Friday, May 23, 2008

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.

3 comments:

x said...

Would you consider decreasing the number of posts that show at any given time? Whenever I go here it freezes my browser for about 10 seconds...

joshwaxman said...

how is it now? (I tried halving the amount of posts on the main page.)

Anonymous said...

still a little slow, but much better. thanks

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