromthepath
of hitbodedut, until theHoly Spirit
left me, as is thecasetoday.
Abulafiaherestates explicitly that it was only theactual practical
useof thetechniqueof combinationof letters of thedivinenamewhich
brought about theserevelations. This techniqueis referredtoas "theway
of theKabbalists," andit constitutes theparticular Kabbalistic method
advocatedby him. Theexpression"theway of hitbodedut," may alsoallude
tothis, whichis why it makes sensetoassumethat hitbodedut refers not to
isolationfromsociety but totheuseof aKabbalistic techniqueof com-
for whichmental concentrationis indispensible. Analter-
nativeinterpretationof this incident, that Abulafiawas unsuccessful in
isolatinghimself fromsociety, seems tometobeincorrect: weknowthat
heattemptedtodisseminatehis teachings inpublic andthat hewas per-
secutedby his opponents, whocertainly wouldnot haveobjectedwere
theprophet-messiahtoabandonhis public activity andwithdrawtosome
isolatedplacetoengageinhis ownprivate, peculiar formof Kabbalah.
It seems tomethat Abulafia's comments concerning"obstacles" areto
beinterpretedas referringtodisturbances, whether internal or external,
tohis ownpowers of concentration.
Support for this understandingof Abulafia's comments may befound
elsewhereinhis epistleSheva' Netivot HaTorah. Inthedescriptionof
thesevenways tointerpret theTorah, hementions, at theendof thefifth
This pathis thebeginningof thewisdomof letter-combinationingeneral,
andis only fittingtothosewhofear Godandtakeheedof His name. And
thesixthpath... is suitabletothosewhopracticeconcentration(hitbo-
dedut), whowishtoapproachGod, inacloseness
suchthat His activity
may Hebeblessedwill beknowninthemtothemselves.
It alsoseems tomethat onemay discernheretheconnectionbetween
110 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
the"practitioners of hitbodedut" andthe"scienceof letter combination."
Inthis passageas well, hespeaks of closeness toGod, but it is still only a
stageprecedingtheseventhpath(appropriatetoprophets), throughwhich
therecomes about the"apprehensionof theessenceof theIneffableName."
It follows fromthis that the"pathof hitbodedut" is anearlier stagein
theprocess intendedfor theattainment of prophecy. It must bestressed
that, despitetheobjectivedescriptionof thepractitioners of concentration,
this is not only atheoretical discussion; thesevenways of readingor of
interpretingtheTorahdonot refer tothedistant past, but constitutea
livingoptionfor themembers of Abulafia's owngeneration, hehavingbeen
theonetorestoretheseolder ways of reading. Abulafiasawhimself as a
prophet bothtohimself andtoothersthat is, as onewhohadundergone
thefinal twostages alongthepathoutlinedinhis epistle. For this reason,
it seems that his words must beseenas anautobiographical testimony,
fromwhichpoint of viewthis text shouldbecombinedwiththeprevious
quotations, whoseautobiographical character is quiteevident.
A closerelationshipbetweenletter combinationandhitbodedut appears
inthebook ffayyei Ha'OlamHaBa
Hemust alsobevery expert inthesecrets of theTorahandits wisdom, so
that hemay knowwhat will occur tohiminthecircles
of thecombination,
andhewill arousehimself tothink of theimageof theDivineprophetic
Intellect. Andwhenhebegins topracticeletter-combinationinhis hitbo-
dedut, hewill feel fear andtrembling, andthehairs of his headwill stand
upandhis limbs will tremble. (MS. Oxford, 1582fol. Ub-12a.)
Here, hitbodedut designates thespecial concentrationrequiredby the
Kabbalist inorder tocombineletters. This intenseconcentrationinvolves
physical sideeffects
that wouldbedifficult toexplainwerethey caused
only by withdrawal fromsociety.
In conclusion, weshould emphasizetheinnovation involved in
Abulafia's understandingof hitbodedut as concentration. Accordingto
extant Kabbalistic sources, heseems tohavebeenthefirst Kabbalist to
connect hitbodedut withapractical, detailedsystemtogivetheconcept
hitbodedut real content: essentially, thecombinationof letters andthe
vocalizationassociatedwiththem. Later weshall seethat thepresenceof
anassociationbetweenhitbodedut andletter combinationor therecitation
of divinenames is likely tobeaconclusivesignof thedirect or indirect
influenceof Abulafia's Kabbalistic system.
Most of thetexts tobediscussedbelowwerewrittenintheMiddle
East, or by authors of Easternorigin. This strikingfact is doubtless con-
nected, first of all, withtherelationshipbetweenAbulafia's systemand
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 111
Sufism, arelationshipacknowledgedby theKabbalists themselves. Second,
as Abulafia's Kabbalahwas subject tointenseattack by theRaShBA
its influencewithinSpainitself was limited, whichcreatedanimbalance
betweenthespreadof prophetic KabbalahintheEast andits curtailment
intheWest. Ontheother hand, thereis considerablediscussionof hitbo-
dedut amongJewishphilosophers inProvenceandSpainduringthe
thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, albeit lackinginAbulafia's practical
tone, inwhichclassical prophecy is interpretedas aphenomenonattained
throughthehelpof hitbodedut, whether this is understoodas concentration
or as withdrawal fromsociety. Thesediscussions arelikewiseassociated
withArabic philosophical texts, suchas Sefer Hanhagat HaMitboded by
IbnBajjah, or Sefer If ayBenYoktanby IbnTufail, andthey later influenced
thedevelopment of Kabbalahduringthesixteenthcentury. Ontheother
hand, theSpanishJewishthinkers contemporary withtheKabbalists were
influencedneither by Abulafia's doctrineof hitbodedut or that of his
disciples nor by theJewish-Sufic approaches of theschool of Abraham
Maimonides (1186-1237).
Amongthoseworks closest toAbulafia's system, onemust includethe
book Sha'arei Zedek; this work, composedinPalestinein1290or 1295,
clearly reflects knowledgeof theSufi approach. For our purposes, the
anonymous author's comments concerningtheinfluenceof letter com-
binationandhitbodedut areof particular significance:
AndI, through
thepower of combinationandof hitbodedut, therehappenedtomewhat
happenedwiththelight that I sawgoingwithme, as I havementionedin
thebook Sha'arei Zedek."*
Theexperienceof the"light," whichoccurs as aresult of letter com-
binationandhitbodedut, forms aninterestingparallel totheHoly Spirit
mentionedintheabovequotations. Moreover, theauthor of Sha'arei
Zedekalsoexperiences "speech" as aresult of thecombinationof theletters
of theHoly Name.
This provides additional evidenceof thepractical use
of hitbodedut inthesenseof concentration. It seems tomethat theterm
recurs inthis senseintwoadditional passages inSha'arei Zedek. Oneof
thesepassages speaks of theprogress of thephilosopher beyondnatural
wisdomtodivinewisdomandof thepossibility that onsomerareoccasions
thefollowingmight occur:
Heshouldgreatly refineanddrawdownwardthethought, andseek to
concentrateonit, that nomanshouldcontaminatehis thought... andhe
112 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
will seethat hehas great power inall thewisdoms, for suchis its nature,
andhewill say that agivenmatter was revealedtohimas if aprophecy,
andhewill not knowthecause.
Hitbodedut is describedhereas adeparturefromtheordinary courseof
thought amongthephilosophers, whichresults inarevelationwhosesource
noonecanidentify. Inorder toexemplify this path, theauthor relates a
story pertainingtotheMuslimphilosopher Avicenna(980-1037):
I foundinthewords of oneof thegreat philosophers of his generation,
namely, IbnSina, inwhichhesaidthat hewouldconcentratewhilecom-
posinghis great works, andwhenacertainsubject or matter wouldbe
difficult for him, hewouldcontemplateits intermediatepropositionand
drawhis thought toit. Andif thematter was still difficult, hewouldcon-
tinuetothink about it anddrink acupof strongwine, soas tofall asleep
andthedifficulty inthat subject wouldbesolvedfor him.
It seems tomethat theprecedingstory does not rfefer tothewithdrawal
of that Arabphilosopher fromother peoplefor tworeasons: first, that
hitbodedut and"drawingdownof thought" arementionedtogether inthe
first quotationfromSha'arei Zedek, whichwequotedabove; sincehitbo-
dedut is thereconnectedwiththought, it makes sensetoassumethat else-
wheretoothis anonymous Kabbalist wouldusethis terminasimilar or
identical sense. Second, inanother story parallel totheonequotedabove,
preservedinthewritings of R. Isaac of Acre, whowas apparently acon-
temporary of theauthor of Sha'arei %edek% solitudeis not mentionedat all.
TheEvidenceof Isaac of Acre
Traces of Abulafia's understandingof hitbodedut, together withother
additions whosesourceis apparently inthePietistic-Sufi environment
withinwhichhegrewup, arefoundintheworks of R. Isaac benSamuel of
Inthebook Me'irat
'Einayim, hewrites:
Hewhomerits thesecret of communion[withthedivine] will merit the
secret of equanimity (ihishtawwut), andif hereceives this secret, thenhe
will alsoknowthesecret of hitbodedutand oncehehas knownthe
secret of hitbodedut, hewill receivetheHoly Spirit, andfromthat prophecy,
until heshall prophesy andtell futurethings.
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 113
Separationfromor equanimity towardworldly things, whichis called
hishtawwut (equanimity), makes possiblehitbodedut, whichhereclearly
refers toconcentration. AccordingtoR. Isaac, aconditionof ataraxia
("absenceof passion," atermusedintheCynic andStoic tradition), is
necessary for concentration, whichleads, as inthecaseof Abulafia, to
theHoly Spirit, andeventoprophecy.
ductionintothecontext of Kabbalistic thought of equanimity as apre-
conditionof hitbodedutan ideafoundneither inthewritings of Abulafia
nor inSha'arei Zedek. Its appearanceinR. Isaac of Acreis another impor-
tant additionbasedonSufi influence. Further oninthesamepassage, the
author quotes another Kabbalist whohas not yet beenidentifiedby scholars,
referredtoby theacronymABNeR:
R. Abner
saidtomethat amanwhowas alover of wisdom
oneof thepractitioners of concentration, andaskedtobereceivedas one
of them. They replied:
My son, may youbeblessedfromheaven, for
your intentionis agoodone. But pleaseinformme, haveyouachieved
equanimity (hishtawwut) or not.
Hesaidtohim: "Master, explainyour
words." Hesaidtohim: "My son, if therearetwopeople, onewhohonors
youandoneof whomdespises you, arethey thesameinyour eyes or not?"
Hereplied: "By thelifeof my soul, master, I derivepleasureandsatis-
factionfromtheonewhohonors me, andpainfromtheonewhodespises
me, but I donot takevengeanceor bear agrudge." Hesaidtohim: "My
son, goinpeace, for solongas youhavenot achievedequanimity, sothat
your soul feels thecontempt donetoyou, youarenot yet ready tolink
your thoughts onHigh, that youmay comeandconcentrate. But go, and
subdueyour heart still moreintruth, until youshall beequanimous, and
thenyoumay concentrate." Andthecauseof his equanimity
is the
attachment of his thoughts toGod, for cleavingandattachment of the
thought toGodcausemantofeel neither thehonor nor thecontempt
that peopleshowhim.
Wehaveheretwotraditions concerningtheinterrelationshipamong
cleavingandequanimity andconcentration. R. Isaac's opinion, which
places attachment toGodinone's thought beforeequanimity,
inthefirst quotation, as well as at theendof thesecondpassage, beginning
withthewords "andthecause"; this conclusionconstitutes, inmy opinion,
R. Isaac's statement of his ownview, whichdiffers fromthat of R. ABNeR,
whoclaims that equanimity is theconditionfor attainingdevekut, and
that concentration(hitbodedut) is only possiblethereafter. All this indicates
that R. Isaac hadbeforehimtwotraditions concerningthis matter: one
whichheadvocatedandwhichwas closetothat of Abulafia, andtheother
that of theunknownKabbalist, R. ABNeR. Theappearanceof thediscussion
114 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
concerningtheconnection betweenequanimity andconcentration in
R. ABNeR indicates that R. Isaac was incontact withKabbalists whowere
influencedby Sufism. SinceR. ABNeR is already quotedby R. Isaac at
thebeginningof his book Me'irat 'Einayim** it makes sensetoassumethat
R. Isaac was familiar withSufi concepts evenbeforehebeganwriting
this book, whichis today consideredhis earliest work.
Inhis book 'Ozar tfayyim, R. Isaac againdiscusses theconcept of
I say that if amandoes that whichhis soul [wishes] intheproper ways of
hitbodedut, andhis soul is immersed
inthis light,
tolook at itthen
hewill dielikeBenAzzai
who"lookedanddied." Andit is not proper to
dothis, for "precious intheeyes of theLordis thedeathof His righteous
ones'* (Psalms 116, 15)] for whoever attempts tobreak throughandto
gobeyondthePartitionwill bestricken, andaserpent shall bitehim.
Theexpression"theways of hitbodedut" is deservingof particular
attention, recallingas it does thephrasewefoundaboveinAbulafia, derekh
ha-hitbodedut (thepathof hitbodedut). Wenotedtherethecloseconnection
betweenconcentrationandletter combination. Despitethefact that the
letter combinations arenot mentionedinthepassagefrom'0?ar tfayyim,
it seems tomepossiblethat "thepaths of hitbodedut" areinfact associated
withthem. Elsewhereinthesamework, theauthor writes:
Andby letter combinations, unifications, andreversals, heshall call up
thetreeof theknowledgeof goodandevil, righteous
ation, angels of mercy andangels of destruction, witnesses of innocence
andof guilt, prosecutors anddefenders, andhewill beindanger of the
samedeathas BenAzzai.
It is difficult toavoidnoticingtheparallel betweenthedanger of death
connectedwithBenAzzai inthetwopassages cited, and"theways of
hitbodedut" and"letter-combinations andunifications" as possiblesources
of danger. It follows fromthis that, as inAbulafia, hitbodedut in'Ozar
Jtfayyimis connectedwiththeconcentrationneededtocombineletters.
Confirmationof this understandingof hitbodedut is foundinanother dis-
cussioninthebook mentioned:
Hewhohas beengrantedby Godthespirit toconcentrateandtoengage
inwisdomandincombinationof letters andall its prerequisites, toseparate
himself fromtheobjects of sensationandfromphysical pleasures, all of
whicharetransient, andtopursuetheIntellect andspeak of it andof
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 115
spiritual pleasures, whichareeternal life.
Herehitbodedut, that is, theability toconcentrate, is agift fromGod,
withthehelpof whichonemay progress inaprocess whosefinal endis
clingingtospirituality. This process is connectedwithintellectivesoul
Andlivealifeof sufferinginyour houseof contemplation
lest your
appetitivesoul overpower your intellectivesoul, for by this youwill merit
your intellectivesoul thedivineplentitude, andinthe
Torah, that is tosay, inthewisdomof combinationandits prerequisites.
Thepurposeof meditationandletter combinationis tobringthespiritual
abundanceintotheintellectivesoul or theintellect; welearnthis also
fromanother source:
"Thewiseman, whocomes toisolatehimself and
toconcentrateandtobringdownintohis soul thedivinespirit, through
miraculous andawesomedeeds... that itself is thedivinespirit toattainthe
Comparisonof this passagewithothers quotedfrom'0?ar Ifayyim
will aidus inestablishingthemeaninghereof theverbhitboded. Inall
other passages, R. Isaac usedthis verb, or anounderivedfromit, torefer
tospiritual activity, for whichreasontheverbs poreshandhitbodedshould
beseenas referringtotwodistinct activities: separationfromsociety or
fromtheobjects of sensation, andintellectual concentration. This dis-
tinctionapplies alsotothis pair of verbs inother passages fromR. Isaac:
"It is right inmy eyes that thosehermits (perushim) whopracticeconcen-
tration, whohaveremovedfromtheir souls thesensuous things, of which
theholy spiritual poet R. Eliezer theBabyloniansaid.. .
Again, "This is
thesecret of themodest hermit likepractitioners of concentrationwho
fleefromthesensual things andclingtotheintelligibles"
. Themeaning
of abandonment of thesensuous andclingingtotheintelligibles, together
withaquitedetaileddescriptionof theprocess, appears inanextremely
important passageattributedtoR. Isaac of Acre, quotedinthebook Reshit
Ifokhmah by R. ElijahdeVidas:
Thus welearnfromoneincident, recordedby R. Isaac of Acre, of blessed
memory, whosaidthat oneday theprincess cameout of thebathhouse,
andoneof theidlepeoplesawher andsighedadeepsighandsaid:
wouldgivememy wish, that I coulddowithher as I like!" Andtheprincess
answeredandsaid: "That shall cometopass inthegraveyard, but not
here." Whenheheardthesewords herejoiced, for hethought that she
meant for himtogotothegraveyardtowait for her there, andthat she
116 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
wouldcomeandhewoulddowithher as hewished. But shedidnot mean
this, but wishedtosay that only there(i.e., indeath) great andsmall, young
andold, despisedandhonoredall areequal, but not here, sothat it is
not possiblethat oneof themasses shouldapproachaprincess. Sothat
manroseandwent tothegraveyardandsat there, anddevotedall his
thoughts toher, andalways thought of her form. Andbecauseof his
great longingfor her, heremovedhis thoughts fromeverythingsensual,
but put themcontinually ontheformof that womanandher beauty. Day
andnight hesat thereinthegraveyard, thereheateanddrank, andthere
heslept, for hesaidtohimself, "If shedoes not cometoday, shewill come
tomorrow.** This hedidfor many days, andbecauseof his separation
fromtheobjects of sensation, andtheexclusiveattachment of his thought
tooneobject andhis concentrationandhis total longing, his soul was
fromthesensual things andattacheditself only totheintel-
ligibles, until it was separatedfromall sensual things, includingthat
womanherself, andhecommunedwithGod. Andafter ashort timehe
cast off all sensual things andhedesiredonly theDivineIntellect, andhe
becameaperfect servant andholy manof God, until his prayer was heard
andhis blessingwas beneficial toall passers-by, sothat all themerchants
andhorsemenandfoot-soldiers whopassedby cametohimtoreceive
his blessing, until his famespreadfar about Thus far is thequotationas
far as it concerns us. Andhewent onat lengthconcerningthehighspiritual
level of this ascetic, andR. Isaac of Acrewrotethereinhis account of the
deeds of theascetics, that hewhodoes not desireawomanis likeadonkey,
or evenless thanone, thepoint beingthat fromtheobjects of sensation
onemay apprehendtheworshipof God.
This story contains several of theconcepts discussedabove: communion
inthought"theattachment of thethought of his mind"hereprecedes
hitbodedut, that is, concentration, just as thesecret of devekut precedes
that of concentrationintheMe'irat 'Einayim. Moreover, thegraveyard
alludes, as wecanseefromthestory itself, toasituationof equality of
opposites, andfromthis point of viewthereis aninterestingparallel tothe
secret of equanimity mentionedinMe'irat 'Einayim. Fromastudy of the
story, onemay assumethat equanimity precedes communionandthat
thelatter inturnprecedes hitbodedut, sothat wehaveheretheorder of
thestages as presentedby R. ABNeR. For adeeper understandingof the
significanceof this parable, let us turntoanother passagefromtheMe'irat
FromthewisemanR. Nathan, may helivelong, I heard... that whenman
leaves thevainthings of this world, andconstantly attaches his thought
andhis soul above, his soul is calledby thenameof that supernal level
whichis attained, andtowhichit attacheditself. Howis this so? If the
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 117
soul of thepractitioner of hitbodedut was abletoapprehendandtocom-
munewiththePassiveIntellect, it is called"thePassiveIntellect,** as if it
itself werethePassiveIntellect; likewise, whenit ascends further and
apprehends theAcquiredIntellect, it becomes theAcquiredIntellect;
andif it meritedtoapprehendtothelevel of theActiveIntellect, it itself
is theActiveIntellect; but if it succeeds inclingingtotheDivineIntellect,
thenhappy is its lot, for it has returnedtoits foundationandits source,
andit is literally calledtheDivineIntellect, andthat manshall becalled
amanof God,
that is, adivineman, creatingworlds.
Here, as inthestory of theprincess, wereadof aspiritual ascent,
throughwhichonebecomes "amanof God." Bothcases speak of hitbodedut
anddevekuU althoughinthelatter caseit is difficult todeterminetheexact
relationshipbetweenthetwoconcepts. Likewise, thesupernatural qualities
of themanof Godarementionedinbothpassages: hereheis "acreator of
worlds"; intheparableof theprincess "his prayer is heardandhis blessing
is efficacious"; at theendof thefirst quotationfromMe'irat 'Einayimit
speaks about prophecy whichenables thepredictionof thefuture.
Examinationof all of thesources relatingtohitbodedut that wehave
quotedfromthewritings of R. Isaac of Acreindicates that its purpose
was toremovethethought process fromobjects of sensationandtolift it
uptotheintelligibles or eventothehighest levels of theworldof Intellect.
Thefinal goal of this process of ascent is tocommunewithGodHimself,
as is clear fromtheparableof theprincess. This is eventrueinthequota-
tionfromR. Nathan, inwhichdevekut totheDivineIntellect is mentioned.
Onemight well ask whether onecanidentify theexact natureof the
princess inthis story. Sheis portrayedthereexclusively as anearthly sub-
stance, but this level of understandingseems insufficient. Theconclusion,
quotedfromReshit Ifokhmah inthenameof R. Isaac, states that "from
thesensual onemust understandthenatureof divineservice," inthecontext
of "lust for awoman." Concentrationonthis desirecauses themeditator
toleavetheworldof thesenses, that is, thephysical formof theprincess,
andtoclingtointelligibles, andafterwardtoGodHimself. InMe'irat
'Einayimtheauthor writes: "It is not likeyour thoughts intheobjects of
sensation, but it speaks of theintelligibilia, whicharecommandedby the
Theletter 'ayinis theinitial of theword'atarah[crown],
whichcorresponds totheseflrahof malkhut, whichis theShekhinah. It
follows fromthis that R. Isaac identifies theintelligibiliawiththeShekhinah.
Furthermore, immediately followingthepassagequotedaboveheadds:
"Seetheparableof theprincess, etc., as explainedinKeter ShemTov[by
ShemTov IbnGaon]: 'theTorah[spokehereof] theunificationof 'atarah.*"
Theidentificationof thecrownas theprincessreferringtothesefirahof
malkhut, whichis inturnidentifiedwiththeintellectsuggests awithdrawal
118 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
fromtheobjects of sensation, adistancingfromthephysical formof the
princess, whileattachment totheIntellect is seenas cleavingtothesupernal,
ideal princesstheShekhinah***n& thentoGodHimself.
This clinging
may bewhat is referredtoas "divineservice" by R. Isaac, andthepracti-
tioner of concentrationwhoclings toGodmay bethe"perfect servant."
Onemay alsogoastepfurther andinterpret theexpression"manof God"
('ishha-'elohim) intheparableof theprincess inanerotic sense: themediator
is transformedintothelikes of Moses, thehusband('ish) of theShekhinah,
symbolizedhereby theword"God" (ha-'elohim).
* This is acommonidea
inKabbalah, andsuchapossibleinterpretationshouldnot berejectedout
of hand. Inthecontext of this discussion, weshouldmentionthespiritual
pleasures which, accordingtoR. Isaac, accompany attachment tothe
As westatedabove, thereis asimilarity betweentheparableof the
princess andDiotima's statement inPlato's Symposium; however, inher
speech, Diotimadoes not at all mentionsolitude, either inthesenseof
seclusionfromsociety or inthat of mental concentration. But thesetwo
forms of solitudearementionedby theMuslimphilosopher Averroes
(1126-1198) inconnectionwithSocrates' understandingof God:
Andhewhoamongthembelongs totheuniqueindividuals, likeSocrates,
whochooseisolationandseparationfromother peopleandretreat into
their souls always, until thoseof great heart believedthat throughthis
dedicationandforcedcontemplationof theabove-mentionedforms,
oneshall arriveat thefirst formthat canbeapprehended.
