Tuesday, April 29, 2008

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.

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