First Night

Here begins Shadal's Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. Shadal, as author, describes a fictional encounter with a guest from Poland, and they engage in a dispute about the truth and value of kabbalah. As Shadal notes in his addendum (see here), this guest is fictional, and so Shadal is really coming up with both sides of the debate. The text of the Vikuach follows:


And it was
on the night of Hoshana Rabba, in the year 586 {=1826}, and I was in a group of men who did not give sleep to their eyes, in order to perform the tikkun which was customary on that awesome night; and there came, within those who came, a man from the residents of Poland, whom I did not know beforehand, for he only recently came to our city, and he say to my right, and read with us the sefer Mishneh Torah {=Devarim} in its entirety, and the sefer of Tehillim in its entirety, with love and desire and with the intent of the hear, like a man who reads from the Torah. And yet, when we cam to the reading of האדרא הקדושה {?? - perhaps this ?? }, sleep overcame him, and he slept.

And it was, when we finished our reading, the man awoke from his sleep, and said to me: In truth did the Sages say (Eruvin 65) {stated by Rav Yehuda}, "night was only created for sleep."

I said to him: But they also said {on the same daf, Resh Lakish's statement}, "the moon{light} is only created for learning." And they also said (Avodah Zarah daf 3, and Chagiga daf 13), "anyone who engages in Torah at night, the Holy One, Blessed Be He, extends to him a cord of grace in the day." And they said as well (Menachot 110), "Torah scholars who engage in Torah at night, Scriptures reckons them as if they engaged in the {Temple} service." And they said as well (Sanhedrin 92), "any house in which Torah is not heard at night, fire will consume it."

And the man said to me: Did not the wise one say {in Kohelet 3:1}:
א לַכֹּל, זְמָן; וְעֵת לְכָל-חֵפֶץ, תַּחַת הַשָּׁמָיִם. {פ} 1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: {P}
and if they said this for weeknights, they did not say it for night of a Festival. Is it not true that "sleep on Shabbat is a delight {taanug}," and if in the day it is a delight, is it not obligatory by day; and you desecrate the sanctified and belittle the Festivals, and afflict your souls on days which are said about them {Devarim 16:15} "and you should be only happy."

I said to him: And how could we not arise on this night, to pour our speech before Hashem, once who know that on the seventh day of Succot is the completion of the judgment of the word, and notes go out from the house of the King, as our Rabbis say in the holy Zohar (chelek 3, page 31)?

And in the midst of this we left the house in which he had made the tikkun, and each mean turned to go to his house, and this man did not do so, but joined with me and occupy me with his claims.

And the man was silent until every man was distant from us, and he turned this way and that, and saw that there was no man {an allusion to Moshe Rabbenu when hitting the Mitzri}, and he stood on the crossroads, and he opened his mouth, and said: Woe to you guilty ones, for you deny the words of our ancient ones the fathers of the world, the instituters of the prayer, who established to say on Yom Kippur, "an end for forgiveness and pardon," while you {plural} say that the decree is not signed until the day of Hoshana Rabba. And not only that but you also deny the words of the Torah itself, which states {Vayikra 16:30}:
ל כִּי-בַיּוֹם הַזֶּה יְכַפֵּר עֲלֵיכֶם, לְטַהֵר אֶתְכֶם: מִכֹּל, חַטֹּאתֵיכֶם, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה, תִּטְהָרוּ. 30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before the LORD.
And if the pardon was already signed {/concluded} on the tenth day {=Yom Kippur}, how could the conclusion of the judgment be on the day of Hoshana Rabba? And not only this that you afflict your souls on a day of joy, but you also annul the day and on all of days of Chol haMoed the commandment of tefillin.

I answered him: We did not do this from our own hearts, forfend for us! Rather, our Rabbis, the Sages of the Mishna were the ones who decreed. It says it the Zohar Chadash, Shir haShirim (page 60) that anyone who puts on tefillin on chol haMoed is liable to death, and this is for concealed reasons, which are known to authorized people who stand in the secret assembly of Hashem.

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) Here, the guest attacks the idea that Chazal held that one who wears tefillin on chol haMoed is liable to death. He argues that Chazal in Yerushalmi held it was a mitzvah. And the fact that this is attributed to Tannaim in the Zohar means nothing, for who says the Tannaim wrote it? The author replies that the proof is within its pages, since it cites and attributes many statements to Tannaim, just as there is testimony from within for sifrei Tanach, and for the Mishna and gemara. The guest draws a distinction, claiming that for those, we believe they are authentic because of a continuous tradition of consensus from its time of composition until today. The text of the Vikuach follows:

And the man became enraged and said: One who performs the commandment of his God is liable to death? Woe to the ears which hear this! And how do you speak to put deviation of the Sages of the Mishna, to place in their mouths something like this, that one who puts on tefillin on a day of the days in liable to death? And is it not that even on Shabbat and Yom Tov they did not say that it is forbidden to put on tefillin, and that one who puts them on is liable to a punishment, neither light nor stringent, but rather they only said that Shabbat and Yom Tov are not the time of tefillin, for they themselves are a sign. And how is it forbidden to put on tefillin on chol haMoed? And do we not find in the Talmud Yerushalmi (brought down in hagahot Maimoniyot) that one of the Sages commended a scribe that he write tefillin on chol haMoed for his own needs, so that he will be able to give his tefillin to another person who lost his tefillin on chol haMoed? And if one who puts on tefillin on chol haMoed is liable to death, what will be the penalty of the scribe who writes them on chol haMoed to put them on himself, in order to lend his own to another Jew so that he too will put them on on chol haMoed?

I said to him: And how shall we deny that which is written in the sefer? And behold, our eyes are the ones that see that so is written in the sefer haZohar in the name of our Rabbis, that one who puts on tefillin on chol haMoed is liable to death; and if it is implied from the Yerushalmi that there is no prohibition in the matter {of putting them on}, sitting and doing nothing is better. {in a case of doubt}

And the man answered and said: And who are the witnesses of the sefer haZohar who testify about it that the Sages of the Mishna and Talmud wrote it?

I said to him: Its witnesses are within it, for it is written in it on each and every page, "Rabbi Shimon said," "Rabbi Eleazar said," "Rabbi Chiyya said," "Rabbi Abba began." And who are the witnesses of the Talmud? And who are the witnesses of the Mishna? And who are the witnesses of the Neviim and Ketuvim? And who are the witnesses of the Torah of Moshe itself? Rather, that it is written within the sefer, "and Hashem said to Moshe," "and Moshe wrote," "the vision of Yeshayahu," "the words of Yirmeyahu," "the proverbs of Shlomo," "a praise from David." And so too, "Rabbi Meir said," "Rabbi says," "Abaye said," "Rav Ashi said." And if you want to deny the sefer haZohar, deny as well in the Mishna and the Talmud, and after this deny also in the Torah and Neviim, and deny and say "I have no portion in the God of Israel."

And the man answered me and said: The matter is not as you have said, for our faith in the sefarim are not based on the sefarim themselves, for many, many books are forgeries, which are attributed to men who never wrote them. But we believe in sefarim upon which the tradition {kabbalah} has come upon them from generation to generation, from the time of their composers until today; behold, we believe in the Talmud, because it is clear to us that it was accepted by the entirety of our nation from its time of composition until today; and we trust that the matters written in it are in truth the words of the Sages mention in it, for we know clearly that even these hundred years, and even these 200, and even these 1000 years and more, such was accepted by all of Israel entirely, and so was the belief of the late and early geonim, and so was the belief of the Rabbanan Savorai, who were close in time and place to the Sages of the Talmud, and this tradition was widespread in all the congregation of Israel from generation to generation, from father to son and from teacher to student, and this is what drives out from our heart all worry of forgery in the matter of the Talmud.

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest continues to draw his distinction between believing the Mishna and the Neviim are not forgeries, on the one hand, and believing the Zohar is, on the other. The text of the Vikuach follows:

And so it is in the matter of the Mishna, and so too in the matter of Neviim and the holy writings, and so too in the matter of the Torah itself. For behold, the Torah, and the Mishna, and the books of the New Testament of the Christians, all of them inform that the Torah of Moshe was widespread and accepted in our nation at the beginning of the exile and at the end of the time of the second Temple; and the Temple itself, and the service which was done in it, is clear testimony to the widespread faith in this Torah from the day that the Temple was established and on.

And the books of Ezra and Nechemiah, and Chronicles, and Yechezkel and Yirmiyah, all of them testify and tell about how the Torah was widespread in the days of the exile of Bavel and at the end of the first Temple. And the book of Melachim and Shmuel, and Tehillim, Shofetim and Yehoshua testify on how it {=the Torah} was widespread in

the days of the {first} Temple and in all the days of the Judges, until the generation of the Wilderness, in which the Torah was written.

And not because we find that these books testify about the Torah do we rely upon them and upon it, but rather, because of the tradition which extends in an unbroken chain, which shows true to us how these books were well known in the nation from the time of their composition until the present day. Therefore, we are obligation from the straightforward intellect to rely upon them, and upon the Torah of Moshe, in the same way that we are compels to believe in the works of the Roman translator {? melitz} Cicero, because of how they were widespread among the nations from that day until today.

But if a person comes to you, and prints in this generation, prophecies of Natan the prophet and Gad the seer, even though it is not impossible that it is so in fact, even so, no man in Israel is obligated to accept them, after no general tradition came upon them from one generation to the next.

And behold, so is the sefer haZohar, after it is not mentioned at all in the Mishna and Talmud, and was not known or publicized in the days of the geonim, nor even in that days of Rashi and Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra, and Rambam and Ramban and the Rosh, as the author of the Minchat Yehuda admits (in the introduction), behold it lacks the trustworthy testimony such that each man of Israel and every man of intellect is required to accept it -- is it not the widespread acceptance without interruption, and it is nothing more, except as amongst the books which were found in later generations attributed to earlier authors, such as the sefer haYashar and Divrei haYamim of Moshe Rabbenu, and their fellows, where the permission is given to anyone wise of heart to draw them near or to distance them, according to what appears to the eyes of his intellect, without their being in their any place for faith, for faith is not in that which has no tradition, and the sefer haZohar does not have upon it a tradition from the time of its composition until today.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt iv

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest had just said that because of the lack of traditional continuous consensus about the Zohar from its time of composition, of is not compelled to believe in its authenticity. The author now states that he chooses to do so. And further, that he regards the guest as an apikores and a proselytizer to apostasy, and does not wish to further converse with him. The text of the Vikuach follows:

I {=the author} answered him: After the matter is so, behold I choose to believe in the sefer haZohar, such as is the consensus of the majority of the congregation of Israel, and all its Rabbis and its Sages, from the time of its revelation until today. Of their portion should be my portion, and of their lot should be my lot . And you, if you want to cast your lot together with those of little faith, cast it, and who is holding you back?

And while engaged in them, I hurried to enter my house, and I closed the door behind me, and I slept until the light of morning, and I arose in the morning and went to the house of prayer {synagogue}. And when I returned to go to my house, this man attached to me and greeted me.

I said to him: Are you the muddier, who comes to muddy my heart with your doubts? Go in peace, and what is between me and you?

And the man answered and said: I am astounded at your words, my master, and I have heard about you, saying that you are always the lover of truth, and in truth this is not the way of lovers of truth, to berate a person who says things of reason, before you hear his claims.

I answered him: You are not speaking correctly, for even if this is my approach in all matters of understanding, and all my days such was my trait to learn from every man, and to accept words of truth from he who said it, still in things which touch on the matter of the faith, there is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel opposite Hashem. {A quote from Mishlei 21:30.} And behold, you are to my eyes like an enticer {/proselytizer to apostasy}, and the Torah says "you should not consent unto him nor hearken unto him." {See Devarim 13:9:

ז כִּי יְסִיתְךָ אָחִיךָ בֶן-אִמֶּךָ אוֹ-בִנְךָ אוֹ-בִתְּךָ אוֹ אֵשֶׁת חֵיקֶךָ, אוֹ רֵעֲךָ אֲשֶׁר כְּנַפְשְׁךָ--בַּסֵּתֶר לֵאמֹר: נֵלְכָה, וְנַעַבְדָה אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים, אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָדַעְתָּ, אַתָּה וַאֲבֹתֶיךָ. 7 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, that is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying: 'Let us go and serve other gods,' which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;
ח מֵאֱלֹהֵי הָעַמִּים, אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבֹתֵיכֶם, הַקְּרֹבִים אֵלֶיךָ, אוֹ הָרְחֹקִים מִמֶּךָּ--מִקְצֵה הָאָרֶץ, וְעַד-קְצֵה הָאָרֶץ. 8 of the gods of the peoples that are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;
ט לֹא-תֹאבֶה לוֹ, וְלֹא תִשְׁמַע אֵלָיו; וְלֹא-תָחוֹס עֵינְךָ עָלָיו, וְלֹא-תַחְמֹל וְלֹא-תְכַסֶּה עָלָיו. 9 thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him;

And our Sages have already said not to respond to an Israelite apostate {apikores}, and certainly one who is extremely skeptical {/irreverent}, and therefore my word is already spoken. My brother {presumably a reference to Avraham speaking to Lot}, do you wish yo go to the right or to the left? Believe {perhaps a play on תימין} or deny according to all that is good and right in your eyes, but me, why do you call to travel with you?

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest now defends himself against the charges of being an apikores. He argues that were they living at the time the Zohar was first discovered, it certainly would not be heresy to investigate its authenticity deeply, given the contents. Nay, it would be an obligation. The author then says he should have given a better response about the kabbalistic belief that on Hashana Rabba is the sealing of the din. The text of the Vikuach follows:

And he {=the guest} answered and said: My master, do not be so quick on your words, lest you be wrongfully suspecting the righteous, and thus sin to God.

And the Tester of Hearts {=Hashem}, He knows, and also you, my master, should recognize and know that I am a Hebrew, and I fear the God of Israel, and I do not divert from the Written Law or from the Oral Law right or left, not in action nor in thought. And in Heaven is my Witness, and in the lofty heights is my Witness -- He will take His revenge from me, if I am speaking of two hearts.

And yet, since the investigation of the sefer haZohar is an investigation into wisdom {chochma} and not a delving into faith at all, since there did not come upon the sefer haZohar a general acceptance of the nation, upon which all the faith of Israel is based and rests upon, why is it evil in your sight if I speak about it according to what arises after the investigation and delving which I investigated and delved for many days and years?

Speak now, you my bother, lover of the Torah and wisdom -- imagine for yourself that we were in the days of the Rambam and the Ramban, which you know that the sefer haZohar was not revealed nor known in their days, as the kabbalist, the author of Minchat Yehuda explicitly relates to us in his introduction. And imagine for yourself that there came to our hands this book, the sefer haZohar. Say now by your life, you my brother -- if we would have investigated and delved into the nature of this sefer, to know if it was in truth the work of the Tannaim and Amoraim, or if it is a forged sefer -- would this investigation be forbidden, or permitted, or obligatory? And is it not so that the prophet who arises to say a matter in the name of Hashem, we are required to test him, {to see} if he is a true prophet or a false prophet. And how shall we not have pity on the honor of our teachers the Tannaim and Amoraim, such that we accept any matter which reaches us in their names before we investigate and delve into it to see if it in truth it came from them or not? And did our generation improve so much {over previous ones} such that we no longer need to worry about writers of satire {?}. I am astounded!

I {=the author} said to him: It is what it is, I do not wish to argue with you, for I am a youth, and you are a man of war from your youth; and behold I see in you that spirit of cleverness and trickery who only existed in days of old in the accursed serpent, who distanced us from the Garden of Eden, and this is the spirit found today in all the philosophers who throw off from themselves the yoke of Torah and the yoke of derech eretz, and all their words are in deception, to take in their trap the souls of the whole {/simple} of heart, to bring them down to the underworld.

Are you not also like one of them? And how not? The disputation of yesterday, in which you widened your mouth without bound against the faith of all of Israel that the night of Hoshana Rabba is the night of the sealing {/signing}, and I in my poverty did not immediately remember the answer which is to your side, and I heard your blasphemies and I did not blunt your teach, as was fitting for me {to do}.

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The author just said he has an additional defense to the kabbalistic belief in the sealing of the din on Hoshanah Rabbah, based on Ramban, based on the Rokeiach, and based on a Mishna in Rosh haShana. When the guest gives a different explanation of the Mishna from Ran, and denies the truth of what Ramban says, he must then defend himself from the accusation that he is accusing Ramban of deception. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The guest: And what could you have answered? Speak, for I desire your righteousness.

The author: I could have answered that the Ramban z"l who never saw the sefer haZohar already mentioned on the verse {Bemidbar 14:9}

ט אַךְ בַּה', אַל-תִּמְרֹדוּ, וְאַתֶּם אַל-תִּירְאוּ אֶת-עַם הָאָרֶץ, כִּי לַחְמֵנוּ הֵם; סָר צִלָּם מֵעֲלֵיהֶם וַה' אִתָּנוּ, אַל-תִּירָאֻם. 9 Only rebel not against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us; their defence is removed from over them, and the LORD is with us; fear them not.'
the concept of the signing, and the matter of the defense {/shade} which informs on this night about life and death which are decreed for a person; and afterwards also the author of the Rokeach, who also never saw the sefer haZohar, mentions the matter of this tzel {shade, defense}.

