Collectanea of Kabbalistic works date back at
least to the 1280s (1). Anonymous editors excerpted passages
from lengthy works apparently for convenience sake. Other known works contain
lengthy quotations in their works include the various works of Isaac of Acre,
Menahem Recanati, Meir Ibn Gabai and Abraham Ardutiel. Other collectanea
were assembled around a set structure such as the prayers or the Torah: Nafatali
Herz's Siddur (Thiengen 1560), Menahem Zioni's Commentary to the
Torah and portions of the Book Bahir in the first printing of
the Zohar (2). The most famous collection of texts to be
organized around the Torah is certainly the Zohar, at least certain
manuscripts dating from the 16th and 17th centuries and through the two different
printings of the Zohar in sixteenth-century Italy.
Some collections of Kabbalistic works display
no apparent organizing principle and were in fact personal notebooks such
as that of Yohanan Alemano (Ms. Oxford, Neubauer 2234) (3).
In Prague 1660 the first thematic collection was published in Yalqut
Reuveni which organized the various passages topically in alphabetic
listings. This edition would later be expanded into an edition organized
around the pericopes of the Torah (Wilhermsdorf 1681), perhaps demonstrating
the tendency of Jewish literature and study to return to the formal structure
of its canonical works.
Important questions need to be asked about the
intended purpose of these collections and their assumed role in the later
history of Kabbalistic thought. Were these volumes seen as replacements for
the originals or as tools to supplement the original forms of the work? Were
they intended for the elite or the vulgus?
In recent years a number of volumes have been
edited which join this list of works. One such book is Shulhan Aruch
ha-Zohar (16 volumes to date, Jerusalem 1993-1996), which
annotates the halakhot of the Tur and Shulhan Aruch
with Zoharic texts. The purpose of these volumes is clear. From the traditional
standpoint, one can compare the late legal compendiums with the mystical
comments of the `Tanaitic' work. Regardless of intent, the volume is a helpful
tool for understanding the relationship between Halakha and Kabbalah, at
least as demonstrated in these works.
Similar method's have now been applied to Moses
Cordovero's works. Shmuel Yudaiqin has edited two volumes of passages from
the works of Cordovero. These volumes, which focus on the study of Kabbalah,
are thematically organized by chapter and offer no additional commentary
(4). In a separate two-volume work entitled Or
Le-Yesharim, Yudaiqin provides a commentary to Cordovero's Introduction
to Shi'ur Qomah by referring the reader to passages from Cordovero's
corpus. Here each passage is very briefly introduced. In a similar four-volume
set entitled Shomer ha-Pardes, Yudaiqin provides an equally extensive
commentary from Cordovero's corpus to  Cordovero's Or Ne'erav (Benei
Beraq 1995);  Cordovero's Or Yaqar: Commentary to
Raya Mehemna 3:9 (Benei Beraq 1995);
 Yesodei ha-Torah ve-Iqarei ha-Dat of R. Dov Baer Gottlieb (Benei
Beraq 1996);  Eleazar Azikri's Sefer Haredim (Benei Beraq 1996).
As with the above volumes, the source of each passage presented in the commentary
is identified in brackets at the end of the citation.
Paraphrases and Hebrew
The German pietists of the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries could not read Arabic. Their heavy use of Saadia Gaon's Emunot
ve-De'ot was based on a loose Hebrew paraphrase which reflected their
understanding of the text (5). A translation to (part of)
the Aramaic text of the Zohar was prepared already in the fourteenth
century by R. David ben Yehuda. This Hebrew translation can be seen to be
a step toward popularization or at least an attempt to provide access to
a greater number of people (6).
In the last few years a number of new editions
of classic texts - some with commentaries - have been published which include
Hebrew translations inserted into the body of the text in brackets and/or
in a smaller font. These include Sefer Idra Rabba (Petah Tiqvah 1996)
and Maggid Mesharim (Petah Tiqvah 1990), each edited by Yihiel Barlev.
