Tuesday, May 27, 2008

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.}

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