Here, as intheparableof theprincess, it is possibletogofromthe
intelligibles, or theforms, totheapprehensionof GodHimself, by means
of solitudeandmental concentration. Is theattributionof thepracticeof
solitudetoSocrates connectedwiththefact that hewas theonetoquote
Diotima's comment inPlato's dialogue? Inany event, Averroes's comment
seems toreflect anolder traditionconcerningSocrates as arecluse, which
was alsocitedby R. JudahHalevi (ca. 1075-1141).
Wesawabovethat hitbodedut was part of atechniqueof concentration
andattachment of thehumansoul toGod. However, accordingtoR. Isaac
of Acre, hitbodedut is, inaddition, abletoserveas ameans of drawing
Whenmanseparates himself fromtheobjects of sensationandcon-
andremoves aU thepowers of his intellectivesoul fromthem,
but gives themapowerful elevationinorder toperceiveDivinity, his
thoughts shall drawdowntheabundancefromaboveandit shall come
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah
toresideinhis soul. Andthat whichis written,
Onceineachmonth** is
tohint tothepractitioner of hitbodedut that his withdrawal fromall objects
of sensationmust not beabsolute, but rather "half toGodandhalf to
yourselves,** whichis alsothesecret of thehalf-shekel, "therichmanshould
not add, nor thepoor mansubtract, fromthehalf-a-shekel** [Exodus 30:15],
whoseesoteric meaningis "half of one*s soul,** for shekel alludes tothesoul
This evaluationof hitbodedut is already referredtoinAbrahamIbnEzra's
commentary onExodus 3:14(longversion) andinAbulafia, but R. Isaac
of Acreseems toemphasizethis approachmoreclearly andfosters its
inclusioninthelater Kabbalah.
ShemTovIbnGaonandhisBaddei Ha\Aron
Theapproachof R. ShemTov benAbrahamIbnGaon(latethirteenth
tofourteenthcentury) tohitbodedut shouldbeunderstoodwithinthecontext
of Abulafiaandof R. Isaac of Acre. His book Baddei Ha*Aron, whichwas
writtenat least partially inSafed, contains aninterestingdiscussionof
Heshouldconcentratehis minduntil hehates this worldanddesires the
worldtocome. Andheshouldnot besurprisedthat they [theSages] said
that onewhois engagedinthesecrets of theChariot neednot standbefore
agreat manor anelder Andhewill seethat thereis noendtohis intellect,
andheshall delvedeeply intothesecrets of theChariot andthestructures
of Creation, totheplacewherethemouthis unabletospeak andtheear
is unabletohear. Thenhewill seevisions of God, as onewhodreams and
whoseeyes areshut, as it is written, "I amasleepbut my heart is awake,
thevoiceof my belovedknocks ** [Song5:2] Andwhenheopens his eyes,
andevenmoresoif another personspeaks tohim, hewill choosedeath
over life, for it will seemtohimthat hehas died,
for hehas forgottenwhat
hesaw. Thenhewill look intohis mindas onelooks at abook
arewrittenthesegreat wonders.
By thepower of his mental concentration, theKabbalist turns tohis
inner self
anddiscovers thereamazingthings, writtenas inabook; this
situationof introspectionis anextremely sensitiveone, whichmay easily
bedisturbedby any outsidestimulus. Notetheusehereof theexpression
"visions of God," whichis indicativeof arevelationthat may beassociated
withtheprevious mentionof thesecrets of creationor thesecrets of the
chariot. AccordingtoR. ShemTov, this inner revelationis transformed
intoasourceof thewritingof this book:
120 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
Whenhehas nofriendwithwhomtopracticeconcentrationas hewould
wish, let him
sit by himself andbesilent, for Hehas comeuponhim"
[Lam. 3:28]. Andheshall begintowritewhat hesees inhis mind, as one
whocopies fromabook that is writtenbeforehim, black fireonwhitefire,
inthetrueformof asphere,
likethesun, for thelight has comeuponhim
at that hour,
andall theseas wouldnot sufficefor ink, nor all therushes
of theswamps for quills, as intheparableof theSages,
until theheavens
berevealedtohimas abook.
Here, unlikeinthefirst quotation, theHoly Spirit seems tomovewithin
theonemeditating, andhemust seek acompanionwithwhomtopractice
concentration. It is alsopossiblethat theserepresent aseries of different
levels of events; thefirst passagespeaks of one's attempts toreachthe
stageof mystical experience, fromwhichit follows that hitbodedut also
heremeans concentration; thesecondpassagedescribes theexperience
itself, duringwhichthemeditator requires humancompany; this stageis
describedinsomedetail further oninR. ShemTov's description:
Andthey [i.e., theKabbalists, "thosewhoreceivethetruthineachgen-
eration**] didnot haveothers withwhomtopracticeconcentrationproperly,
for thespirit of their bellies disturbedthem, andthey secretly openedtheir
mouths inwisdom, andthey conversedwith[their quills] of reedandmarsh.
Wefindhereauniqueunderstandingof thefunctionof hitbodedut: com-
panionshipmakes it possiblefor themeditator torelievehimself of the
burdenof his mystical experience; without him, theKabbalist wouldhave
towritedownhis words and
speak withthereed," somethingwhichmay
later bringabout disaster: "andit is possiblethat it will afterwards come
intothehands of unworthy people, andstrangers will husbandHim, which
is not as thelaw."
R. ShemTov goes sofar as tosay that eventhemedi-
tator himself is likely tobecomeconfusedinhis later understandingof
thethings revealedtohimduringthemystical experience:
[Thesecontents] donot helpamannor does heunderstandthem, unless
hereceivedatraditionby wordof mouth. Eventhosewhothemselves
writeit may at times not understandit well at that time, andwhenthe
revelation[i.e., theappearanceof theHoly Spirit] passes, hewill look at
themandnot understandthem, andevenwhenthey areexplained, he
will beunabletoconceptualizethem.
Thepassages quotedaboveappear betweentwodiscussions concerning
letter combination; thefirst discussionopens withthis sentence:
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 121
Andheshall arousethroughhis wisdomthethought, whichis dormant
intheseaof darkness, andsay inhis heart: "As I knewtheformof the
letters andthey wereinscribedonmy heart, onenext toits companion, I
will examineeachletter, inits combinations andits vocalizations, and
its combinationarisingfromthecombinationof letters, tolevels without
end, of levels of theletters, eventhoughthesealsoarewithout end."
This indicates that themental concentration(i.e., hitbodedut) mentioned
inthefirst passagefromthebook Baddei Ha'Aronbegins withanarousal
connectedwithletter combination; this approachapproximates thepro-
phetic Kabbalahof Abulafiaandhis school. After thediscussions of
hitbodedut, R. ShemTov againmentions thecombinationof letters, and
adds theadvicethat onedeal only withthecombinations of vocalization
marks. At theconclusion, hesays:
But if hewill understandthethings whichI havewrittenconcerningthe
thirty-twopaths andtheletters, oneabovetheother, at oncevisibleand
invisible, andimaginetheminhis mindafter receivingthemverbally,
andthelight appears abovehim, or fromfire, "for it is aspirit inman"
[Job32:9] that heshall knowthehiddenletters.
It is clear that R. ShemTov advises hereasystemof letter andvocali-
zationcombinationinorder toattaintheexperienceof appearanceof the
light andof speech"it is aspirit inman." This experienceis very similar
tothedescriptions connectedwithhitbodedut, as quotedabove. But these
donot seemtobemerely suggestions; theKabbalist writes further: "I also
sawhiddenandsealedmysteries, worthy of concealment, but thespirit
pointedthemout, andI couldnot goby without ahint tothosewhopay
heedtothelanguageof thedottedletters."
It makes sensetoassumethat this is adescriptionof anexperienceof
R. ShemTov himself, who, as is known, dealt withthetextual tradition
of theBibleand, as aresult of this particular involvement, almost certainly
arrivedat anexperienceof light andspirit that obligatedhimtowritedown
someof thethings whichareinBaddei Ha'Aron. This teaches us that the
Kabbalahwithwhichhewas involvedwas not only amatter of theory, or
confinedtothedistant past,
but acurrent practiceinfourteenth-century
Safed. Thefact that thebook Baddei Ha'Aronwas writtenintheGalilee,
whereR. Isaac of Acrewas alsoeducatedandwheretheanonymous
author of Sha'arei Zedek alsoalmost certainly stayed, teaches us that
R. ShemTov might havecontinuedanecstatic Kabbalistic traditionthat
already existedinthelandof Israel. Inany event, inhis first Kabbalistic
work, Keter ShemTov,
therearenotraces of theecstatic Kabbalah,
122 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
suchas wefindinhis later work.
Toconcludeour discussionof thework Baddei Ha'Aron, let us return
totheopeningof thefirst passagewecitedfromthis book andquoteit
inits fuller context:
Anddonot beastoundedby what theSages said[b. Sukk, 28a] concerning
JonathanbenUziel, namely, that whenhewas engagedinthestudy of the
Torahany birdwhichflewoverheadwas immediately consumedby fire.
Andheshouldconcentrateinhis mind... andheshouldnot besurprised
that they [theSages] saidthat onewhois engagedinthesecrets of the
Chariot neednot standupeither beforeanelder or agreat man. Andhe
shouldunderstandthewords of R. AkibatoBenZoma,
andtowhere" andtheir answers tooneanother, inwhichthesecondword
was writtenwithout theyod.
Involvement inTorahandinvolvement inthesecrets of thechariot
areunderstoodhereas stages advancingmental contemplation. The
meaningof involvement inTorahis explainedaboveas profoundinvolve-
ment inthecombinations of letters andvowels. Thenatureof theinvolve-
ment inthesecrets of thechariot accordingtoR. ShemTov is not clear.
Wealready sawabove, inthewritings of R. Isaac of Acre, that thepractice
of hitbodedut is comparedtothepathof BenAzzai andR. Akibawhen
they enteredintopardes. It is possibleandthis requires proofthat
involvement inthesecrets of thechariot refers alsotothescienceof com-
biningletters; support for this interpretationmay befoundintheapproach
of Abulafia, whosees inthesecret of thechariot thecombinationof holy
names. If this is so, hitbodedut depends uponinvolvement inthesecrets
of thechariot.
SulamHa'Aliyahof R. JudahAlbotini
Wereadinanother work that represents aloyal continuationof thepath
of prophetic Kabbalah, SulamHa'Aliyah, by R. JudahAlbotini (d. 1519);
By this heshall ascendtothelevel of equanimity, as that sage
student whoaskedhim: "Will youteachus thesecret of theChariot?"
Heanswered: "Haveyouachievedequanimity?" Andthestudent didnot
understandwhat hewas sayingtohim, until heexplainedthematter to
him, namely, that all attributes areequal tohim. Andthis was what he
saidtohim, "If amaninsultedyou, andtook away that whichwas yours,
wouldyoubeangry andstrict withhimover this? Andif hedidtheopposite,
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 123
namely, tohonor youandtogiveyoumany gifts, wouldyourejoiceover
this andfeel it? Andwouldyoufeel inyour soul that youwereaffected
by thesetwoopposites?" Thenhis master saidtohim, "If so, thenyouhave
not yet acquiredthequality of equanimity,
that is, that it shouldbeequal
toyouwhether it behonor or its opposite. Andsincesuchis thecase, how
canyouascendtothelevel of hitbodedut, whichcomes after youhave
Theparallels betweenthis story andthat toldby R. Isaac of Acrein
thenameof R. ABNeR inhis book Me'irat 'Einayimareclear, neverthe-
less, onemay not necessarily assumethat this book is thedirect sourceof
R. Judah's words herefor several reasons: first, inAlbotini equanimity
(hishtawwut) immediately precedes hitbodedut, as it does inR. Isaac's
view, whereas inR. ABNeR hitdabbekut (communionwiththedivine)
comes betweenthem. Second, despitethesimilarity insubject matter,
this is not anexact quotationfromtheversioninMe'irat'Einayim. Else-
whereinthis book therearedirect quotations fromthewritings of Abulafia
andfromthebook Sha'arei Zedeky but all of themareidentifiedwith
appropriatereferences. Third, theattitudetowardtheactivity of Ben
Azzai differs inR. ABNeR andinAlbotini: only thelatter emphasizes
this personality^highlevel. Fourth, SulamHa'Aliyahquotes theTalmudic
sayingconcerningtheteachingof thesecret of thechariot, whichis absent
fromMe'irat 'Einayim. Theadditionof theexpression"secrets of the
chariot" (ma'asehmerkavah) inthespecific context of this story indicates
that this subject was seenas relatedtohitbodedut. AccordingtoAlbotini,
or his unknownsource, R. Eleazar benArakhwas referringto hitbodedut
whenheusedthephrase"secret of thechariot."
However, inplaceof
thepreconditions mentionedintheTalmud, whichemphasizewisdom
that is, "awiseman, whounderstands by himself"SulamHa'Aliyah
stresses thetrait of hishtawwut. This change, whichis not accidental,
relates tothetendency of theSufis todiminishor eventonegatecompletely
thevalueof intellectual wisdomandlearning. It is worthwhiletocompare
this approachtohishtawwut withthat of R. JosephKaro:
Heshouldhaveconcernfor nothingintheworld, except for thosethings
whichpertaintotheserviceof God, but all thethings of this worldshould
beequal inhis eyes, everythingandits opposite. For this is thesecret of
thewiseman, whowas askedby onewhowishedtopracticeunion:
youachievedequanimity?" For thetruthis that onefor whomthegood
things of this worldandits ills arenot equal cannot practiceunionina
124 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
AccordingtoR. Werblowsky this is aquotationfromIbnPaquda's
ffovot HaLevavot. However, this passageseems evencloser toAlbotini:
first, becausebothKaroandAlbotini speak of a"sage" whoanswers the
question, whereas Babyahrefers toafrasid(pious man). Second, theuse
of thetermshaweh(equanimous) is commontothetwoKabbalists but is
absent fromBabya. Third, theexpression"fromhonor andfromits
opposite" is closetoKaro's "athingandits opposite." Despitethis, we
may not assumethat Karowas influencedby theversioninSulamHa-
'Aliyah, sincehecompletely ignores theimportanceof hitbodedut. More-
over, as onecanlearnfromtheir continuation, Karo's words werewritten
outsideof Palestine, andit seems unlikely that Albotini's work camethere
andwas usedwithout beingcitedby name. Thesimilarity inthedetails
betweenthetwosources is indicativeof acommonsourcethat was different
fromtheversioninffovot HaLevavot.
Let us nowreturntothebook SulamHa*Aliyah. Albotini was appar-
ently thefirst tostate, inanunambiguous way, that hitbodedut differs
For thewelfareof thebody,
that is, solitudebrings about purity of
thepotencies andcleanness of qualities. Equanimity brings onetocon-
centrationof thesoul, andconcentrationbrings about theHoly Spirit,
whichbrings onetoprophecy, whichis thehighest level. If so, oneof the
necessary prerequisites for your pathinconcentrationis that youfirst
havethequality of equanimity, that younot becomeexcitedby anything.
Wefindhereanother caseinwhichaTalmudic sayingis incorporatedin
thediscussionof hitbodedut; this usegives thetwospiritual levels
hishtawwut andhitbodeduta privilegedplacewithinthesequenceof
stages bringingabout theHoly Spirit intheTalmudic tradition, andit
indicates that theseSufi concepts wereunderstoodas matchingor even
explainingandinterpretingtheancient Jewishtradition. However, this
harmonistic claimhas aharshring, fromthestandpoint of theTalmudic
tradition. Althoughhishtawwut is claimedtofit acertainstatement in
theTalmud, at thesametimeit opposes certaincentral Jewishattitudes.
Theprevious quotationcontinues:
Onthecontrary, hemust havejoyfulness of soul andbehappy withhis
lot, andthink inhis heart that healoneis oneandrules over this entire,
lowworld, andthat thereis noperson, near or far, whowill concernhimself
over him,
nor anyonewhocandohimany evil or damageor harmor
trouble, nor any good, for all thegoodof this worldandits wealthis in
his hands, andheneeds nothing. Of this, theSages said: "Prophecy does
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 125
not dwell saveupononewhois wise, courageous andwealthy** [Shabbat,
92a] And"Whois wealthy? Hewhorejoices inhis lot.
Joy inone's lot** is heregivenafar-reachinginterpretationfromaJewish
point of view: it is takentomeanafeelingof total independenceandsepara-
tionfromone's environment. This matches R. ShemTov IbnGaon's
approachtothecontemplative's relationshiptothemembers of his family,
but it is certainly afar-reachingstepcomparedwithwhat is statedinthe
book Baddei Ha'Aron. For R. JudahHalevi, separationfromtheworld
constitutes apsychological stateprecedingecstasy, for whichreasonone
may assumeit is morefixedandcontinues for alonger periodthanthe
separationcausedat thetimeof devekut itself, accordingtoR. ShemTov.
Thestateof hitbodedut is attainedby letter combinations, just as it was
by theKabbalists of theschool of Abulafia:
whowas expert inthewisdomof ?eruf andthat of dillug.... Afterwards,
let himperformthis means of hitbodedut, incombinationwiththeverse
that hewishes tousefromtheTorah, andheshouldrepeat this many times,
or for amonth, moreor less, as hewishes, until hesees that heis perfect
inthat path, andsoheshall further persist inthis hitbodedut.
Thevarious systems of letter combinationareunderstoodhereas
means of hitbodedut, or amongits paths. Wehavehereasystemof intel-
lectual exercises whosepurpose, accordingtoAlbotini, is topreparethe
soul toreceivetheHoly Spirit.
R. DavidIbnAbi Zimra
Oneshouldnotetheinfluenceof theinterrelationshipamonghitbo-
dedut, Holy Names, andtheattainment of theHoly Spirit uponthe
approachof R. DavidbenSolomonIbnAbi Zimra(RaDBaZ, 1479-1573).
This Kabbalist, whowas acquaintedwiththesystemof Abulafia, writes
inhis book MagenDawid:
"I havealready seenonewhowrotethat,
throughtheconcentrationontheHoly Names inholiness andinpurity,
onemay reachthestageof theHoly Spirit, eveninour times, andthis is
amatter withwhichtheenlightenedmanwill not beindoubt about the
matter of theHoly Names."
Theauthor goes ontodevelopthis ideamorefully elsewhere; but, as
opposedtowhat is saidinthis passage, whichsees theacquisitionof the
Holy Spirit as possibleinthepresent, theRaDBaZexplains thephenomenon
of theUrimandThummimas reachedby means of hitbodedut:
126 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
Thematter of theUrimandThummim... is that oneof theHoly Names,
knowntothepriest, was containedinthefolds of thebreastplate, andthe
priest woulddirect his attentionandthought andintentions towards
that nameandconcentrateuponit, andbeadornedwiththeHoly Spirit
by that samename, andit wouldbepicturedinhis mind.
Accordingtohim, this phenomenonresembles prophecy: Tor at
times theprophet woulddirect his thoughts andcontemplate, andwith
aslight arousal wouldunderstandtheintentions of God, eveninamysteri-
ous metaphor or parable. Andat times hewouldnot beready, andhe
wouldconcentrateandseethevisionandtheparable." Theprophet was
requiredtoconcentrateandtomeditateinorder todecipher for himself
thecontents of his vision: "For weretheintentionof your thoughts towards
prophecy ingreat concentration, youwouldknowby yourself andwould
not needtoask themeaningof theparable."
Hitbodedut inthewritingsof R. MosesCordovero
As wehaveseen, several motifs relatingtohitbodedut, whichoriginated
inthecircleof R. AbrahamAbulafia, reappearedat thebeginningof the
sixteenthcentury inthewritings of twoKabbalists whowereamongthe
exiles fromSpainandPortugal, R. JudahAlbotini andR. DavidIbnZimra;
bothlivedandwereactiveinJerusalem. Onemust ask whether it is merely
coincidencethat interest inhitbodedut reemergedinsixteenth-century
Palestine, after it was associatedwithKabbalists activeinthelatethirteenth
andtheearly fourteenthcentury whohadacertainrelationshiptothe
landof Israel.
This questionbecomes moreserious inthelight of the
fact that theSpanishKabbalists of thefourteenthandfifteenthcenturies
almost completely ignoredtheteachingof Abulafia, andevenduringthe
generationof theExpulsionhewas still regardedas the"black sheep" of
Kabbalahintheeyes of many SpanishKabbalists. Therenewedinterest
of PalestineanKabbalists of SpanishoriginintheKabbalahof Abulafia
andits offshoots, points towardtheir encounter withtheEasternKabbalistic
heritage, whichcombinedecstatic KabbalahwithJewish-Sufi pietism.
Thepresumptionthat suchaKabbalistic tradition, whosetraces werelost
for aperiodof slightly less thantwohundredyears, didexist may also
explaintheinterest of theSafedKabbalists duringthelatter half of the
sixteenthcentury inAbulafia's andAcre's doctrineof hitbodedut.
wouldconjecturethat wearespeakingherenot only of thepreservation
andstudy of Abulafia's writings but alsoof alivingKabbalistic tradition
whichmay explaintheorigins of Albotini's SulamHa'Aliyahandthe
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 127
centrality of hitbodedut andletter combinationamongtheKabbalists of
Safedfromthemiddleof thesixteenthcentury on. Incontrast, Spanish
Kabbalists ontheeveof theExpulsion, suchas thecircleof theauthor of
Sefer ha-Meshiv, weremuchinvolvedwithtechniques of revelation, in-
cludingincantations for dreamquestions andformulas for automatic
writingconcerns that werecontinuedintheKabbalahof Safed. However,
as opposedtoAbulafia, they didnot emphasizetherelationshipbetween
hitbodedut andletter combination. Inthewritings of R. Moses Cordovero,
wehear for thefirst timeof anintegrationof Abulafia's doctrines within
anoverall summary of SpanishKabbalahnamely, inhis book Pardes
Rimmonim. As opposedtothecomprehensivework of R. Meir IbnGabbai,
whichis basedalmost entirely onSpanishKabbalah,
themes andquotations fromthewritings of Abulafia, givingthemastanding
unknownamongtheSpanishexiledKabbalists whowereactiveoutside
thelandof Israel. This incorporationis quiteclear inthediscussionof
hitbodedut, andits implications for thedevelopment of Kabbalahwill be
treatedlater inour discussion. Thereis nodoubt that theSafedKabbalists
hadcopies of several of themost important writings of Abulafiaandhis
disciples. Thus, for example, wereadinR. Moses Cordovero's commentary
ontheZohar passageknownas "theSabba(theelder) of Mishpatim":
Andas 'ADaM(mani.e., theletters 'DM) follows alphabetical order,
[its letters symbolizing] world[location], year [time], soul [personhood],
until heattaches himself tothesecret of neshamah, ruah, nefesh[thethree
levels of soul], that is NRN, thesecret of 'ShN, inthesecret of theletters
whicharetransmutedinhis mouth, andthesecret of thevocalizationsigns,
andthesecret of thehitbodedut brought downtomanby them, as is
writteninthebook Sha'arei Z*dek
by R. AbrahamAbulafia, author
of Sefer Ifayyei Ha'OlamHaBa\"<
This passageindicates that Cordoverohadbeforehimtwoof the
principal works of prophetic Kabbalah; fromthemhelearned, amongother
things, thesecret of hitbodedut, which, as wehaveseenabove, is connected
withthecombinations of letters andof vowels. Throughhitbodedut9 the
soul becomes attachedtothesupernal hypostases knownas neshamah,
ruaht nefesh. Wehavehereaneo-Platonic formulationof theunderstanding
of devekut, influencednot alittleby theapproachof theauthor of Sha'arei
A closer examinationof themeaningof theword hitbodedut
inthis text wouldbeworthwhile. It is clear that thestageportrayedhere
is onereachedby thepractitioner of concentrationafter theprocess of
zeruf andnot beforeit, whichdiffers fromthetexts discusseduntil now.