In a five volume work Shalom Batzri culled from
the Zohar and Zohar
Hadash the narrative units and presented
them with a Hebrew translation at the bottom of the page (Ma'asiyot
ha-Zohar, 3 volumes, 1992-1993; Ma'asiyot ha-Zohar he-Hadash,
Jerusalem 1993). Might this be compared in some way to the Ein Ya'akov
More pioneering in opening up Kabbalistic texts
to a wider audience is the paraphrase of Nahmanides' Commentary to the
Torah. In this five volume set published between 1985 and 1995
(8), Pinchas Lieberman provides a running translation in
modern Hebrew of the complete text. These two texts are accompanied on the
page by a modern commentary which explains terms and their sources. The
presentation of all these sources synoptically on the page is intended to
train the reader to read Nahmanides' original text (9).
The editor states that he has refrained from explaining Nahmanides' Kabbalah
in his edition. He then cites Nahmanides' celebrated introduction in which
he states that the written text alone [i.e. Nahmanides' Commentary]
does not provide the key to understanding his Kabbalah
(10). This apparent contradiction is followed by the additional
claim, supported by recent scholarship, that Nahmanides Kabbalistic exegesis
of scripture (can at times) converge with the simple meaning of the text
Early texts of Jewish mysticism, including many
Hekhalot works as well as magical or astrological texts, detail the hierarchy
of angelic and heavenly beings. Many early Kabbalistic texts, particularly
the genre of commentaries to the ten sefirot, describe the relationships
between these theosophic powers. The most complex systems, however, can be
found in Lurianic texts where the various worlds each contain multiple sets
of ten sefirot. These texts can at times be so complicated that the reader
may be compelled to draw an outline of the heavenly world described in the
The earliest diagrams in Jewish mystical text
include drawings in European manuscripts of Hekhalot texts which depict aspects
of the heavenly world in relation to the esoteric traditions of the Account
of Creation and the Account of the Chariot (12). Stick
drawings of elements from the world of the Merkavah can be found as well
in the works of Eleazar of Worms - including one drawing of a dragon-like
figure (13). Eleazar's drawing are imitated and further
enhanced in the Kabbalistic reworking of his Commentary to Ezekiel's
Chariot composed by Jacob ha-Kohen (14). Jacob ha-Kohen
additionally included drawings of the letter Aleph and the angelic symbolism
which is overlayed on the Menorah in Jacob Ha-Kohen's Book of Illumination
(15). The most widespread drawings outside of the circles
of the theosophic Kabbalists are the circles of letter permutations in Abraham
Abulafia's Hayye ha-Olam ha-Ba (16). Finally, numerous
diagrams of the sefirotic tree (Ilan ha-Sefirot) can be found with
varying complexity in many Kabbalistic manuscripts. Diagrams of the sefirotic
tree - in fact depicted as a tree - can be found in some of the earliest
Kabbalistic manuscripts which have survived, dating to the last two decades
of the thirteenth century (17). These many diagrams, including
foremost the sefirotic trees have yet to be catalogued in any comprehensive
way. Indeed a major desiderata of the study of Jewish mysticism is such a
project, one that would reproduce all these diagrams and drawings in a single
volume accompanied with a commentary which would place each diagram in its
literary and historical context through internal comparisons and through
its relationship to the written text which accompanies each
Diagrams of later Kabbalistic literature were
printed in such classic works as Gikatilla's Sha'are Orah
(19), Moses Cordovero's Pardes Rimmonim
(20) and Shabbetai Sheftel Horowitz's Shefa Tal
(21), to name but a few (22). With the
appearance of Lurianic Kabbalah and Sabbateanism, numerous drawings were
prepared, primarily in manuscript form. The most significant diagrams to
be published were those of Meir Popper in his Sod Ilan ha-Gadol
(23). All of these diagrams have yet to be studied in any
serious way. An index or basic catalog does not even exist. Hopefully a history
of Jewish magical and Kabbalistic diagrams (including amulets) will be written
in the foreseeable future.