And furthermore, behold we explicitly learn {in a Mishnah in Rosh haShana 16a}, "and on Succot we are judged on water." Thus, even though the day of Rosh haShana is the Great Day of Judgment, still this does not restrict there being also a judgment on the Festival of Succot as well.

The guest: Rabbenu Nissim already stood (as mentioned by the author of Tosfot Yom Tov) on this doubt, and answered that on Pesach, Shavuot and Succot there is, Above, a judgment on the needs of the public, and upon the grain, upon the fruits of the tree and on the water in general, but the specific judgment for each and person, how much will reach each and every individual in particular, this is only on Rosh haShana.

And behold you see that the opinion of the Zohar and the opinion of the masters of kabbalah do not have anything upon which to lean upon, but rather it is against, and contradicts, the opinion of our teachers {rabbotenu} z"l, the masters of kabbalah in truth.

The author: Speak, O blasphemer. And the Ramban z"l was not a true master of kabbalah? Do you also suspect him to be a man of deception?

{The guest:} "All his words were received by him from his teachers."

The author: And how do you swell your heart to deny the words of his kabbalah? This is only evilness of heart.

The guest: This is not evilness of heart, but rather of the obligation of an Israelite man to delve into and investigate as to the nature of the words which are said in kabbalah.

For there is yet kabbalah and kabbalah {tradition and tradition}, and the prophet {Amos} cries out and says {in Amos 2:4}:
ד כֹּה, אָמַר ה, עַל-שְׁלֹשָׁה פִּשְׁעֵי יְהוּדָה, וְעַל-אַרְבָּעָה לֹא אֲשִׁיבֶנּוּ: עַל-מָאֳסָם אֶת-תּוֹרַת ה, וְחֻקָּיו לֹא שָׁמָרוּ, וַיַּתְעוּם כִּזְבֵיהֶם, אֲשֶׁר-הָלְכוּ אֲבוֹתָם אַחֲרֵיהֶם. 4 Thus saith the LORD: For three transgressions of Judah, yea, for four, I will not reverse it: because they have rejected the law of the LORD, and have not kept His statutes, and their lies have caused them to err, after which their fathers did walk.
{thus they walked in the false ways of their fathers.}

Behold you see that it is an obligation upon us to investigate well every kabbalah {tradition}, to see if it was accepted by consensus with the general early kabbala from which we do not divert right or left.

If not for the fact that I see that my words weigh heavy upon you, and had I not known about you by rumor {/report}, I would have read upon you the verse {Mishlei 18:2}:
ב לֹא-יַחְפֹּץ כְּסִיל, בִּתְבוּנָה: כִּי, אִם-בְּהִתְגַּלּוֹת לִבּוֹ 2 A fool hath no delight in understanding, but only that his heart may lay itself bare.
However, I trust in your wisdom and in the quality of your ability to reason, that if you bring me into your house and hear my claimed person to person, you will no longer call me a denier {/heretic} and missing of faith, but rather you will call me a Jewish person complete {/simple} with his God, trustworthy in His covenant and keeping His faith.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt vii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The author agrees to continue the conversation, and suggests reading Shomer Emunim which contains a Vikuach. The guest dismisses this book. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The author: In order that you know that I am not of those who despise wisdom, I will not refrain from bringing you to my house and from hearing from your mouth all your invectives and blasphemies. And my heart is reliant and will not fear, for the God who knows my kidneys and the simpleness of my heart, He will be in my flank {?} and will guard my feet from being captured, and He will teach my hand to wage war, to fell all your claims to the earth, and also to return you from the way of ruin upon which you travel.

And it was, that we came to the place of lodging, this was the Succah, and breakfast was placed before us, and we ate and our hearts feasted, and thanks was given to He Who Sustains the entire world with His kindness and mercy. And I {=the author} opened my mouth and I said to the man who stood at my right side to oppose me: Behold how good and how pleasant, if you are a lover of truth, that we take to us the dear book Shomer Emunim and read in it the first dispute; for that Sage takes the time to bring there the claims of those who deny the kabbalah, and he answers them one by one.

And the man laughed and said: Forfend for us to waste our time reading that disputation, for the love of the author for the wisdom of kabbalah brings him to pervert the line, and to hide under his tongue bundles and bundles of claims that one can claim against the kabbalists, as well as answers that exist upon their dreams and their words.

And you should know that in truth I read and learned in it, but many times I needed to raise my voice as I read in it, to say: How great a pauper was this Shealtiel, and how many answers he could have answered and did not answer!

I {=the author} said to him: Do you not believe that there were to our Rabbis, the authors of the Mishna and the Talmud, secrets and hidden things which were not explained in the Mishna and the Talmud?

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt viii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) Is early kabbalah of Chazal the same as the kabbalah of the kabbalists? Where does this tradition start? The text of the Vikuach follows:

The guest: I do not deny this, and it is not hidden from me that there was already mention in the Talmud maaseh bereishit and maaseh merkava {Creation mysticism and Chariot mysticism}, and hidden Torah and the Ineffable Name, and the name composed of 12 letters and of 42 letters, and other matters which the Sages transmitted to the eminent of their students mouth to mouth. But I see that all these matters were already forgotten from our mouths because of the troubles of the Exile.

The author: This is only evilness of heart. And at the least, behold you see that your claims are only claims of "perhaps." And how can you rely on the claim that "perhaps they were forgotten," when there is before you a sure claim from so many giants of the world, where all of them testify and relate that it was not forgotten, and indeed the opposite, that they themselves received them from their Rabbis, until the Amoraim and Tannaim, and until Moshe Rabbenu, peace upon him?

The guest: The matter is not as you have said. For the kabbalists do not say that their wisdom is a tradition in their hands from the Amoraim and Tannaim. Rather, they say (Avodat haKodesh [age 33) that Eliyahu haNavi himself revealed to Rabbi David, the father of the Raavid, the author of the hasagot, and revealed to him all the secrets of the kabbalah, and that from him extended to the Raavad, who also merited to speak with Eliyahu, and from him the chain went afterwards to the Ramban and to the rest of the kabbalists.

And after the matter is so, behold you see that according to that which our Sages instructed us that "it is not in heaven," it is not for us to pay heed at all to the visions of the Raavad and his father, just as we do not pay heed at all to that which he, the Raavad, wrote in his glosses in the matter of a lopped-off hadas {myrtle}, and these are his words: "The divine inspiration {ruach hakodesh} has already arrived in our study hall and revealed to us that it is valid." End quote. And the Ramban himself, the head of the kabbalists, responded to his words and rejects his reasoning. Behold, you see how much the Ramban relied upon the ruach hakodesh of the Raavad.

The author: Perhaps he did not rely upon him in this matter, for in a matter of law {dina} we pay no heed to a bat kol, and it {=the Torah} is not in heaven. And the Rambam already wrote in the introduction to his commentary on the Mishna that if a prophet testifies that Hashem said to him that the law it such, that prophet is killed, for he is a false prophet.

But in the matter of the wisdom of truth, in which there is not in it what comes from the intellect of a person, perhaps he relied upon him.

And still, according to your words that you speak, that the Ramban did not rely at all upon the ruach hakodesh of the Raavad, behold you draw from this that not from the Raavad and from Eliyahu who was revealed to him did the chain of kabbalah extend to the Ramban. And if so you are compelled to admit that it did not come to him from the Heavens, but rather received mouth-to-mouth, man from the mouth of man, until the Tannaim and until the Prophets, peace be upon them. For when it comes down to it, I do not think that you suspect also the Ramban, they he invented it from his heart.

The guest
: Forfend for me to think such! And behold I agree with you that the Ramban, z"l, received his kabbalah from his teacher. But I do not agree with you that this kabbalah reached him via an unbroken chain, not until the prophets, and not even until the Amoraim.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt ix

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) They now discuss and debunk the chain of kabbalistic tradition mentioned by Rabbi Shem Tov ben Shem Tov in his sefer HaEmunot. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The author: This is only a claim of "perhaps," while the testimony of the Ramban and the rest of the greats of the world is a claim of certainty.

And furthermore, it is fit that you know that Rabbi Shem Tov ben Shem Tov in his sefer HaEmunot (gate 4, chapter 14) {which I found on, and so I include this chapter at the bottom of this post} brings a few of the secrets of the kabbalah in the name of Rav Kashisha Gaon from the seed of the Geonim in the city of Mechasia, who promulgated Torah in Puglia and there he died, and he transmitted them to his student, the pious Rabbenu Yehuda the holy, and he, Rabbenu Yehuda transmitted them to Rabbi Eliezer miGermaiza. Behold there is before you that the kabbalah extended in a chain until the geonim, about whom all their words are words of kabbalah.

Then the man's mouth was filled with mirth, and he said to me: How many bundles of dreams and vanities you say to me at one time! A Gaon from the Geonim of Bavel who promulgated Torah in the land of Puglia! Who ever heard such as this? And what is this that you said "a Gaon from the seed of the Geonim?" Are is it not true that the Geonim were not all from a single family, for they sought wisdom, and not lineage. And we have not found in the Geonate a continuous family line except for Rav Yehuda Gaon and Rav Chanina his son, and Rav Sherira his son, and Rav Hai his son, who was the latest of the Geonim.

And who is this Rav Kashisha Gaon? For we do not find this name to any one of the geonim. And it appears that R' Shem Tov invented this name from his heart, in order to mislead the simple, that they should believe that the gaon was a very early man, since his name is Kashisha whose meaning is "elder."

I answered him: It appears that a scribal error fell into the sefer haEmunot to Rabbi Shem Tov, and in place of Rav Kashisha it should have said Rav Sherira; know this, for behold in the openings to the sefer it is written Rav Sherira, and not Rav Kashisha.

The guest: Rav Sherira, at the end of his days, was still in Bavel, and not in Puglia. For he was 100 years old when the King of Ishmael seized him and hung him by one hand, and despoiled all their he had. And even if you say that he did not die by this, who will still believe that an elderly man, 100 years old, would leave the land of his bird, and while naked and missing everything, would put his steps to the road and travel to a distant land, and not dwell by his son who was a Gaon?

And besides all this, you should certainly know that Rav Sherira was a Gaon in Pumbedita, not of Mata Mechasia. And perhaps R' Shem Tov the kabbalist did not know that there were two great yeshivot in Bavel, one in Pumbedita and one in Mata Mechasia, which is Sura, and that there were at all times two Geonim, one in this city and one in that city. And it appears as well that he did not know that before the year 800 to the fifth millenium, the two yeshivot ceased to exist entirely, and no further Gaon arose.

Also he did not know that Rabbi Eliezer of Germaiza was 200 years after the death of the last of the Geonim, and it is not possible to say in any way that he received from one who received from the Geonim.

And furthermore, if R' Shem Tov knew who was the last of the Geonim of Mata Mechasia, he would not have said like this; for behold, the last Gaon of the Geonim of Sura was Rabbenu Shmuel ben Chofni, a man far removed from the vanities of the kabbalah, for he was a great philosopher, and he said that it is only fitting to believe that which the intellect compels him. (See Radak on Shmuel aleph, at the end of siman 28.) {I give the text of Radak at the end.}

And if the Gaon whom Rabbi Shem Tov mentioned is not this Rav Shmuel, then it was a different Gaon who was earlier than him, for after him there were no further Geonim. And if so, his time becomes more and more distant from the time of Rabbi Eliezer of Germaiza, and more and more is revealed the villainy of the kabbalists, who invent of their hearts things which have no foundation, to lift up the fools who do not see the light.

First Radak, and then scans and a brief discussion of sefer Emunot and whether Shadal is necessarily correct in his assertions.

Radak writes:
וראינו מחלוקת בין הגאונים בדבר הזה וכלם נשתוו כי מעשה האוב הבל ותוהו ודברי כזב והתול אבל יש מהם אומרים כי לא דבר שמואל עם שאול וחס ושלום לא עלה שמואל מקברו ולא דבר אבל האשה עשתה הכל ברמאות כי מיד הכירה כי שאול הוא אך להראות לו כי מצד החכמה הכירה ומצאה דבר זה אמרה למה רמיתני ואתה שאול ודרך בעלת אוב להביא בן אדם שמדבר מתוך מחבואו בלשון נמוך וכאשר בא שאול לדרוש מאתה וראתה אותו נבהל וידעה כי למחר יהיה יוצא למלחמה וכל ישראל היו בפחד גדול וידעה מה שעשה שאול שהרג כהני ה' שמה בפי המגיד הדברים הנאמרים בפרשה ומה שאמר ויאמר שמואל אל שאול על מחשבת שאול כי היה חושב כי שמואל היה המדבר אליו ומה שאמר ולא עשית חרון אפו בעמלק ידוע היה דבר זה כי מאותה שעה אמר לו שמואל וימאסך מהיות מלך ומה שאמר לרעך לדוד ידוע היה זה בכל ישראל כי דוד נמשח למלך ומה שאמר מחר אתה ובניך עמי מדרך סברא אמר זה, זהו פי' רב שמואל בן חפני הגאון ז"ל ואמר אף על פי שמשמעות דברי החכמים ז"ל בגמרא כי אמת היה שהחיתה האשה את שמואל לא יקובלו הדברים במקום שיש מכחישים להם מן השכל אבל רב סעדיה ורב האיי הגאונים ז"ל אמרו אמת הוא כי רחוק הוא שתדע האשה העתידות וכן שתחיה היא את המת בחכמת האוב אך הבורא יתברך החיה את שמואל כדי לספר לשאול את כל הקורות העתידות לבא עליו והיא האשה אשר לא ידעה בכל אלה נבהלה כמו שנאמר ותזעק בקול גדול ואשר אמרה האשה את מי אעלה לך דברי התולים הם כי דעתה היה לעשות כמנהגה אלה דבריהם, ויש לתמוה לדברי הגאונים האלה אם הקב"ה החיה את שמואל כדי לספר לשאול הקורות הבאות עליו למה לא אמר לו על ידי חלומות או על ידי אורים או על ידי הנביאים אלא על ידי אשה בעלת אוב ועוד איך היה נעלם משאול שהיה חכם ומלך אשר היו עמו כמה חכמים גדולים אם ענין אוב נעשה על ידי אדם מדבר מתוך מחבואו ומי יאמר שיטעה הוא בזה ואין זה הדעת מקבלו והנכון הוא מה שפירשנו:}

{The text of sefet haEmunot follows. I would suggest that Rabbi Shem Tov never meant to imply that this was an early Gaon. Rather, perhaps by Gaon gadol, he meant this is an informal honorific. And he used this honorific because this was a late person, descended from the Gaonim, but that it was transmitted father to son, avot levanim, as Rabbi Shem Tov says. And then, we need not even say it is from Rav Chofni ben Pinchas the philosopher, for since as Shadal mentioned, there was no specific yichus, he could have been descended from a previous Gaon, and this information was passed down in his family. Indeed, next, Shadal as the author suggests something similar, but perhaps he over-asserts, calling the entire defense into question. I like my response better. Even so, see what the guest responds, once it is established that this was not a Gaon from the time of the Geonim.

















The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt x

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) They finish debunking the chain of kabbalah from the sefer haEmunot, in turns of Rav Kashisha Gaon and then Rav Chamai Gaon. The guest claims there is not a single kabbalist before the year 856. And further that what the later kabbalists say is not what the early kabbalists say. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The author: Be silent, place your hand over your mouth. Perhaps this Rav Kashisha whom Rabbi Shem Tov mentioned was not himself a Gaon, but was rather after the completion of all the Geonim. But rather, he was from the seed of the Geonim, that is to say, his father, or his grandfather was a Gaon. And it is also possible that the intent was not a literal Gaon of the Geonim of Bavel, but rather that he was a great Rav and Sage, and he was called by the appellation Gaon, like Rashi and Rambam, and the rest of the gedolim who were called Geonim.

And so too, the ancestors of this Rabbi Kashiava, it is possible that all of them were great rabbis, in such a way that it is correct to say upon him that he was of the seed of Geonim.

The guest: Even in this I am willing to agree with you, as you admit to me that the fathers of kabbalah were not Geonim nor in the days of the Geonim, but rather some generation after the early yeshivot in Bavel ceased to exist, in the days in which the wisdom of our Sages was lost and the understanding of our wise ones was hidden, and the beliefs began to be corrupted via the Greek and Arab philosophies which grew strong in the land, and also via the sufferings which from the year 856 and on, for the great sufferings and the terror round-about confused the hearts.

And in truth, you will not find a single kabbalist before the year 856. Do you not see that Rashi (who died in 865) wrote in masechet Beitza (daf 16) in the matter of the extra soul {neshama} which the Sages mentioned, which comes to a person on the day of Shabbat, and these are his words: An expanded heart for peace and for happiness, and to be open for wellbeing, and he eats and he drinks, and his soul {nefesh} is not repulsed by it.

Behold, for you, how much he knew of the secrets of the kabbalah, this giant from whom nothing was hidden, whether in the wisdom of the written law or the wisdom of the oral law.

