Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt. xii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) They continue their discussion/explanation of sefer Yetzirah and the "Sefirot" (numbers) therein, relating them to Pythagoras. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The author: I have remained silent until now, to that perhaps I would hear from your mouth a new position in the explanation of the sefer Yetzirah, which would sit well on the intellect more, and more than the position of the kabbalists. And behold, you have only related to me dreams and vanities, things of emptiness which have no substance in them at all. And in truth, how shall I bring into my mind that via the numbers and the letters Hakadosh Baruch Hu created his world? And you have already admitted that the numbers are nothing, and also the letters are nothing, if they are not written on paper. And in what way would the power of these abstract concepts grow, such that via them the entire world would come out from nothingness into existence? Is it not that these are things which the intellect does not accept in any fashion, and they appear in my eyes like joke and jest, nothing less.

The guest: Wait for me until I finish for you the explanation of the matter, and the words are made clear to you as noon. And the first thing I will relate to you is that that which I said, and that which I will say to you in the future, in explanation of sefer Yetzirah -- these words do not come out of my own heart, but rather all of them are the words of the honored Sage, the first of all the kabbalists, is he not Rabbi Yehuda haLevi, in his book sefer ha-Kuzari, upon whom they have already said that all his words are fine flour {solet}, and there is not in them chaff {pesolet}. Find his words in maamar 4, siman 25. And behold I will relate to you his opinion with a bit of added explanation.

Already, the early philosophers such as Pythagoras {lived about 580 - 490 BCE} and his band {=colleagues and disciples} attached to the secret {sod} of numbers the beginning of all that is found.

{To cite Wikipedia for an example, to perhaps get a sense of this:
One of Pythagoras' beliefs was that the essence of being is number. Thus, being relies on stability of all things that create the universe. Things like health relied on a stable proportion of elements; too much or too little of one thing causes an imbalance that makes a being unhealthy. Pythagoras viewed thinking as the calculating with the idea numbers. When combined with the Folk theories, the philosophy evolves into a belief that Knowledge of the essence of being can be found in the form of numbers. If this is taken a step further, one can say that because mathematics is an unseen essence, the essence of being is an unseen characteristic that can be encountered by the study of mathematics.


The author: You overstep your bounds, not not further speak to me in this matter.

And how do you knowingly sin to desecrate the sanctified, and to mix the secrets of the Torah, which are hinted at in sefer Yetzirah, with the vanities of the philosophers, upon whom a day-old infant can mock? And how does it enter on your hear that the thoughts of Pythagoras are the same as the thoughts of the author of the sefer Yetzirah? And how do you not see that Pythagoras and his colleagues, with all their secrets which they discovered in numbers, in all their days did not create a small gnat. And the opposite are the Sages of the Talmud, when they engaged in sefer Yetzirah, they created calves and men? Do you not see, if you have eyes, that like the height of heaven over the earth, such is the height of the ways of sefer Yetzirah from the ways of Pythagoras and his students. And if so, the ten sefirot of sefer Yetzirah are not at all the ten numbers, like you said in impetuousness, but rather they are lofty matters, whose knowledge is hidden from me and you, and is revealed to those who know grace.

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