Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xix

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest continues his critique of the chain of kabbalah given in the sefer Brit Menucha, a sefer which the Ari said was written with ruach hakodesh. He argues that Nearyah in Divrei haYamim could not be Hillel, for why would they change his name. And further, they get the genealogy wrong, for Hillel was not a descendant from the male side but from the females, and not from Shlomo but from Shefatiah ben Avital. And transmission from Rabbi Akiva to Rabbi Yehuda haNasi is impossible, since the latter was born the day the former was born. The guest then proceeds to critique a tefillah which purports to be from Rabbi Yishmael Kohen Gadol. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The guest: And why did the sages of the Mishna and the Talmud not reveal to us all this honor which was done to one of the pillars of the Oral Law, that his name is mentioned in the Holy Writings? And why did they {=the chachmei haMishnah} change his name, and not call him Nearyah but rather Hillel? Did they do this in order to conceal the glory of his greatness?

And what will you answer about the third {point}? Hillel was Nearyah from the seed of Zerubavel, from the seed of royalty, from the seed of Shlomo? But do we not find in the Talmud that Rabbenu haKadosh {=Rabbi Yehuda haNasi} (who was seventh from Hillel) was not from the seed of Shlomo, but rather from the seed of Shefatiah ben Avital, and also this genealogy was not to Hillel from his father's side but rather from his mother's side, for so do they say in Yerushalmi (which is brought down by Tosafot in the beginning of Sanhedrin) that the Exilarch was from the males and the Prince in Eretz Yisrael was from the females. And in Bereishit Rabbah (parasha 33) it is made explicitly clear that Rabbenu HaKadosh was from Yehuda from the female side, but from the male side he was from Binyamin.

And what will you answer about the fourth {point of difficulty}? Rabbi Akiva transmitted to Rabbi Yehuda haNasi? Is it not so that on the day Rabbi Akiva died Rabbenu haKadosh {=Rabbi Yehuda haNasi} was born?

The author: This is difficult.

The guest: And there is furthermore a fifth: "Until it came to the hand of Rabbi Shimon": And who was this Rabbi Shimon? And it is known that Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai (who is the "plain" Rabbi Shimon) was of the students of Rabbi Akiva and of the teachers of Rabbenu HaKadosh {=Rabbi Yehuda haNasi}, and when he says "until it came to the hands of Rabbi Shimon" it appears that it passed further several generations after Rabbi {Yehuda haNasi} until Rabbi Shimon, while he was in truth in the days of the father of Rabbi, and not in the days of his son or his grandson.

Is the intellect capable of bearing all these nonsenses? And all these dreams and vanities were written with ruach hakodesh?

{Relates the author:} And I took the sefer and returned it to the ark, to the place where it was before, and the man lifted his eyes to see my sefarim, and he reads the names printed upon the sefarim, and he saw the sefer Amtachat Binyamin, and he said to me, "what is this? For I do not know this from beforehand." And I said to him that it is a kabbalistic book.

And the man went and turning through the pages until he reached the end of the book, and he say and behold was written: "An awesome prayer from Rabbi Yishmael the Kohen Gadol." And he said, "behold, this is new, I have not heard of this until today. I will arise and read this awesome prayer."

And while engaged in this, I happened to eat lunch, and the man also came and sat with bread in the shade of my succah, and he was not an insubordinate person at that hour.

And he took in his lap the sefer Amtachat Binyamin, to read upon the bread the awesome prayer.

{J: Note that it is much better and understandable if read in Hebrew rather than my rough translation, given the nature of the analysis.}

And the man say on my left side to oppose me, and he ate and drank, but did not drink wine, and from time to time he took the sefer and read the awesome prayer from Rabbi Yishmael the Kohen Gadol, and this is its language: "Please, Hashem, God of Israel, ruler in the Higher and Lower realms, close to all who call You in truth and simplicity, who saves the poor from him that is strong, and the poor and the needy from him that robs him."

{Based on מַצִּיל עָנִי, מֵחָזָק מִמֶּנּוּ; וְעָנִי וְאֶבְיוֹן, מִגֹּזְלוֹ in Tehillim 35:10:

י כָּל עַצְמוֹתַי, תֹּאמַרְנָה-- יְהוָה, מִי כָמוֹךָ:
מַצִּיל עָנִי, מֵחָזָק מִמֶּנּוּ; וְעָנִי וְאֶבְיוֹן, מִגֹּזְלוֹ.
10 All my bones shall say: 'LORD, who is like unto Thee, {N}
who deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?'
but missing the word מִמֶּנּוּ from the phrase מֵחָזָק מִמֶּנּוּ.}

And he said to me: What did he see to omit the word mimenu?

I said to him: There is no doubt that it is a scribal error, and there is nothing to this.

And he went on reading.

"Accept and heed, please, bevakasha {=please} my prayer, for I am alone and needy, and accept the voice of my supplication."

And he said to me: This language has already started to descend from its high level, and this is not like the language of our predecessors in their prayers. {Thus, it is unlikely to have come from Rabbi Yishmael the Kohen Gadol.}

I said to him: Why do you pause your reading for things that matter little?

And he returned to reading: "And cast fear and dread, shaking, tumult, panic, commotion, shaag {it is unclear what this word means, and indeed the guest will ask about it in a minute}, deep sleep, insanity, blindness, and all times of subjugation."

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