Here, hitbodedut is transformedintothefinal stagebeforedevekut. One
128 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
shouldcompareCordovero's uniqueuseof this termwiththat of his disciple,
R. HayyimVital, whowrites inthebook Sha'arei Kedushah, apparently
inthenameof his teacher
"Thesons of prophets, whohadbeforethemdrumandpipe, etc." for by
thesweetness of thesoundof themusic, hitbodedut
rests uponthem,
by thepleasantness of thesound, andthey cast off their souls. Andthen
themusicianceases his playing, but theprophetic disciples remaininthe
samesupernal stateof devekut, andthey prophesy.
Inthis quotationfromVital, as inCordovero, hitbodedut occurs as
aresult of theuseof acertaintechnique,
andinthewakeof this concen-
trationthesoul attains thestateof devekut. This intermediatesituation
may signify akindof abnegationof thesenses
or isolationof thesoul
fromobjects of sensation, whichenables it toattachitself toahigher level.
In Pardes Rimmonim, Cordovero paraphrases avery important
passagefromAbulafia's book 'Or HaSekhel defininghitbodedut as
retirement toanisolatedroomandletter-combination. However, beyond
thesequotations onefinds hereaninterestingdiscussionbaseduponthe
doctrines of Abulafia's school:
Several of theearly ones explainedthat by thecombinationandtrans-
mutationof theseventy-two-letter holy name
or theother names, after
great hitbodedut, therighteous man, whois worthy andenlightenedin
suchmatters, will haveaportionof theDivineVoice(bat qot) revealed
tohim, inthesenseof, Thespirit of Godspokeinme, andHis wordwas
onmy lips" [II, Samuel 23:2]. For hecombines together thepotencies
andunites themandarouses desireinthem,
eachtoits brother, as the
membrumvirileof manandhis companion[i.e., thefemale], until there
is poureduponhimaspirit of abundanceontheconditionthat hebe
engagedinthis thing, as avessel preparedtoandworthy of receivingthe
spirit, for if suchis not thecase, it will becomecruel
Thus hitbodedut, inthesenseof concentration, advances theprocess of
letter combination,
whosepurposeis theattainment of theholy spirit,
inthespirit of Abulafia's Kabbalah. Theconclusionof this quotation
favors theapproachof R. Isaac of Acre, inwhichcombinationenables
thesoul toreceivetheabundanceor thespirituality. This expressionis
interpreted elsewhereas well inconnection withhitbodedut:
prophets, of blessedmemory, usedtoacquire, by means of thoseletters,
throughgreat concentrationandby virtueof their puresoul, that spirit
embodiedintheletters." Theletters combinedby theKabbalist are
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 129
transformedhereintoasort of talisman, whichabsorbs thesupernal
After thespirituality is absorbedby means of theletters,
it becomes attachedwithinthesoul, whichis preparedfor this by concen-
Hitbodedut is describedas aprocess by whichthesoul is
transferredfromtheworldof matter totheworldof spirit, or as atechnique
of spiritual elevation, throughcontemplationof sensory dataandits strip-
pingaway, inorder tounderstandthespiritual element withinit. The
mystical aspect of hitbodedut is clearly expressedinanother book by
Cordovero, namely, Shi'ur Komah:
Thesons of theprophets, whenthey usedtopreparethemselves for
prophecy, brought themselves [toastateof] joy
as intheverse, Take
meamusician, andwhenthemusicianplays... [II, Kings 3:15]. Andthey
wouldconcentrateinaccordancewiththeir ability todoso, inattaining
thewondrous levels andcastingoff thematerial, andstrengtheningthe
mindwithinthebody, until they abandonedmatter anddidnot perceive
it at all, but their mindwas entirely inthesupernal orders andsubjects.
Anethey concentrate, andcast off thephysical, andgoawayandthis
matter is man*s preparationonhis ownpart.
AccordingtoCordovero, the"sons of theprophets," that is, the
ancient Jewishmystics, hadspecial methods of concentration: "according
totheir knowledgeof concentration," whichshowedthemhowtocast off
materiality andtopreparethedematerialized mindtoapprehendthe
structureof thesefirot: "thesublimelevels," "thosesupernal levels." We
learnabout thenecessary transitionbetweenthephysical andthespiritual
fromSefer 'Or Yakar;
If onewishes totakepleasureintheunderstandingof his Creator, let
himconcentrateaccordingtotheacceptedpremises whichhehas learned,
andlet himlook at aparticular physical form, sothat hemay learnfrom
it that whichis alludedtointhespiritual worlds, andhewill seethedetailed
organs of it, andthevariedmatters, andits lights. Andfromtherehe
will cometounderstandtheinnermost secrets of thespirituality of that
form, andheshall attaindevekut. Suchwas theway of Adaminthe
gardenof Eden. Now, if thecherubimwerephysical-spiritual beings, he
may gazeat themandcometocontemplateandtoapprehendfromwhat
is picturedhere, interms of thevisual, that whichmakes sensetothe
mind[proceeding] fromthephysical tothespiritual.
TheKabbalist is abletoacquire"knowledgeof his Creator" through
contemplationof theformof his ownphysical organs, by means of hitbo-
dedut. This statement reminds us of R. Isaac of Acre's story of theprincess,
130 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
whichwas quotedinthework of Cordovero's pupil, R. ElijahdeVidas.
Furthermore, accordingtoAcre, "fromthesensory youshall understand
theintelligibilia, for fromyour fleshshall youknowGod[after Job19:26]."
WehavehereaKabbalistic variant of thesaying"Knowyourself and
knowyour God,"
plays acentral
roleinthetransitionbetweenone's selfthat is, one's bodyandthe
Divine. Hitbodedut is ameans of uncoveringthesupernal sourceof material
being; thecessationof hitbodedut is likely tobringabout adistortedunder-
standingof phenomenon. Thus, wehear of Moses that:
Becauseheturnedhis heart away fromprophetic concentration, infleeing
fromtheCreator's mission, turninghis headinthinkingthat it was Amram,
his father, whowas callinghimat that moment. For hadheconcentrated
at that time, hewouldhaveunderstoodhowthat voicewas descending
fromthe[cosmic] worldof Creationtothat of Formation, andfromthat
of Formationintothat of Action.... AndthesamehappenedtoSamuel,
at thebeginningof his prophecy, that hedidnot concentrate, tounderstand
theway of thevoice, eventhoughhewas worthy of prophecy. Sohe
thought that that voicewas ahumanvoice, that is, that of Eli, until he
finally said, "Speak, for your servant hears"that is, that heconcentrated
andapprehendedthestages of prophecy, andunderstoodthedescent of
Here, hitbodedut is understoodas acombinationof concentration
andmeditationat thesametime; it is themeans enablingthehumanin-
tellect torestoretheessenceof things totheir supernal source, by apprehen-
sionof their essence. This is theway by whichoneturns totheupper world:
Therearetwoaspects of bokhmah: thesupernal aspect is turnedtowards
thedivinecrown(keter), whichaspect does not facedownwards The
second, lower aspect turns downwards Likewisemanhas twoaspects:
thefirst is that of his concentrationuponhis Creator, toaddandacquire
wisdom, andthesecondthat by whichheteaches others.
It seems important tometodwell uponacertainchangeintheuseof
thetermhitbodedut inCordovero's thought: concentratedthought enables
onetouncover thehiddenessenceof theobject of contemplation, through
whichonecomes tounderstandthesupernal sourceandtheway inwhich
thespiritual emanates downintothematerial world. AccordingtoCor-
dovero, thehumanintellect must cast off its physicality only inorder to
penetrate, by means of its concentration, beyondthephysicality of other
things, touncover their spiritual nature
andtoarriveinthefinal analysis
at GodHimself. Accordingtoanother text, Cordoveroseems tostate
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 131
that therearecertainsubjects whoseapprehensioncannot beguaranteed
evenby hitbodedut:
For theTorahis thesecret of theupper Beingwhichhas comeintoexistence
below, andis not separatedfromthesefiroubut it nevertheless is present
for thosewhoexist below, whileconnectedtothespiritual existenceof
thesefirouWhenmanconcentrates inorder tounderstandthis mystery,
heshall beastonishedandbesilent tohis mindandnot findit, for the
Torahis not aseparatebeingbelow.
Wefindhereaninterestingapproach, reminiscent of Isaac of Acre's
opinionthat themystic is unabletopenetratethesecrets of theTorah.
Safedandthedisseminationof Hitbodedut
Thepenetrationof theconcept of hitbodedut, inthesenseof intel-
lectual concentration, intothewritings of R. Moses Cordovero, some-
times combinedwithatechniqueof letter combinationandboreimportant
implications beyondtheabsorptionof ecstatic Kabbalahwithintheframe-
work of theurgic SpanishKabbalah. This fact facilitatedthedissemination
of anumber of elements associatedwiththetechniqueof letter combination
inKabbalahgenerally; but noless important was theenhancedimportance
of hitbodedut intexts writtenby Cordovero's disciples. I refer particularly
tothemajor works of Kabbalistic mussar writtenduringthelast thirdof
thesixteenthcentury. As wehavealready seenabove, R. ElijahdeVidas
usedR. Isaac of Acre's parableof theprincess inhis book Reshit tfokhmah.
Elsewhereinhis book, parables mentioninghitbodedut inthesenseof
seclusionfromsociety alsoreappear.
But it seems tomethat deVidas
knewmoreof hitbodedut fromhis teacher thanwhat survivedinhis writings.
InSha'arei Kedushah, R. HayyimVital tells us:
R. ElijahdeVidas, theauthor of thebook Reshit Ifokhmahy of blessed
memory, toldmeinthenameof his teacher, R. Moses Cordovero, of
blessedmemory, themaster of Pardes [Rimmonim], that whoever wishes
toknowwhatever hewishes shouldaccustomhimself toholiness ... and
after herecites theShema' onhis bedheshouldconcentrateinhis mind
This indicates that traditions concerningtheimportanceof hitbodedut
weretransmittedorally, andit is likely that Cordoverohimself alsohad
traditions that hedidnot put downinwriting. This assumptionmakes
132 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
sensealsoonthebasis of examiningtheextensivematerial concerning
hitbodedut intheunpublishedportionof Vital's Sha'arei Kedushah. This
sectionis filledwithquotations fromthewritings of AbulafiaandIsaac of
Acre, as well as fromunidentifiedmaterial dealingwithhitbodedut.
Thethirdwork fromCordovero's circle, R. Eleazar Azikri's (1533-
1600) Sefer tfaredim, inwhichIsaac of Acreis alsomentioned, discusses the
practical implicationof hitbodedut at somelength. For our purposes, it
is worthwhiletoexaminetwopassages inwhich, inmy opinion, thereis
noticeableSufi influence. Thefirst appears inAzikri's mystical journal:
It is written,
1havealways placedGodbeforeme.** It is writteninthe
book ffovot HaLevavot, that it is inconceivablethat amaster andaslave,
onebeingcontemptibleintheeyes of theother, or thosewhohonor and
thosewhodespisehim, shouldbeequal inhis eyes, as thehiasidsaidto
themanwhowishedto[mentally] concentrate, "Youcannot dosounless
youpracticehumility and, [receiving] insults, until youachieveequa-
nimity.** ... Andtherearethreeconditions inthis verse, shiwiti
literally, "1madeequal**), that is, that 1makeeverythingequal beforeme,
my praisers andmy condemners, for 1amaworm.
It seems tome, despitetheexplicit mentionof Ifovot HaLevavot, that
oneought not toseeinthis work thedirect sourceof Azikri for thefollowing
reasons. First, Bafyyahdoes not mentionhitbodedut inconnectionwith
hishtawwut. Second, Bafeyahdoes not mentionhereany interpretation
of theversefromPsalms. Third, thelanguageof thetwopassages differs
inmany details. Thus, onemay assumethat Azikri hadinfront of himan
additional source, possibly oneof thewritings of Isaac of Acrewritten
under Sufi influence.
Azikri quotes R. Isaac benSolomon
Luria(ha-ARI, 1534-1572) as statingthat hitbodedut "is helpful tothesoul
seventimes morethanstudy, andaccordingtoaman's strengthandability
heshouldconcentrateandmeditateoneday aweek "This exaggerated
valuationof hitbodedut, statedby Luriawhenhefirst startedhis own
pathas acontemplative,
reflects theSufi understandingof thesupremacy
of hitbodedut.
It shouldbenotedthat, despitethefact that, inthesetexts theterm
hitbodedut does not appear inconjunctionwiththediscussionof letter
combinationor theutteringof divinenames, onemust assumethat these
constituteatechniqueusedby Azikri whenhepracticedhitbodedut. In
his mystical journal, hewrites:
147 44
Andat every moment heunites His
names withjoy andtrembling, andheflees fromsociety as muchas is
possible, andis completely silent,
inabrilliant flame, alone, fearful and
trembling, andthelight
whichis aboveyour head, makealways intoyour
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 133
teacher, andacquireacompanion." Aninterestingparallel tothis appears
inSefer Ifaredim, whichwas, as is known, avery popular andwidely known
"But beenlightenedinyour mind, intheenlightenment of these
matters (i.e., thesefirot) andimaginetheletters of thenames, that this is
left toyou, but toimaginemorethantheletters is tantamount [toarriving]
at acorporeal conception. Andvisualizingtheletters inthemind..." We
findhereatechniquethat is not identical tothat of letter combination,
but avisualizationof theletters of theDivineName, andthis already
appears inAbulafiaandinIsaac of Acre,
andonemay assumethat the
influenceof theseKabbalists inthesematters is alsoreflectedinAzikri.
Theincorporationof theconcept of hitbodedut intheethical writings
of Cordovero's disciples constitutes thefinal stageintheprocess of pene-
trationof hitbodedut intoJewishcultureas apractical teaching. Abulafia's
writings constitutedthebeginningof theprocess of absorptionof the
Sufi outlook withinKabbalah; however, his books wereintendedonly
for special individuals, andeventhoughhis writings werecirculatedin
manuscript form, their influencewas largely confinedtoKabbalistic circles.
Theincorporationof theconcept of hitbodedut intoCordovero's writings
was animportant steptowardits disseminationamongafar wider public,
bothbecauseof theinfluenceof thebook Pardes Rimmonimandbecause
of theincorporationof hitbodedut as areligious valueintheSafedmussar
works. However, althoughCordoverostill maintainedtheconnection
betweenhitbodedut andletter combination, his disciples removedthe
instructions pertainingtothecombinationof letters. Thefourthsection
of Vital's Sha'arei Kedushah, containingdetailedinstructions for letter
combination, was never printed. Azikri nodoubt knewof theuseof Divine
Names inconnectionwithrevelationandmadeuseof it, but hespeaks
littleof this matter, whereas theconnectionbetweenhitbodedut andletter
combinationis entirely absent fromdeVidas. It is certainthat therela-
tively popular character of thesemussar works was thereasonfor the
concealingof this part of Abulafia's Kabbalah, but its other element
hitbodedutcontinued, together withR. BahyahIbnPaquda's views on
thesubject, toconstituteasourceof inspirationfor theguidanceof Jewish
mystics. Theinfluenceof theviews sketchedabovemay betracedthrough
thewritings of theHasidic mystics andpossibly eveninthewritings of
R. Moses HayyimLuzzato.
Inconclusion, weshoulddiscuss theplaceof thetexts quotedabove
withinthegeneral framework of Jewishmysticism. Thedrawingof anew
anddetailedpathwas not apurely theoretical matter, onemay assume
that most of theKabbalists quotedaboveunderwent mystical experiences
after takingthesteps describedabove: mental concentrationandletter
combinationor thepronouncingof DivineNames. It shouldbementioned
134 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
that approaches whichcouldbedescribedas uniomysticaappear inthe
writings of Abulafia, Isaac of Acre, Albotini, anddeVidas, or, as inthe
caseof Azikri, coupledwithecstatic states. Therefore, theprecedingdis-
cussioncanserveas akind.of introductiontothemoredetailedanalysis of
oneof thecentral subjects inthestudy of Jewishmysticism: thepenetration
of uniomysticaintoKabbalistic thought andpractice.
Hitbodedut andtheShuttingof Eyes
Oneof thepractical techniques advocatedby theKabbalists inorder
toattainastateof concentrationthat is, hitbodedutwas theshutting
of one's eyes.
This techniqueis well knowntous fromSufism
connectionwithachievingkawwanah(direction, concentration) inprayer
andfor purposes of contemplatingcolors whichbecomerevealedinone's
consciousness amongtheKabbalists.
Ananonymous Kabbalist saw"theessenceof hitbodedut" intheact
of closingone's eyes:
Andwhat is theessenceof hitbodedut! By closingtheeyes for along
time, andinaccordancewiththelengthof time, soshall bethegreatness
of theapprehension. Therefore, let his eyes always beshut until heattains
apprehensionof theDivine, andtogether withshuttinghis eyes negate
every thought andevery soundthat hehears.
Theconnectionbetweenshuttingone's eyes andhitbodedut hereis
intheshuttingoff of thepersonfromthesenses. This enhances concentra-
tionandfacilitates thepossibility of apprehension: themeditator enjoys
Divineprovidenceinaccordancewiththedegreeor level of comprehension.
This connectionbetweenapprehensionandprovidenceindicates apossible
influenceof Maimonides's approach(Guide3:51) totherelationshipbe-
tweenthem. At thebeginningof thesixteenthcentury, R. JudahAlbotini
wroteinhis book SulamHa'Aliyah:
Thosewhopracticeconcentration, whenthey concentrateuponsome
subject or someprofoundinterpretation, closetheir eyes, andnearly
obliteratetheir ownpowers, inorder toremovetheir hiddenmindfrom
potential intoactualization, andtomakethat interpretationfirmandto
hewit out andimpress it upontheir souls.
Here, as intheanonymous quotation, theshuttingof theeyes is associated
withthosewhopracticeconcentration, ontheonehand, andthecapability
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 135
of apprehension, ontheother. ElsewhereAlbotini adds thefollowing
sentencetothematerial copiedfromAbulafia's Ifayyei Ha*OlamHaBa
"Then, inthat situation, heshall strongly shut his eyes andclosethem
tightly, andall his body shall shake, withtremblingandfear, andhis
knees.. r
Thepracticeof precedingtheconcentrationnecessary for apprehension
by closingone's eyes foundits way intooneof themost famous works of
R. HayyimVital, namely, Sha'arei Kedushah. Accordingtotheauthor,
thefourthandfinal stageof theprocess of purification, whoseultimate
purposeis theattainment of prophecy, includes seclusioninaspecial house:
Andheshouldshut his eyes, andremovehis thoughts fromall matters of
this world, as thoughhis soul haddepartedfromhim, likeadeadperson
whofeels nothing Andheshouldimaginethat his soul has departedand
ascended, andheshouldenvisiontheupper worlds, as thoughhestands in
them. Andif heperformedsomeunificationheshouldthink about it, to
bringdownby this, light andabundanceintoall theworlds, andheshould
intendtoreceivealsohis portionat theend. Andheshouldconcentratein
his thought, as thoughthespirit hadresteduponhim, until heawakens
somewhat Andafter afewdays heshouldreturntomeditateinthesame
manner, until hemerits that thespirit rest uponhim.
Wefindhereaboldstep, comparedwithits predecessors: thepurpose
of closingone's eyes inhitbodedut is nowtomerit theHoly Spirit, and
nolonger merely arealizationof theintellect. Vital againsuggests this
practicefor thepurposeof yibud, alongthelines of Lurianic Kabbalah:
"At thebeginningyoumust shut andseal your eyes andconcentratefor one
hour, andthenconcentrateuponthisnamely, thenameMeTaTRoN
anddivideit intothreeportions, eachportionconsistingof twoletters,
thus, MeT TeR'ON* Again, inamagical formulainthepossessionof
R. HayyimVital, or writteninhis hand, weread:
"Toask [aquestion]
whileawake: Enwrapyourself infallit andtefillinandshut your eyes in
concentrationandrecite: blessedmemory ..."
Onemay clearly argueonthebasis of thesequotations that thesug-
gestionof closingone's eyes toenableonetoconcentratewas adoptedfor
various and peculiar reasons, whichcharacterizesystems of thoughts
remotefromoneanother. It is possible, by its means, toaugment the
intellect, toreceivetheHoly Spirit, or toask wakingquestions or toperform
mystical unifications.
Incontrast totheunderstandingof hitbodedut aconcentrationand
theshuttingof theeyes as anearlier stage, whichrepeats itself inR. Hayyim
Vital, onefinds alsotheoppositeoutlook inthis Kabbalist. Headvises:
136 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
Meditateinasecludedhouseas above, andwrapyourself inafallit, and
sit andcloseyour eyes andremoveyourself fromthematerial world, as if
your soul hadleft your body, andascendedintotheheavens.
this castingoff, readonemishnah,
whichever oneyouwish, many times,
timeafter time, andintendthat your soul communewiththesoul of the
tannamentionedinthat mishnah.
Inanother formula, whichappears immediately thereafter, Vital advises:
Meditateinasecludedhouse, andcloseyour eyes, andif youwrapyour-
self inafallit andwear teflllinthis shall bebetter, andafter youturnyour
thoughts completely andpurify them,
thendocombinations inyour
thoughts, usingany wordthat youwishinall its combinations. For weare
not strict as towhichwordyoucombine, but inwhichever oneyouwish,
for example: RZ, ZHR%RZ\ Z
Thesedescriptions of hitbodedut fit inmany details thetechnique
suggestedby Abulafia: that is, concentrationinasecludedplace, thewearing
of fallit andtefillin, shuttingone's eyes,
andletter combination. However,
thereis nodoubt that tothesedetails wereaddedlater approaches, including
theattachment of thesoul of themeditator tothesoul of thetannaconnected
withthemishnahwhichis recited, or theascent totheheavens. Despitethis,
wecanstatethat Vital's descriptions giveevidenceof acontinuation, with
somechanges, of theprophetic Kabbalahof theschool of Abulafia. As
this statement alsoholds trueof other suggestions, whichprecedeshutting
one's eyes toconcentrate, onemay concludethat, withregardtohitbodedut,
Vital was influencedby thevarious different versions of prophetic Kabbalah.
His discussions of this subject, together withthematerial wehavedescribed
inR. Moses Cordovero, indicateanimpressivepenetrationof ecstatic
Kabbalahintotheurgic SpanishKabbalah, whichhadcometoSafedwith-
out havingbeenpreviously markedly influencedby Abulafia's teachings.
OnR. MosesCordoveroandR. AbrahamAbulafia
Wehavealready analyzedthehistory of Jewishsolitary meditation
whichwedefinedas aspecific formof intentional mental concentration.
Its history fromtheperiodof AbulafiatotheKabbalistic floruit of Safed
inthesixteenthcentury was delineated. Weindicatedaconnectionbetween
theKabbalahof Abulafiaandhis disciples andtheKabbalahof Cordovero
andhis disciples withevidencebasedonquotations fromtheir works as
well as fromthoseof theanonymous author of Sha'arei Zedek. More
specifically weexaminedtheroleof concentrationandits connectionwith
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 137
thetechniqueknownas letter combination(Zeruf 'Otiyot).
Despitethetendency amongtheSafedKabbalists toquotefromthe
writings of Abulafiaregardingmystical practices, wehaveyet toprovide
evidencetoprovethat theSafeds actually usedthesepractices. If wewere
toassert that they did, wewouldthenhaveaframework withwhichto
understandthefunctionof Abulafia's ecstatic Kabbalahinthemystical
lifeof thecoregroupof SafedKabbalists.