And further, in another place you will find to him that he admits, and is not embarrassed, that he does not know what is the Name of the 42 letters (Kiddushin daf 71), and this is a matter that schoolchildren know nowadays, if the truth is with the kabbalists.

The author: And what will you say when you see in sefer haEmunot to the aforementioned Rabbi Shem Tov, and also in the sefer haPardes to Rabbi Moshe Cordevero z"l, many secrets in the wisdom of the kabbalah which Rav Chamai Gaon wrote, and which Rav Hai Gaon wrote to Rav Paltoy Gaon?

The guest: I say that Rav Chamai did not exist and was never created, and no Sage whose name was such is found amongst the Geonim nor amongst the Rabbanan Savorai, and not even amongst the Sages of the Talmud. And I say that Rav Paltoi Gaon died 100 years before Rav Hai Gaon was born. {!!} And therefore I saw that one should not rely much upon the testimony of the sages of kabbalah, for they are established liars.

The author: The mouth of he who speaks falsehood should be shut up! And what will you say when you see with your eyes that Rav Hai Gaon, z"l, in the letter written in sefer Ein Yaakov (masechet Chagiga, perek Ein Doreshin) mentions Heichalot Rabbati and Heichalot Zutrati, and the author of the Kuzari (maamar 3, siman 65) mentions the sefer Heichalot, and Hakarat Panim, and Maaseh Merkava, and attributes them to Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha the Kohen Gadol. And also the Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra (in parshat Ki Tisa) mentions Shiur Komah. {All kabbalistic works.}

The guest: I admit about all these books that they came out from the hands of our Rabbis, even though I have not seen them, and I do not know if they agree with the opinions of the kabbalists or not. But this I have seen -- that Rabbi Yehuda haLevi and Ibn Ezra who saw them and established their early origin, did not maintain at all the positions of the kabbalists.

I also think that if these books supported the beliefs of the masters of kabbalah, the kabbalists would have already been swift to promulgate them in Israel, which they have not done. And in truth, I have read chapters of Heichalot and Midrash Konan, which were printed in sefer Arzei Levanon, and I did not find in them a single thing of all that the later kabbalists say.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xi

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) They now begin a discussion of how the "sefirot" of sefer Yetzirah has been misinterpreted. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The author: And how do you not admit to the early origin of our kabbalah? Is it not founded upon the Sefer Yetzirah, which is mentioned in the Talmud.

The guest: I admit to the early origin of sefer Yetzirah, and this is for two reasons. The first one is that it, alone, of all the books of kabbalah finds mention is in the Talmud. And the second one it that it alone of all the books of the kabbalists is written in a pure and clean language, which was the language of the Tannaim, which is not true regarding the rest of the books of kabbalah attributed to our Rabbis, all of which are written in a confused and mixed-up language combining Biblical language, Mishnaic language, the language of Talmud Bavli, the language of Talmud Yerushalmi, the language of Targum Onkelos, and the language of the later composers.

The author: How do you fill your heart to deny the wisdom of the kabbalah, after you admit that sefer Yetzirah is not forged?

The guest: And what is the connection of sefer Yetzirah to the wisdom of the kabbalah?

The author: All the wisdom of the kabbalah is founded upon it, and at the least, the 10 sefirot are mentioned in it.

The guest: The matter is so, that 10 sefirot are mentioned in it, but not like the thoughts of the kabbalists are the thoughts of the author of sefer Yetzirah. For he does not say in any place that the Sefirot are either Divinity or angels. Rather he says "10 sefirot" and does not explain more what is the intent of this name. And since he does not explain it, there is not for us except to explain it like its plain intent -- "Sefirot" as a language of number, and 10 Sefirot are the ten numbers from 1 to 10, which are the basis of all the numbers.

Do you not see in the beginning of his words "10 Sefirot of Belima {restraint?} like the number of the ten fingers." And how does he attach the number of those found above to the number of fingers, and what connection is there between one matter and the other.

Unless his intent was upon the numbers, which in truth are only ten because our fingers are ten, for the beginning of numbers {counting} is on fingers (as explains the sage
Coadillac {=Étienne Bonnot de Condillac} in the beginning of his book la langue des calculs).

And also that which he said that "there are ten Sefirot blima" demonstrates with a finger {=points out} that they are not things found actually manifest, but rather abstract conceptual things, which are not found outside the soul {nefesh}, for this is the implication of the language "beli ma." {=without substance}

And only according to this {understanding} is it true that which he said that "with them the Holy One, Blessed Be He, created his world." For if they are things found in manifested reality, how could he say that with them He created the world? Is it not the case that there was nothing before the creation except for He, Yitbarach, alone? Also, it is not possible to say that the Sefirot are themselves His Identity, Yitbarach, for he {=the author of sefer Yetzirah} says "and before His throne they prostrate themselves." If so, the only thing left to say is that they are in truth beli mah {without substance}, that is to say the numbers themselves, which are abstract concepts which have no existence except in the intellect. {J: It would be especially fitting to read up here on the competing doctrines of nominalism and realism.}

See further that he says "ten which have no end." And once he has already explained that they are not part of the Divinity, from that which he said "and before His throne they prostrate themselves," how is it possible that the were created and do not have an end? And is it not that everything which was Created, that nullifies {?} the possibility that it is without end {=infinite ?}.

And if you say that they are neither Divinity nor Created, but rather an Emanation, such that it is possible that they do not have an end -- this is also falsehood, for after they are more than one, they necessarily have an end and a boundary, for it is not possible to something to be infinite except one. {J: Presumably because if there is more than one, then one would intrude upon the other.}

If so, they can only be abstract concepts, such as Time and Place, which are things which have no end, for they do not exist in reality.

And further, if the Sefirot are in truth manifest honored upper entities {?}, like the opinion of kabbalists, what connection do they have with the 22 letters, which are only signs for the sounds of of articulation, and what is the relationship between this and that, to the extent that the author of Sefer Yetzirah says that via these and these Hakadosh Baruch Hu created His world?

Is not all of this what would prove to anyone who has an olive's measure in his skull that the author of the sefer Yetzirah did not intend with the "ten Sefirot" he mentioned anything other that the ten number. And thus, like the distance of East from West are his thoughts from the thoughts of the kabbalists.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt. xii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) They continue their discussion/explanation of sefer Yetzirah and the "Sefirot" (numbers) therein, relating them to Pythagoras. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The author: I have remained silent until now, to that perhaps I would hear from your mouth a new position in the explanation of the sefer Yetzirah, which would sit well on the intellect more, and more than the position of the kabbalists. And behold, you have only related to me dreams and vanities, things of emptiness which have no substance in them at all. And in truth, how shall I bring into my mind that via the numbers and the letters Hakadosh Baruch Hu created his world? And you have already admitted that the numbers are nothing, and also the letters are nothing, if they are not written on paper. And in what way would the power of these abstract concepts grow, such that via them the entire world would come out from nothingness into existence? Is it not that these are things which the intellect does not accept in any fashion, and they appear in my eyes like joke and jest, nothing less.

The guest: Wait for me until I finish for you the explanation of the matter, and the words are made clear to you as noon. And the first thing I will relate to you is that that which I said, and that which I will say to you in the future, in explanation of sefer Yetzirah -- these words do not come out of my own heart, but rather all of them are the words of the honored Sage, the first of all the kabbalists, is he not Rabbi Yehuda haLevi, in his book sefer ha-Kuzari, upon whom they have already said that all his words are fine flour {solet}, and there is not in them chaff {pesolet}. Find his words in maamar 4, siman 25. And behold I will relate to you his opinion with a bit of added explanation.

Already, the early philosophers such as Pythagoras {lived about 580 - 490 BCE} and his band {=colleagues and disciples} attached to the secret {sod} of numbers the beginning of all that is found.

{To cite Wikipedia for an example, to perhaps get a sense of this:

One of Pythagoras' beliefs was that the essence of being is number. Thus, being relies on stability of all things that create the universe. Things like health relied on a stable proportion of elements; too much or too little of one thing causes an imbalance that makes a being unhealthy. Pythagoras viewed thinking as the calculating with the idea numbers. When combined with the Folk theories, the philosophy evolves into a belief that Knowledge of the essence of being can be found in the form of numbers. If this is taken a step further, one can say that because mathematics is an unseen essence, the essence of being is an unseen characteristic that can be encountered by the study of mathematics.


The author: You overstep your bounds, not not further speak to me in this matter.

And how do you knowingly sin to desecrate the sanctified, and to mix the secrets of the Torah, which are hinted at in sefer Yetzirah, with the vanities of the philosophers, upon whom a day-old infant can mock? And how does it enter on your hear that the thoughts of Pythagoras are the same as the thoughts of the author of the sefer Yetzirah? And how do you not see that Pythagoras and his colleagues, with all their secrets which they discovered in numbers, in all their days did not create a small gnat. And the opposite are the Sages of the Talmud, when they engaged in sefer Yetzirah, they created calves and men? Do you not see, if you have eyes, that like the height of heaven over the earth, such is the height of the ways of sefer Yetzirah from the ways of Pythagoras and his students. And if so, the ten sefirot of sefer Yetzirah are not at all the ten numbers, like you said in impetuousness, but rather they are lofty matters, whose knowledge is hidden from me and you, and is revealed to those who know grace.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xiii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest attributes the position that the Sefirot are simply numbers to the Rabbi Yehuda haLevi, author of sefer haKuzari. The author responds that Rabbi Yehuda haLevi did not know the true meaning of Sefirot, since it was not popularized in his generation. The guest points out that the kabbalistic conception of Sefirot does not accord with certain language used in sefer Yetzirah; and further that kabbalists never created anything big or small via sefer Yetzirah. The author now attempts to prove that the chachmei haSefirot existed in the time of Rav Saadia Gaon, a claim the guest will debunk in the next segment. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The guest: Let us put aside the philosophers, and now come and I will establish you on the substance of the intent of sefer Yetzirah based on the opinion of the lofty sage Rabbi Yehuda haLevi, who revealed to us the correct explanation and which sits well on the intellect, more than all that is written in this matter.

It is an important foundation to the author of sefer Yetzirah that all that Hashem wants He does, and all that He imagines in His thoughts He causes to come into existence for its time, without and other labor: Therefore, when he {=the author of sefer Yetzirah} comes to inform us in his book the matter of creation {yetzira}, he only mentioned 32 paths of wondrous knowledge, by which the world was created, and these are the ten numbers and the twenty two letters. And the reason is that when the Master of all contemplated decided in His Heart what He wished to create, He would set bounds for each and every matter its quality and quantity, and the author of the sefer Yetzirah hinted to the qualities with letters, for the letters, when you join them together to form words, inform about the name and the substance of things; and he hints to quantity with numbers, and the matter is plain that the numbers inform about the quantities of things.

{J: An interjection here, for a definition of terms. Sefer Yitzirah 2:4 reads:
"He set the fundamental twenty-two letters in a wheel, as a wall, in two-hundred-and-thirty-one gates. The wheel moves forward and backward. And the sign of the matter is: "There is nothing in goodness above pleasure and nothing in misfortune below a [leprous] lesion."

231 gates is arrived at as follows.
22 * 21, since there are 22 choices for the first letter and 21 choices for the second letter. This equals 462. Divide by 2 because we treat AB as identical to BA, and we have 231 combinations, which are called "gates."

And behold, according to what the Master of all joins in His Heart the letters via the 231 gates and their descendants, so too immediately and instantly the substance combines and bonds as is fitting in the Eyes of the Creator to do. And according to how He combines the numbers in His Heart, so do the created stand in that measure which arose in thought before Him.

And if we were able, when speaking the word "man," {?? or perhaps, "when speaking human speech"} to bring out its form, we would be capable of the Divine speech, and we would be creators.

And a simple example of this matter is already apparent in terms of the movement of our limbs. For it is enough that a person imagines in his heart to move one of his limbs in some movement, and immediately, the nerves move the arteries and the arteries move the cords {?muscles?} and the cords move the hand or the foot, or whatever the person wishes to move. {Note: I am sure I did not translate the biological terms correctly here, since such specific medical terms might not be the same in modern Hebrew. To be fixed -- and any help is appreciated. Here is a history of nerves and another one -- by Shadal's day, they knew all about nerves transmitting electrical signals from the brain and causing muscle contraction.}

And those {Talmudic} Sages who were in truth creators did not create with their wisdom {chochma} nor did they perform actions by which creator of something would be compelled, as the simple think, and those who grant the honor of the Creator to his creations, and His praise to sons of man; rather, because of their righteousness and their piety, Hakadosh Baruch Hu fulfilled their desires, and He was the one who made it so that all that arose in their thoughts came out immediately into reality; such that when they were engaged in sefer Yetzirah, and they contemplated in their hearts the qualities of the thing they wished to create and its quantity, their thoughts went out to actuality, not because of their {using this} wisdom, but rather from Hashem's love for them.

This is the primary idea of sefer Yetzirah, and therefore you do not find that he says in any place, "when you come to create, do such-and-such," for he knew that this matter was not in the hands of man, but rather to Hashem alone.

The author: These words were fitting for the one who said them. And behold this is a very beautiful proffering of Rabbi Yehuda haLevi, in order to bring the matters close to the intellect, since he never saw in his days the lights of the kabbalah. But we, upon whom the light of the true received wisdom has shined from our ancient ones, there is no doubt that we should not set aside the certain in order to take the doubtful.

The guest: There are two answers to the matter. Firstly, that the words of sefer Yetzirah are not explained at all according to the opinions of the kabbalists. For behold, if you say that the Sefirot are themselves Divinity, how does he say "and before His throne they prostrate themselves?" And if the Sefirot are all bounded creations, how did he say that they have no end? And is it not so that everything created is perforce something something that is finite. And the second answer is that we have never heard about of of the congregation of kabbalists that he created something, neither a small thing nor a large thing.

{J: There are stories of questionable accuracy about the Maharal of Prague and the Vilna Gaon creating golems.}

The author: I see that you are a wise man in your own eyes, in the same fashion as the fools who never saw lights {meorot of kabbalah} in their days. If this is not so, how does it enter your heart that you will descend to the depths of sefer Yetzirah more that the geniuses of the land who were before me and before you? And further, how do you not see that the faith of the kabbalists in the matter of the Sefirot was received in their hands from the first {=earlier} generations? Do you not to to Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra in the introduction to his commentary on the Torah, that he said that Rabbenu Saadiah Gaon (such that this was the year 900) in the commentary of {Bereishit 1:14}

יד וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, יְהִי מְאֹרֹת בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמַיִם, לְהַבְדִּיל, בֵּין הַיּוֹם וּבֵין הַלָּיְלָה; וְהָיוּ לְאֹתֹת וּלְמוֹעֲדִים, וּלְיָמִים וְשָׁנִים. 14 And God said: 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years;
extends to talk based on the wisdom of the Sefirot.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xiv

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The author just claimed that Ibn Ezra cited Rav Saadia Gaon about the chachmei haSefirot, so it must be that this kabbalistic notion is as old as that. The guest now shows that that phrase chachmei haSefirot in context refers to astronomers. Then, he turns to the topic of gilgul, and how Rav Saadia Gaon condemned this belief as foolish. The author suggests that this is because kabbalah was not as revealed, so Rav Saadia Gaon did not know of this kabbalistic belief. The guest shows that he did know of this belief in all its particulars, but nonetheless condemns it. Then, he notes that Rambam condemns the kabbalistic practice of combining letters and claiming it is a Divine Name. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The guest: Forged evidence such as this I despair to bear and I am almost worried about about the sin of not bearing a false report.

Do you still not know what is intended by Rabbi Ibn Ezra with the phrase chachmei haSefirot? Go and seek out the verse {Bereishit 1:14}

יד וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, יְהִי מְאֹרֹת בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמַיִם, לְהַבְדִּיל, בֵּין הַיּוֹם וּבֵין הַלָּיְלָה; וְהָיוּ לְאֹתֹת וּלְמוֹעֲדִים, וּלְיָמִים וְשָׁנִים. 14 And God said: 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years;
and see if the Sefirot he mentions are the same ones as the Sefirot that the kabbalists mention.

{The author now relates:} And I took the commentary of Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra on the Torah and I searched out the verse יְהִי מְאֹרֹת, and I found his writing: "And if someone asks, do not the chachmei haSefirot say that the planet Tzedek {=Jupiter} and all the planets except for Kochav {=Mercury} and Nogah {=Venus} are larger than the moon, and so how can you say הַגְּדֹלִים, the large ones?"

And the man {=the guest} said to me: And how can you not see that the Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra called chachmei haSefirot {perhaps spheres} to the sages of astronomy? And so too you find to him in other places if you seek out in his commentaries. And when it comes down to it, is it not so that that which he says in his introduction is something to be learned from its matter, that Rabbenu Saadia upon the verse יְהִי מְאֹרֹת speaks in matters of astronomy.

And I, even though you speak to me so haughtily, I do not suspect you either of foolishness or dishonesty, when you bring lying proofs such as this. But rather I think that you previously saw them brought down in one of the books of the kabbalists, which you is the straightness of your heart did not know how much they are established liars and dissemblers.