Outside of the walls of the university, in the
yeshivot and other learning-centers where the works of Lurianic Kabbalah
are the main focus of study, new tools have been developed to grapple with
the complexities of the graphic element which is embedded in the written
text. In a recently published book, Derekh le-Ez Hayyim
(24), numerous multi-color diagrams of incredible complexity
outline the major patterns of the divine world as described in Ez
Hayyim. The anonymous author, who out of modesty hides behind a numerical
equivalent of his name, has invested years of learning and planning in this
Major methodological questions arise when viewing
these diagrams. Is the author of this volume uncovering the graphic depiction
which the Lurianic Kabbalist envisioned prior to composing his work, or were
these images conceived in linguistic terms alone. Did the circle of iniates
who first studied these written works prepare their own diagrams (which did
not survive) or did they train themselves to mentally organize the images
they were reading in the text? (25) Or maybe we are outsiders
who are crippled by time or distance from the world of these Kabbalistic
authors and are incapable of preserving these images in their literary form?
Finally, does this method of study characterize the many learning centers
of Kabbalah today or is this one man's attempt to help the inferior student
who requires graphic aids.
1. See my discussion of Ms.
Parma 1390 in R. Asher ben David: His Complete Works and Studies in his
Kabbalistic Thought (Including The Commentaries to the Account of Creation
by the Kabbalists of Provence and Gerona), Los Angeles 1996, p. 305 [Hebrew];
Haviva Pedaya, Picturing and Imaging in the Kabbalistic Exegesis of
Nahmanides, Mahnayim 6 (1994), pp. 114-123 [Hebrew].
2. See the chapter on the first
printing of the Zohar in my edition of the Book Bahir, Los
Angeles 1994. For further analysis of the reception history of the
Bahir and its relationship to the Zohar see Boaz Huss
Sefer ha-Bahir, Tarbiz 65 (1996), pp. 333-340 [Hebrew].
3. Abrams, The Book Bahir,
p. 96. Other important collections include Moses ben
Jacob of Kiev, Shushan Sodot, Cracow 1788 ( facs. reprint [Jerusalem]
n.d.; retypeset Jerusalem 1995); On this work see Scholem, Kabbalah,
Jerusalem 1974, p.70 and Jacob Reifman, About the Author of Shushan
Sodot, ha-Karmel 2 (1862), p. 207 [Hebrew]. See also the
anthology of Zohar commentaries contained in Abraham ben Mordechai Azulai
, Sefer Or ha-Hama, Przemysl 1896-1898, 3 volumes (facs. edition Benei
Baraq 1977). On Anthologies of commentaries to the Zohar see, Boaz Huss,
`The Anthological Interpretation: The Emergence of Anthologies of Zohar
Commentaries in the Seventeenth Century', Prooftexts (forthcoming).
See also Nathan of Tcherin, Derekh Hassidim, Lemberg 1873 (facs. edition
Jerusalem 1962), which is an anthology of hasidic texts.
4. Sefer Orayta Qame de-Qadosh
Baruch Huh..., Benei Beraq 1995; Da Elohei Avikha..., Benei Beraq
5. R. Kiener, The Hebrew
Paraphrase of Saadiah Gaon's 'Kitab al-Amanat Wa'l-I'tiqadat',
AJS Review 11 (1986), pp. 1-26.
6. For other examples such as
the role of al-Naqawa's Menorat ha-Meor, see the introduction, I.
Tishby's Wisdom of the Zohar, first printed in Hebrew, Mishnat
ha-Zohar, Jerusalem 1949; translated into English: The Wisdom of the
Zohar, Oxford 1989.
7. Marjorie Lehman, A
Talmudic Anthology of Aggada: Examining the Ein Yaakov, Ph.D.
Dissertation, Columbia University, 1993.
8. Perush ha-Ramban `al
ha-Torah..., Jerusalem 1985-95.
9. Introduction, p.13.
10. Daniel Abrams, Orality
in the Kabbalistic School of Nahmanides: Preserving and Interpreting Esoteric
Traditions and Texts, Jewish Studies Quarterly 2 (1995), pp.
11. E. Wolfson, By Way
of Truth: Aspects of Nahmanides' Kabbalistic Hermeneutic, AJS
Review 14 (1989), pp. 103-178.