It appears tomethat suchinformationcanbedemonstratedthrough
afurther examinationof thewritings of Cordovero's disciples andadmirers
whospent timeinSafed. I refer specifically tothewritingof thesixteenth-
century ItalianKabbalist, R. Mordekhai Dato
who, inhis 'Iggeret
HaLevanondescribes the Kabbalistic practices of Cordovero, his
teacher, inthefollowingwords:
Theoccupationof our ancestors, shepherdingsheep(Ro'ei %on\
contains asecret meaning. It actually refers tothevocationof eruf 'Otiyot
JVekudot, thecombinationof letters andvowel points.
For thesageversedintheTrueWisdomcares for theself by means
of thesecret of thecombinationof theholy letters andvowel points, for
they areexceedingly great.
Zeganzagel was the[angelic] teacher of Moses.
Ingematria, this
namehas thenumerical valueof theword"Me'ayin,"
andthis word
is actually hidden
inMoses' name, whentheletters of his nameare
fully spelledout thus: MemMemShinYodNunHeAlef9 formingthe
Knowthat theman, Moses Cordovero, took for himself thevocation
of letter andvowel combination. Hepracticedit successfully andsuccess-
fully trainedothers inthis art.
This portrayal of Cordoverobases itself onideas takenfromAbulafia's
Hayyei Ha'OlamHaBa\
Thesethreeprinciples, 'Otiyot (letters) ?eruf (combination) and
JVekudot (vowel points) forms whoseletters may berearrangedto
formthewordon(sheep) whichis usedas anacronymfor theabove.
This is what is denotedby
andMoses was ashepherdof sheep" ('U Moshe
Ro'eIon*). Thus, apersonwhenheattains perfectionbecomeashepherd.
Inanother sectionof thesamebook weread:
Thesecret nameof Moses is Me'ayin.
Whenwecomparethesewords by Abulafiawiththeprecedingportrayal
138 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
of Cordoveroby Dato, wecannot doubt that Datosawhis teacher as one
occupiedwithpractices that exemplify theKabbalahof Abulafia.
Indeed, thequotefromDatocontains other hints as well. Fromthe
beginningof thequoteit is impliedthat theecstatic Kabbalahwas regarded
as the"vocationof our ancestors." Suchadesignationnot only adds to
theprestigeof this Kabbalah, but it may alsoimply that Cordoveroinherited
aKabbalistic traditionfromhis ownforebears or teachers. That Cordovero
practicedthis formof meditationis conspicuous; thefact that hewas
"successful" implies that heattainedthemystical experiences that the
"ecstatic Kabbalah" was intendedtoimpart as designatedby Abulafia.
Thesuccessful trainingof "others" refers, nodoubt, toCordovero's own
Consideringtheimplications of this portrayal, it is nowonder that
theAbulafianKabbalahfigures soprominently inthefourthportal of the
"Portals of Holiness" (Sha'arei Kedushah, writtenby R. HayyimVital),
for thebook was writtentoguidetheway for Vital's contemporaries to
attaintheprophetic or ecstatic experience.
Thereis aninterestingallusion, again, inthewritings of Dato
regardingtherelationshipbetweenthepracticeof letter andvowel com-
binationandmystical experience:
This spiritual shepherdinginthesecrets of theAlphaBeta, fromthe
letter Alef totheletter Tau, throughthedifferent letter andvowel com-
binations forms theDivineSpeechof theTorahandthroughit Godspeaks
toHis prophets.
This [is themeaningof theverse:
"Andheledhis flock"] tothe
farthest endof thewilderness (ahar hadmidbar), wherewereadtheword
"midbar" (wilderness), whichis writtenwiththesameletters as theword
"Miyddaber", as intheverse,
"AndI heardavoice'speakingly* (miyd-
daber) tome." This refers totheDivineSpeechthat only theprophet
This is further explainedintheverse
"Thespirit of theLordspoke
by meandHis wordwas uponmy tongue." For thewords themselves
wereof theHoly Spirit that was placedwithinthemouthof theprophet.
Theprophet didn't speak themof himself.
R. Moses Cordovero. . .
This passageindicates that Cordovero, likeMoses, attainedtopro-
phecy, andthat this was duetothespiritual shepherdingof the?on(letter
andvowel andcombination).
Abulafiawrites that: "Thedifferences betweenpeopleareconstituted
intheir different understandings of theway of theletters. Themoreone
understands their secrets thegreater oneis intheeyes of God. It is through
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 139
theletters andtheunderstandingof their ways that Godgrants abundant
Fromthis weseethat thepractices involvingtheletters provide
apathfor theattainment of DivineWisdom. TheseKabbalistic techniques
aredepictedinthewritingof Datoinamost interestingway. Inanother
passage, Datosays,
Thereis adanger involvedinembarkinguponthewisdomof Kab-
balah, lest it happentoonewhat happenedtoBenZoma, who"gazed"
andwas strickenwithmadness, or toBenAzzai, who"gazed" andwas struck
dead, or toElishaAfter who"gazed" andbeganto"uproot theshoots."
Whenthefour enteredthe"Pardes" (mystical orchard) only Rabbi
Akivaenteredinpeaceandleft inpeace. Amongthosewhoenter into
thewisdomof theKabbalahvery fewarerescuedfromerror, andeven
anunintentional mistakeinthis wisdomis regarded, HeavenForfend,
as if it wereintentional.
That is sointhis path. However, thereis another path(towisdom)
that is not as dangerous. Withit onemay beconfident as regards the
danger. It is thepathof theprincipletraditions of wisdom, whichbrings
apersontoknowledgewithout error.
Immediately followingthis passageDatoexplains theprinciples of Abu-
lafianKabbalah. Wemay thereforeconcludethat theabove-mentioned
"pathof theprincipletraditions of thewisdom, whichbrings apersonto
knowledgewithout error" refers totheAbulafianKabbalah. However,
it is difficult toidentify the"dangerous Kabbalah" that may bringoneto
error. Is DatoreferringtotheKabbalahregardingthesefirot9 whichwas
theclassical Kabbalahof boththeSpanishandPortugeseKabbalists
beforetheExpulsion? If so, weagainseeanexampleof Abulafia's influence.
For Abulafia, theKabbalahof thesejirot is "beginner's Kabbalah," and
thereeven"exist Kabbalists who(mistakenly) believeinthesefirot inthe
samemanner as theChristians whobelieveintheTrinity."
regards themas peoplewho"added(tothetrueunity of God) totheextent
that they madeHimten, andregardedtheOneas composedof multiple
Incontrast tothis, Abulafiasees inhis ownKabbalahawisdom
that surpasses theKabbalahof thesefirot9
andapaththat brings a
totheprophetic state, namely, ecstasy.
Anadditional indicator regardingCordovero's occupationwiththe
AbulafianKabbalahmay befound, I believe, inCordovero's magnumopus,
Pardes Rimmonim. AccordingtoCordovero,
thereare"four categories
of [thestudy of] Torah: (a) thesimplenarrativelevel, thematerial enclothe-
ment of theTorah; (b) thestudy of theLawandMidrashic lore, intheir
literal sense; (c) thestudy of the'pleasant Kabbalah' suchas thesecrets
explicatedby theZohar... for all of theMidrashimandMishnayot as well
140 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
as all thelaws andcommandments containinner secrets andpleasant
and(d) thespirituality of theletters,
their essenceandcom-
bination, onewithintheother."
Fromthis weseethat, accordingtoCordovero, themost sublime
formof Kabbalahis not thestudy of thesefirot, whichoriginates inthe
Zohar, amongother places, but rather, it is theKabbalahof theletters
andtheir combination. However, "this Kabbalahis almost unavailable...
andinits placewefindtheDivineNames, their functions andcombinations,
as they arederivedfromBiblical verses, together withtheknowledgeof
their functions; howthey derivepower, andtheir placeinthesupernal
Merkavah(DivineChariot). This knowledgeis almost unavailable... and
anintroductiontoit will befoundinthesethreegates (inPardes Rimmonim),
theGateof theLetters, theGateof theVowel Points andtheGateof the
Anunderstandingof the"fourthcategory" of Torahstudy as the
fieldof letter andvowel combinationconcurs withwhat wequotedearlier
fromDato. Wecannot, however, categorically maintainthat it refers
exclusively totheAbulafianKabbalah, for inaddition, it undoubtedly
alsorefers tothemagical Kabbalahof Sefer Berit Menufrah
as well as
toSefer HaMeshiv,
for thereinwealsofindemployedtechniques that
areclearly language-oriented. However, it is alsoclear that Abulafian
Kabbalahoccupiedacentral placeinthecorpus of advancedKabbalah
It stands toreasonthat, intheeyes of Cordovero, at least, if not among
theSafedKabbalists at large, theKabbalahcanbeseenas agradedsystem
containingtwolevels: 1) thelower level, consistingof theKabbalahof
thesefirot, whichis derivedfromtheZohar, and2) thehigher level, the
ecstatic or "Prophetic Kabbalah" of Abulafia. This gradationof value
was tobecomecrucial tothedevelopment of thelinguistic mysticismof
NotestoChapter 7
1. Gatherings of Kabbalists andcommonstudy wereevidently commonalready
duringthethirteenthcentury; it seems probablethat theZohar describes contem-
porary Kabbalistic practices inits ownpeculiar way, projectingcontemporary
customs intothedistant pastparticularly inreferencetothegatherings of the
Idra. However, theKabbalists didnot separatethemselves fromsociety for this
reason, and, moreimportant, participationintheminyan(quorumof tenfor prayer)
was of great significancefor thembothHalakhically andtheurgically. It is worth
emphasizingthat thesymbolic-theurgic streaminKabbalah, representedby the
Zohar, sawasourceof great power inthejoint efforts of anumber of Kabbalists,
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 141
unequaledelsewhere. SeeY. Liebes, "TheMessiahof theZohar" (Heb.), inHa-
Ra'ayonha-Meshihi be-Yisra'el (Jerusalem, 1982), pp. 128-165, 175-191. Compare
thelegendconcerningR. JosephdelaReinaandhis disciples, whoattempted,
throughtheir joint efforts, todefeat theforces of evil. SeeIdel, "Inquiries," pp. 226-
230, 244-248. Incontrast withArabandChristianmagic, inwhichtheindividual
magicianis at thefocus of magical activity, herethegroupof Kabbalists act in
concert. Ontheother hand, theindividual meditationof thoseKabbalists who
belongedtotheschool of Prophetic Kabbalahforegoes theelement of theurgic
activity, beingmodelledafter Sufi mysticism, as weshall seebelow.
2. Bothhereandbelow, my remarks refer toKabbalahonly inthenarrowsense
of theword: Sefirotic andEcstatic Kabbalah. I donot intendtodiscuss thepheno-
menaassociatedwithAshkenazic Hasidism(seenote3below) or theJewish-Sufic
pietismof theschool of Maimonides. Ontheproblemof thehavurah(groupor
community) inHekhalot literature, seeIraCherus, "Individual andCommunity
intheRedactionof theHekhalot Literature," HUCAvol 52(1981), pp. 253-274.
It must benotedthat, despitetheindividualistic tendencies characteristic of some
Hekhalot texts, wedonot findthereinstructions concerninghitbodedut as acon-
ditionfor descent totheMerkavah.
3. Onthis question, twelfth- andthirteenth-century Ashkenazic Hasidism
differedfromSpanishandProvencal Kabbalahof thesameperiod. Onthesepara-
tists tendency amongthesehasidism, see: IvanG. Marcus, PietyandSocietyThe
JewishPietists of Medieval Germany(Leiden, 1981). For our purposes, it is signi-
ficant that thereligious demands of this pietismwhosehistorical activity continued
for arelatively brief periodwerelater transformedintoakindof ideal, but were
not codifiedwithintheHalakhah.
4. SeeTrimingham's remarks: "Early Sufismwas anatural expressionof
personal religioninrelationtotheexpressionof religionas acommunal matter.
It was anassertionof aperson's right topursuealifeof contemplation, seeking
contact withthesourceof beingandreality, over against institutionalizedreligion
basedonauthority" (Sufi Orders, p. 2).
WithinChristianity, theterminology usedinconnectionwithmonasticism
is sufficient indicationof thepersonalist natureof thephenomenon. Theterms
monozonos andmonachosi.e., "individual"areindicativeof this.
5. Thesituationchangedlater, inthemid-sixteenthcentury inSafed, when
theKabbalists createdspecial hanhagot (behavior patterns). However, these
customs inturnrapidly spreadbeyondSafed, as aresult of theinitiativeof the
Kabbalists themselves, gradually becomingtransformedintopart of normative
6. Of particular interest inthis connectionis thefact that Abulafia, whosaw
intheattainment of "prophecy" thesupremereligious goal, didnot "sanctify" the
mystical techniques whichheadvocatedfor theachievement of this goal. Inhis
writings, thevarious techniques aredescribedingreat detail, indicatingthat they
werenot understoodas havingreligious worthinandof themselves. However, the
142 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
fact that neither Abulafianor Acrewhoseviews concerninghitbodedut will be
discussedlaterwroteworks explainingtheKabbalistic interpretationof the
mi?wot is worthy of note. This indicates that Prophetic Kabbalahby its very nature
didnot haveanindependent interpretationof themi?wot. WhileR. Isaac Acre's
writings docontainsomecomments ontheKabbalistic meaningof themizwot,
particularly inregardtoprayer, thereis nosystematic discussionof thesubject.
This is instrikingcontrast totheextensiveliteratureof ta'amei ha-mfywot written
at theendof thethirteenthandthebeginningof thefourteenthcentury by the
Kabbalists whofollowedthesefirotic system. Furthermore, R. JudahAlbotini,
oneof themajor later figures of Prophetic Kabbalah, wroteacommentary to
Maimonides* MishnehTorahcontainingconsiderableKabbalistic material, but
makingnouseat all of Abulafia*s approach!
7. SeeGeorges Vajda, LatheologieascetiquedeBabyaibnPaquda(Paris,
1957); Naftali Weider, "Islamic Influences ontheHebrewCultus" (Heb.), Melilah2
(1946), pp. 37-120; Rosenblatt, AbrahamMaimonides, I, pp. 48-53; Fenton, Treatise,
pp. 1-23; etc.
8. Thetermappears inthesenseof "concentration** inthewritings of Abraham
IbnEzra, Maimonides (seenote130below), andother Jewishphilosophers, and
intheKabbalahof Gerona, but thesetexts, whichantedateAbulafia, shall be
9. SeeRosenblatt, AbrahamMaimonides, 11:390: "ah-fralwaalbatina" and
inhis CommentarytotheTorahed., Weinsberg, (London, 1958), p. 365. Compare
alsothetermhalwarufraniatohalwagashmaniainR. Baby aIbnPaquda, Al-
Hidaya'ilaFara'idal-Qulub, ed., A. S. Yahuda, (Leiden, 1912), p. 396.
10. Theunderstandingof hitbodedut as concentrationinmany texts mini-
mizes their "separatist** character andstrengthens theassumptionthat eventhe
Kabbalists wereless interestedintheemphasis uponseparationfromthecommunity
thanwouldappear fromthefrequent useof thetermhitbodedut.
11. For adetaileddescriptionof theroomor houseinwhichonesecludes
oneself topronouncethedivinenames, accordingtoAbulafia, seeIdel, TheMystical
Experience, p. 38. Thesubject of the"concentration** or "seclusionhouse**
reappears ofteninR. Isaac of Acre. Seenote52below.
12. HevisitedAcrefor avery brief periodin1260or 1261, andit is not im-
possiblethat hemight haveencounteredtheSufi approachthere. However, this
possibility seems tomeunlikely, as for several years thereafter hewas preoccupied
withtheGuideof thePerplexed, andonly after 1270is thereany mentionof the
beginningof his revelations andof his Kabbalistic studies. SeeIdel, "Abulafiaand
thePope,** p. 2, n. 3.
13. Despitethis, Abulafiadidnot refrainfrommentioninghis contacts with
Christians: seeScholem, Major Trends, p. 129. Scholem*s formulation, "non-
Jewishmystics,** is inaccurate, as inthecaseof Abulafia, it refers tocontacts only
withChristians. Ontheother hand, his anonymous disciple, theauthor of Sha'arei
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 143
Zedeqdidnot hesitatetoportray theSufi systemor mentionAvicenna's practice
of hitbodedut, discussedbelow. Fenton's emphasis, (Treatise, p. 21) onthefact
that Abulafiamust havedefinitely hadcontact withSufis duringthecourseof his
many years of wanderingintheEast is unsupportedby theavailableevidence.
His statement theregivingtheestimateddateof Abulafia's deathas 1295must
14. Ed., JakobGoldenthal (Leipzig-Paris, 1839), pp. 49-51. TheArabic source
of this passageis foundinthework Yibya'Ulumel-Din, (Cairo, 1933), III: 16-17.
This is amongthemost widespreadtexts describingthedhikr, whichhas been
repeatedly usedby students of Sufism. Seeesp.: Louis Gardet, Themes et Textes
Mystiques (Paris, 1958), pp. 145-148; G. C. Anawati-L. Gardet, MystiqueMusul-
mane(Paris, 1961), pp. 186-187.
15. Comparewiththestatement inSefer Moznei Zedek, p. 48:
Whileinterms of wisdomthereis adistinctionbetweenthepathof thesect of the
Sufis andthat of thosewhodelveintotheway of wisdom, as theSufis donot see
[any needtomake] effortstopursuewisdom, nor tospreadtheteachings, nor to
understandwhat was writtenby theauthors whosearchedout thetruthof these
matters. But theway was... toreceivethefaceof theShekhinahwithall one's heart
andone's soul... for thosewhocommunewithHimandtheprophets hadall these
things revealedtothem, andtheir souls acquiredperfection... not by learning, but
by separationfromthis worldandby concentration.
Comparetoour discussionbelowof thestatements of R. Isaac Luria, quotedby
R. Eleazar Azikri.
16. Intheoriginal, zawyah. Theliteral meaningof this wordis "corner,** but
thetermbecameastandardSufi termfor aroomor groupof rooms set asidefor
meditation. SeeTrimingham, Sufi Orders, pp. 18, 176-179. TheJewishtranslator
choseheretheliteral meaning, intranslatingit as zawit.
17. Theattachment of thought toGodprecedes thefinal communionwith
God, inwhichGodis withtheonecommuningandtheonecommuningis withGod;
communionwithGod(devekut) clearly returns later inR. Isaac of Acre. Seenote
18. This is thedhikr of language. SeeIdel, TheMystical Experience, pp. 24-28,
30-37. Intheoriginal, writtenallahallah.
19. This refers toAbulafia, whodesignates himself inthis way. Its numeric
valueis 248, i.e., Avraham.
20. PublishedinAdophJellinek, Philosophic undKabbala(Leipzig, 1854), I:
p. 21. Onprophecy as areal optioninmedieval literature, seeA. J. Heschel, "Onthe
Holy Spirit intheMiddleAges (until thetimeof Maimonides)" (Heb.), Alexander
MarxJubileeVolume[HebrewSection] (NewYork, 1950), pp. 117-208.
21. Thenatureof theseobstacles may bealludedtointhebook 'Ozar 'Eden
144 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
Andmy spirit was enlivenedwithinme, andthespirit of theLordmovedmy heart,
andaspirit of holiness stirredme, and1sawmany awesomeandmarvelous and
terriblesights, by wonders andsigns. Andamongthemwerejealous spiritswho
gatheredaroundme. And1sawfantastic anddeceptivethings, andmy thoughts
wereconfused, for 1didnot findthereany other humanbeings whocouldteachme
thepathby which1ought togo. Andso1waslikeablindmanat noonfor fifteen
years, andtheSatanstoodat my right handtotempt me, andI wascrazy because
of thevisionof my eyes. (MS. Oxford1580, fol. 166a)
Theneedfor ateacher or companionfor guidanceor assistanceis alsoalluded
toby R. ShemTov IbnGaoninBaddei Ha'Aron, quotedbelowinthetext, near
note83. ComparealsoAbulafia, inMafteahHalfokhmah, MS. Parma141, fol. 32a:
"andit was revealedtous by it that thegenerationprevents this (theindwellingof
theShekhinah) fromaboveduringthetimes appropriatefor it.**
22. It seems probabletoassumethat Abulafia*s useof thetermderekhin
various contexts: derekhmekubbelet (theacceptedway), derekhhitbodedut (the
way of concentration), derekhha-shemot (theway of thenames)was influenced
by thecorrespondinguseof thetermtariqainSufism; seeTrimingham, Sufi Orders,
p. 312, s.v. tariqa. Comparealsotheuseof theexpression, "this is oneof theways
of prophecy," intheearly kabbalistic work Sha'ar ha-Kawanah, publishedby
G. Scholem, whoclaims that its author was R. Azriel of Gerona; see: GershomG.
TheConcept of Kawanahintheearly Kabbalah,** inStudies inJewish
Thought, ed. AlfredJospe, (Detroit, 1981), p. 172. Inmy opinion, this text was
composedduringthelatethirteenthor early fourteenthcentury. SeeScholem,
Les origines delaKabbalep. 442, n. 119. Thetermderekhha-nevu'ah(thepath
of prophecy) already appears inMaimonides, MT, Yesodei ha-Torah7:4.
23. Abulafiaspeaks of bothletter-combinations andof pronouncingdivine
names inconnectionwithhitbodedut. Despitethefact that thetwosubjects differ
intheory, inpracticetherearequiteafewdiscussions inwhichthey areconnected
by Abulafia. SeeIdel, TheMystical Experience, pp. 22-41. Thesetwosubjects
werewell-knowninJewishmysticismevenbeforeAbulafia. SeeIdel, ibid., pp.
14-17. However, theAshkenazic sources inwhichthementionof names and
letter-combinations appear areunrelatedtoconcentrationor seclusion!
24. ComparetheSufi concept of qurbmystical closeness toGod. This
concept was particularly dominant inAl-Ghazali*s MozneyZedeq, andmight have
influencedAbulafia. Thepractitioners of concentrationaredefinedas "prophets
for themselves,** as opposedtothoseprophets whoreachtheseventhlevel, who
are"prophets toothers," inMaimonideanterminology.
25. This refers totheuseof concentric circles, onwhoseperimeters arewritten
theletters whichtheKabbalist wishes tocombine, thecombinationthenbeing
performedby usingoneof thecircles. CompareSefer Sitrei Torah, MS. Paris
BN. 774, fol. 130b, "whenyouturnaroundthecircleof theletters."
26. Similar phenomenaarealsomentionedby theanonymous author of
Sha'arei ZedekseeScholem, "Sha'arei Zedek," pp. 134-135; Major Trends,
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 145
p. 151andby R. Eieazar Azikri, inatext tobequotedbelowfromPachter, "the
Life", p. 135, whichis alsoparallel toAzikri's statements inSefer Ifaredim, p. 256.
Theseriousness of thebodily phenomenaassociatedwiththeecstatic state, as
describedby Abulafia, does not correspondtothedescriptionof suchphenomena
as self-hypnosis, as arguedby Bowers andGlasner. SeeMargarettaK. Bowers and
Samuel Glasner, "Auto-Hypnotic Aspects of theJewishCabbalistic Concept of
Kavanah," Journal of Clinical andExperimental Hypnosis, 6(1958), pp. 4-9,
11-12, 16.
27. SeeTeshuvot ha-RaShBA, vol. I, no. 548, andR. JudahHayyat, in
his introductiontoMinfrat Yehudah. Elsewhere, I shall discuss ingreater detail
thepolemic betweenthesetwoKabbalists andits implications for thesubsequent
development of SpanishKabbalah.