Not like these, however, are the proofs which stand by my right side to support me when I deny the earliness of the kabbalah.

Do you not know that one thing of the faith of the kabbalists, and that one which is most popularized by the hamon {common folk}, in their simple understanding, is the belief in gilgul {transmigration of souls}. And now come and see what Rabbenu Saadia Gaon wrote in his honored sefer, sefer haEmunot veHaDeot, at the end of the sixth maamar.

And I took sefer haEmunot, and the man read in it before me these words. "But I say that there are men of those who are called Jews who say something which is a change and they call it a copy {i.e. something not new}, and the substance of it by them is that the spirit of Reuven returns to Shimon and afterwards to Levi and afterwards to be in Yehuda. And there are many of them who says that there are times that the spirit of a man is in an animal, and the spirit of an animal in a man, and many things of this type of craziness and confusion. And I have looked at what they say in this maamar, and I have found four mistakes, etc., etc. And the simpletons do not understand, etc. And I would lift my words from their lightness of their thoughts, and would be loftier than their lack {presumably and not address them}, if not for my fear of the persuasion.

I {=the author} answered him: In those first days, the wisdom of the kabbalah was in truth a kabbalah {received wisdom}, that is to say it was received from one mouth to another {orally}, and not written. Therefore, it is possible, and indeed possible, that Rabbenu Saadiah, with the breadth of his wisdom in the wisdom of the Written Law and also the Oral Law which was already written in his days in a book, did not merit to receive the secrets of the kabbalah from a kabbalist Sage.

The guest: Rabbenu Saadia was not without knowledge of the belief in gilgul, since he mentions it in all its specifics and particulars, and with all the proofs which are brought to establish it and to supports it. But rather he says that this is not a traditional belief in the nation, but rather than it is the opinion of a few men who are "called" Jews, that is to say that they are not Jews in truth.

To what is this matter comparable? To that which the kabbalists say that the secrets of the kabbalah were not revealed to the Rambam, for he did not merit to receive them from a true kabbalist, and therefore his thoughts are not like their thought. And this, however, is lies and dissembling, for the Rambam in his sefer Moreh {=Nevuchim} already mentions one of the cornerstones of the wisdom of kabbalah, but he talks at length to mock it.

And I {= the author} took the sefer Moreh {Nevuchim}, and the man read before me in the first volume {chelek}, chapter 61, like these words: "And it should not enter your thoughts the craziness of the writers of amulets and what you hear from them or that you find in their various books; and of the Names which they compose they do not refer to anything in any fashion, and they call them Names, and they think that they {=these purported Divine Names} require holiness and purity, and that they do wondrous things. All these matters are not proper for a complete individual to hear, all the more so to believe in them."

He read further before me in the chapter which followed it, and this is its language: "And when these evil, simple men found these words, they expanded for themselves the falsehood and the saying, which they could collect whatever letters they wished and say that this was a "Name," which one could do and perform when one writes or utters this appellation. And afterwards they wrote these lies which the original simpletons invented of their own hearts, and these books were copied to the good people, soft of heart, the fools, who did not have by them balances by which to know the truth from the falsehood, and they hid them and they were found where they were abandoned, and it was thought about them that they were truth. And in the end, a simple person will believe anything.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xv

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) In response to Rambam's blasting of kabbalistic concepts, the author suggests this was due to his being influenced by philosophy. The guest disagrees and notes that that one cannot say the same for Rav Saadia Gaon. Then he notes how Masaot Binyamin calls a belief of a certain nation foolishness, when that belief is extremely close to gilgul. This proves that gilgul was not a traditional Jewish belief. The text of the Vikuach follows:

I answered him: There is not from all this any proof at all against the earliness of the wisdom of kabbalah, for the Rambam z"l because of the spirit of philosophy, filled his heart to deny, via the estimation of his thoughts, many things which were received {mekubalim} and established in the nation. And what do you want? Does he not also deny the existence of demons {shedim}, whose existence is well-known in the words of our Rabbis, z"l; and he denies the existence of magic, whose existence in well-known in the Torah itself.

The guest: The Rambam does not deny, forfend, that which is in the Torah, but rather explains its words in a way which agrees with the intellect. For still, the Torah does not explain to us explicitly if there is actual substance in magic, or whether it is only stratagems and trickery.

But let us set aside the Rambam. Is there not Rabbenu Saadia? Do not tell me that he denied because of the estimation of his own thoughts that which came to him as tradition {kabbalat} of the nation. For there is none like him, faithful for all the words of our teachers z"l. If so, admit to me that since he mocks the belief in gilgul, there is no doubt that the matter was clear to he that this was not a received tradition faith in the nation.

And no, go please, I will take you to another place, where you will see from it that the belief in gilgul was not established in our nation of old, but rather it was well known by them that this thought was nullified.

Do you not know Rabbi Binyamin, the author of the Masaot {=Masaot Binyamin, from Rabbi Binyamin bar Yonah of Toledo ?} who was older than the Rambam, and was not a philosopher, but rather was a man upright with his God and with the traditions {kabalat} of his fathers. And now, take to me his Masaot, and I will show you his words.

And I took the sefer Masaot of Rabbi Binyamin, and the man read before me like these words:

"And close to them about 10 mils is a certain nation which fights with the residents of Sidon, and this nation is called Durziin (*), and they are called Paganos heretics, and they lack faith and religion, and they are steeped in sexual impropriety, with the father taking his daughter, etc.; and their belief is that they say that the soul, at the time it leaves the body of a good person, enters into the body of a small child who is born at that time that the soul leaves his body. And if he is a wicked person, it enters into the body of a dog or into the body of an animal. This is their foolish way." End quote.

And the man {=the guest} added and said to me: And if the belief in gilgul was a traditional one in the nation in the days of Rabbi Binyamin, how would he swell his heart to call the beliefs on those nations foolishness, which are only slightly distant from the opinions of the kabbalists?

(*) The Sage Rabbi Avraham Ashaer in his edition and insights to the Masaot of Rabbi Binyamin that the intent is on the Drusii.

{J: If this means the Druse, then here is some more information about the Druse religion and transmigration of souls. But that book says the Druse differ from the Manicheans by not holding that souls transmigrate into the souls of animals. According to this work, this is also true; and Rabbi Binyamin confused these people with the inhabitants of Khandy (Ceylon):

It is interesting to note in this connection that Benjamin of Tudela calls the inhabitants of Khandy (Ceylon) by the same name as the people around Sidon—Druzes. He was probably impressed by the similarity of belief in transmigration among the two peoples and concluded that they must have been the same.

Those people do belief in transmigration of souls into the bodies of animals.

Or perhaps he meant the Druids? I don't know. Tzarich Iyun. Regardless, the guest's point is a valid one.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xvi

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The author suggests that the author of Masaot Binyamin mocks gilgul because it he did not know the truth that it was a secret traditional Jewish belief. The guest wonders why they would conceal it them, and also posits that it contradicts the words of Chazal in Talmud. Then, he notes that Rabbi Yedaya haPenini writes to the Rashba in defense of philosophy that it will help disprove gilgul. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The author: Have I not told you that the kabbalah in the early days was only transmitted in secret from the mouth of one kabbalist sage to the ear of an intelligent kabbalist?! Perforce, it is not farfetched that the belief in gilgul was a secret which was hidden from Rabbi Binyamin the author of the Masaot.

The guest: I do not see any reason to conceal the belief in gilgul from the common folk. And behold, in these generations it is well-known among the ignorant folk, and it does not harm their faith at all, but rather aids them in certain ways.

Do you think that the later kabbalists were wiser than their earlier teachers? That they {=the early kabbalists} thought that there was some danger to the common folk in promulgating this belief, and those these {in our generation} understand that its promulgation is good and helpful.

And still, my master, behold I see that this belief was also held back and hidden from our teachers, the sages of the Talmud.

Is it not so that in many places they said "the son of David {=Mashiach} will not come until all the souls in the body finish, and if it entered their minds that the souls which descend into the bodies which are born are not entirely new, how did they not understand that there is no substance in their statement at all? For if the souls transmigrate time after time from one body to the next body, when will the souls in the body end, and when will the son of David come? And is it not possible that the souls will transmigrate generation after generation, and the son of David will still not come in all the days of the earth's existence. And how did they encourage the nation to engage in being fruitful and multiplying in order to bring the redemption closer, for the reason that the son of David will not come until all the souls in the body finish? And is it not so that since most of those born are partial sinners and require gilgul to fix that which they perverted. It thus occurs that one who establishes a single son in fact delays the redemption and does not hurry it; for this son who is born will come to close the door for two new souls who were prepared to leave from the body, and are not able to leave, in order to make room for the sinful soul to return to dwell on earth until the end of its filth.

See how the belief in gilgul contradicts and casts down to earth the words of our teachers, the Sages of the Talmud.

The author: There is no doubt by those upright in their hearts that these matters are encompassed within those sheep {?} of the All-Merciful, extremely deep such that who will find them, and they are acquired via faith in the Sages and not in pilpul {casuistry} of students such as you and me, who have not even reached to be shepherds.

The guest: Another one I will please relate to you, that so new is this belief within the children of Israel, and so distant is it from being a traditional belief in our nation from days of old, that the magnificent advocate {? -- melitz} Rabbi Yedaya haPenini, the author of Bechinat Olam, when he came to advocate on behalf of philosophy in a written apologetic which he sent to the Rashba (since he {=the Rashba} placed under a ban anyone who learned that wisdom before he was 25 years old) was not ashamed nor afraid from mentioning before that Rav (who was a kabbalist) that one of the purposes of the wisdom of philosophy is that it contradicts and makes a lie the belief in gilgul. Take to me the sefer Teshuvot haRashba, and I will show you the language, for it is lengthy.

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest now reads the letter of Rabbi Yedaya to the Rashba (a kabbalist), which defends philosophy by saying that it will move people away from the heretical belief in gilgul, and then explains the problems with gilgul. The assumption is that gilgul is not a traditional kabbalistic belief. Then he shows that Rabbi Shem Tov (an eminent early kabbalist) calls gilgul "something which is not fitting for anyone of intellect to introduce into his heart." This also suggests that gilgul, believed by all later kabbalists, is not a received kabbalistic belief. The text of the Vikuach follows:

And I {=the guest} took the sefer Teshuvot haRashba, and the man read before me from siman 418 about the the apologetic writing of רבי ידעיה הבדרשי and these are his words:

"And within this purpose is also the annulling of that which a few of the early ones believed, according to what is mentioned in sefer haNefesh, about transmigration of souls, and this is the opinion in which they say that the soul transmigrates from one body to another. Some of them think that this is even from the body of one species to the body of another species. And they say that the soul of a horse, for example, could possible migrate after a while to the soul of a dog, or immediately after it leaves, we do not know how they distinguish in this. And so too we do not know if those who maintain this belief dissent as to whether the soul of one species can enter the body of man, or the human soul into the body of some other species, or if they only extend to matter to within different species of animal. {But no cross-overs of human and animal, which would be difficult presumably because of different types of souls.} And some of them do not depart that much, but rather say that it transmigrates from one body to another within a single species, and from this they say about the soul of Reuven who dies that it manifests itself in the body of Shimon.

And behold, these wondrous truths have prevailed upon these positions to erase them, where the aim of nullifying them is extremely clear in faith, for many reasons.

First of all, that it is wickedness and perversion, and forfend to attribute to God, to establish that the soul of one who dies in his righteousness should return to manifest in the body of another who perhaps will be wicked, such that by law he should be punished; or if He rewards one who was initially righteous {in a previous incarnation} but is now completely wicked, behold it will be even worse. {For where is true reward and punishment for deeds?}

And so is it perversion in the law of one who dies in his wickedness if he returns to manifest in the body of another who is righteous, and he should, according to law, be recompensed that which is fitting to him of the punishment for that which the previous one {incarnation} had perverted, but if this one is punished for the wickedness of his soul in a different body, it would be worse within the law of uprightness, and it would be an instance of bad things happening to a righteous man for an incorrect cause.

And he shows it is true with true proofs that each body is matched with only a single unique soul, which is recompensed or punished in accordance with its conduct, and this is the complete uprightness {i.e. as it should be}.

And another thing which nullifying this belief can accomplish is that this {belief} can lead to weakening a person from endeavoring in the service of God, and even at the beginning of his time, for he will think about his soul which was found when not in him, and he will think that if it sinned in the other, the punishments will come to him upon that which he did no wrong with his own hands, and he will be in turmoil on this and stand always in fear and weak hands from this. And so too if when it was in the other body it was righteous, behold it will arise that his time will be good and sweet because of the recompense of the previous righteousness,

and he will be negligent as a result from adding more. For many men improve their way in hope of reward and from fear of punishment.

And furthermore, when many times the troubles jump upon one who thinks himself to be pure and righteous, but with all this is not so sure of himself, he will increase to suspect his own soul {=self}, and judge that there were hidden sins {which he performed in this lifetime, which is his only lifetime} upon which he is being punished, and behold because of this there will increase confessions and repentance. But with this belief {in gilgul} he will certainly be compelled to attribute his tribulations to the wickedness of his soul in another another body, and he will begin to blame, because of his suffering, the conduct on High {that he is suffering through no fault of his own} and to decree upon himself completions {? to make up for this unfair sufferings}, and this will be a cause of neglect from repentance.

And furthermore, this {belief in gilgul} will harm one of the cornerstones of our strong faith, and that is resurrection of the dead. For if there is found within two or three souls only a single soul, how will both or all three of them live at once? For to each living thing there is perforce but one soul, etc." End quote.

And the man {=the guest} added and said: And how did the heart of Rabbi Yedaya swell to speak such words before the Rashba who was a kabbalist, in a letter which he wrote to turn away from himself his {=the Rashba's} wrath in which he was angry with those engaged in outside wisdoms? Unless it was clear to him that the belief in gilgul was not a traditional belief in our nation of old, even according to the kabbalists themselves?

And when it comes down to it, how can you say to me that there was to the kabbalists a true tradition {kabbalah} in the matter of gilgul?

Take to me the sefer haEmunot of Rabbi Shem Tov and see.

{The author now narrates:} And I went and took the sefer haEmunot of Rabbi Shem Tov, and he found written in it (gate 7, chapter 8): "Know that that which a few of the early ones thought that there is transmigration from man to beast, I have also found to a few people who travel the paths of kabbalah, something which is not fitting for anyone of intellect to introduce into his heart."

And the man said to me: And behold, the entire congregation of later kabbalists believe with a complete belief in the gilgul of souls from man to beast, and behold they believe something which according to the opinion of one of the eminent early kabbalists is not fitting for any person of intellect to enter into his heart. And where is their agreement, and where is their tradition {kabbalah}?

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) Does dispute show there is no tradition? What about machlokes in the Mishnah and Gemara? The guest draws a distinction. The author then brings the chain of tradition of kabbalah brought down in the sefer Brit Menuchah, and the guest shows some chronological improbabilities or impossibilities in the account. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The author: There is nothing to be astounded at in this, for also our teachers the authors of the Mishna and the Talmud were masters of true kabbalah, and they also many times argue one on the other in their opinions.

The guest: If they argue, they only argue in particulars which did not come to them in tradition {kabbalah}, or which were forgotten.

The author: There is in my hand the sefer Brit Menucha, upon which the Arizal said that all its words are words of Divine Inspiration {ruach hakodesh}, and I recall that he mentions in his introduction the order of the chain of tradition of the wisdom of kabbalah from the first generations. And now, I will show it to you, and you will put your eyes upon his words.

And I arose to take the sefer, and the man came after me in order to see my library {?}. And I took the sefer Brit Menucha, and I read before him in the introduction, and these are his words there: "And Ezra and his court transmitted it to Shemaya and Avtalyon, etc., and Shemaya and Avtalyon transmitted it to Hillel and Shammai, and this Hillel was Nearyah, of the descendants of David from the seed of the kingship who is mentioned in Divrei haYamim, etc. And Rabbi Akiva to Rabbi Yehuda haNasi, until it reached the hand of Rabbi Shimon." End quote.

{The reference is to Divrei haYamim I 3:22-23:
וּבְנֵי שְׁכַנְיָה, שְׁמַעְיָה; וּבְנֵי שְׁמַעְיָה, חַטּוּשׁ וְיִגְאָל וּבָרִיחַ וּנְעַרְיָה וְשָׁפָט--שִׁשָּׁה. כג וּבֶן-נְעַרְיָה, אֶלְיוֹעֵינַי וְחִזְקִיָּה וְעַזְרִיקָם--שְׁלֹשָׁה.
And the man laughed and said: How many bundles of mistakes are said in these two lines, which were {purportedly} written with ruach hakodesh! May lips of falsehood fall silent! And behold, first of all, he speaks falsehood when he said that Ezra and his court transmitted it to Shemaya and Avtalyon, who were at the very least 300 years after him, and if by way of miracle the matter was such, rabbenu hakadosh {=Rabbi Yehuda haNasi} would not have omitted mention of it in perek {of Avot} Moshe received the Torah from Sinai, for a great strengthening comes out to us from this in the matter of the truth of the Oral Law.