12. N. Sed Une cosmologie
juive du haut moyen age la Berayta di Ma'aseh Bereshit, Revue
des Etudes Juives 123 (1964), pp. 259-305; part II: Le texte, les
manuscrits et les diagrammes, Ibid., 124 (1965), pp. 23-123;
Klaus Herrmann, Massekhet Hekhalot: Traktat von den himmlischen Palaesten,
Edition, Übersetzung und Kommentar, Tuebingen 1994.
13. Sodei Razaya, ed.
S. Weiss, Benei Braq 1986, pp. 136, 186. Most of the drawings could not be
inserted in this volume as with the edition of the other section of this
compendium, Sodei Razaya, ed. I. Kamelhar, Bilgoraj 1936. The dragon-like
figure was printed in a full folio page in Eleazar's Commentary to Sefer
Yezira, Przemysl 1883 [facs. Brooklyn 1978], fol. 125 and see also the
14. Asi Farber-Ginat, Jacob
ben Jacob ha-Kohen's Commentary to Ezekiel's Chariot, The Hebrew
University, master's thesis, 1978, pp. 24, 30, 38, 62 [Hebrew]. See also
the diagrams in Yitzhaq Vannah (Mahariv), Rekeb Elohim, Benei Baraq
15. Abrams, The Book
of Illumination of R. Jacob ben Jacob HaKohen: A Synoptic Edition From
Various Manuscripts, New York University, 1993, pp. 323-325, 376, 370,
16. See also the relatively
simple diagrams in the works of the fourteenth century Kabbalist, Joseph
Hamadan: Jeremy Zwelling, Joseph of Hamadan's Sefer Tashak:
Critical Text Edition with Introduction [Hebrew Text], Ph.d. Dissertation,
Brandeis University 1975, see esp. pp. 149-162, 167-184.
17. See the Ilan ha-Hokhma
in Ms. Paris BN 763, fol. 34b.
18. See for example the discussions
of Elliot Wolfson, Negative Theology and Positive Assertion in the
Early Kabbalah, Da'at 32-33 (1994), p. vxiii; Crossing
Gender Boundaries, Circle in the Square - Studies in the Use of
Gender in Kabbalistic Symbolism, Albany 1995, p. 196, n. 6.
19. Chapter 5, see for example
Warsaw 1883 edition, fol. 64a.
20. Sha'ar ha-Aziluth;
Sha'ar Seder Amidatan; Sha'ar ha-Zinorot. See also the various
diagrams reproduced in Bracha Sack, The Kabbalah of Rabbi Moshe
Cordovero, Be'er Sheva 1995, pp. 51, 115, 183 [Hebrew].
21. Hanover 1612, fols. b,
a, a, 5a, 8a, 10a, 28a, 49a, 56a, 62a.
22. See further my study
Critical and Post-Critical Textual Scholarship of Jewish Mystical
Literature: Notes on the History and Development of Modern Editing
Techniques, Kabbalah: Journal for the Study of Jewish Mystical
Texts 1 (1996), pp. 17-71, esp. p. 52.
23. Sod Ilan ha-Gadol,
Warsaw 1864 and 1893. The first edition was not bound, rather the folio pages
were pasted together to form a scroll. The second edition (bound) was reprinted
in facsimile (Jerusalem n.d.). While this Ilan may be the most important
diagram of its type to be printed one of the more striking figures to appear
in print is certainly found in Moses ben Menahem Graf's, Vayaqel Moshe,
Dessau 1699, (facs. edition Jerusalem 1963), fol. 33b-34a. See also Jacob
Spielmann, Tal Orot, Lvov 1876-1883 (Jerusalem 1976); Eliahu David
Salíatqi, Yad Eliahu, Mafteah le-Qabbalat ha-Ari Z"al, Jerusalem
24. Derekh le-Ez Hayyim
- Tarshim le-Havanat Sefer Ez Hayyim, Jerusalem .
25. See the discussion of M.
Idel in Kabbalah: New Perspectives, New Haven and London 1988, pp.
* I would
like to thank Prof. Roland Goetschel for comments which improved this
(c) Copyright 1997 by Daniel