28. Thequotationis fromSefer ShoshanSodot by R. Moses benYa'akov
of Kiev (Korzec, 1784), fol. 60b. Seethecorrectedversionpublishedby GershomG.
Scholem, "EineKabbalistischeErkl&rungder Prophetieals Selbstbegegnung,"
MGWJ 74(1930), p. 287. Onp. 288, Scholemtranslates thetermhitbodedut as
"einsamenMeditation," whichapproximates thesenseof "concentration."
29. SeeMS. Jerusalem8 148, fol. 66b, translatedinScholem, Major Trends,
p. 152. Onthis work, seeScholem, "Sha'arei IJedek," pp. 127-139.
30. MS. Jerusalem8 148, fol. 59b, Scholem, Major Trends, p. 148. Scholem
translates thetermwa-yitbodedas "retiringintoseclusion."
31. MS. Jerusalem8 148, fol. 60a-60b; Scholem, "Sha'arei 2edek," p. 133.
32. This may beparallel toatechniqueof dream-questioning, whichincludes,
amongother things, hitbodedut, that is, concentrationprior tosleep. Compare
33. OnIsaac of Acreseealsoessays V-VI. Cf. Sefer Me'irat 'Einayim, ed.,
Goldreichvol. II: p. 218.
34. SeeScholem, Major Trends, pp. 96-97, inwhichthetermhitbodedut is
translatedas "loneliness," whileinhis Kabbalah, p. 174, thesamepassageis trans-
latedby theterm"solitude," whichheexplains as "beingalonewithGod." Fenton,
Treatise, p. 63, n. 94, translates thetermas "solitary devotion"; inhis view, the
termhitbodedut inR. Isaac is analogous totheSufi concept of halwa. Further
support for thetermhitbodedut as mental concentrationmay befoundinthe
statement of R. Isaac inMe'irat 'Einayim, pp. 239-240, inwhichhedepicts the
situationinthesixthandseventhmillenniaas follows:
Andtheapathy of peopletowards their bodily needs will grow, andhitbodedut and
men's effortsconcerningtheneeds of their souls will bestrengthened... Thosewho
practiceconcentrationandthosewhoseparatethemselves will increaseinnumbers,
until prior totheendof theseventhmillenniummanandbeast will disappear from
theentireworld, becausethroughthegreat strengtheningof soul over body, all
objects of bodily sensationwill benullified, andevenduringhis lifetimemanwill
146 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
belikeasoul without abody becauseof hisintensecommunionwithGod, may He
beblessedandpraised, evenwhileheis still inhis home, boundwithchains.
Hitbodedut is hereconnectedwith"theneeds of thesoul," for whichreason
it makes sensetoassumethat this activity is connectedwiththespiritual element
inman. Onthediminutionof menassociatedwiththedoctrineof cycles (shemitot),
seealsoSefer HaTemunahand, ingreater detail, PerushSefer HaTemunah
(Lemberg, 1892) p. 56b. Cf. GershomScholem, Sabbatai $evi, TheMystical
Messiah, 1626-1676(Princeton, 1973), p. 814. Theentiresubject is deservingof
35. SeeScholem, Major Trends, p. 96-97; Werblowsky, Karo, pp. 161-162.
Hebrewliteraturecontains other examples of theconcept of hishtawwut inwhich
thetermitself is not mentioned. InMaimonides' letter toR. Qasdai, hewrites:
Andit happenedoncethat asageandagreat philosopher weretravelingonaship
andsat intheplaceof therefuse, until one, that is, oneof thepeopleof theship,
cameandurinatedonhimontheplaceof therefuse, andheliftedhis faceand
laughed. Andthey askedhim: "Why doyoulaugh?** Heansweredthem: "Because
is it nowabsolutely clear tomethat my soul is onthehighest level, becauseI did
not at all feel thedisgraceof thisthing.**... Andthephilosophers havesaidthat it is
very raretofindamanwholeandcompleteinbothethical qualitiesandinwisdom,
andif heis tobefound, heis calledadivineman, andcertainly suchaoneas this
is onthehighest level.
Theexpression"manof God" alsoappears inthebook Me'irat 'Einayim;
seeour discussionbelow, andinnote63. It seems tomethat theapproachhereto
hishtawwut approximates that of theStoic apatheias, whichsees equanimity of
thesoul as agoal initself. A parallel tothis story appears inMaimonides' Com-
mentarytotheMishnahAbot 4:4, andinR. JosephbenJudahibn'Aknin's Tib
el-Nufus; seeAbrahamHalkin, "Classical andArabic Material inIbn'Aknin's
'Hygieneof theSoul,'** PAAJR 14(1944), pp. 66-67, whocites theSufi sources
of this incident, onp. 67, n. 1. It is worthy of notethat neither Maimonides nor
ibn'Akninusethetermhishtawwutistiwah. (Dr. Paul Fentondrewmy attention
toHalkin's discussionof this subject) It is alsoinstructivetonotethat intheversion
of thestory foundinElijahdeVidas' Reshit Ifokhmah, Sha'ar ha- Anawah, Ch. 3,
the"philosopher" or *basicT is portrayedas onewhowishedtoconcentrate:
AndnowI shall tell youwhat was relatedconcerningoneof thepious men(basidim).
Onceahiasidwas asked, "Whichwas thehappiest day of your life?** Heanswered;
"OnceI was travellingonamerchant ship, carryingtherichest merchandise, and
inorder toconcentrateonmy Creator 1went downtothebowels of theshipand
lay downthereinthelowest place. Andoneof theyoungmerchants cameand
shamedmeinhis eyes, andspat onmeanduncoveredmeandurinatedonme. I
was amazedat his arrogancebut, by thelifeof God, my soul was not painedby
his actionat all, andwhenhewent away fromme, I rejoicedgreatly that my soul
hadreachedthis stageof humility, for I knewfromit that it had"ways amongthose
that stand** [after Zech. 3:7], for this quality soruledmethat I didnot feel at all.
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 147
This versionis closer toMaimonides
account intheCommentarytoAbot,
but nevertheless thereis noreasontoassumethat it was copiedfromthere.
36. Comparewhat is toldabout R. HayyimVital, inSefer Sha'arei Kedushah,
MS. BritishLibrary 749, fol. 15b:
Thestory istoldof amanwhofastedmost of his days, andwhodidmany righteous
deeds andmarriedoff several orphans, but whopursuedhonor. Andhecameto
thosewhopracticehitbodedut, whohadreachedthelevel of prophecy, andsaid
tothegreatest amongthem: "Sir, inyour kindness let meknowthereasonwhy it
is that, after I haveperformedall thesegooddeeds, that 1havenot yet meritedthe
level of prophecy, totell thefutureas youdo.** Heansweredhim: "Takeapurse
full of figsandnuts andhangit aroundyour neck, andgotothemainstreet of the
city beforethegreat andhonorablepeople, andgather together someyouths and
say: 'Doyouwishthat 1shouldgiveyoufigsandnuts? Thenhit mewithyour hand
onmy neck andonmy cheek.* Andafter youhavedonethis many timesreturnto
me, and1will guideyouintheway of prophecy.** Hereplied: "Sir, howcanan
honorablemansuchas myself dosuchathing?** Heanswered: "Is this agreat
thinginyour eyes? This is naught but thelightest task that youmust performif
youwishthat your soul seethelight of truth.** Thenhestoodupandleft with
downcast soul.
Thereis nodoubt that this story is aninterestingparallel tothestory toldby
R. ABNeR," andit is probablethat Vital foundthis story inoneof thelost writings
of R. Isaac of Acre. SeealsothepassagefromR. Eleazar Azikri printedby Pachter,
"TheLife," p. 140, tobediscussedbelow; andseealsoour discussionof Sefer Sulam
Ha'Aliyah. OneshouldalsonoteElijahdeVidas' quotationinthenameof R. Isaac
of Acre, whointermclaims tohavereceivedit fromR. Moses, thediscipleof
R. JosephGikatilla, linkingtheindwellingof theShekhinahinapersonwith
extremehumility, without mentioninghishtawwut or hitbodedut. SeeMS. British
Library 749fol. 15a, whichis parallel toReshit Ifokhmah, Sha'ar ha-Anawah,
Ch. 3. Comparisonof thestatements of Gikatilla's disciplewiththelatter discussion
of R. Isaac of Acreis extremely revealingandindicates, inmy opinion, thegreat
differencebetweenthe"Spanishversion" of Prophetic Kabbalahtaught by Abulafia
inSpain, inwhichhishtawwut plays norole, andthat formtakenintheEast,
incorporatingfar moreSufi influencesinour case, hishtawwut. Seethedis-
cussionbelowonhishtawwut inR. JudahAlbotini.
37. Theclosest that Abulafiacomes todiscussinghishtawwut is inSefer
HaUesheK MS. NewYork, JTS 1801(EMC 858) fol 2b: "Hewhoknows the
truthof existencewill bemoremodest andhumbleof spirit thanhis fellow." It
is worthy of notethat IsaiahHorowitz, Shenei Lubiot HaBerit (Amsterdam, 1698),
fol. 371a, quotes thestory concerninghishtawwut fromffovot HaLevavot, but
interprets hishtawwut as modesty! SeealsoPachter, "Devekut," p. 117, no. 264;
andcomparealsoIsaac of Acre's descriptionof oneof his teachers, "thegreatest
manof his generationinhis modesty andhis wisdomof theKabbalahandphilo-
sophy andinthewisdomof letter-combination" (MS. Moscow-Gttnzburg775
fol. 100a). This seems tobeaseries of adjectives: modestyperhaps meaning
148 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
hishtawwutfollowedby engagement invarious wisdoms.
38. Me'irat 'Einayim, p. 218. SeealsoGottlieb's straightforwardcomments
inStudies, pp. 236-239.
39. Scholem, Major Trends, p. 372, n. 59, points out thesimilarity between
what is toldby "R. ABNeR" andapassageinBafcyaIbnPaquda's Ifovot Ha-
Levavot, V:5. However, it must beemphasizedthat R. Bafryadoes not mention
hitbodedut inthis connection, for whichreasonR. Abner's remarks shouldbe
seenas adevelopment beyondthat foundinR. Bafryahandpossibly independent
of it. Cf. note40, below. For possiblesources of Bafyya, seeVajda, "Observations,"
p. 130andn. 3.
40. Fenton, Treatise, p. 63, n. 94, relates to"virtuous man" rather thanto
"lover of wisdom." Healsosuggests aSufi source, Al-Maki*s Kuf Al-Kulub, as
apossiblesourcefor R. Isaac's story, althoughhedoes not reject thealternative
possibility that it may beIfovot HaLevavot.
41. InVital, MS. BritishLibrary 749fol. 17b, thecontinuationof thetext differs
onseveral points, worthmentioninghere: "Hishtawwut will comeabout because
of theattachment of thethought toGod, blessedbeHe, whichis called
of devequt,' as noted, becausetheattachment of his thought toGodenvelopes
that man, sothat hewill not look at onewhohonors himnor at insults." Vital
apparently usedherethematerial quotedabovefromMe'irat 'Einayim, usingthe
expression, "thesecret of devequt." Later, Hasidismwas influencedby theunder-
standingof hishtawwut as theresult of devekut, andnot by theapproachof
R. Babya: compareSchatz, Ifasidut, p. 153. Cf. note90below.
42. Inmy opinion, onemust distinguishtwodifferent stages of communion
withGod, accordingtoR. Isaac. Inthefirst, oneattaches one's thought toGod,
as aresult of whichonemerits hishtawwut, whichis apreconditionof continued
progress towards attachment of thesoul totheInfinite, inother words, towards
uniomystica. Thequotationfrom'Ozar Ifayyimtobecitedbelow(n. 67) contains
adescriptionof thepurificationof thought andits embodiment inspirit as oneof
theconditions of meditation. Seethetext in'Ozar Ifayyim, MS. Moscow-GUnzburg
775fol. 100a: "andI seemy soul attachedtotheInfinite," whileonpage111ait reads,
Andheshall cleavetohis wifeandthey shall beas oneflesh* [Gen. 2:24]when
thehasid, theenlightenedone, allows his soul toascend, tocommunewiththe
secret of divinity towhichshe[thesoul] has beenattached, it swallows him." Com-
pareGottlieb, Studies, pp. 236-238. Communioninthought appearedinJewish
literature, andwas particularly important inthethought of Nabmanides. See
Scholem, "Devekut," p. 205. Nabmanides alludes tobothof thesestages inhis
commentary bothonLev. 18:4andonDeut. 13:5, but herestricts theattachment
of thesoul (devekut ha-nefesh) toselect individuals, usingsuchphrases as "inthe
matter of Elijah" or "andthis is possibleamongpeopleof a[high] level." It would
seemthat, intheschool of Nabmanides, "attachment of thethought" or "attach-
ment of knowledge" (da*at) was consideredas themoreeasily attainedlevel; see
thequotationfromMe'irat 'Einayimbelow, n. 66, andthere, p. 240, andinthe
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 149
words of R. Isaac inSefer 'Ozar Ifayyim, below, n. 67, wherethey speak of "attach-
ment of thought." Cf. note59below. LikeNafcmanides, R. Isaac of Acrealso
mentions the"attachment of thethought" of theprophet Elijah. This concept of
devekut ha-mahiashavahreturns invarious forms amongtheGeronaKabbalists:
inR. AzrieL, PerushHa'Aggadot, ed., I. Tishby, (Jerusalem, 1945) p. 40, andin
R. Ezraof Gerona, inasectionfromhis CommentarytotheAggadot of theTalmud,
printedinLikkutei Shikhehahu-Fe'ah, fol. 7b-8a, andinMS. Oxford1947fol.
204b. Theseplaces speak about theattachment of thought as apreparatory stage
tomoreadvancedmystical activities, suchas "prophecy." Ontheascent of thought
toits source, seeG. Scholem, Les origines delaKabbale, pp. 320-321. Another
sourcelikely tohaveinfluencedR. Isaac's approachwas Likkutei HaRan, which
inmy opinionwerewrittenby oneof theteachers of R. Isaac, R. Nathan; seeMS.
NewYork JTS 1777fol. 33b. Theentirequestionrequires detailedstudy. The
statement by L. Kaplan, "ResponsetoJosephDan," inStudies inJewishMysticism,
ed. J. Dan, F. Talmage(Cambridge, Mass., 1982), p. 128, n. 13, that theintellec-
tualist understandingof devekut inMaimonides influencedR. Isaac, is correct
withregardtotheformer stage, that of "communionof thought." But R. Isaac
refers totwotypes of devekut, whileinMaimonides' Guideof thePerplexed11:51,
speaks of "attainment of truth" as thefirst stage, whileturningtowards contem-
plationconnectedwithGodcomes afterwards. For aninterestingdistinction
amongthreetypes of devekut, seeS. Rosenberg, "Prayer andJewishThought-
Directions andProblems" (Heb.), inHaTefilahHaYehuditHemshekhve-hiddush,
ed. G. Cohen, (Ramat-Gan, 1978), p. 97.
43. Seepp. 38, 41, 49, 62, 160, 213, 220, 223. Inmany of thequotations
associatedwiththename"R. Abner," onecanclearly seetheinfluenceof the
philosophical approach. A similar approachappears inLikkutei HaRan, written
by oneof R Isaac's teachers, cf. chapter V above.
44. MS. Moscow-GQnzburg775, fol. 138a; MS. Oxford, 1911, fol. 149b.
45. Onthedangers of "sinking," seeessay VI aboven. 22-24. Onextreme
hitbodedut as acauseof death, seeR. DavidMerokoMartica, Zekhut 'Adam,
(publishedby Yefriel Brill inYeynha-Levanon, Paris, 1866) p. 10:
Inorder tomaintainacompound, bothparts must beusedinprecisely thesame
measure. If oneis overused, thenthat part shall overcome, andcut off thespir-
itual part. Soheshouldpersist instudy andconcentration, tokill himself inthe
tent of Torah, for its combinationshall remain, but thesoul will beseparatedfrom
thebody beforeits perfectionis finished, withthehelpof theorgans of thebody.
46. Prior tothequotationunder discussion, R. Isaac writes: "Moses, the
light of whoseankledimmedthelight of thesun, sought toseeby theeyeof his
mindthelight of His [thedivine] countenance, andMetatron, thePrinceof the
Face, was preventedfromshowinghimthis light, lest his soul bedetachedfrom
its dwelling, duetoits great joy."
47. Thebelief intheecstatic deathof BenAzzai is rootedinthethought
150 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
patterns of theKabbalists of Gerona. I shall elaborateonthis point elsewhere.
Comparetheunderstandingof BenAzzai as apractitioner of hitbodedut inR. Judah
Hallewah, Sefer fafnat Pa'neah, MS. Dublin, Trinity College27, 5B, fol. 197b.
Seealsobelow, inthequotations fromBaddei Ha'AronandSulamHa'Aliyah, below.
48. MS. Sasson919p. 215.
49. Thetensions betweenintellect andimagination, angels of mercy and
angels of destruction, etc., aredoubtless connectedwithanapproachknownfrom
thewritings of Abulafiaandhis disciples. Seechapter V above. Theuseof yihiud
hereis interesting, beingvery similar toits useinlater Lurianic Kabbalah. See
thequotationfromthemystical diary of R. Eleazar Azikri below, near note147.
50. MS. Moscow-Gttnzburg775fol. 170a.
51. Ibid. fol. 170b.
52. This expressionis atranslationof thewell-knownSufi expression: beit
ai-halwa. Theexpression, "houseof meditation," or "concentration" appears in
Sefer 'Ctyar Ifayyim, andis widespreadinKabbalistic andHasidic worksagain,
another indicationof theprofoundimpact of Sufi terminology uponJewish
mysticism. This point will bediscussedmorefully inmy work-in-progress on
hitbodedut. Cf. note11above.
53. Thepassages quotedabovefromSefer Sha'arei Zedekbear acertain
parallel totheuseof thetermhamshakhah(drawingdown) withregardtohit-
bodedut. Eventhoughtheuseof thetermhamshakhahis not identical, this parallel
calls for interpretation, particularly inlight of thefact that thequotationfrom
Sefer 'Cfyar Ifayyim, only asmall portionof whichis reproducedhere, contains
aclear parallel toanother ideafoundinSha'arei Zedek; seechapter VI above. A
greater similarity intherespectiveusages of thetermhemshekhexists between
Sha'arei ZedekandLikkutei HaRan; seethepassagebelow, innote64. In
R. Isaac of Acre, thetermhamshakhat ha-mabshavah(lit., "drawingdownof
thought") signifies pulling, generally inadownwarddirection. Seeesp. Sefer
0?ar Ifayyim, MS. Moscow-Gtinzburg775, fol. 39a, inseveral places, andcompare
withthepassageinSefer Yesod'Olam, MS. Moscow-GQnzburg607, published
inIdel, TheMystical Experiencep. 63. Intheother twokabbalists, hamshakhah
is associatedwithconcentrationof thought.
54. MS. Sasson919, p. 215. Thecontext of this passageis publishedand
discussedinmy article, "History," p. 9.
55. MS. Moscow-Gttnzburg775, fol. 136a, MS. Sasson919p. 207.
56. Theexpression"rufcani" is quitecommoninR. Isaac: see, for example,
thetexts citedby Gottlieb, Studies pp. 233-234and'Ofar IfayyimMS. Moscow-
GQnzburg775fol. 93b. R. Isaac uses, apparently for thefirst timeinHebrew, the
formhitrawfieninthesenseof "tospiritualize." Seethequotationbelow, note64,
for theuseof theverbyitrobanu. Compareespecially theuseof thetermrubani
by Abulafia, whoinhis book Sitrei Torah(MS. Paris BN. 774fol. 169b) refers to
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 151
TractateAvot as "thespiritual (ruhanit) tractate."
57. MS. Moscow-Gttnzburg775fol. 238b.
58. Sha'ar HaAhavah, Ch. 4. This story is very similar tothewords of Diotima
inPlato's Symposium, par. 211-212. However, hemay havearrivedat it viavarious
intermediates, suchas theSufi version. Another likely possibility is that adif-
ferent versionof Diotima's story was received, whichwas theninterpretedby
R. Isaac inaSufi spirit. For acaseof aSufi understandingof aGreek myth, learned
by R. Isaac fromaChristian, seeM. Idel, "Prometheus inHebrewGarb** (Heb.),
Eshkolot, (N.S.) 5-6(1980-81), pp. 119-121. a. Fenton, Treatise. pp. 63-64.
59. Noteherethat devekut of thesoul follows ondevekut of themind. See
above, note42.
60. Parashat Re*eh, pp. 222-223. OnR. Nathan, seechapter V above. Onthe
ideological backgroundof this passageseeIdel, TheMystical Experience, pp. 133-
134andchapter 1, n. 30.
61. InSefer '0?ar J/ayyim, theauthor uses only theidiomha-sekhel ha-
Kanui (theacquiredintellect); seethesources quotedinnote62. Oneshouldnote
that somethingsimilar occurredinconnectionwithanother expressioncommon
intheLikkutimgatheredby R. Isaac of Acrefromhis teacher, R. Nathan. I refer
totheterm, 'olamhademut ("theworldof imagination") whichappears neither in
Me'irat'Einayimnor inSefer 'O?or tfayyim, despitethefact that thereis nodoubt
that R. Isaac knewtheterm. Onthis termseeessay V above; likewise, asimilar
phenomenonoccurs withregardtothetermhishtawwut; seeGottlieb, Studies, p. 238.
62. This phraseis very commoninthewritings of R. Isaac, althoughits pre-
cisemeaningis not always clear, hereit clearly seems torefer toanentity other
thantheActiveIntellect, but this distinctionby R. Nathanwas not always accepted
by R. Isaac. Inhis book, '0?ar tfayyim, hementions frequently theconnection
betweentheAcquiredIntellect andtheDivineIntellect, without theActiveIntellect
betweenthem; seeMS. Moscow-Gttnzburg775fol. la-b; 2b; 3a; 54b; 55b; 57b;
90b; 103a; 113a.
63. Seeabove, note35, onthe"manof God" inthequotationfromMaimonides*
epistle: this expressionappears inconnectionwithMoses and, possibly under
theinfluenceof R. Isaac of Acre, inR. ElnathanbenMoses Kalkish*s Sefer 'Even
Sappir, MS. Paris, BN. 728fol. 154b. Comparetheexpression, "divinemen,"
inPlotinus, EnneadVI: 19, inconnectionwiththosewhofledworldly lives. On
theattainment of theconditionof "creatingworlds," seeCordovero, Pardes
Rimmonim, Sec. 27, Ch. 1. It is interestingthat Cordoveroportrays thehighest
stageof Kabbalahas involvement inthe"spirituality" of theletters andtheir com-
binations, andis thus very closetotheapproachof Abulafia.
64. Theprocess of castingoff constitutes anascent fromtheobjects of sen-
sationtothedeepest levels of Godhead; seebelow, notes 67and96. Compareto
oneof R. Isaac's sources, Likkutei HaRan, chapter V, besiden. 8.