The author: Have you forgotten that we find in the Talmud, that Rabbi Dosa ben Hyrcanus who was in the generation of the destruction of the Second Temple testified that upon this seat sat Chaggai the prophet? {J: See here. And perhaps, based on the context in Yevamot 16a, it means that he dealt with this issue. In which case it need not be eyewitness testimony. לשבת על המדוֹכה פירושו להתעמק בבעיה, לבחון אותה לעומק ולמצוא לה את הפתרון הנכון. But this is not how Shadal takes it.}

The guest: This was known to him by tradition from his fathers. And if you wish to believe that he saw with his eyes Chaggai the prophet, and that Ezra transmitted to Shemaya and Avtalyon, the permission is in your hands.

And what will you answer about the second? Hillel was Nearyah? And did he not begin his Nesiut {prince-ship} only 100 years before the destruction of the Second Temple, and he was the community leader of Israel for 40 years. If so, he was born 180 years before the destruction, and how can it be believed that he was of those mentioned in sefer Divrei haYamim which was written in Bavel in the days of the exile, before the building of the {Second} Temple of in the beginning of the Second Temple, more than 200 years before Hillel was born?

The author
: When it comes down to it, do you not see that there is mentioned in Divrei haYamim six generations from Zerubavel and on, and Zerubavel was conceived in Bavel, according to the words of our teachers. And it is difficult according to the normal way of the world that six generations are born in 70 years. If so, what shall we say? Rather, a bit of that genealogy was added to sefer Divrei haTamim a few generations after the closing of the sefer and after the construction of the Second Temple. And now it is not difficult to us any more to believe that Hillel the elder was mentioned in Divrei haYamim.

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest continues his critique of the chain of kabbalah given in the sefer Brit Menucha, a sefer which the Ari said was written with ruach hakodesh. He argues that Nearyah in Divrei haYamim could not be Hillel, for why would they change his name. And further, they get the genealogy wrong, for Hillel was not a descendant from the male side but from the females, and not from Shlomo but from Shefatiah ben Avital. And transmission from Rabbi Akiva to Rabbi Yehuda haNasi is impossible, since the latter was born the day the former was born. The guest then proceeds to critique a tefillah which purports to be from Rabbi Yishmael Kohen Gadol. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The guest: And why did the sages of the Mishna and the Talmud not reveal to us all this honor which was done to one of the pillars of the Oral Law, that his name is mentioned in the Holy Writings? And why did they {=the chachmei haMishnah} change his name, and not call him Nearyah but rather Hillel? Did they do this in order to conceal the glory of his greatness?

And what will you answer about the third {point}? Hillel was Nearyah from the seed of Zerubavel, from the seed of royalty, from the seed of Shlomo? But do we not find in the Talmud that Rabbenu haKadosh {=Rabbi Yehuda haNasi} (who was seventh from Hillel) was not from the seed of Shlomo, but rather from the seed of Shefatiah ben Avital, and also this genealogy was not to Hillel from his father's side but rather from his mother's side, for so do they say in Yerushalmi (which is brought down by Tosafot in the beginning of Sanhedrin) that the Exilarch was from the males and the Prince in Eretz Yisrael was from the females. And in Bereishit Rabbah (parasha 33) it is made explicitly clear that Rabbenu HaKadosh was from Yehuda from the female side, but from the male side he was from Binyamin.

And what will you answer about the fourth {point of difficulty}? Rabbi Akiva transmitted to Rabbi Yehuda haNasi? Is it not so that on the day Rabbi Akiva died Rabbenu haKadosh {=Rabbi Yehuda haNasi} was born?

The author: This is difficult.

The guest: And there is furthermore a fifth: "Until it came to the hand of Rabbi Shimon": And who was this Rabbi Shimon? And it is known that Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai (who is the "plain" Rabbi Shimon) was of the students of Rabbi Akiva and of the teachers of Rabbenu HaKadosh {=Rabbi Yehuda haNasi}, and when he says "until it came to the hands of Rabbi Shimon" it appears that it passed further several generations after Rabbi {Yehuda haNasi} until Rabbi Shimon, while he was in truth in the days of the father of Rabbi, and not in the days of his son or his grandson.

Is the intellect capable of bearing all these nonsenses? And all these dreams and vanities were written with ruach hakodesh?

{Relates the author:} And I took the sefer and returned it to the ark, to the place where it was before, and the man lifted his eyes to see my sefarim, and he reads the names printed upon the sefarim, and he saw the sefer Amtachat Binyamin, and he said to me, "what is this? For I do not know this from beforehand." And I said to him that it is a kabbalistic book.

And the man went and turning through the pages until he reached the end of the book, and he say and behold was written: "An awesome prayer from Rabbi Yishmael the Kohen Gadol." And he said, "behold, this is new, I have not heard of this until today. I will arise and read this awesome prayer."

And while engaged in this, I happened to eat lunch, and the man also came and sat with bread in the shade of my succah, and he was not an insubordinate person at that hour.

And he took in his lap the sefer Amtachat Binyamin, to read upon the bread the awesome prayer.

{J: Note that it is much better and understandable if read in Hebrew rather than my rough translation, given the nature of the analysis.}

And the man say on my left side to oppose me, and he ate and drank, but did not drink wine, and from time to time he took the sefer and read the awesome prayer from Rabbi Yishmael the Kohen Gadol, and this is its language: "Please, Hashem, God of Israel, ruler in the Higher and Lower realms, close to all who call You in truth and simplicity, who saves the poor from him that is strong, and the poor and the needy from him that robs him."

{Based on מַצִּיל עָנִי, מֵחָזָק מִמֶּנּוּ; וְעָנִי וְאֶבְיוֹן, מִגֹּזְלוֹ in Tehillim 35:10:

י כָּל עַצְמוֹתַי, תֹּאמַרְנָה-- יְהוָה, מִי כָמוֹךָ:
מַצִּיל עָנִי, מֵחָזָק מִמֶּנּוּ; וְעָנִי וְאֶבְיוֹן, מִגֹּזְלוֹ.
10 All my bones shall say: 'LORD, who is like unto Thee, {N}
who deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?'
but missing the word מִמֶּנּוּ from the phrase מֵחָזָק מִמֶּנּוּ.}

And he said to me: What did he see to omit the word mimenu?

I said to him: There is no doubt that it is a scribal error, and there is nothing to this.

And he went on reading.

"Accept and heed, please, bevakasha {=please} my prayer, for I am alone and needy, and accept the voice of my supplication."

And he said to me: This language has already started to descend from its high level, and this is not like the language of our predecessors in their prayers. {Thus, it is unlikely to have come from Rabbi Yishmael the Kohen Gadol.}

I said to him: Why do you pause your reading for things that matter little?

And he returned to reading: "And cast fear and dread, shaking, tumult, panic, commotion, shaag {it is unclear what this word means, and indeed the guest will ask about it in a minute}, deep sleep, insanity, blindness, and all times of subjugation."

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xx

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest continues his critique of the prayer attributed to Rabbi Yishmael Kohen Gadol:

And the man became furious and said to me: This is too much for me, and what should I read further? This is a forged prayer without a doubt: And was this the way of the Sages to begin their supplications with words of cursing?

I said to him: Did not King David write a psalm of curses; and when it comes down to it, why do you respond anything before you hear the end of the matter?

And the man answered and said: And what is this word shaag, which is neither Hebrew nor Aramaic?

And he returned to his reading, and read {that the curses should apply}: "to every man and woman of the 70 nations, and zik and mazik."

{Zik means spark, fragment, sliver; Mazik means damage. Thus mazik makes sense in context but zik is an error, by someone who does not know what the word means.}

And he said: What relevance does zik {=spark} have here? And this is the language of Rabbi Yishmael the Kohen Gadol? The mouth that speaks falsehood should be shut up!

{The following in Aramaic:}
"And lilin and liletin {presumably types of demons} and all their group, and spirits whose names are mentioned and whose names are not mentioned, and all their groups."

And he said: The author was not a kabbalist if he did not speak Aramaic; but our rabbis did not mix in their prayers the Aramaic language, and even Mar son of Ravina who was the last of the Amoraim who was in Bavel instituted {the prayer} Elokay Netzor Leshoni MeiRa" in clear and pure Hebrew. And Rabbi Yishmael the Kohen Gadol places his prayer half-Aramaic?

"And to all creatures who would arise {sheyakimu} upon me for evil, those who seek evil for me."
And he said: Sheyakimu! He should have said sheyakumu? And what is this business of "who seek my bad," after he said "who arise upon me for bad?"

"And who come to harm me in any type of damage in the world, whether {hen} bodily damage, or whether {hen} damage to my soul or to the soul of my soul."

And he said: "to the soul of my soul!" This is not found to our teachers.

I said to him: Perhaps this is among the secrets which were transmitted to their students orally.

"Whether {hen} in action or whether in evil thoughts."

And he said: The word hen in this meaning is the language of the later authors, and our teachers only said bein, such as when they said bein for merit bein for demerit. And in Biblical language, gam -- Gam to me and gam to you it will not be. And so too the word befoal was not used by our teachers {Rabboteinu} in their days {to mean "in practice"}, and in its place they would say bemaaseh.

"To impede me from love of You and fear of You. And save me from any bad mishap, and from any matter which cause excitement {hitragshut} and come {uvaot} to the world."

And he said to: "any matter which cause excitement {hitragshut} and come {uvaot} to the world." Is this not a precise language!

{I think probably the issue here is agreement between the noun davar and the verbs.}

"And to the inclination which works {? -- leyitzra deavda} to come upon me to cause me to sin and to render me impure, Ploni son of Plonit."

And he said: leyitzra deavda! This thing I have not seen nor heard except today.

"Please, Hashem HaGadol: kera Satan {tear the Satan}, bakra Satan, yikra Satan, nikra Satan, shikra Satan. (Here one needs to mention a single letter of him name, such as my name Binesh, encoded at each head of the phrase קרע שטן, and with this one chases away and nullifies from upon him all types of evil such that they are unable to have dominion over him, and so should each and every person place his name with the name קרע שטן.)

And he said: It appears that Rabbi Yishmael forgot his name, and thought that his name was Binesh, or that Rabbi Binyamin {=Binesh} forgot that he was composing this prayer attributing it to the name Rabbi Yishmael. For behold, what have you? If Rabbi Yishmael wrote it with the letters of his name Yishmael, who hates the name Yishmael, such that Rabbi Binyamin had to switch it with his defective name Binesh? And if Rabbi Yishmael did not write the name קרע שטן combined with the letters of his name Yishmael, what is Rabbi Binyamin's source {for doing this}?

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest continues his critique of the prayer attributed to Rabbi Yishmael Kohen Gadol:

"'By the greatness of Your arm they are as still as a stone,' as is written תִּפֹּל עֲלֵיהֶם אֵימָתָה וָפַחַד בִּגְדֹל זְרוֹעֲךָ יִדְּמוּ -- כָּאָבֶן "Terror and dread falleth upon them; by the greatness of Thine arm they are as still as a stone" (this verse one should say three times)

{a reference to Shemot 15:16}

that they not see me, and if they see me that they not harm me, as is written {Bereishit 19:11, about the men of Sodom at Lot's door}

יא וְאֶת-הָאֲנָשִׁים אֲשֶׁר-פֶּתַח הַבַּיִת, הִכּוּ בַּסַּנְוֵרִים, מִקָּטֹן, וְעַד-גָּדוֹל; וַיִּלְאוּ, לִמְצֹא הַפָּתַח. 11 And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great; so that they wearied themselves to find the door.

{Now in reverse:}
The door to find so that they wearied great and until from small with blindness they smote the house door that the men and to.

(Three times forwards and backwards one should say this verse.)"

And he said: This is not the way of prayer, but rather the way of incantation.

"And if they call me {?} they should not reach me. King of Heights, castigate them and close and seal their mouths with a stone."

And he said: With a stone! And who will give, that the mouth of this forger be closed with dirt!

"And lop of their hands and their feet so that they do not harm me and that they do not cause me evil, and turn upon them their evil counsel from me so that it does not panic me, nor any person who is with me and by be, whether in the house or in the field, whether on the sea or on dry land, to my nefesh, ruach {spirit}, neshama {soul}, and might. And Your Name which is Great, Mighty, Awesome, Powerful, and Strong, the Ineffable Name, the Name of 72, should travel and come and pitch {=dwell} with me, Ploni son of Plonit, and not with them; and they should be shamed and I should not be shamed; and they should be terrified and I should not be terrified; my enemies should be ashamed with terror and fear and trembling and horror, and I should dwell securely with you in happiness and goodness of heart, for I trust in You. And they should be scattered like straw before the wind, as is written {Bemidbar 10:35} קוּמָה ה, וְיָפֻצוּ אֹיְבֶיךָ, וְיָנֻסוּ מְשַׂנְאֶיךָ, מִפָּנֶיךָ -- 'Rise up, O LORD, and let Thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate Thee flee before Thee.'

{Then say Tehillim 121:}

א שִׁיר, לַמַּעֲלוֹת:
אֶשָּׂא עֵינַי, אֶל-הֶהָרִים-- מֵאַיִן, יָבֹא עֶזְרִי.
1 A Song of Ascents. {N}
I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains: from whence shall my help come?


I implore you, Metatron minister of the interior {sar hapanim}, whose name is like the name of your Master, and Azriel and Refael, Michael and Gavriel the ministering angels, that you should stand before the King, King of Kings, Hakadosh Baruch Hu, God of Gods and Master of Masters {Adonei haAdonim}."

And the man said: This is forbidden according to our Torah, and is one of the forms of idolatry.

"That you should request for me mercy via the aspect of grace, kindness, and mercy, before the Master of Mercy."

And the man said: al tzad hachen is a poetic phrase which is new in the later generations.

"To hear and to influence my prayer and my supplication, that it should be favored and accepted in holiness and purity, and all the accusers should be subdued and affected {mushpaim} under me."

And he said: ומושפעים תחתי! See that this is new.

I said to him: Perhaps one needs to say ומושפלים {and degraded}.

"That there should not be to them permission to come close to any of my borders, whether at time of prayer, whether at the time of study, or whether during any of the rest of me needs."

And he said: לימודי! He should have said תלמודי. For our teachers were very careful with these two words, and they did not say limmud except for something which was regular, such as when they said "and he seeks his limmud and does not find," and so too "do not seek honor greater than your limmud," its meaning is only more than comes to you and you are used to.

I said to him: I do not know.

"And to do by request to forgive and pardon me on all my iniquities, sins, guilts, and transgressions that I sinned, perverted, and transgressed before you."

And the man said: "Before you!" And before whom is he speaking? Is it not to the ministering angels? And yet he says "that I have transgressed before you!"

I said to him: Perhaps it is a scribal error, and one needs to read "that I have transgressed before Him."

"Whether accidentally or willfully, whether unintentionally or deliberately, whether in passing thought {hirhur} or consideration, whether in this gilgul or in another gilgul, I, Ploni son of Plonit." And perform for the sake of Your Great Name, the Ineffable Name, the Name of 72 and the Name of 42, the holy ones, pure, which are magnificent and unequivocal {?} in cleanliness and purity."

And he said to me: This is no scribal error, but rather it is complete idolatry, or at the very least it is confusion of the intellect and error of the thoughts on the part of the foolish composer, who did not know between his right and his left, and he was blessed in his heart to ascribe his craziness to holy ones who are in Heaven.

"that you {plural} all the keys of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge."

And he said: "That you {plural} take!" "Do for the sake of Your {singular} Great Name that you {plural} should take!" It is apparent that all the keys of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, were taken from the composer, and the keys of stupidity and foolishness fell to him as an eternal inheritance."

"And the key of livelihood."

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xxii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest concludes his critique of the prayer attributed to Rabbi Yishmael Kohen Gadol:

And he read once again: "The key {of} the livelihood!"
{the repetition of the definite article appears ungrammatical.}

"and provisions and profit and salvation, and crown me with them all the days that I am upon the earth."

And he said: See how beautiful this crown is! A crown of keys! Perhaps it will be a bit heavy on his head.

"And You {singular} should be for me as a help and a use all my days."

And he said: {Kohelet 1:6} סוֹבֵב סֹבֵב הוֹלֵךְ הָרוּחַ, "the wind turns about continually in its circuit," (the man of the spirit is crazy) {a reference to Hoshea 9:7} from singular to plural and from plural to singular, and he is similar to one who has no God at all.

"And my horn {=glory} and constellation {/mazal} should shine like the sun at the summer solstice, and like the moon at mid-month in its fullness, and should make my actions, ways, and words {/matters} prosper, and may {singular} my words be sweeter {plural} .

And he said: This statement would have been sweeter had he said may {plural -- yihyu} my words be sweeter.

"than honey or honeycomb in the eyes of all who hear my words, and those who mention should mention me for good all the days. And I adjure you, Ahuviel the angel appointed over love and affection, to request upon me mercy before Hakadosh Baruch Hu, that She {rather than "He" -- but perhaps it means "you"} place me for grace, kindness, and mercy in they eyes of all who see me."

And he said: "To request before Hakadosh Baruch Hu shetitneni! Use of the feminine form for Hakadosh Baruch Hu!"

