Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt v

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}.

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