152 Studies inEcstatic Kabbalah
Comparetheuseof theverbpashat thereandintheparableof theprincess,
inwhichthesoul casts off theobjects of sensation, whileheretheworlds cast off
their ownuniquecontents. However, inoneof thediscussions in'Ozar ifayyim,
onecanclearly seetheresemblanceof theuseof thetermpashat towhat wehave
citedfromSefer Likkutei HaRan:
Whenanenlightenedmancomes toconcentrateandtoallowthethought of his
intellect toascendfromoneworldtoanother, totheroot of all theworlds (and
themindof any prophetandeventheHoly Beingsis inadequatetopenetrate
this secret), as longas heascends inthought, things will bespiritualizedandcast
off materialitycompletely, until his soul will findtheperfectly simplesecret. And
if his heart runsandit will not returntoits place, thenwhat happenedtoBenAzzai
will happentohim, but if hereturns tohis place, doingas R. Akiba, thenwhat
happenedtoR. Akibawill happentohim. Andwhenthis enlightenedonewho
practiceshitbodedut goes fromworldtoworld[returning] tothedepths of the
earth, belowwhichnothingis lower, solongas hedescends andthinks, things will
becomecorporealizedandembodiedback downtothecompoundingof thefour
elements. (MS. Moscow-GOnzburg775fol. 72b)
Onemust notethat R. Isaac frequently uses theterm"theworldof casting-off*
('olamha-hitpashtutibid.y fols. 73a, 86a, etc.). Comparealsotheconnectionbetween
castingoff thesoul andthetendency towards communioninPlotinus, EnneadVI:
9, 11. As thought ascends, it apprehends theabstract andspiritual natureof things,
whileits concentrationinthelower worlds makes it graspthemateriality and
multiplicity of them. Thesetwomovements of thought areallowedby hitbodedut,
that is, concentration.
65. Page214. However, it seems that inSefer 'Ozar Ifayyim, fol. 103aff., the
DivineIntellect is only alower level of thecrown('atarah). Cf. Likkutei HaRan,
inthepassagequotedinmy article, "TheWorldof Imagination," p. 165: "theworld
of thesupernal intellect, i.e., the'atarah?" ibid1, p. 166, n. 6. Cf. R. Isaac of Acre's
remarks concerningR. JudahbenNissimMalka's approach, inwhichhesays
concerningthecrown, i.e., 'atarah: "Andfromthesensory youshall understand
theintellective, for fromyour fleshshall youseeGod' [Job23:16], for as it is in
thecreatedworldbelow, soshall it beintheemanatedworldabove. Andperhaps
whenasageexplains this, heshall feel this secret whenobservingthe[meaningof
the] feminine[form] [of theword] 'shewas."' (publishedinVajda, "Observations,"
p. 67). Here, thefeminineformis themeans of contemplatingasupernal world.
Cf. our discussionof Cordovero's remarks inSefer 'Or Yakar, note132below.
66. Comparethestatement inMe'irat'Einayim, pp. 20-21:
... TheZaddikis theseventhandthecrownis his mate. Therefore, thetime[of sexual
union] of thesages (talmidei (mkhamin), thosewhoalways communewiththe
Shekhinahintheir gooddeeds andwhosethoughts areconnectedwithher, uniting
all withher, is fromSabbatheveningtoSabbathevening. For theTorahiscalled
tushiyah(lit., advice, sagacity), for it exhausts (mateshet) man's strength(San.
fol. 20b); but onthenight of theSabbath, whentheShekhinahis sanctifiedand
blessed, thenthosewhocommunewithher arealsosanctifiedandstrengthened.
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 153
Onthespecial positionof therighteous, betweentheir ownearthly wives andthe
Shekhinah, R. Isaac writes inSefer '0?ar Ifayyim, fol. 73b:
1sawit saidinthematter of our father Jacob, that whenhewas still withthephysical
Rachel outsideof theLand[of Israel] his soul was not unitedwiththesupernal
Rachel, whosedomicileis inthelandof holiness, but as soonas hecametothe
Holy Landthelower Rachel died, andhis soul communedwiththeupper Rachel.
Onthezaddiqwhostands betweentwofemales, seealsotheviewof theZohar,
as analyzedby I. Tishby, Mishnat ha-Zohar (Jerusalem, 1957), I: 149. Weshould
alsomentionherethegreat similarity betweenthis Kabbalistic approachandthat
of theSufi mystic al-Arabi; seeHenri Corbin, L'Imaginationcreatricedans le
Soufisme d'Ibn Arabi (Paris, 1958), p. 133; AnnemarieSchimmel, Mystical
Dimensions of Islam(Chapel Hill, N.C., 1975), p. 431; Fenton, Treatise, pp. 63-64.
OnJacobas thehusbandof theShekhinah, seethequotationfromR. Moses of
Burgos, alludedtoinnote68below, andtheother material citedthere.
67. Makingdowithconcentrationonthe"intelligibles** or theShekhinah
as anendinitself wouldseemtohavebeenthought improper by R. Isaac, whosaw
it as areligious obligationtotransfer contemplationandcommuniontoGod
Himself. Inhis book, '0?ar Ifayyim, hedescribes theactions of theprophets of
Baal inthefollowingwords:
Andthematter of
andthey prophesied,** wasthat they didlikethosewhopractice
hitbodedut, tonegatetheir physical senses andtoremovefromthethoughts of
their soul all objectsof sensation, andtogarbit withthespiritualityof theintellect.
Andall depends uponthought: if his thought is attachedtoany createdthing,
evenif it is themost hiddenspiritual thing, whichis higher thananythingcreated
intheworld, namely, thecreatedglory (kavodnivra), thenit is as if heliterally
worshippedidols. Andtheprophets of Baal andthosewhoservedtheAsherah
certainly communedintheir thoughts withthequeenof heaven, as thecursedwomen
said(Jer. 44:18), "Andsincewehaveceasedtooffer incensetothequeenof heaven,
wehavelackedeverything,** thewordmalkat (queen) beingwrittenwithout the
letter aleph, toalludetothefact that intheir evil thought andcorrupt intention
they uprootedher, for thecrown[i.e., Shekhinah], is thequeenof heaven, upon
whomis placedtherulershipof this lowworld. But thethought of Elijah*spure
soul communedwithYaHtheLordGodof Israel alone. ('0?ar Ifayyim, MS.
Moscow-Gttnzburg, 775fol 7a)
SeeGottlieb, Studies, p. 240; Fenton, Treatise, p. 63, n. 94translates: "those
that practicesolitary contemplation.** Ontheobligationtopractisemystical union
withGodHimself, seeAbulafia*s remarks inSefer 'Cfyar 'EdenGanuz, MS. Oxford
1580fol. 56a-56b, andmy remark inTheMystical Experiencep. 124andp. 168n. 247.
68. SeeR Isaac of Acre, quotingR Moses benShlomoof Burgos, inMe'irat
'Einayim, p. 55, andp. 245, andinSefer 'O&r Ifayyim, MS. Sasson919p. 33.
Cf. Y. Tishby, Mishnat ha-Zohar (Jerusalem, 1961) II: 191.
69. FromtheCommentary of R. JosephBenShemTov toAverroes' 'Iggeret
154 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
HaDevekut (EpistuladeConjunction), MS. Berlin216(Or. Qu. 681) p. 325.
70. SeeKuzari I: 13andcomparealsoMoses IbnTibbon's Perushle-Shir ha-
Shirim(Lyck, 1874), f. 18b. It is interestingtonotethat thereis atraditioninMoses
Narboni's Commentary toSefer If ayBenYoqtanwhichreads:
Andthelatter ones blamedthepious oneSocrates for bringinghimself tolack of
holiness becausethedifferencebetweenelitist study andthestudy of themasses
was not clear tohim. AndI refer tothepractitioner of hitbodedut fromthepolis,
andthewholeness of his naturethat henot taketohis soul that whichGodand
theprophets didnot do, inmakingthefool andthewisemanequal. (MS. Oxford
1351, fol 125a-b)
Socrates is portrayedhereas onewhodidnot understandthedifferencebetween
thenatureof thecontemplationof thewisemanandthat of themasses, amisunder-
standingwhichcost himhis life.
71. Inhis critical comments against R. JudahbenNissim, publishedby Vajda,
"Observations," p. 66.
72. Vajda, "Observations," p. 47, translates this as "s'esseulant," whilebelow
(ibid., p. 48), hetranslates thetermhamitbodedas "lesolitaire." Boththeseterms
must beunderstoodas referringtospiritual activity, as opposedtoperishah, which
refers toabandonment of thesenses.
73. Thenumerical equivalent (gematria) of shekel is nefesh(soul), i.e., 430.
Thereferencetodivisionof themeditator's concerns betweenthesensory andintel-
lectiveworld, i.e., "half for you, half for God," is toPesahim68b. Comparethe
anonymous Sha'arei Zedek, MS. Jerusalem8 148fol. 64a: "Now, my son, if you
say that youcannot attachyourself, thengivehalf toGodandhalf toyourself."
SeeScholem, "Sha'arei Zedek," p. 134. Thesestatements areattributedtothe
spiritual guideof theanonymous author, whoadvises his discipletofollowan
intermediary pathbetweenthedesiretoattainecstasy andthedifficulty inmain-
tainingit. Theusageis similar tothat of R. Isaac of Acre.
74. MS. Paris BN. 840, fol. 45a.
75. BasedonJer. 8:3. Cf. Abulafia's remarks inSefer IfayyeiHa'OlamHaBa\
MS. Oxford1582, fol. 52b:"... Whenyour soul separates itself fromyour body, out
of its great joy inachievingandknowingwhat youapprehend, thenit will choose
deathover life." It is worthmentioningthat, likeR. ShemTov, Abulafiaalsouses
theversefromSongof Songs inorder todescribe, albeit inadifferent manner,
thearrival at theconditionof ecstasy; seeSefer Ifayyei Ha'OlamHaBa\ MS. Oxford
1592fol. 53a; cf. Idel, TheMystical Experience, p. 117, n. 202.
76. Comparewiththewords of R. Isaac of Acre, whichcontainapoetic flourish:
Hewhowishes toknowthesecret of theconnectionof hissoul aboveandthecom-
munioninhis thought withtheSupremeGod, andtoacquireby that continuous,
uninterruptedthought thelifeof theworldtocome, andthat Godbealways near
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah
him, inthis lifeandthenextlet himplacebeforetheeyes of his mindandhis spirit
thelettersof theUniqueName, as if they arewrittenbeforehiminabook inscribal
writing[lit., Assyrianscript]... sothat whenheplaces thelettersof theUniqueName
beforehis eyes, your mind^eyeandyour heart's thought shall beinthem, inthe
Infinite** (Me'irat
Einayim, p. 217).
Comparethecomments of R. ShemTov (below, note81) on"thelight of the
worldtocome," whichappears toonewhopractices meditation. Theexpression
'olamhaba(theworldtocome) is already interpretedby Abulafiaas referringto
theecstasy whichanticipates theAfterlife, this beingthesignificanceof thetitle
of Abulafia's major work mentionedabove. Ontheconnectionbetween"theworld
tocome" andtheActiveIntellect, seeIdel, AbrahamAbulafia, p. 94. Aninteresting
parallel totheinterpretationof "theworldtocome" as aprophetic stateappears
inapassagefromMS. Sasson290, p. 552:
I swear youby theappearanceof the
imageof God, by theCreator, Godof Abraham, Godof Isaac andGodof Jacob,
by theIneffableNameYH... that youinformmeof thesecret of prophecy every time
that I ask youverbally, andthat youteachmeof thenext worldandteachmethe
lawof theKing..." This passageis baseduponagematriaappearingfrequently in
Abulafia's writings, inwhich999=be-shemha-meforashYHWH(by theineffable
nameYHWH) =we-shetelamdeni ha-'olamha-ba(that youteachmetheworldto
come). Ontheconnectionbetween
theworldtocome" andtheprophetic experience
inAbrahamMaimonides, seeGersonD. Cohen, "TheSoteriology of R. Abraham
Maimuni," PAAJR, 36(1968), pp. 37, 40-43. SeealsoR. Ezraof Gerona's Com-
mentary toSongof Songs (inKitvei ha-RaMBaN, ed. Chavell, II: 522: "Theterm
'avodah(service) [means] toovercomepurethought inmatters of theworldtocome
andtobringabout theconquest of intention[kawannah]." It seems probablethat
"theworldtocome" whichmancanthus acquireby foregoingthepleasures of this
worldalready prior tohis deathis alsoalludedtoinR. Abrahambar Hiya'fc Hegion
HaNefeshHa'A?uvah(ed. G. Wigoder, Jerusalem, 1972), p. 151.
77. CompareR. Hai Gaon's understandingof thevisionof theDivineChariot,
whichoccurs withintheheart of theperceiver andnot throughthesoul's ascent to
theworldof theChariot: seeB. Levin, '0?ar ha-Ge'onim(Jerusalem, 1932), tjagigah,
Ifelekha-Teshuvot, pp. 14-15; cf. Idel, Kabbalah: NewPerspectives ch. V.
78. MS. Paris BN 840, fols. 45b-46a. Seebelownote81. For theuseof this verse
insupport of theideaof separationfromsociety seeMaimonides, MishnehTorah,
Hilkhot De'ot 6:1.
79. Onthis image, connectedwiththedescriptionof theTorahprior tothe
creationof theworld, seeIdel, "TheConcept of Torah," pp. 43-45.
80. This refers toaninner visionof akindof mandala; ontherevelationof
thecircleinAbulafiaandR. Isaac of Acre, seeIdel, TheMystical Experience,
pp. 109-116.
81. Ontheappearanceof light duringcontemplation, seeabove, inthefirst
quotationfromtheanonymous author of Sha'arei Zedek. Elsewhere, R. Shem
Tov writes (MS. Paris BN. 840, fol. lib): "until hechooses deathover life, as he
156 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
goes out tothefieldtogather lights, andthey becomeluminaries, andthelight
of theworldappears over him, thelight of theworldtocomeandof theworldof souls
... andthey reveal tohimthesecrets of theTorah, as is written, 'hesits aloneandis
silent, for it is comeuponhim' [Lam. 3:28], andThesecret of theLordis with
thosewhofear Him' [Ps. 25:14] [etc.]." Comparetheilluminationcomingfrom
thelights of theholy world, "anuar al'alamalqudusr inapassagefromR. Abraham
ibnAbu-AlrabiatheJewish-Sufi pietist fromthebeginningof thethirteenth
centurywhich was discoveredandpublishedby Naphtali Wieder, "Islamic
Influences uponJewishCultus** (Heb.), Melilah2(1946), p. 63, whoclaims that
this expressionindicates Sufi influence. Hewas precededby Rosenblatt, whoalso
notedtheSufi backgroundof asimilar expressioninAbrahamMaimonides; see
Rosenblatt, AbrahamMaimonides, I: pp. 53, 65, 100. Theexpressionalready
appears inR. BabyahIbnPakuda, as observedby Rosenblatt. Seealsotheex-
pression, "thedivinelights" (ha-'orot ha-'Elohiot) intheHebrewtranslationof
Al-Ghazali's Mishkhat Al-anwar, MS. Vatican209. Cf. note149below.
82. BaseduponShabbat fol. Ua. CompareSefer Sha'arei fedekabout his
literary capability duringtimeof ecstasy: "WhenI enteredthesecondweek, my
power of reflectionwas strengthened, andI was unabletowritethework. Even
hadtenpeoplebeenthere, it wouldhavebeenimpossiblefor themtocompose
what was poureduponme." PublishedinScholem, "Sha'arei edek," pp. 134-135.
83. MS. Paris BN 840, fol. 46a. Seenote21abovefor Abulafia's remarks about
84. MS. Paris BN 840, fol. 46a. OnR. ShemTov's awareness of theproblems
of esoterism, seeIdel, "History," pp. 9-11.
85. MS. Paris BN 840, fol. 46a. Comparetheremarks of theauthor of Sefer
Yesod*Olam, whowas knowntoR. ShemTov:
AndwhenHe, may Hebepraised, wishes that aprophet prophesy, after hehas
beensanctifiedfromthewombby theperfectionof hisphysical matter, with[even]
alittlelearninghewill gainsomeperception, as is written[Prov. 30:4],
learnednot wisdom** yet evenso,
I hadknowledgeof theholy ones"for theholy
ones, becausetheir intellectscouldnot receive, whenprophecy was drawndown
without limit uponthem, their strengthwas weakenedandthey wereconfused,
andat timeseventhey themselvesdidnot understandtheir prophecies, as theRabbis
explained[Jonah's words] "andNinevehshall beoverturned" [Jonah3:4], that he
thought this meant that it was tobedestroyed. (MS. Moscow-Gttnzberg607fol. 28a).
ComparealsoR. Isaac b. Hayyimha-Kohen, oneof theexiles fromSpain,
tobediscussedinmy monograph-in-progress onhitbodedut.
86. MS. Paris BN 840, fol. 44a.
87. MS. Paris BN 840, fol. 47a. Theexpression, "theconcealedletters" (ha-
'otiyyot ha-nistarot) canbeinterpretedinconnectionwiththeunderstandingof
thehiddensefirot, whicharealludedto, accordingtoR. DavidbenJudahhe-Qasid
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah
andhis disciples, by themissingletter yod. SeeMosheIdel, "Kabbalistic Material
fromtheSchool of R. DavidbenJudahheQasid** (Heb.), Mebkerei Yerushalayim
be-Mah'shevet Yisra'el 2(1982), pp. 173-193.
ComparealsothequotationfromR. ShemTov alludedtointhematerial in
notes 91and92below. Oneshouldnotethat it is alsopossiblethat theexpression
'otiyyot mesumanot (dottedletters) inthefollowingpassagefromBaddei Ha'Aron
may beexplainedas anillusiontosupernal or hiddensefirot; as is known, theten
dots abovetheletters inDeut. 29:28alludetotheupper sefirot: seemy article
mentionedabove(inthis note), pp. 173-174.
88. MS. Paris BN 840, fol. 47b; seenote87above.
89. SeeMS. Paris BN 840, fol. 45b: "andheshall knowthetasteof contem-
plationinthemountains, inaplacewheretherearenoother people, likeElisha
theprophet andhis friends, whokilledthemselves duringtheir lifetimes ...**
90. This work was entirely writtenunder theinfluenceof theNahmanidean
school of Kabbalah; onhis distancinghimself fromthethought of that school,
seethepassagedealingwithcommunion(devekut). InBaddei Ha'Aron(MS.
Paris BN 840, f. 45a), wereadabout theexperienceof concentration: "for this is
his life, toascendfromthelower academy tothehigher academy, toenjoy the
radianceof theShekhinah, andhewill havenothought of his sons or themembers
of his household, becauseof thegreatness of his devekut (communion).** Onthe
other hand, Nahmanides understands devekut as continuous thought whichdoes
not interferewiththenormal lifeof thedevotee; seeScholem, "Devekut,** pp. 205-
207. It shouldbenotedthat thedescriptionof therelationshiptoone*s family
duringtheperiodof devekut is very closetothat of his Christiancontemporary,
Meister Eckhart, whosees themystic relatingtotheworldwithanattitudeof
"Gelicheit** after heunderstands theequality of all things withinthehiddenGod-
head, anunderstandingstemmingfromintimatecontact withHim. Seetheanalysis
of Reiner SchUrmann, Meister EckhartMystic andPhilosopher (Bloomington-
London, 1978), p. 79: "Equanimity is theconsequenceof detachment withrelation
tothecreatedas created. It is aconditionof nothing.** Seenotes 98and102below.
Oneshouldnotetheapproachwhichunderstands equanimity as theresult of a
powerful experienceof loveof God; seeEleazar of Worms, Sefer ha-Rokeab,
Hilkhot tfasiduU Shoreshha'Ahavah. AccordingtoScholem, Major Trends,
pp. 96-97, this approachis identical withtheStoic or Cynic ataraxy. However,
amongtheselatter inner peaceis agoal initself, andnot only aside-effect of a
spiritual experienceof this or another kind, whichit is amongtheKabbalists and
inPlotinus. For acriticismfromanother view-point of Scholem*s interpretation
of R. Eleazar of Worms onthis subject, seeHaymSoloveitchik, "ThreeThemes
intheSefer Hasidim,** AJSreview, I (1976), pp. 328-329. Likewise, oneought to
emphasizethat thereis nosimilarity betweenEckhart*s viewof "Gelicheit** and
that of R. ABNeR, as weanalyzedit above, accordingtoScholem, Major Trends,
p. 97, nor is thereany resemblancebetweenEckhart*s viewandthat of R. Bahya
IbnPaquda, ibid., p. 372, n. 59. Babyah, likemany of theKabbalistic texts that
wehavecitedhere, sawinhishtawwut mastery over theimpulses of thesoul, which
158 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
aremotivatedby thedesireor drivefor honor or fear of shame; inEckhart,
"Gelicheit" is connectedwithanunderstandingof thecreatedness of all that exists
andtheir equality intheeyes of God, asituationwhichthenleads toanattitudeof
equanimity. AmongtheKabbalists, "equanimity" (i.e., hishtawwut), evenwhen
it takes placeafter attachment of thought, is nevertheless aconditionfor communion
of thesoul, whichis themainthing. Seenote41above.
91. MS. Paris BN 840fol. 45a.
92. Hagigah15a; cf. DavidJ. Halperin, TheMerkabahinRabbinic Literature,
(NewHaven, Conn., 1980), p. 76ff. Inall versions, theinterlocuter is R. Joshua
rather thanR. Akiba. R. ShemTov apparently alludes tothedeficient spelling
of thewordas Le'an, rather thanLe'Ayin, as it appears inmost texts of theaggadah.
It may bethat this Kabbalist is referringtothetenhiddenor supernal sefirot, whose
existenceis representedby theabsenceof theletter yod. Onthetensupernal
sefirot, seeM. Idel, "TheSefirot abovetheSefirot" (Heb.), Tarbi? 51(1982),
p. 239ff; their sourceis inSefer Baddei Ha'Aron, MS. Paris BN 840fol 64a; cf.
93. PrintedinScholem, MSS.9 p. 226.
94. R. Yofcananb. Zakkai andR. Eleazar b. Arakh, accordingtoIjagigah1:2.
It is reasonabletoassumethat R. Judahhimself might havecompiledthetext in
Qagigahonthebasis of thesourceat hand; as is known, theauthor was awell-
knownhalakhic scholar.
95. ComparewithSefer Moznei Zedek, p. 49: "that their presenceand
absenceshouldbeequal toyou." This termis thetranslationof theword"istiwa"
inAl-Ghazali. Notethespecific useof thetermshawehinAlbotini: amaninwhose
eyes contradictions arenullified. This usagemay beconnectedwiththedefinition
of theInfiniteintheKabbalahof Geronaas hashwa'ah, or that whichis shaweh
inthesenseof beingtheplaceinwhichtheopposites arenullified. SeeG. Scholem,
Les origines, pp. 463-465. Scholemidentifies R. Azriel of Gerona's comments
withthescholastic concepts of "indistinctio" or "coincidentia oppositorum."
Thereis asuggestivepossibleparallel betweenthepsychological stateof thehuman
beingwhostrives toachieveprophecy, whois definedas shaweh, andGod, who
is describedinsimilar terms. Cf. theinterestingremarks of Y. Baer, "TheSacrificial
Cult intheSecondTemplePeriod" (Heb.), lion40(1975), pp. 109, 150-153. It
is interestingtonotethat already at thebeginningof the14thcentury, wefind
thefollowinginSefer Yesod'Olamby R. Elfcananb. Abrahamof Eskirathe
following: ".. . andwhenthey reachequanimity inequal unity, as inthesimile'His
left handis under my head* [Cant. 2:6]" (MS. Moscow-Gttnzburg607fol. 104b).
This indicates that theformhishtawwut alsoservedinthesenseof negationor the
combinationof contraries inGod, definedas "harmonious unity" ('ahdut shawah).
Ontheresemblanceof theperfect man, whois definedas apathes throughhis
acquisitionof apathy, toGod, seethedescriptionof Philo's approachinDavid
Winston's important article, "Was PhiloaMystic?" inStudies inJewishMysticism,
ed., J. Dan-F.Talmage, (Cambridge, Mass., 1982), p. 26.