"and in the eyes of all who love me, whether they be on {=in} Heaven or under the heavens; and this hour and this day that I pray before Hakadosh Baruch Hu should be a time of favor and a time of mercy, salvation, forgiveness, pardon, atonement, complete healing, and good life upon me, Ploni son of Plonit. And I adjure you, Metatron the servant of me Creator, whose name is the same as your Master, to perform my desire and wish."

And the man said to me: And why did he say to him in the beginning "I implore you," after the ability was in his hands to bind him with the copper chains of adjuring?

"and my fear should be cast upon all the creations."

And he said: "What an idiot! What a fool! Did he forget that he already adjured the angel appointed on love that he place his grace in the eyes of all who see him? And how does he now request that his fear be cast on all creations? Are not love and fear two opposites?

"And that they remember me for good, and that my stature be pleasant."

And the man laughed and said: If only his words were pleasant and exact! And what is he asking, if he was born a hunchback or a midget?

"And my face should be splendorous and shine, and that my Torah should be guarded and ordered in my heart, and I should not forget anything which I learned or that I will learn in the future."

And the mean repeated and read: ושעתיד אלמד. {presumably would like ללמד}

"And my dreams be settled upon me."

And he said: I am almost about to throw up all that I have eaten. ושיהיה חלומותי מיושבת עלי! Could this statement be any more defective?

{presumably because ושיהיה is masculine singular, חלומותי is feminine plural, and מיושבת is feminine singular.}

"And save me from an evil person and from an evil mishap, and close the mouths of those who speak evil {?} upon me, and who contemplate evil for me, for You hear prayer. Blessed are You, who hears prayer. Amen."

And the man said to me: I do not know who this hearer of prayer is, for behold it appears that it is Metatron whom he adjured to perform his desire and wish.

I answered him: Many words tend only to plenteousness, and also I admit to you that this prayer is not the work of Rabbi Yishmael Kohen Gadol (*). Let us return the sefer to its place, for it neither raises nor lessens {the position}.

The guest: Though it is true that it does not raise, it does indeed lessen the stature of the kabbalists to the ground, or below ground: After we have seen that all the creation of the thoughts of their hearts are only evil all the day, to lie, to forge, and to mislead the creations, without thought or understanding.

(*) After a time I found this prayer with a few punctuated extensions {?} (at the end of seder Kodoshim), but there it was clean of all of the aforementioned mistakes, and it was not attributed to Rabbi Yishmael the Kohen Gadol, but rather what was written at its head was, "a prayer that they are accustomed to say in Eretz Yisrael."

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xxiii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest now asks how kabbalah can be mekubelet, if there is a dispute in the fundamental upon which everything else relies, namely whether the Sefirot are etzem elahut or keilim nivraim, or something else. Rabbenu Bachya maintains the former, while Rabbi Mordechai Yitzchak Kolonia (and others) held otherwise. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The author: This is not truly the way of wise men to judge from the particular on the entirety of the general. And if one finds also in the congregation of kabbalists one of a thousand who is not crowned with all the exemplary traits ...

The guest: and is an idiot, a wicked person, and a haughty person ...

The author: still, will you not admit that the majority, as if all of them, are men of accomplishment, those who fear God, men of truth, haters of {improper} profit, who are luminaries within their nation, and they are mentioned in each and every generation for praise, renown, and glory. And who will say about holy ones such as these "you are saying falsehood, and all of your kabbalah is made up and forged?"

The guest: And how can I believe that it is received {mekubelet} in their hands. And behold, they argue on on the other in the fundamental upon which everything depends. Is it not the matter of the Sefirot. For some of them say that they are the Identity of the Creator. And some of them say that are only created vessels.

And a wisdom whose fundamental is in a state of doubt, how can it be a received and true kabbalah {received wisdom}?

The author: Behold, this is an extremely lofty and deep matter, and we shall not discuss it together with the food and the drink.

But this I will say to you, that you have reminded me with these words of yours an incident which happened to me in the days of my youth, and all me days I have been aggravated about it, and I have not found an explanation to the matter.

Know that I was 16 years old, and I was attending before my primary teacher {rabbi muvhak} the pious sage Rabbi Mordechai Yitzchak Kolonia, zlh"h (*), who was at the end of his days a blind man, and I would read before him, and write from his dictation his derashot.

And it was that day that I read before him the verse {in Kohelet 12:1} וּזְכֹר, אֶת-בּוֹרְאֶיךָ, בִּימֵי, בְּחוּרֹתֶיךָ and I said to him: Rabbi! The word בוראך is written with a yud.

And he said: Silence! What are you putting forth out of your mouth? Is this not a scribal error?

And I answered and said: But my master, it appears to me that in have already seen in Rabbenu Bachya that he darshens this yud, and behold it appears that there is no scribal error here.

And he said to me: Take the sefer Minchas Shai.

And I took it, and I found written therein: בּוֹרְאֶיךָ written plene with a yud, and see in Bachya at the beginning of parashat Bereishit.

And my rebbi said to me: Take sefer Bachya.

And I took it, and I sought in it, and I found that he darshens the word אלהים as two words, אל and הם, and that this is the explanation of the yud of וּזְכֹר אֶת-בּוֹרְאֶיךָ written plene.

{The implication is El Hem, they are God. And the yud implies 10, such that there are ten of them. Thus, the Sefirot.}

And my rebbi was astonished and he said: Forfend! The Sefirot are not Divinity!

And I heard this and did not understand, and I stood shaking, how Rabbenu Bachya {bar Asher} could say something upon which it correct to say "Forfend!" And I knew the aforementioned rabbi who extremely great in wisdom, and also the wisdom of kabbalah was not concealed from before him, even though all his days he did not wish to speak in it a word.
And I was more astounded when I grew up and read a bit in the books of kabbalah, and saw the disputes between the kabbalists in the matter of the Sefirot, and I said in my heart: How is it possible that there is found any more dispute, after the Rav, the Ari, arose and resolved all the doubts with ruach hakodesh which rested upon him?

And from where did this tradition {kabbalah} come to this rabbi that the Sefirot were not Divinity, after the Rav the Ari (zal) already taught they they are the Identity of the Divinity?

(*) He was gathered to his nation on Adar I, 524, and he was the brother of the magnificent Rav Avraham di Koloniah.

The following is some of the text from Rabbenu Bachya from parshas Bereishis:






The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xxiv

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest continues discussing Sefirot, and now contrasts the words of Rabbenu Bachya with those found in teshuvot Rivash, from another kabbalist, Don Yosef ben Shoshan, that one does not pray to the Sefirot, but only to Ein Sof, but asks that He direct the Sefirah appointed over a specific matter. But not that they are Divinity. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The guest: I will make the matter entirely clear before you. And now, let us bless upon the food which we have eaten.

And it was after the blessing that the man said to me: I do not know how the kabbalists can boast that their wisdom is mekubelet {received} in their hands, and that there is none who ponders after their words, except to accept them as if they were given from Sinai, after I find them perplexed and without agreement in the great fundamental upon which all their wisdom relies.

The author: Be careful with your words, for it may be because of the depth of the concept and the deficiency of those contemplating it, it is easy to stumble and think that they argue, while they never argued in their lives, but rather we have not descended to the end of their thought, and if it is all but from us.

The guest: All this is true. But what will you believe, my brother, about the words of Rabbenu Bachya about the yud found in the word Bore`echa, and upon the name Elohim which is divided, according to his opinion, into two words, El and Hem? Do you not believe with all your heart that the intent of the Rav {=Rabbenu Bachya} was that the Sefirot were themselves the Identity of the Divinity?

The author: So it appears to me in truth, but it is possible that I err, for I have not received the wisdom from the mouth of a kabbalist sage.

The guest: And now hear what the gaon of renown, Rivash (who was the student of Rabbenu Nissim), wrote. Take, please, the sefer of his Teshuvot, or the sefer Avodat haKodesh which brings down his words (in chelek haAvodah, chapter 13), and see.

And I took the sefer Sheelot uTeshuvot Rivash {but not in the linked-to version} and the man read before me from Teshuva 157: "And it already happened to me when I was in Sarkista that the very old sage Don Yosef ben Shoshan came there, whom I had already seen in Balansia, and he was a sage in Talmud, and a seer {?} in philosophy, and was a kabbalist and a pious man and was scrupulous in commandments, and between me and him was great love and friendliness. And one time I asked him how you kabbalists, with one blessing, have intent for a specific known Sefirah, and with another blessing for a different Sefirah; and furthermore if there is Divinity to the Sefirot, such that a person would pray to them.

And he answered me: Forfend that the prayer would be to anyone to Hashem Yisbarach Most High. But this matter is like one who has a dispute and asks the king to perform justice for him, he will ask him to command the one who sits upon judgment that he judge for him, and not that he command the one appointed over the treasury, for then the request would be in error. And so too if one asks from the king that he give him a present, he does not say to him that he should command the judge but rather to command the treasurer. And so too if one asked from him wine, he will ask that he command the royal butler, and if he asks for bread he will say to the royal baker, and not the opposite.

So is the matter of prayer. For it is always to the Highest of High, but he intends in thought to extend the abundance to that Sefirah which is associated with that matter upon which he asks. Such as one says that in the blessing on the righteous one should have intent on the Sefirah called Chesed which is the Trait of Mercy, and in the blessing on the Minim {apostates} one should have intent on the Sefirah which is called Gevurah which is the Trait of Judgment. And this is analogous to this. This is what the aforementioned pious man explained to me about the intent of the kabbalists, and behold it is very good.

However who brought us into all this? Is it not good to pray plainly to Hashem Yisbarach in intent, and He Knows in which way to pay the one who makes the request, like the statement which is written {Tehillim 37:5}:

ה גּוֹל עַל-ה דַּרְכֶּךָ; וּבְטַח עָלָיו, וְהוּא יַעֲשֶׂה. 5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in Him, and He will bring it to pass.

And this is what the great Rav, Rabbi Shimshon dekinun z"l who I mentioned above. And so do I inform you of that what my teacher the Rav Rabbenu Nissim z"l told me in private {?} that Ramban z"l invested himself in believing in the matter of this kabbalah, etc."

End quote from the words of the Rivash in the responsum.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xxv

 Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest and author continue to discuss whether the kabbalists argue about whether the Sefirot are Divinity:

The author: Behold I see in you the trait of the inciters {to apostasy}, for by deception you come to me to show me that Rabbenu Nissim said that more than was appropriate the Ramban invested himself to believe in the wisdom of kabbalah, and that that the Rivash said that we have no need to intend in our prayers towards the Sefirot.

The guest: No so, my master, but rather my main intent was to point out to you that one of the first kabbalists believed that the Sefirot were not Divinity, forfend, but rather that they were like appointees of the king who stood to perform His Will for whatever He would command them; and behold, between him and Rabbenu Bachya there is a dispute, without doubt, in the fundamental upon which everything relies. And where is the "kabbalah"?

The author: If so, I will say that I made a mistake in that which I understood from the words of Rabbenu Bachya, and that he never in his days intended to say that the Sefirot were Divinity.

The guest: This is not the way of a man of intelligence, since the words of the Rav {=Rabbenu Bachya} cannot be explained at all if one does not believe that the Sefirot are Divinity. For what is the meaning of the yud of בוראיך and to the yud of אלהים, after he divided this name into two words, El Hem {=They are God}? Is his intent not apparent from within his words that there are there 10 things which are Divinity.

And now, come please with me to another place, and see how one of the early and preeminent kabbalists says explicitly that that Sefirot are themselves Divinity. Take please the sefer Maarechet HaElohut.

And I took the sefer, the the man read before me from the end of the Maarechet haShemot {Pirara printing, page 43 and page 57) like these words: "There is furthermore to know that the matter of the Emanations which were mentioned and which I will further discuss in Avodat haSeder is not a matter in which there is a changes or a new thing in that which emanates or which in emanated, something which had not been before the emanation, forfend. For we have already mentioned that the emanations, which are the Sefirot, are Divinity, etc., etc.

And understand this fundamental, for it is the fundamental of all fundamentals, the foundation of the entire building, together with what we will always mention in this service, that these ten Sefirot are themselves the Divinity Yisbarach, as we have mentioned, and that the Divinity is unified in them without any separation or difference, and this is the foundation of the entire building." End quote.

Is his opinion not made clear that the Sefirot are themselves Divinity?

And now, so that you should know that there is dispute between the kabbalists, read now the words of the commentator {on this book}, Rabbi Yehuda Chayyat, in his introduction.

And the man read in it like these words: "And also that this sefer is entirely full of dear things, rare but refined, and he has ten hands above the other books of the books of kabbalah, for all of them speak of the holy Sefirot, one increases and one decreases, and {yet} they close the door, and he arises to open the lock, and said {Tehillim 118:20}

כ זֶה-הַשַּׁעַר לַה; צַדִּיקִים, יָבֹאוּ בוֹ. 20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter into it.
And in a few places I desired to argue about the major fundamentals, which are the extraordinary and noteworthy roots in the holy kabbalah, and most kabbalists go in them wandering to and fro, and I girded my loins like a warrior to battle with the Rav, the author of this sefer, and sometimes to battle with those who battle him, etc."

And the man said to me: Go please, now, and say that there is no dispute among the kabbalists in the fundamentals of their wisdom.

I said to him: Perhaps the dispute was born in the later generations, for this Rabbi Yehuda Chayyat was at the time of the expulsion from Spain.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xxvi

 Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest wishes to demonstrate that there is dispute among the early kabbalists about fundamentals such as the nature of the Sefirot, and so he begins a lengthy citation of the words of Rabbi Menachem Ricanti, an eminent fourteenth century Italian kabbalist, in the sefer Taamei haMitzvot. For some reason, perhaps because they are at odds with common kabbalistic belief about Sefirot (?), they are not in the printed edition. See Shadal's footnote in segments xxix, which is not yet posted. This text is, however, cited by Rabbi Yehuda Chayyat, and also exists in manuscript form. The text of the Vikuach follows:

And the man answered: Go and I will show you one holy one who was at the beginning of the sixth millennium -- is he not the eminent kabbalist Rabbi Menachem miRikanti, and see what he wrote in the sefer Taamei haMitzvot, which the Chayyat brings down (from page 33 until page 40), and he said that there is in this a place for doubt, and many are perplexed by it, and that he has not seen one who has descended to the depth of this drush {exposition?} except for Rav Menachem, and these are the words of Rav Menachem:

"Know that there is not in the Creator Yisbarach any difference in the world, but rather He Yisbarach relates the end from the beginning, and when things are new by us, there is no change in will by Him, Yisbarach. For he already knew from the beginning this matter which would be in the future, and nothing changed in the desire of the Creator such that one would be able to say that this desire went from the potential to the actual, like the matter of the desire found in us. For any actor with the exception of Him Yisbarach only acts because he needs the action. Therefore his thoughts do not cool until he finishes that action. And if so, it turns out that his desire was in potential and went out to action with the completion of his labors. And forfend that the matter would be so by the Creator. For He did not do the think in order to attain that specific need. And if we believe that there is a new desire in Him, it would turn out that that novelty would be in the essence of Hashem Yisbarach veYis`aleh, and this would compel an novelty of the kadmon.

Rather, the Creator Yisbarach veYis`aleh, He and His Desire are One, and just like He is kadmon, so is His desire. He relates the end from the beginning, and all the future events are revealed before Him. If so it is made clear that there is not to the Creator Yisbarach neither a change of desire not a change of will, nor wavering nor activity. And one cannot say upon Him neither that "there is" nor that "there is not" nor any matter in the world. Nor do the limitations of the world bound Him, for He Yisbarach is equal in all places.

And after these things are made for us as true axioms -- for one who does not admit to them has no God at all -- if so, there is for us to fix all things, whether from the words of the Torah or whether from the words of Chazal which appear to contradict these words of ours.

We have already explained that it is not possible to say about the Creator Yisbarach anything from which we are able to understand from it that He is bounded, for anything bounded changed, while by the Creator Yisbarach veYis`aleh there is neither difference nor change.

And if you ask and say "Behold we see from the Scripture that it seizes a way of boundary, for it states "And Hashem descended"; "And Hashem ascended"; "And Hashem went"; "And Hashem came"; "And Hashem stated"; "And Hashem said"; and all the like to this --

Know that the answer to this question is that, besides that which Razal said that the Torah speaks in the language of people, it is extremely deep. And I have seen one of the Sages of kabbalah, z"l, who wrote that all of this, and in every place that it says the like to one of these things which imply a lack in the lap of the Creator, Yisbarach, all is said about the Sefirot, but the Creator, Yisbarach veYis'aleh, the First Cause, one cannot say upon Him anything which implies physicality. And it appears to me that Rabbi Eliezer miGermaiza leans towards this opinion. For he wrote, and this is his language: "And that which is written {Yeshaya 57:15}

טו כִּי כֹה אָמַר רָם וְנִשָּׂא, שֹׁכֵן עַד וְקָדוֹשׁ שְׁמוֹ--מָרוֹם וְקָדוֹשׁ, אֶשְׁכּוֹן; וְאֶת-דַּכָּא, וּשְׁפַל-רוּחַ, לְהַחֲיוֹת רוּחַ שְׁפָלִים, וּלְהַחֲיוֹת לֵב נִדְכָּאִים. 15 For thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
all is about the Shechina, etc." Thus it is understandable from his words that the verse does not speak about the actual Creator. And furthermore, one who peruses his books is able to understand his intent quite well without any doubt.

