Monday, April 28, 2008

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.

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