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 159
Theconnectionbetweenthesetwoareas is evenclearer inthequotationbelow
fromR. JosephKaro, inwhichthecapability of unitingGodis madeconditional
uponreachingastateof equanimity of thesoul. SeealsoR. HayyimVital in
Sha'arei Kedushah111:4, whoincludes amongtheconditions of prophecy: "And
humility shall bedeeply impresseduponhis soul, until hewill feel neither joy at
beinghonorednor thecontempt of thosewhoinsult him, andbothshall beequal
inhis eyes.'*
96. CompareAlbotini's remarks elsewhere:
Andit hasalready happenedthat one's soul was separatedat thetimeof that casting
off fromeverything, andheremaineddead. Andsuchadeathis praiseworthy,
beingcloseto"deathby the[Divine] kiss." Andit was inthis way that thesoul
of BenAzzai, who"gazedanddied," departed, for his soul rejoiceduponlooking
at theSourcefromwhichit was hewn, andit wishedtocommunewithit andstay
thereandnot returntothebody, andof suchadeathit is said, "Precious inthe
eyes of theLordis thedeathof his righteous ones** [Ps. 116:15]. (Scholem, MSS.t
p. 228).
97. MaggidMesharim. Parashat Beshalah(Jerusalem, 1960), p. 57.
98. Themeaningof yibud(union) inKarorequires clarification; it is difficult
toassumethat wearespeakinghereof yifyudinthestandardKabbalistic sense:
i.e., theunificationof thesefirot of Tiferet andMalkhut. It seems very likely to
methat this is baseduponareferencetotheSufi concept of tawfridi.e., the
unificationof Godby separationfromeverythingsubject tothecategory of time.
SeeBenedikt Reinert, DieLehrevomtawakkul inder KlassischenSufic (Berlin,
1968), pp. 23ff.; ReynoldA. Nicholson, TheIdeaof PersonalityinSufism(Cam-
bridge, 1923), p. 13. If so, wehavebeforeus anadvancingof theneedfor thecon-
centrationof humanpowers by means of transcendingall contradictory arousals,
sothat thesoul canacknowledgeandexperiencetheunity of God. This mystical
level, whichdepends upontheachievement of equanimity, implies theseparation
of thesoul frommatters of this world. Accordingtothis analysis, inKaroone
must not seehishtawwut as theresult of communionwithGod, as Werblowsky
states, inKaro, p. 162, but only apreparationfor it.
99. Scholem, MSS., p. 226.
100. This apparently reflects acertaininfluenceof Maimonides' distinction
betweenthetwopurposes of theTorah: thewelfareof thebody andthat of the
soul. SeealsoR. Pinbas b. Yair's famous sayinginAvodahZarahfol. 20b, as the
model for this gradation. A detaileddescriptionof themeaningof perishut appears
immediately beforetheabovequotation, pp. 225-226. For Jewish-Sufi interpre-
tationof this Talmudic saying, seethework describedinFranz Rosenthal, "Judaeo-
Arabic Work under Sufic Influence," HUCAvol. 15(1940), pp. 442ff.
101. Scholem, MSS., p. 226.
102. ComparePlotinus, EnneadIV: 3,32, inwhichthememory of one's friends,
160 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
childrenandwifearepart of thelower levels of functioningof thesoul, fromwhich
onemust separateoneself. Plotinus praises their forgetting, as this enables oneto
fleefrommultiplicity tounity. Cf. note90above.
103. Seeabove, note90, andcomparealsotheviewof theBaal ShemTov in
Zawa'at ha-RIBaSh; seeSchatz, Hasidut, p. 153. Cf. sectionV above, inour dis-
cussionof theprecedenceof communiontoequanimity accordingtoR. Isaac of
Acreinhis book Me'irat 'Eynayim.
104. Scholem, MSS., pp. 228-229.
105. Sefer MagenDawid, p. 49b.
106. Ibid., p. 18d-19a. OntheUrimandTummiminAbulafia, seeIdel, The
Mystical Experiencepp. 105-108; comparealsoour discussionof hitbodedut inR.
Hasdai Crescas andinR. Moses Botaril inour work-in-progress inthechapter on
hitbodedut andtheTemple.
107. Ibid., p. 19a.
108. AbrahamAbulafia's Shomer Mifwahwas dedicatedtoadiscipleof
his fromSafed: seechapter VI above.
Sefer Sha'arei Zedekwas writtenintheGalileeor inHebron, ibid., p. 120;
R. Isaac of Acrewas bornandeducatedinAcre, while, R. ShemTov IbnGaon
concludedthewritingof his book, Baddei Ha'Aron, inSafed.
109. SeeIdel, chapter VI above; idem., "R. JudahHalewahandhis Book
Zafnat Pa'aneah" (Heb.), Shalem4, ed., J. Hacker, (Jerusalem, 1984), pp. 133-134.
110. SeeGershomScholem, "Kabbalah" (German), EncyclopediaJudaica
(1932), IX: 657-658; Werblowsky, Karo, pp. 38-39.
111. Inarecently published, comprehensivemonographontheKabbalistic
doctrineof IbnGabbai, Abulafia's nameis not mentionedevenonceinits own
right. See: RolandGoetschel, Meir ibnGabbaiLeDiscours delaKabbale
Espagnole(Leuwen, 1981). Prophetic Kabbalahis alsonot mentionedinR. Shem
Tov IbnShemTov's Sefer Ha'Emunot, whichis areasonably representativecol-
lectionof SpanishKabbalahof theperiod.
112. MS. Cincinnati 586fol. 45b. Dr. BerakhaZack has drawnmy attention
toseveral passages concerninghitbodedut inSefer Or Yakar, for whichI express
my thanks.
113. This is theonly sourceI knowinwhichSefer Sha'arei Zedekis ascribed
toAbrahamAbulafia; despitethesimilarity inmany details of its Kabbalistic system,
andevenof thespiritual biography of theanonymous Kabbalist andof Abulafia,
theauthor is not tobeidentifiedwithAbulafia. Generally, Cordovero's writings
containquiteanumber of bibliographical confusions, oneof whichI mentionin
note120below; seealsonote114.
114. Oneshouldnot conclusively infer fromthis that Cordoveroknewthis
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 161
book by Abulafia. However, thefact that his disciple, R. IJayyimVital, quotes
fromthis work tends toconfirmtheassumptionthat CordoverodidknowSefer
Ifayyei Ha'OlamHaBa\ andthroughcomparisonwithSefer Sha'arei Zedekone
reaches theconclusionthat thetwobooks werewrittenby thesameauthor. This
suggests that Cordovero's copy of Sha'arei Zedekdidnot containthenameof its
author. It follows that thecircleof Kabbalists aroundCordoverohadall of the
central Kabbalistic works describingtechniques of attainingecstasy writtenat
theendof the13thandthebeginningof the14thcentury: (1) Sefer Ifayyei Ha'Olam
HaBa'; (2) Sefer 'Or HaSekhel; (3) Sefer Halfeshek, quotedinanas-yet-unpublished
sectionof VitaPs Sefer Sha'arei Kedushah; (4) Sefer Sha'arei Zedek, by oneof
Abulafia's disciples; (5) thewritings of R. Isaac of Acre: Sefer Me'irat 'Einayim
andat least portions of Sefer 'Ozar Ifayyim. Seealsoabovepp. 136-140.
115. Onneo-Platonic tendencies inthis work, see, e.g., Idel, AbrahamAbulafia,
p. 95. Ontheconnectionbetweenhitbodedut andcommunionof theindividual
soul withthesupernal soul, seeour discussionof R. Ezraof Geronainour above-
mentionedwork onhitbodedut.
116. MS. BritishLibrary 749, foL 15b; andcomparethequotationfromSefer
Sh?ur Komah, fol. 30d, quotedbelow. Cf., Idel, TheMystical Experience, ch. II.
It is difficult todeterminetheexact identity of theauthor. R. Moses Cordovero,
whois mentionedonthat pageas theonewhosaidcertainthings toR. Elijahde
Vidas, whointurnconveyedthemtoVital; R. Isaac of Acre, whois alsomentioned
there; or perhaps Vital himself. Thelast caseseems themost probable.
117. Comparetheexpression, tardemahshel hitbodedut (slumber of con-
centration) inR. HayyimVital's Sefer Halfeziyonot (Jerusalem, 1954), p. 55;
cf. Fine, -Recitation," p. 187, 191.
118. Ontheparallel betweenmusic andthecreationof melody, andletter-
combinationinAbulafia's teaching, seeIdel, TheMystical Experience, pp. 53-55.
119. Comparewithwhat appears inSefer Ha'Azamim, attributedtoR. Abra-
hamIbnEzra(ed., M. Grossberg, London, 1901), p. 13: . . TheActiveIntellect,
whichthey calledShekhinah, andthroughwhichhewhodraws it downshall
apprehendtheCreator, may Hebeblessed, andit will teachhimduringthetime
of his concentrationandwhileheis asleep." It seems that onemay concludefrom
theexpression, "whenheis asleep," thenatureof this stateof hitbodedut, namely,
thebreaking-off fromthesenses. Inany event, accordingtoSefer ha-'Azamim,
thecontents revealedinthosetwostates "shall beunderstoodandplacedinorder
whileheis awake." Seebelow, note124.
120. Pardes Rimmonim(Jerusalem, 1962), pt. 2, p. 97a, is parallel toSefer
'Or HaSekhel, MS. Vatican233fol. 95a. Cordoveroquotes Abulafia's comments
as if their sourcewereSefer HaNikkud, but it is clear that they comefrom'Or
HaSekhel. This is seen, not only by textual comparison, but alsobecausethat
work is mentionedby nameamongthecompositions of Abulafiainhis treatise
concerningangels publishedinScholem, MSS., p. 232, inwhichhealludes tothe
subject referredtointhequotationfromPardes Rimmonim. For anexplanation
162 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
of this error, seeIdel, AbrahamAbulafia, p. 25. Cordovero's words arequoted
by R. QayyimVital inSha'arei Kedushah, part. 4, gate1, MS. BritishLibrary 749,
fol. 10a.
121. Ibid., part. 2, fol. 69b.
122. This nameis extremely significant inAbulafia's important work, Sefer
Ifayyei Ha'OlamHaBa'.
123. Here, theletter-combinations areunderstoodas ameans of influencing
thesefirot andbringingabout their unification.
124. CompareSefer ha-'A?amim, attributedtoAbrahamibnEzra, p. 13:
Thereis aprophet towhom[prophecy] is emanatedwhileheis awake, without
himbeingcausedtodreamor his power beingweakenedor himfallingasleep,
andif hewerenot expert indrawingit down, alongwithknowingits serviceand
its sacrificesthenhewouldbekilled." Cf. onp. 14. Seealsonote119above,
andmy article, "TheEpistleof R. Isaac of Pisa(?) inThreeVersions" (Heb.),
Kovez 'al Yad10(20) (1982), pp. 166-167.
125. R. Moses Cordoverohimself dealt withthecombinationof vowels of
theIneffableName, inorder toresolveacertainKabbalistic problem; seehis book
Shi'ur Komah(Warsaw, 1885), f. 90d. Combinations of thevowels of thedivine
nameareextremely widespreadinAbulafia's system, Cordoveroquotingapassage
dealingwiththis subject inhis book, Pardes Rimonnim; seenote120above, and
comparealsoR. ShemTov IbnGaon, inhis book Baddei Ha'Aron, quotedabove
fromMS. Paris BN 840, fol. 44a.
126. Pardes Rimmonim, II: fol. 95d.
127. Onthebackgroundtothis view, seeMosheIdel, TheMagical and
Neoplatonic Interpretations of theKabbalahintheRenaissance," inJewish
Thought intheSixteenth Century, ed. BernardD. Cooperman, (Cambridge,
Mass., 1983), pp. 196-201. I shall discuss elsewheretheresemblancebetweenthe
conceptionof "spiritual force" inCordovero, andthat of R. YofyananAlemanno
andhis sources. SeealsoYosef Ben-Shlomo, Torat ha-Elohut shel R. Moshe
Cordovero(Jerusalem, 1965), pp. 41-42. Hitbodedut alsocauses thedescent of
souls inorder toreveal secrets: seethequotationfromSefer 'Or Yakar, tobedis-
cussedinthechapter onconcentrationinthefield, inmy futuremonograph.
128. Onpurgationof thesoul inconnectionwiththeabsorptionof spirituality
by means of theletters, seeIdel, above, p. 73.
129. Warsaw, 1885, p. 30d; onthis passage, seeBen-Shlomo, Torat he-Elohut,
p. 40. Cf. what wequotedabovefromMS. BritishLibrary 749, fol. 15b.
130. Here, onesees clearly theinfluenceof Maimonides' comments inMT,
Yesodeha-Torah7:4, includingthespecific useof thetermhitbodedut inthesense
of intellectual concentration.
131. Jerusalem, 1979, vol. 10, p. 7. CompareSefer Shi'ur Komahfol. 94d,
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 163
"that manshouldmeditateonthedivinewisdom, whenheunderstands thecreation
of theexistingthings, andunderstandtheproperties of their limbs."
132. Onthehistory of this saying, seetheimportant articleby Alexander
Altmann, "TheDelphic MaximinMedieval IslamandJudaism," inBiblical and
Other Studies, ed. A. Altmann, (Cambridge, Mass., 1963), pp. 196-231, especially
p. 198andp. 208ff. SeealsoCordovero's remarks inShi'ur Komahp. 34a, 94b,
andBen-Shlomo, Torat ha-Elohut, pp. 28-29. Altmann, p. 209, quotes Sefer ha-
Temunahas theearliest sourcefor theKabbalistic understandingof Job19:26;
however, as this Kabbalistic work was writteninthefourteenthcentury, onemust
seethesources for theviewof Sefer ha-Temunahinprecedents foundintheKab-
balahof thecircleof R. JosephAshkenazi: seePerushbeSefer HaYe&rahof
R. JosephAshkenazi (Jerusalem, 1954), p. 13a, andMS. Oxford2073, fol. 170a.
OnthepossibleconnectionbetweenSefer ha-Temunahandthecircleof Ashkenazi,
seemy article, "Kabbalistic Material" (op. cit., n. 87) pp. 204-205, n. 207. R. Joseph's
contemporary, R. Isaac of Acre, may beoneof Cordovero's sources; inashort
work by R. Isaac, whichappears anonymously inMS. Oxford1638, fol. 49a, we
read: "Thesefirot, whichareunitedwithoneanother, andall of whichareinthe
Infinite, inall six directionsalways, whenyouwishtoapprehendtheintelligibles,
look totheobjects of sensation, andfromtheobjects of sensations youshall truly
apprehendtheintelligibles, as is said, 'Frommy fleshI Shall seeGod.'" Compare
this understandingof thetransitionfromthesensory totheintellective, whichis
alsoassociatedwithdivinity, totheconclusionof theparableof theprincess. See
alsothewords of R. Isaac inVajda, "Observations," p. 67(op. cit., n. 65). A similar
useof theverseinJobtothat inMS. Oxford1638appears inMe'irat 'Einayim,
p. 118, 237, 243.
133. ComparewithSefer 'Or Yakar, vol. 10, p. 8: "If yousay tohim, concen-
trateonthis-worldly matters, sothat youmay understand, throughtheir revealed
nature, their secret nature, as several wisemendid." Theconnectionbetween
apprehensionandhitbodedut is seeninseveral passages inCordovero: see, for
example, his comments rethesefirot: "andthesefirot shall alsohavepleasurein
their hitbodedut andtheir apprehensionof their essence" (Shi'ur Komah, f. 43b).
134. Cordovero's treatiseconcerningtheangels, publishedinReubenMar-
golioth, Malakhei 'Elyon(Jerusalem, 1945), Appendix, p. 21. Cf. Shi'ur Komah,
p. 94c.
135. Tomer Devorah, Ch. 3.
136. SeeSefer 'Or Yakar 10: p. 8: "Andwhenamanwishes topracticehitbo-
dedut tounderstandsomething, heshouldcast off this corporeality." Therelation-
shipbetweenhitbodedut, inthesenseof intellectual concentration, andcasting
off corporeality appears inmany sources: seeVital's comments, referredtoinnote
116above, andFine, "Meditation," pp. 189-190; andCordoveroinShi'ur Komah,
innote129above. ComparealsoR. Jacobb. Asher, Turt 'Or ahffayim, sec. 98:
"whousedtoconcentrate... until they reachedthestateof castingoff of materiality
andstrengtheningof their intellectivespirit.'' SeealsoAl-Ghazali's comments near
164 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
note18above, andAlbotini, above, note96.
137. Sefer 'Or Yakar, Tikkunei Zohar, BavaBatra, MS. Modena, fol. 196b.
138. Generally, Cordoverostates that thespiritual Torahdescends andis
embodiedinthis lowly world. SeeBerakhaZack, "A Sectionof R. MosheCor-
dovero's Interpretationof Ra'yaMehemna" (Heb.), Kovez 'al Yad10(20) (1982),
pp. 256-258. Ontheidentificationof theTorahwiththesefirotic system, seeIdel,
"TheConcept of Torah," pp. 49-84.
139. SeeSha'arei KedushahCh. 12(p. 176a), whilechapter 2of thesame
sectioncontains thestory of oneof thepractitioners of hitbodedut, whichseems
tohavebeentakenfromoneof R. Isaac of Acre's writings. This story alsoseems
tohaveservedas thesourcefor S. Y. Agnon's story, "TheTaleof theScribe" (Heb.),
Eluwe-elu(Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, 1969), pp. 140-141[Englishtranslation: Mid-
stream, v. 13, no. 2(Feb. 1967), pp. 16-26]. Onthevalueof hitbodedut, seethe
quotationfromR. Isaac indeVidas', Sha'ar Ha-'Ahavah, Ch. 3, fol. 59a; R. Hayyim
Vital apparently copiedR. Isaac's words fromhereintoSha'arei Kedushah, MS.
BritishLibrary 749, fol. 15b. Onemust stress that letter-combinationis not men-
tionedinthesesources, althoughthereis nodoubt that deVidas knewof this
technique: seeSha'ar ha-Yir'ah, Ch. 10, andIdel, TheMystical Experiencep. 28.
140. MS. BritishLibrary 749, fol. 15b. I shall discuss thetotal context of
this text inmy monographonhitbodedut, inthechapter ondreamquestions; cf.
Cordovero's treatises onangels inMargolioth, Malakhei 'Eliyon, p. 83, and
Albotini's discussions inseveral passages inSulamHa'Aliyah. Theuseof dream
questions inconnectionwithletter-combinationalready appears amongAbulafia's
disciples, andapparently reflects someSufic influencehere; seeTrimingham,
Sufi Orders, p. 158; Fenton, Treatise, pp. 16-17andp. 61, n. 72; Idel, "Inquiries,"
p. 205; andnote32above.
141. MS. NewYork JTS Rab. 809, fol. 210b, publishedinPachter, "The
Life," p. 140.
142. Theactiveverbshiwiti, fromthesameroot as hishtawwut, is found, at
least inallusion, inSha'arei Kedushah3:4, andlater inSheLaH, whichapparently
causedthespreadintoHasidic literatureof theunderstandingof equanimity in
thecontext of this versefromPsalms. SeeZe'ev Gries, "TheHasidic Hanhagot
Literatureas anExpressionof Behavior andEthos" (Heb.), Doctoral Dissertation,
(Jerusalem, 1979), pp. 160-161; Schatz, Hasidut, p. 153; andabove, note37.
143. Theuseof this verseinconnectionwithcommunion(devekut) appears
inMe'irat'Eynayim, p. 217(parashat 'ekev), andonp. 10, andinSefer '0?ar ffayyim;
seealsothepassages quotedinchapter VI, above, p. 99n. 26. Theversealsoappears
inanexplicitly mystical context inKaro's Sefer MaggidMesharim, Parashat
Mike?, p. 37a, andinSefer Haredim, p. 35; cf. Pachter, "Communion," p. 90,
p. 117. ComparealsoR. JacobEmden's comment there, inwhichhealsomentions
hitbodedut, apparently inthesenseof intellectual concentration, inconnection
withthis verse. Cf. Z. Gries, "TheSources andEditingof Sefer Darkhei ffayyim"
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 165
(Heb.), Mebkerei Yerushalayimbe-Mahashevet Yisra'el 1:2(1982),pp. 143-144,n.31.
144. Sefer Ifaredim, p. 256; andseeWerblowsky, Karo,, pp. 63-64, andnear
145. Seethetexts citedby Meir Benayahu, Sefer Toldot ha-AR"I (Jerusalem,
1967), p. 154, 287. OnLuria's useof hitbodedut inorder todeeply study aZoharic
passage, seep. 166, p. 319.
146. Seeabove, inthepassagequotedfromAl-Ghazali's Moznei Zedek,
andthebadit brought by Abu-al-Najibal-Suhrawardi, "Contemplationfor one
hour is better thanritual worshipfor awholeyear." SeeASufi Rulefor Novices.
AnAbridgedTranslationandIntroduction, by M. Milson(Cambridge, Mass.:
HarvardUniversity Press, 1975), p. 49. Onthetensionbetweenmeditationand
Torahstudy, seethestudies citedby Werblowsky, Karo, p. 64, n. 3.
147. PrintedinPachter, "Devekut," p. 88; idem"TheLife," p. 135; compare
alsothedescriptionof EnochinMe'irat 'Einayim, p. 47, whichwas knownto
Cordovero: seePardes Rimmonim22:4.
148. OntheprecedingamongtheSufis of thedhikr, andsometimes of con-
templation, by silence, seeBannerth, "Dhikr et Khalwa," p. 69, 73.
149. Ontheappearanceof light inecstatic states, seeagainPachter, "The
Life," p. 136and139, andespecially his comments onAzikri inSefer Ifaredim,
p. 256: "Theearly Hasidim... whorefrainedfromstudy infavor of hitbodedut and
devekut anddescribedthelight of theShekhinaabovetheir heads as if it spread
aroundthem, andthey sit inthemidst of thelight... Andthenthey trembleinnature
andrejoiceinthat trembling." For thepossiblesourceof Azikri's remarks, see
Scholem, "Devekut," p. 209; thequestion, however, requires further study. On
theappearanceof thelight, seealsoour discussionof Sefer Sha'arei Z^dekand
of R. ShemTov IbnGaonabove, sectionVI, andespecially note81.
150. Page43.
151. OnAbulafia, seeIdel, TheMystical Experience, pp. 34-37; onIsaac of
Acre, seeibid., andnote42above; onAlbotini, seethesources mentionedinnote
109above; ondeVidas, seePachter, "Communion," p. 104, n. 204, andp. 114; on
Azikri, seePachter, "TheLife," p. 136.
152. Ontheshuttingof one's eyes inMussar andKabbalistic literature, see
Ze'ev Gries, "Hasidic Hanhagot Literatureas anExpressionof Behavior and
Ethos" (Heb.), (Doctoral Dissertation, Jerusalem: HebrewUniversity, 1979),
p. 168-170; Schatz, Hasidut, p. 108.
153. SeeBannerth, "Dhikr et Khalwa," pp. 70, 73, 80. ComparealsoPerakim
be-Hazlahah, attributedto Maimonides (ed., S. Z. Davidowitz-D. Z. Banet,
Jerusalem, 1939), p. 7. Thepracticeof shuttingone's eyes is doubtless ancient,
andrelates totheemergenceof theterm"mystic," derivedfromtheGreek verb
"muo," that is, toshut one's eyes or tocloseone's lips. SeeA. M. J. Festugiere,
166 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
Larevelationd'Hermes Trismegiste(Paris, 1950) vol. 1, pp. 305-306.
154. SeeSefer ha- Yashar, attributedto(Rabbenu) JacobTam, sec. 13(Jeru-
salem, 1967), p. 109.
155. MS. Paris, BibliothequeAllianceIsraeliteUniverselle, 167VI. B.
156. PublishedinG. Scholem, "Chapters fromSefer SulamHa'Aliyahof
R. JudahAlbotini" (Heb.), Kiryat Sefer 22(1945), p. 163.
157. Printedby Scholem, MSS., p. 227; thedescriptionquotedhereis part
of theprocess of hitbodedut.