And another difficulty from that which they say about the Chariot Mysticism: It tells you the measure of our Fashioner, etc. And it is known that the Creator, Yisbarach veYisaleh, has no boundary or end, and walls do not surround Him. Therefore some say that that which they measured was not speaking of the Creator but rather the limbs of the Shechina they measured, and they think that the Shechina is some created form. And so is not the opinion of the Ramban z"l, and all the sages of kabbalah argue on this.

And furthermore it appears to me that it is difficult to say this, for there, in the Maaseh Merkava, it states in this language: "I saw Hashem God of Israel, King of the world, sitting on a high and lofty throne, and to His left were the ministers of the interior {sari hapanim}, etc.," until it said, "I will tell you the measure of our Fashioner {Yotzereinu}, etc." And if they measured a created form, he would not have said Our Fashioner -- there is no "Our Fashioner" except for the Creator, Yisbarach.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xxvii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The citation of Taamei haMitzvot by Rabbi Menachem miRicanti continues, in discussing the nature of the form of God, and the nature of the Sefirot. The text of the Vikuach follows:

And further is says in Maaseh Merkava the following language: "Rabbi Yishmael said: Metatron the great official of testimony said to me: This testimony I testify about Hashem God of Israel, Living and Eternal God, our master and teacher, that the measure {manah = weight; perhaps vessel?} from his holy seat and up is 118 myriad {a myriad = 10,000} parsang {a measure of distance} and from his holy seat and down is 118 myriad parsang. From His right arm to His left arm is 77 myriad parsang, etc.. And he gives a measure for height of 236 million myriad parsangs, like the number of ורב כח, for it is written {Tehillim 147:5} גָּדוֹל אֲדוֹנֵינוּ וְרַב-כֹּחַ {taken as "the size of our Master is "veRav Koach"}. And it gives a measure for the width as 77 myriad parsang, for it is written {Tehillim 68:35} תְּנוּ עֹז לֵאלֹהִים {perhaps give space of עז, that is, 77, for God}. And if so, how are we able to say that they spoke of the Shechina {Divine Presence}? If it were a created Form he would not have said "this testimony I testify about Hashem the God of Israel," if they were speaking of a created form.

And it is more difficult to say that they actually were speaking of the Creator, for anyone who says such as this has no God at all, for it is known thing, and a fundamental concept, that about the Creator Yisbarach one cannot say these words and the like.

And now, stand and consider the wonders of my words and contemplate them with a fine consideration, to fix these words, for they are they mystery of the world. And this is my intent as well in the matter of the Unification.

Know that it is true that one cannot say about the Creator, Yisbarach, that there is any change or any physical attribute thing in the world, and all that Razal expounded in the sefer haMerkava was not really about the Creator, but rather they spoke about the Sefirot.

And if you wish to ask and say that we already know that the Sefirot are Emanations and not creations, and anything about which we speak of emanations, the power of the Emanator is in the Emanation, and the Emanation is not separate from the Emanator. And if so, all that we say about the Sefirot are as if they are said about the Creator, Yisbarach, and how are we able to say that they spoke of the Sefirot? And if is not like speaking actually about the Creator Yisbarach Himself?

Know that the answer to this question is extremely deep such that it has no end or limit, and before we begin to answer, our thoughts are to prove that all that the Sages and the Geonim said about the matter of the Emanation of the Sefirot, that matter is not to be understood in the plain sense of the words, with true proofs {that this is so}.

And even though Rav Asher z"l entered, with great difficulty, a fence on this side and a fence on that side, still all is not settled entirely; and therefore my intent is to explain here all my thoughts and intent, for from this matter hands a major fundamental and the faith in its entirety.

Know that all that we speak in the matter of the Sefirot is not speaking about the Creator, but rather the Sefirot are like the vessels of the craftsman, with which the craftsman works his craft, to make a billion distinctions {lehavdil bein elef alfei alafim}, and they are similar to every matter and its substitute, and perforce we are unable to bring the matter close to the mind of the investigator. For we are only able to compare it to the things we are used to, and thus one of the Sages compares it to the will of the soul, for it is equal to all the desires and all the thoughts which extend from it -- even though they are many, their basis is only one, and the soul does not change, but rather the change is in the body, which brings out to action the thoughts of the soul.

And perforce there is for us to say that these are things that are similar in a thing and its corresponding item {in the analogy}, for if there were not equal power to the thing and its corresponding item, there would not be any power to anything. For that which is light is not darkness and that which is darkness is not light. Perforce, that sage likens them to the will of the soul. And just as the soul is clothed by the body, so is from the great light of the Creator Yisbarach emanated these vessels, and the Sages called them Sefirot, and the spreading out of the First Cause Yisbarach into these vessels is called emanation. And in the sefer haZohar I have found this, etc."

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xxviii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest continues his lengthy citation of Taamei haMitzvot by Rabbi Menachem miRicanti, about the nature of the Sefirot:

"And behold I will prove to you with proofs, and also from the words of Razal, that all that Razal said in the matter of Sefirot is {specific to the Sefirot and} not fit to say about the Creator Yisbarach veYitaleh.

Firstly, because if it is said that the ten Sefirot are actually the Creator Yisbarach Himself, if so, how is the Creator One and yet the number Ten, and one cannot but a division into the identity of the Creator Yisbarach.

And what distinction is there between the Attribute of Judgment and the Attribute of Mercy, for even though about this one is able to say that in the matter of these attributes that there is no difference in their identity, but rather the division is one the side of the receivers, still how shall we place a distinction between the Attributes, so call this one right and this one left, this one leaf and this one root, for it is known that all these things would be a lack in the lap of the Creator Yisbarach.

And furthermore, when we place a division between the attributes, we place a division in the identity of the actual Creator and this is not possible, for it is known that from the left side comes the influence of impurities, witchcraft and demond, as we have explained, and it is called in the wondrous sefer haZohar "Evil Thought" {machshava raah}, and from the right side it is the opposite. And if they are actually the Creator, how shall we place a division in the acts of the Creator Yisbarach?

And I have sought and was punctilious a lot, and I did not find a single Sage who spoke about this at all, except for Rabbi Asher z"l. And I have never found an answer to this question, except what I have written above in the matter of the Sefirot and their emanation, with a hint/allusion in order to conceal the matter, as it is stated {Tehillim 25:14} סוֹד ה לִירֵאָיו.

And furthermore you have to know in the matter of the emanation of the Sefirot that it is true, and a clear thing, that all the Sefirot emanated one from the other, but the first one was as the matter that we have written above. And understand this a lot, for so agrees one of the greats as we have written.

This is a true proof seized by the contemplation of the heart.

And furthermore, we need to bring a proof to strengthen the house of our God from the words of Razal, from that which I found in the wondrous sefer haZohar, etc. And because of the extreme fineness of the matter we are required to speak by way of allegory. And the allegory in this is to a king who has two servants, and he commands one of them as follows: "take heed when you see a man who strengthens himself and going in the right path, assist him and save him from his enemies." And to the second he commands, "when you see a man traveling in a path which is not good, hit him and chastise him until he returns." And while the servants of the king fulfill their instructions, the king does not do a single thing, and the judgment does not come from him at all, but rather he assists his servants to perform their actions.

So too, the Creator Yisbarach influences the Attributes to perform their actions, and He does not change his actions, but rather the Attributes perform their actions.

And in the wondrous sefer haZohar I found so, etc.

And now let us return to our matter, and it appears to me that from here we are also able to understand that the Kitzvot {the Six Corners, the six Sefirot of Zeir Anpin} are not attached {deveikim} to Him Yisbarach, for if so, they would not need influence {hashpaah} and blessing if He is One and the number is Ten, as I explained above, for the Emanated is not separated from the Emanator. Rather, since they require irrigation {? hashkaah}, there is for us to so that they did not speak of the Creator, for there is not to the Creator Yisbarach deficiency or addition, etc. And since the Creation is within them, perforce they called the Shechina "Shechina" for the Creator "dwells" {shochen} within it, etc. And this is the word "Baruch," which is a pa'ul form {passive} -- the intent it to the Attributes which are blessed from the Creator Yisbarach.

And so I found in a certain sefer which was composed by Rabbi Eliezer from Germaiza, and this is his language: Therefore they established in the closing of every blessing of "Baruch Ata Hashem" to the Shechina, and anyone who does not know this wondrous knowledge, when he directs his prayer he should not contemplate to whom he is directing his prayer, but rather to his Father in Heaven, and so I have seen in the writing of Rabbi Yehuda haChassid which he sent to his son." Thus ends the language of this Rav, z"l.

If so, it is understood from here that the language of "Baruch" is not about the Creator, actually, but rather on that which Receives from the Creator. And since the Creator is actually found within them, therefore one cannot cut and say that they are ten angels which act in the vessels, but rather One is the actor within them, as is explained in sefer Yetzirah which says "And the One Trustworthy Master rukes within them from His holy abode and until forever"; after he mentioned all the ten Sefirot, he said that even though the Attributes are ten, the Creater is One who rules in all them, as we have explained.

Further, there is for us a fourth proof from that which is written in the prayer of Rabbi Nechunia ben haKana, peace be upon him, which is founded upon the Sefirot, in that in each and every Sefirah, when he mentions it, he places a ב. That he says "I will exalt You in {ב} the first Sefirah which is Supreme Crown, etc." And be very precise why he did not say "I will exalt You, first Sefirah, etc." Rather, he did not speak about the Sefirah, which was like clothing, but rather spoke about the "soul" which was within it. That is to say: I will exalt You, the Creator, Who is found in the first Sefirah. And from its splendor is made for Him like a garment from wondrous light and from pillars of light, which are, to make a million distinctions without end, like the body to the soul.

And perhaps therefor they called the Creator Yisbarach veYitaleh the "soul of souls." That is to saw the soul to the Sefirot who are fine {/ethereal} things and pillars of pure light, and there is no limit to their fineness, just as the soul which is in the body of man and it is not possible to know its character.

And further, the pious one {=Rabbi Nechunia ben haKana} said in his prayer: "The Attribute of Mercy roll upon us, before Your Creator {קונך} cast our supplication, etc." Behold that he places a distinction between the Attribute and Him, Yisbarach veYisaleh.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xxix

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest finishes his lengthy citation of Taamei haMitzvot by Rabbi Menachem of Ricanti, about the nature of God and the Sefirot. In the footnote, Shadal notes where this text can be found and where it cannot be found. The text of the Vikuach follows:

"And also in the great sefer haZohar he says on a verse in the beginning: On that which is written {Yeshaya 10:15}
טו הֲיִתְפָּאֵר, הַגַּרְזֶן, עַל, הַחֹצֵב בּוֹ: אִם-יִתְגַּדֵּל הַמַּשּׂוֹר, עַל-מְנִיפוֹ, כְּהָנִיף שֵׁבֶט וְאֶת-מְרִימָיו, כְּהָרִים מַטֶּה לֹא-עֵץ. {פ} 15 Should the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Should the saw magnify itself against him that moveth it? as if a rod should move them that lift it up, or as if a staff should lift up him that is not wood. {P}
behold that he describes the actions of the Attributes as regards Him Yisbarach veYisalech as the relation of the craftsman to his tools. And this is a better proof than all of them, etc.

And so wrote the Ramban, z"l, as we have written, and this is his language:
{Commenting on Bava Batra 25b: אמר רבי יצחק הרוצה שיחכים ידרים ושיעשיר יצפין וסימניך שלחן בצפון ומנורה בדרום}
"One who wishes to become wise should yadrim {face south}." The explanation of yadrim is to direct {/intend} towards the right Attribute to request from there from the King, King of Kings. And so is the intent of yatzpin {face north} to request from Him from there."

Behold the words of the Rav z"l match our words, for he does not say have intent towards the attribute, but rather towards the Creator that he act towards him with the Attribute which he needs, etc.

And I found a support to my words in the matter of the Attributes and the Sefirot from that which is found written by one of the gedolim in this language: "And that which the First Sefirah is called "Original Air" {avir rishon}, it is not called this because it was First, for there is no First except for Hakadosh Baruch Hu, etc. These are his words, z"l, etc.

And it appears to me that upon this intended the poet {paytan} when he said in the Yotzer of Rosh haShana: "King with ten garments, who will be girded with holy ones, etc." He called the ten Sefirot garments because they are like a garment to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, like the body to the soul, which is to it a garment, etc.

This is my position and my opinion, even though the simple reading of the words do not inform so, and one who inspects them when initially delving into them will find it difficult that the matters are as I have written. And I know with a clear knowledge that not all of the Sages of kabbalah agree to this that I have written, but I have not found to these matters a fix in any other way that what I have written, for all the Sages in this wisdom, all of them built upon a foundation of nothingness, and have said nothing in the matter of unification. Therefore I have written what appears to me, and one who heeds it will heed it and one who ignores it will ignore it. (*)


The lengthy statement which the Chayyat recorded in his sefer is not found in the sefer Taamei haMitzvot which is printed (Constantine, year 304 {=1524}, but it it in manuscript form at the end of sefer Taamei haMitzvot, and before the explanation of the prayers. And this sefer in manuscript form was in my hands in the days of my youth, and now it is in the hands of my friend Ramshag. And from there I corrected a few scribal errors which fell into the words of Rabbi Menachem in the printing of the Chayyat.

And know that Taamei haMitzvot which is in manuscript form consists of 34 pages, and this statement comes after them, which is missing in printed form, and consists in manuscript form of 15 pages, and Baruch

Hashem who gave into the heart of the Chayyat to record most of them in his sefer.

And after the aforementioned 15 pages, there are two additional pages, "a commentary on Birkat haMazon based on the path of kabbalah, according to what I found clarified in Midrash Rut to Rabbi Menachem." And afterwards a commentary on prayers just as in the printed edition, but in the beginning of it {=the commentary on tefillot} there are about 3 pages, missing in the printed edition, and also here he speaks about the Sefirot similar to what he said at the end of Taamei haMitzvot.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xxx

 Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest just finished a lengthy citation (spanning several segments) of the words of Rabbi Menachem of Rikanti from Taamei haMitzvot. He now explains the purpose of the lengthy citation -- to show that there is dispute among the kabbalists about the nature of God and the Sefirot. For Rabbi Menachem notes that position he puts forth is not in like with Ramban and the kabbalists. The author suggests that Rabbi Menachem is not arguing but rather interpreting them. But the guest replies that Rabbi Menachem is not saying this as a received tradition, but rather engages in an elaborate shakla vetarya. The guest then cites Shnei Luchot haBrit that the maggid of Rav Yosef Karo said, about the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda Chayyat about the nature of the Sefirot, that Hashem should forgive him. Thus, surely there is dispute. The author admits that this may indeed be dispute, but that perhaps those who argue on Ramban, Rabbenu Bachya, and so on, were not true kabbalists. The text of the Vikuach follows:

And I {=the author} said to the man: And what purpose is this lengthy reading, and what comes out to you from the words of Rabbi Menachem?

And the man {=the guest} answered and said: And could you request clearer testimony than this that the wisdom of the kabbalah is without tradition man from the mouth of man? Behold you see this matter, the matter of the Sefirot, the fundamental upon which all hangs, and this Sage, Rabbi Menachem, who was of the eminent kabbalists, expounds and delves, asks and answers, in order to find the truth. And in the end he brings up in his hand a position and opinion which he himself admits not all the Sages of kabbalah accept admit to and accept.

And in the beginning of his words, did you not see that when he said that the Shechina is a created form, he said that this was not the opinion of the Ramban, and that all the Sage of kabbalah argue upon this.

Will you still say that there is no dispute among the kabbalists? And were this in a leaf of its leaves, I would have remained silent, but behold the dispute is in the root of roots, and in the fundamental from which everything hangs.

And there is no doubt that if the truth is with Rabbi Menachem and with the chassid {pious one} mentioned by the Rivash, behold all the kabbalists who argue upon them and who believe that the Sefirot are themselves Divinity, all of them are considered like idolators.

The author: It is still not clear by me at all that there was dispute among the kabbalists, for still I can say that the received tradition of all the kabbalists was always so, that the Sefirot are not the identity of the Divinity, like the tradition of that chassid the Rivash brought, and as appears from the words of Rabbi Eliezer of Germaiza, and like the position of Rabbi Menachem and the Chayyat, and as appears as well from the words of Sefer Yetzirah. And that so {despite appearing to say otherwise} was also the opinion of the Ramban and Rabbenu Bachya and the author of Maarechet haElohut, and all the rest of the kabbalists, but they, because of their love of concealing, closed up their words, and from the brevity of their language it was extended to a few of the kabbalistic folk who understood their words as the opposite of their {actual} intent, until Rabbi Menachem deemed it necessary to remove the stumbling block from before the blind man, and to explain the matter broadly.