158. Sec. 3, Ch. 8(Benai Barak, 1973), p. 115.
159. CompareSefer Ifaredim, p. 263: "Thereasonfor closingone's eyes at
thetimeof prayer is that it is as if hehas left theworldandis [standing] beforethe
kingwiththeclosedeyes of aninfant..." Comparealsop. 277there: "andif you
closeyour eyes andturntoyour Maker." Seeabove, inthequotationfromR. Shem
Tov IbnGaon's Sefer Baddei Ha'Aron.
160. Sha'ar Ruabha-Kodesh(Jerusalem, 1912), 7, 52.
161. Quoted fromSefer Mekor Ha-Shemot by R. Moses Zacuto, MS.
Laniado, fol. 68a.
162. Sefer Sha'arei Kedushah, MS. BritishLibrary 749, f. 16a; andcompare
withtheabovequotationfromZacuto, Mekor Ha-Shemot, fromaMS. of Vital.
163. Ontheascent of thesoul duringthecourseof meditation, seeSefer Sha-
'arei Kedushah3, 5(p. 102), 3, 8(p. 115).
164. Ontheuseof recitationof Mishnahas amystical technique, seeFine,
"Recitation," pp. 183-199. Onp. 198, heprintedthepassagequotedhere, andon
pp. 189-191thereis atranslationandbrief discussionof thepassage.
165. MS. BritishLibrary 749, fol. 16a.
166. CompareVital's remarks inSha'ar HaYihudim, Ch. 7(Jerusalem, 1963),
fol. 6d: "Thenconcentrateandcloseyour eyes andturnyour thoughts fromthis
worldcompletely, andthendirect your intention." Hereonesees indirectly how
Abulafia's teachingof letter-combinationcontributedtothetechniqueof yihudim
inLurianic Kabbalah.
167. SeeSefer Ifayyei Ha'OlamHaBa\ MS. Oxford1582, fol. 57b: "andclose
your eyes anddirect your intention. . ." referringtoactions duringthecourseof
letter-combination, followingisolationinaroom. SeeIdel, TheMystical Experience,
p. 38.
168. InYeshayahuTishbi, Ifikrei KabbalahUshluhoteha(Jerusalem, 1982),
pp. 131-146.
169. InTishbi, ibid. pp. 155-156. Concerningthis work, seeTishbi, ibid.,
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 167
alsoYoramJacobsonTorat HaGe'ulahshel R Mordekhai Dato(Ph.D. thesis,
HebrewUniversity 1982), pp. 95-100.
170. ZON anacronymfor eruf 'Otyot Afekudot (combination, letter and
171. SeeTargumYonatanbenUziel onExodus 3:2. This ideais citedwidely
inKabbalistic literature, seeespecially &yoni, inParshat Vezot Haberakhah,
regardingthis angel as Moses' teacher withthehiddennumerical valueof Moses'
nameMe'ayin(seeimmediately inthetext) is foundearlier, inAbulafiawritings.
172. Both"Zeganzagel" and"Me'ayin" havethenumerical valueof 101.
173. This refers tothe(exegetic) numerological techniqueof the"hidden
numerology"-inthenomenclatureof thethirteenthcentury Ashkenazi Pietists.
This amounts tofiguringthenumerical valueof only theletters that spell out each
letter (suchas Alef, spelledas Alef Lamed, Pe; thevalueof thelast twoletters).
Inthecaseof thenameMoshetheletters areMem, Mem, ShinYodNun, HeAlef;
whichspell theword
Me'ayin' (meaning, fromnothingness.)
174. This work was knowntoCordoveroandhis disciples, as well as to
R. HayyimVital. SeeIdel (citationinnote1), p. 70, note215.
175. SeeMs. Oxford1582, f. 45b. Neither thetitleof this book, nor of any
other by Abulafia, is mentionedinDato's writings, thoughhedoes mentionthe
titles of theworks of many Kabbalists, all of whomareassociatedwiththeKab-
balahof thesefirot. SeeY. Jacobson(note169), pp. 120-22, alsoJacobson, ibid.,
p. 100, note6. There, basedonthesections of 'Iggeret HaLevanonthat werebrought
earlier inthis paper, hewrites that Datoreceivedthetraditionof letter andvowel
combinationfromCordovero. However, hedoes not indicateAbulafiaas asource
for either Cordoveroor Dato. Theinfluenceof AbulafiaonDatois noticeable
invarious other places inDato's work, but this will not beelaborateduponhere.
It is worthnotingthat mentionof the"threeKabbalistic principles" is made
intheworks of theItalianKabbalist R. EliyahMenabemHalfan, wholivedone
generationbeforeDato. SeeMs. NewYork, JTS 1822fol. 153b: "Sotoo, hewas a
shepherdof sheep(Ro
eon), for onis anacronymfor eruf 'Otiyot Wekudot
(letter andvowel combination). Thesearethethreefundamental principles of this
wisdom." TheaforementionedKabbalist alsobrings this Abulafianideawithout
176. SeeMS. Oxford1582, fol. 23a. Wenotethat this ideais alsomentioned
inthework of theSafedKabbalist R. ShlomoAlkabetz; seeBerit Halevi, [Jeru-
salem1963(photo-offset)] f. 14c.
177. SeeIdel, AbrahamAbulafia, pp. 19, 67, note20.
178. SeeSefer Sha'arei Kedushah[Benei Berak 1973] pp. 105, 112, 114.
179. SeeTishbi (citedinnote168above), p. 154.
180. Exodus 3:1. Earlier, Datoindicates that Moses' shepherdingof Jethro's
168 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
sheeprefers allegorically totheclutivationof the"intelligence-soul."
181. SeeTishbi (citedinnote168above), p. 154, note44.
182. 2Samuel 23:2.
183. Quietistic expressions suchas this, that occur invarious of Cordovero's
writings canbeseenas valuableprecedents for understandingthehistorical context
of Hasidic ideology. But hereis not theplacefor elaboration.
184. SeeSefer Ifayyei Ha'OlamHaBa\ MS. Oxford1582, fol. 46b.
185. SeeTishbi (citedinnote168above) p. 155.
186. InAbulafia's Kabbalistic epistleVezot UYihudahpublishedby A. Jellinek
inGinzei Ifokhmat HaKabbalah(Leipzig1853) p. 15.
187. Ibid. p. 19.
188. Ibid. pp. 15-16.
189. SeeIdel, AbrahamAbulafia, pp. 442-43.
190. SeeCordoveroSefer Pardes RimmonimGate27(Sha'ar Ha'Otiyot
theGateof Letters) Chapter 1.
191. CompareCordoveroSefer Shiur Komah(Jerusalem1979photo-offset)
fol. 64b: "Becomelearnedinthewritings of R. Shimeon, of blessedmemory; within
themyouwill findpleasantness for your pureintellect." Sotoo, it is worthcom-
paringtheendof Chapter 58(ibid.) withthewords of Datoregardingthedanger
involvedinthestudy of Kabbalah. What is especially noteworthy is that Cordovero
seems toindicatethat thestudy of theZohar is merely astageinone's Kabbalistic
education. Incontrast tothe"pleasantness" associatedwiththestudy of theZohar,
inCordovero's writings andby theabove-mentionedquotespecifically it appears
that thereexists ahigher, moreintellectual stage:
Anddonot hastentopeek throughthelatticesof your intellectual ignorance,
lest your eyes bedarkenedby falsereasoningandyoubefoundstricken. Rather,
standfirmandcontemplateuntil thegates of knowledgebeopenedfor youandbe
liketherareoneinacity, twoinafamily, that gather toher inpeaceandenter in
peace, (ibid. foL 64b.)
It is reasonabletoassumethat what is referredtohereis not amoreprofound
study of theZohar, but rather, adifferent formof wisdomentirely. It seems tome
that this formof wisdomis indicatedearlier inthesamechapter (fol. 63a-64a)
whereCordoveromentions the"combinationof letters" andthe"particulars of
letters" anumber of times.
RegardingCordovero's experienceincombiningthevowel point inhis life,
seeibid. fol. 90a.
192. Concerningthesources for thedesignation"Rubaniyut" (spirituality)
andits influenceonKabbalahandHassidismseeM. Idel: "Perceptions of Kabbalah
Hitbodedut as ConcentrationinEcstatic Kabbalah 169
intheSecondHalf of the18thCentury" (English), deliveredat theColloquium
of JewishThought inthe18thCentury, HarvardUniversity, 1984.
193. As Cordoverowrites inPardes RimmonimGate27, Chapter 1: "And
inSefer Berit Menuhahthis subject is dealt withbriefly." This is inreferenceto
therelationbetweentheletters or DivineNames andtheSupernal Chariot. Com-
parealsoPardes RimmonimGate28. (Sha'ar HaNikkudtheGateof theVowel
Points) Chapter 1.
194. SeeIdel, "Inquiries" pp. 193-94.
195. Seenote192.
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Subject Index
Adam, 19, 33, 42, 127, 129
Armilus, 53
Aristotelianism, 2, 13, 17, 18
Cathars, 33-44
Chariot, Divine[Merkavah\ 37,75, 119,120,
122, 123, 124, 155, 169
Christianity, Christians, 19, 51, 54, 141, 157
Colors, 81-82, 88, 129, 134
Combinationof letters, 99,107,110, 111, H4,
121, 127, 133, 136, 137, 144, 161, 162, 164,
166, 167, 168
Concentration[Hitbodedut], 15, 103-169
Contemplation, 2, 55, 130, 132
Devekut, viii, 21, 98, 113, 117, 125, 129, 143,
148-149, 151, 157, 164. Seealsounion
Diotima, 118, 151
Ecstasy, 67, 79, 94, 165
Elijah, 57, 103
Enoch, 11, 25, 26, 28, 31, 165
Equanimity [Hishtawwut], 107, 112-113,122-
124, 132, 146, 147, 148, 151, 157, 158, 159,
Eve, 37
Gabriel, 78, 96
Golem, 38, 42, 99
Hasidism, ix, 140, 150, 164, 168
Imagination, 37,38,41,42,43,51,66,80,107,
135, 150. SeealsosubvoceMundus
ImitatioDei, 4
Individuation, viii
Intellectusagens, 5, 6, 7,8, 10, 13, 14, 24, 36,
52, 53, 64-65, 68, 76, 109, 151, 155, 161
Jerusalem, 46, 126
Jesus Christ, 45, 52-53, 58-60
Knesset Israel, 80
Landof Israel, 91-%, 100, 126-127, 153
Letters, 6,58, 83, 121, 122, 128, 133, 135, 138,
140, 155, 156, 157, 158, 162, 166, 168
Light, 81-82, 111, 120-121, 129, 132,135,149,
155, 156, 165
Love, 7-8, 20, 24, 29, 66-67, 70, 79, 115-116
Macrocosmos-Microcosmos, 79, 82, 87
Messiah, vii, 15, 16, 28,46, 50, 51, 55, 58, 60,
Metatron, 11, 16, 25,26,29,36,41, 53,75,78,
84, 85, 86, 87, 135, 149
Metempsychosis, 39
Mikhael, 78, 86
174 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
Moses, 8, 50, 58, 74, 84, 103, 118, 130, 137,
138, 149, 151, 167
Mundus imaginalis, 73-89, 151
Music, 15, 128, 161
Namefs], divine, 9, 10, II, 15, 16, 24, 35, 47,
128, 132, 140, 142, 144, 153, 155, 169
Neoplatonism, 2, 80, 161
Prophecy, prophets, vii-viii, 5-6, 14, 23, 26,
63-66, 69, 76, 108-109, 124, 126, 128-130,
135, 138-139, 141
Samuel, 76, 85, 86
Sandalfon, 75-78, 84-87
Satan, 34, 35, 36, 38,40,41,43,50,51,52,53,
Sefirot, 18,19,29,30,56,74,78,83,84,96,99,
117, 129, 130-131, 133, 140, 152, 158, 159,
Sex, Sexuality, 37, 42, 115-116, 118, 128,
Shekhinah, 86, 117-118, 143-144, 152-153,
157, 161, 165
Speech[Dibbur\ 6, 23, 111, 121, 138
Sufism, 43,74-76,79,92,93,95,96,97,98,99,
100, 105, 106-107, 111, 123, 126, 132, 134,
139, 141, 142, 143, 144, 148, 150, 151,159,
Torah, 17, 26, 36, 48, 54, 95, 103, 110, 117,
122, 131, 139, 149, 155, 156, 164-165
Trinity, 55-56
Union, mystical, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16,
21, 123, 134, 148, 154, 159. Seealso
UrimandThummim, 124-125, 160
Author Index
ABNeR, 112, 114, 116, 123, 148, 149, 157
Abrahambar Hiyya, 61, 155
AbrahambenDavid, 104
Abravanel, Isaac, 60, 61
Adrutiel, Abraham, 83, 87, 95
Albalag, Isaac, 85
Albatalyawsi, IbnAl-Sid, 23, 24
Albotini, Judah, 95, 122-126, 134-135, 142,
147, 158-159, 164-165
Alemanno, Yofeanan, 83, 162
Al-Ghazzali, Abu-Hamid, 63,69,99,106-107,
144, 156, 158, 163, 165
Alkabez, Shelomoha-Levi, 96, 167
Al-Maki, 148
Anatoli, Ya'akov, 41
Asher benDavid, 56
Ashkenazi, Joseph, 163
Averroes, 3, 5, 7, 17, 23, 68, 118, 153
Avicenna, 3, 16, 68, 112, 143
Azikri, Eleazar, 132, 133, 134, 143, 145, 147,
150, 165
Azriel of Gerona, 83, 144, 149, 158
Azulai, ljayyimJosephDavid, 100
Baal ShemTov, Israel, 160
Botaril, Moses, 160
Cardozo, Abraham, 60
Christiani, Pablo, 55
Cordovero, Moses, 96, 126-131,133,136-140,
151, 152, 160, 161, 162, 164, 167, 168
Comti, AbrahambenShalom, 70
Crescas, flasdai, 160
Dato, Mordekhai, 139-140, 167, 168
DavidbenYehudahhe-Hasid, 157
DavidMerocoMartica, 149
DeHeredia, Paulus, 54
DeliaMirandola, Giovanni Pico, 20
DeliaReina, Joseph, 141
DeLeon, Moses, 2, 46
DeVidas, Elijah, 96, 130, 134, 146, 161, 164,
Ebieo, Leone, 67
Eckhart, Meister, 17, 30, 157, 158
Eleazar of Worms, 157
Eliezer theBabylonian, 98
Elfeanan benAbrahamof Esquiera, 158
Eliahuof Genazzano, 83
Emden, Jacob, 164
Ezraof Gerone, 149, 155, 161
Gikatilla, Joseph, 2, 36, 147
Hai Gaon, 155
Halfan, EliahuMenabem, 167
flallewah, Yehudah, 84, 100, 150
176 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
tfasdai, R146
Hayyat, Judah, 145
Hen, ZerafciahbenShe'alti'el, 35, 36
Hillel benSamuel of Verona, 23
IbnAbi Zimra, David, 125-126
IbnAbu-Rabiya, Abraham, 93
IbnAdret, ShelomobenAbraham, vii, 30,88,
92, 109, 111
IbnAknin, JudahbenJoseph, 146
IbnArabi, 17, 75, 153
IbnEzra, Abraham, 13,28,57,58,59,68, 119,
IbnGabbai, Meir, 127, 160
IbnGaon, ShemTov benAbraham, 95, 99,
117, 119-122, 125, 154, 156, 157, 158, 160,
162, 165, 166
IbnHisdai, Abraham, 99, 106
IbnLatif, Isaac benAbraham, 2, 68, 69, 88
IbnMalka, JudahbenNissim, 86,89,152,154
IbnMotot, Samuel, 85
IbnPakudah, Bafciya, 105,124, 132, 133,142,
148, 156, 157
IbnSabin, 12
IbnTibbon, Moses, 24, 154
IbnTibbon, Samuel, 5, 22, 23
IbnTufail, 98, 111
IbnZaiafc, Joseph, 95-96
Isaac bentyayyimha-Kohen, 156
Isaac benSamuel of Acre, 23, 26, 58, 78, 81,
115, 118, 121, 128, 129, 131, 132, 142, 145,
147, 149, 151, 153, 154, 160, 163, 164
Isaac benYeda*yah, 21
Jacobha-Nazir of Lunel, 91
JacobbenAsher, 162
JacobbenSheshet, 158
JosephbenShemTov, 153
Kalkish, ElnathanbenMoses, 74-75, 95, 151
Karo, JosephbenEphrayim, 123, 159
Knorr vonRosenroth, 86
Luzzatto, Moses tfayyim, 133
Makir, R., 24
Maimonides[Moses benMaimon], 12,13,16,
17,21, 26, 30, 31,35,38,42,52,58,68,134,
142, 144, 146, 149, 151, 155, 159
Maimuni, AbrahambenMoses, 4, 5, 22, 93,
97, 105, 111, 141, 156
Maimuni, *ObadyahbenAbraham, 93, 98
Moses benShelomoof Burgos, 153
Moses benYa'akov of Kiev, 145
Nafymanides [Moses benNafeman], 41,50,55,
58, 91, 104, 148, 157
Narboni, Moses, 63-70, 88, 154
Nathan[benSa'adiyahu?], 23, 73-83, 98, 117,
149, 151
Nicholas 111[Pope], 46
Philoof Alexandria, 158
Plato, 118, 151
Plotinus, 27, 151, 152, 159, 160
Pseudo-Dionysios, 17
Reuchlin, Johannes, 55
Shalom, Abraham, 66-67, 70
Shankara, 17
ShemTov of Leon, 92
ShemTov benShemTov, 160
Socrates, 118
SolomonbenMoses ha-Kohen, 91, 92, 93,95
SolomonbenSamuel Petit, 96
Spinoza, Barukh, 20, 67, 70
Togarmi, Barukh, 40, 41, 76, 99, 106
Vital, Hayyim, 100, 128, 131, 133, 135-136,
147, 159, 161, 162, 163, 166, 167
Yehudahha-Levi, 22, 118, 125
Zacuto, Moses, 100, 166
Luria, Isaac Ashkenazi, 132, 143, 165
Index of WorksCited
'Avnei Zikkaron, 83, 87, 88
Ha'Azamim[Pseudo-Ibn*Ezra] 161, 162
Baddei Ha'Aron95, 119-122
HaBahir, 33, 39, 83
Berit HaLevi, 167
Berit Menufcah, 140, 169
CommentariesonAvot, 21, 147
Commentary ontheTorah[A. Maimuni],
Commentary onSefer Ye^irah
[Abulafia], 34-39, 92
[Togarmi], 40, 76
Ha'Edut, 15, 29, 46, 47, 56, 108
Ha'EmunahveHaBitafyon, 58
Ha'Emunot, 160
Enneads, 151, 152, 159
'EvenSappir, 74, 82, 99, 151
'EvenHaShoham, 95
Hayyei HaNefesh, 27, 29, 70, 77, 86
Maskiot HaKesef, 87
MorehHaMoreh, 87
Narboni's, 65-66
Sefer HaGe'ulah, 29
Sitrei Torah, 5, 8, 14, 20, 23, 24,29, 35,
43, 53, 54, 71, 80, 144, 150
Hakdamah, 51
tfai benYoktan, 83, 98, 111, 154
Hanhagat HaMidboded, 111
Hapalat HaHapalah, 69
flaredim, 132, 133, 145, 164, 165, 166
Hayyei Ha'OlamHaBa*, 9, 15,24, 28,29, 37,
137, 154, 161, 162, 166, 168
HegionHaNefeshHa*A?uvah, 155
Hatfeshek, 147, 161
Hatfeziyonot, 161
IJovot HaLevavot, 88, 99, 105,124, 132, 147,
GanNa*ul, 59, 86 'Iggeret HaLevanon, 139, 167
Get HaShemot, 58, 86 'Iggeret tfamudot, 83
Ginnat 'Egoz, 36
Ginzei HaMelekh, 68 KabbalaDenudata, 86
Guideof thePerplexed, 1,4,5, 13, 16,17,23, Kawanot HaPhilosophim, 63-66, 68
27, 29, 35, 38, 42, 52, 65, 68, 134, 142, 149Keter ShemTov, 117, 121
CommentariesontheGuide: Kut AlKulub, 148
178 Studies ifi Ecstatic Kabbalah
Kuzari, 154
Likkutei HaRan, 73-89, 149
Ma'ayanei HaYeshu*ah, 60, 61
MafteabHaHokhmah, 57, 144
MafteahHaSefirot, 34
Mafteafc HaShemot, 50, 51, 52, 54, 59
MagenDavid, 125, 160
MaggidMesharim, 159, 164
HaMalmad, 12, 26
MalmadHaTalmidim, 41
Mashmi*aYeshu'ot, 60
Meggillat HaMcgalleh, 61
Me'irat 'Einayim, 23, 82, 88, 89, 97, 112, 114,
116, 123, 145, 146, 148, 151, 160, 161, 163,
164, 165
Mekor HaShemot, 166
HaMelammed, 76
HaMeli?, 16, 29, 39, 53, 69
HaMeshiv, 127, 140
Metaphysics, 28
Midbar Kedemot, 100
MidrashHashkem, 12
Milbamot HaShem, 22
Minfeat Yehudah, 145
Mishkat AIAnwar, 156
MishnehTorah, 28, 50, 142, 144, 155, 162
Moznei edek, 66,99, 107, 143,144,158,165
Ner 'Elohim, 25, 26, 57, 77
NevehShalom, 66, 69
HaNikkud, 161
'Or HaMenorah, 80
'Or HaSekhel, 13,20,21,24,27,56,63-71,96,
128, 161
X)r Yakar, 152, 160, 162, 163, 164
X>?ar 'EdenGanuz, 34,39,42,43,60,143,153
X)zar flayyim, 58, 81-83, 86, 92, 94, 95, 96,
98-100, 114, 115, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152,
153, 161
Ha'Ot, 47, 56-57
Pardes Rimmonim, 127-128, 131, 133, 139,
151, 161, 162, 168, 169
HaPeliy'ah, 85, 86
Perakimbe-Ha?lafcah, 93, 98, 165
PerushShir HaShirim, 154
ReshitHokhmat, \ 131, 146-147
HaRokcab, 157
SassonLimmudim, 68
Sha'ar HaKawanah, 144
Sha'arei Kedushah, 100, 128, 159, 162, 166,
Sha'arei Zedek, 25, 26, 78, 79, 83, 89,92, 93,
98, 99, 107, 111, 121, 127, 131, 132, 133,
135, 136, 143, 144, 147, 150, 154, 155, 156,
160, 161, 165
HaShem, 58
Shenei Luhot HaBerit, 147, 164
Sheva' Netivot HaTorah, 59, 109
Shhir Komah, 129, 161, 162, 163, 168
Shomer Mi?wah, 91, 92, 160
ShoshanSodot, 145
Sidrei ShimmushaRabba, 76
SulamHa'Aliyah, 95, 122-126, 147, 150
Symposium, 118, 151
Tagmulei HaNefesh, 23
Tehillot HaShem, 85
HaTemunah, 85, 146, 163
TibEINufus, 146
Toldot 'Adam, 69
Toldot Yeshu, 45
Tomer Devorah, 163
Tur, 163
VeZot LiYihudah, 24, 40, 168
HaYashar, 14, 25, 28, 47, 166
YemenitesAnswers toSicilianQuestions, 12
Yesod'Olam, 88
Zafnat Pa'aneafc, 84, 150
awa'at HaRibash, 160
Zekhut 'Adam, 149
Zerubavel, 56
Haeruf, 70
Zioni, 167
Zohar, 30,33,46,85,88,96, 139, 140,153,168
?urat Ha'Olam, 88

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