And do you not see that even Rabbi Menachem, at the end of his words, brings a proof to his words from the words of the Ramban on the statement {from Bava Batra from Rabbi Yitzchak} about "one who wishes to become wise..." Behold that it was not clear to him that his opinion did not accord with the kabbalah of the Ramban. Also he would not be arguing upon the Ramban after he brings for himself a proof from his words.

Behold that there is not here a necessity that there was dispute among the kabbalists.

The guest: But Rabbi Menachem did not say, nor hint that his opinion was received {from prior generations} in his hand, and in fact the opposite -- that he expounds and delves in the manner of the philosophers, and he brings out from his thoughts a new opinion which he knows that all those of this wisdom will not agree to, and he says about all sages who preceded him that they built upon a foundation of nothingness. And this is kabbalah {received knowledge}?

And now, an additional thing I will place opposite your eyes, and from it you will see whether there is disagreement among kabbalists. Take please to me the sefer Shnei Luchot haBrit.

And I took the sefer and the man read in it before me (Amsterdam printing, page 34b), and this is its language: "And to complete this idea, I will repeat the opinion of the words of the maggid {angel} who was to the great rav, the Bet Yosef z"l, etc., {namely} that that which brought the author of Minchat Yehuda (he is Rabbi Yehuda Chayyat) to say what he said, that is it in the pattern of the vessels of the boat, etc., may his Master forgive him, may that All-Merciful forgive on that position. And still, he will not be punished for those words which he said, for since he did not say it with intent to sin before Hakadosh Baruch Hu, but rather it was a complete error, etc., and all these ten Sefirot are really united as one, and they themselves are Divinity, for behold, they are in Ein Sof like a flame tied to a coal, and this is in the pattern of the soul in the body of man with the limbs, in that all is one, and all is entirely united, without any aspect of separation in the world, forfend. And Kingship, which is Matronita, and the other Sefirot, all is one with complete unity with the Ein Sof, and all was, all is, and all will be.

I {=the author} said to him: In truth this is difficult in my eyes, for Rabbi Yehuda Chayyat, Rabbi Menachem Rikanti, Rabbi Eliezer of Germaiza, and that chassid the Rivash brought, all of them are kabbalists in name but are not kabbalists in truth, since all of them did not know Hashem and His Sefirot.

And still, against my will I admit to this, and I say that all these Sages were not true kabbalists, and the true kabbalah was with the Ramban, Rabbenu Bachya, and the author of Maarechet haElahut, since it appears from their words that they believed that the Sefirot were themselves Divinity.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xxxi

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The author just suggested that there was indeed dispute among the kabbalists, but the Ramban, Rabbenu Bachya, and so on, who held that the Sefirot were Divinity, were the true kabbalists, but the others who argue were not true kabbalists. The guest notes the problem with saying that -- for then the Arizal, Rabbi Moshe Cordevero, and the Rama miPano are not true kabbalists. He then cites them to show that they maintain this. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The guest: It is not possible for you to say so, since after all the Rabbi Moshe Cordevero and the Rabbi Menachem Azaria of Pano (Rama miPano), and the Ari himself, who according to the words of the kabbalists had ruach hakodesh resting upon him, all of them with one mouth say that the Sefirot are not themselves Divinity, and that there was already to them a beginning of existence.

And now, take to me the sefer Pelach haRimon from Rabbi Menachem Azaria of Pano, and see.

And I took the sefer Pelach haRimon, and the man read in it from gate 4 chapter 1, and this is its language: "And others invested themselves as a matter of halacha to believe that the Sefirot are themselves Divinity, nothing else, and they said that the changing of the names and the number of the Sefirot does not compel an increase in the Emanator, for they are not associated with Him except in the way of receivers of different aspects {?}. And with them we will argue and judge together:

Say, please, fearers of Hashem, what is the need, if so, of designating an attribute with an attribute, that this accepts and that influences? And who gave in the identity of One aspects which are affected one from the other? And where is the unity which is completed {?} from our prayers and the intent of our precepts, etc.? And also on the existence of the attributes themselves, who is the decider to attribute to them a number in a place it is fitting to us to refrain from counting, for there is no number?"

And further, there in gate 3 chapter 1: It has already been explained from that which they taught {tnan}, "ten and not nine" that the Supreme Crown {keter elyon} is not the Emanator, like the position of a few who deduce from the end part {the sefa} "they are ten and not eleven," and it is a broad halacha by them that the Sefirot are themselves Divinity, according to their position; and in gate 4, with the aid of Heaven, we will make blind eyes able to see with this exposition."

And further, read before me from sefer Asis Rimonim printed on the side of Pelach haRimon, and it is of Rabbi Moshe Cordevero z"l, and this is his language: And according to the second position that they are the identity, how free of illness and worry was this man {see Yoma 22b}, and he said this as he was nodding off and sleeping, for if so, there is no need for the Malchut {Kingship} to receive from Tiferet {Glory}, and no other attribute except for it, just as it would not be correct to say about the Sun that its attribute of drying is dependent upon and requires the attribute that it melts things, etc. And furthermore, according to opinion, the Sefirah is not found except at the time of the action, and when the action is removed the Sefirah is removed, forfend, and when it comes down to it, according to his words, the Sefirah is not in true existence, forfend, and like this should not be heard from our mouths. Therefore, it falls upon us the command of explaining these positions, for both this and that are the words of the Living God, and together they are complete.

I {=the author} said to him: In truth, the beginning of the words increased in my heart the confusion and the doubt, but the end of the words were for me a peace from my grief and my ire. And behold you see with your eyes how there is no dispute here at all whatsoever, for "both these and these are the words of the Living God, and together they will be complete."

The guest: With empty condolences has Rabbi Moshe Cordevero comforted you. And once he related in the beginning of his words that the one who says that the Sefirot are themselves Divinity said them while tired and asleep, he cannot then turn around and relate that both these and these are the words of the Living God. For still, the two opposites cannot stand together in one topic, and all his efforts and labors to forcefully bring close the distant {positions} are only the flattery that the Torah scholars in Eretz Yisrael flatter each other with flattery, lest all to them as one come to shame in the eyes of the Diaspora which provides them with their needs.

And behold and see that the Rema miPano who did not {improperly} regard man {nosei panim} because he was exalted with riches, even though he always traveled in the path of Rabbi Moshe Cordevero, he did not say nor hint that both these and those were the words of the Living God, but rather he wages battle against those who say that the Sefirot are Divinity, and said "and with them we will dispute and judge together."

And now, take to me the sefer Shomer Emunim and see the words of the Ari.

And I took the sefer, and he found written in it, in the first dispute, siman 63: That which it is called First Man {Adam Kadmon} is not because it has no start and beginning, but rather because it was before all the rest of the Emanations, like what the Rav (this refers to the Ari) z"l wrote in sefer Adam Yashar, anaf 4 (not anaf 70 -- see the errata). And in the first anaf, he wrote, and this is his language: "And yet, that emanation of this "Adam Kadmon," and certainly the other worlds which are under it as mentioned, had a beginning and an end, and had to them a beginning of their existence and their emanation."

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xxxii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest further cites Shomer Emunim and the Raavad that the Sefirot are not Divinity. The author cites the sefer Emunat Chachamim which offers a harmonization of sorts, that they are inconsistent in the use of Ein Sof to sometimes refer to Sefirot, and sometimes Divinity to refer to Sefirot, even though what was intended was emanations of Divinity. The guest does not accept this explanation as plausible. The text of the Vikuach follows:

And the man said: And so too in this sefer, sefer Shomer Emunim, you will find explained that the Sefirot are "effects" from Ein Sof.

And he read before me in the first dispute, siman 41, and this is its language: And we ascend the steps from the bottom effect until the upper effect, until we stand at the first effect which the Creator brought out, and this is the Supreme Crown {kesser elyon}, and we will establish that it is found uniquely complete to the extent of completeness which is possible to exist in an effect, etc.

And this is what the Raavad wrote in the introduction to his commentary to sefer Yetzirah. And this is its language: The cause of all causes {=Ein Sof} induces from it the Supreme Crown {=keter elyon, the first Sefirah} which is simple {all of one thing} to the full extent of simplicity, such that there is not between it {keser elyon} and its cause {=Ein Sof} anything except that this one {=Ein Sof} is the cause and this one {=keser elyon} is the effect.

And he {=the guest} said: Go now, please, and harmonize the Raavad, Rav Moshe Cordevero, the Rama {miPano}, the Ari, and the author of Shomer Emunim, who say that the Sefirot are effect and new things, and the others whom the Rama {miPano} mentioned who commit themselves as a matter of halacha that the Sefirot are entirely the Identity of the Divinity.

The author: Go and I will show you in sefer Emunat Chachamim one introduction, by which will be explained and whitened all these contradictions.

And I took the sefer and I found written in it, at the end of chapter 23, and this is its language: Only this I have seen fit to mention in order to remove the stumbling block from the eyes of those who learn from books {sefarim} and not from scribes {sofrim}, that in the words of the Sages of truth and righteousness, the term Ein Sof, Baruch Hu does not refer in every place to the Creator Yisbarach, but rather at times it is not so. And the Rama {mipano} zatza"l in Pelach haRimon delved into this, and in the introduction of sefer Yonat Elem he {=Rav Menachem Azarya miPano} explains this more. And I have not merited to receive it ftom the motuth of Maharma"z, who received this from Rav Binyamin haLevi, who received it from Rabbi Chiyya Rofei, who received it from the mouth of Rav Chaim Vital himself.

Further, all the sages of peshat know that in the words of the sages of truth, "Divinity" is not God Yisbarach but rather emanations of His Light, just as the light of the sun is not the actual sun. And therefore, be not astounded if you find in the words of the Acharonim that Divinity is the ten Sefirot, etc. And behold the sun which enters the house is not the sun itself, but rather its light which spreads through the words, and it is just exactly so the Shechina {Divine presence} of Hakadosh Baruch Hu." End quote.

And the man {=the guest} answered: The haughtiness of {King} Yerovam drove him out of the world, and the haughtiness of the kabbalists causes them to choose to deny God, and to say that God is not God, and that Ein Sof is not Ein Sof. in a way that they have no God anymore at all, rather than admitting that there is dispute between their sages, something with is clear like the sun at noon.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xxxiii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) In the matter of (apparent) dispute amongst the kabbalists about the nature of the Sefirot, the author now pleads ignorance of kabbalistic subject matter and claims that one cannot make any sense of words in kabbalistic books, basing himself on Chavos Yair. The guest rejects this plea of ignorance. He notes that Chavot Yair himself suggests that the ideas of the kabbalists are not actually based on Chazal. In the footnote, Shadal discusses the identity, and confusion, of the Raavad who received kabbalistic secrets from Eliyahu haNavi. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The author: There is one answer to this, that I am not a kabbalist nor have I learned this wisdom from a kabbalistic sage. Therefore I do not understand these lofty matters. And similarly, I recall that I have seen from the great gaon, the author of Chavos Yair (siman 210) that he wrote that we, when we read the words of the Ari {also meaning lion} and his whelps, nothing understandable enters our thoughts, but only the reading of the words.

The guest: If so, who would give that I know why all these sefarim were written, if it is not possible to stand, from reading them, upon the matter intended by them. And who will give that I know further, why the light of intellect was given in man, if it is not in our ability to conclude that two opposites contradict each other, and cannot stand in the same subject at the same time.

And to me as well that teshuva from the gaon Chavot Yair is not unknown, whose entire purpose is to distance man from learning kabbalah, and he mentions as a plain and known matter that there is dispute between the kabbalistic sages, and changing of opinions in disparate matters. And there is written as well that even though the sefer haZohar and all the kabbalists say that many kabbalistic secrets are hinted to in the Mishna and Talmud, if it is tradition it is accepted {im kabbalah hi nekabel -- implying the possibility it is not}, but if there is no worry of sin in this, he would say that the kabbalists supported these secrets {sodot} on the words of Razal, just as the baalei mussar supported words of reproof on the laws of the shofar, which was something not intended by Chazal and which never entered their minds.

And he wrote as well that the words of the Mishnah which Rabbenu haKadosh from the words of the arguing Tannaim, and all the more so the Talmud which Rav Ashi composed by a great gathering of ages and great in-depth study {pilpul}, from where does it come to us that they intended sod {kabbalistic secrets}?

And furthermore, on what the rabbi Yosef Shlomo Rofeh {=Delmedigo} of Candia {=the Yashar of Candia} wished to answer to the words of the author of Bechinat haDat {? Eliyahu del Medigo}, in saying that there is no proof against the kabbalah from the fact that its secrets are not mentioned at all in the Mishna and in the Talmud, since those sodot were not the subject matter of the Mishna and Talmud, just as the work of woodchopping is not mentioned in medical book, he, z"l, (=the author of Chavos Yair} said that this is no answer at all, for behold in terms of the sages of the Talmud, we already find to them that they spoke of the wisdom of astronomy and of medicine, even those these matters are also outside of their main topic, z"l.

One other thing I saw brought down in sefer Chavos Yair, and this is the language of Rabbi Moshe Isserles, in sefer Toras HaOlah, and it suits you well as well as the opposing kabbalists, and they do not sense that they are opposing, and they believe that which has been disproven and do not recognize that which is improbable, and this is his language: And how much does the fool not feel ill or sense, who is naked of all of the nature of the improbable, and nothing whatsoever is difficult for him.

The author: After you have hurled words against the virtue of the geonim of the land, the kabbalists, I would not be astonished if also upon me you cast the cup of your blasphemies and imprecations. And also perhaps I am a fool that I brought you into my room and inclined my hear to the sound of your wonds.

And now, behold the day declines {see e.g. Yirmeyahu 6:4}, and I need to prepare myself for the Yom Tov which is coming upon us, and also you should do as well.

The guest: In truth I have no garment to wear other than what you see on my flesh. Also food {/bread- lechem} to eat I do not have if I do not take from the small amount of money in my purse for the purpose of the meal.

The author: Since the matter is so, behold you are called to me to eat food at my table all these two Yamim Tovim which come to us in peace. Since you are doing this thing, do not speak to me from good to bad in such matters as these which are loftier than the consideration of man, which are concealed from me and from you an absolute concealment.

The guest
: Today I know that the men did not lie to me, who told me of your wisdom and straightforwardness of you ways, and that you love the truth and despise honor and the like, and like this many. Since because of this I filled my heart to come to speak to you thinks which are not said before a man of Israel in this interchange.

Is this wisdom not fitting to call it in truth the wisdom of truth, to love our fellow as ourselves, without considering at all the opinions in his heart, whether they agree, or not, with the opinions which are in out heart, in matters which do not touch ethics, and love of the good and upright.

May Hashem repay your deeds, and may your wages be complete from Hashem, God of Israel, as you have spread your cloak upon me and have not abandoned your loving-kindness from a pauper and disadvantaged person. And also I will endeavor, according to me ability, to make my company sweet with words of Torah and with dear investigations which perhaps will arise before your wisdom in a way you desire. And my master, peace.

The author: Go in peace, and after Maariv come back to me. (*)

(*) In the matter of what I brought above (page 12) in the name of the author of Avodat haKodesh, that Eliyahu was revealed to Rabbi David, father of the Raa"vid, know that that author of Avodat haKodesh called this Rav Dadid "av Bet Din." But Rabbi Shem Tov in sefer haEmunot (gate 4 chapter 10) says that Eliyahu was revealed to Rabbi Avraham (not to Rabbi David), the av bet din, and from him the great rav the Raavad, "rav pealim" {=who has done many deeds -- this is a title} received (and he was not his son). End quote.

And the author of Avodat haKodesh, after he erred an
d made the Raavad the son of the av bet din, he was required to call the rav, av bet din, by the name "David," for it is known that the Raavad, author of the gloss {hasagot haRaavad} was named Avraham ben David.
Rabbi Avraham the av bet din is also mentioned in sefer haYuchsin, and his father's name was Yitzchak. And the author of shalshelet hakabbalah brings down as well that he was the father-in-law of the author of the hasagot {thus, the father-in-law of the Raavad}.

And know that the title "Rav Pealim" which was given to the Raavid in sefer haEmunot is not given to a sage {but for other reasons}. Come and see the words of Rabbi Binyamin in his Masaot {=Masaot Binyamin}: "And there was a great yeshiva run by the great rav, Rabbi Avraham bar Rabbi David, zatz"al, a great sage in Talmud and halachic rulings, and they came from distant lands to him to learn Torah, and they found peace in his house and he taught them. And whoever did not have, he took out for them from his possessions and money for all their needs, and he was a very wealthy man." End quote. And about the matter of the secrets of kabbalah which he received from Eliyahu, Rabbi Binyamin does not relate to us at all.

{To perhaps clarify matters, there were three Raavads, and the two Shadal is discussing were related by marriage. There was a Spanish Jewish philosopher and historian, Rabbi Avraham Ibn Daud, Raavad I, who has no bearing on any of this. Shadal makes no mention of him.

Then, there is Raavad III, who was Rav Avraham ben Rabbi David, and he wrote the hasagos haraavad, and was wealthy and supported his students. Then there was his father-in-law, Rabbi Avraham ben Yitzchak of Narbonne, the av bet din, who is Raavad II, who wrote sefer HaEshkol.}