Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xvii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest now reads the letter of Rabbi Yedaya to the Rashba (a kabbalist), which defends philosophy by saying that it will move people away from the heretical belief in gilgul, and then explains the problems with gilgul. The assumption is that gilgul is not a traditional kabbalistic belief. Then he shows that Rabbi Shem Tov (an eminent early kabbalist) calls gilgul "something which is not fitting for anyone of intellect to introduce into his heart." This also suggests that gilgul, believed by all later kabbalists, is not a received kabbalistic belief. The text of the Vikuach follows:

And I {=the guest} took the sefer Teshuvot haRashba, and the man read before me from siman 418 about the the apologetic writing of רבי ידעיה הבדרשי and these are his words:

"And within this purpose is also the annulling of that which a few of the early ones believed, according to what is mentioned in sefer haNefesh, about transmigration of souls, and this is the opinion in which they say that the soul transmigrates from one body to another. Some of them think that this is even from the body of one species to the body of another species. And they say that the soul of a horse, for example, could possible migrate after a while to the soul of a dog, or immediately after it leaves, we do not know how they distinguish in this. And so too we do not know if those who maintain this belief dissent as to whether the soul of one species can enter the body of man, or the human soul into the body of some other species, or if they only extend to matter to within different species of animal. {But no cross-overs of human and animal, which would be difficult presumably because of different types of souls.} And some of them do not depart that much, but rather say that it transmigrates from one body to another within a single species, and from this they say about the soul of Reuven who dies that it manifests itself in the body of Shimon.

And behold, these wondrous truths have prevailed upon these positions to erase them, where the aim of nullifying them is extremely clear in faith, for many reasons.

First of all, that it is wickedness and perversion, and forfend to attribute to God, to establish that the soul of one who dies in his righteousness should return to manifest in the body of another who perhaps will be wicked, such that by law he should be punished; or if He rewards one who was initially righteous {in a previous incarnation} but is now completely wicked, behold it will be even worse. {For where is true reward and punishment for deeds?}

And so is it perversion in the law of one who dies in his wickedness if he returns to manifest in the body of another who is righteous, and he should, according to law, be recompensed that which is fitting to him of the punishment for that which the previous one {incarnation} had perverted, but if this one is punished for the wickedness of his soul in a different body, it would be worse within the law of uprightness, and it would be an instance of bad things happening to a righteous man for an incorrect cause.

And he shows it is true with true proofs that each body is matched with only a single unique soul, which is recompensed or punished in accordance with its conduct, and this is the complete uprightness {i.e. as it should be}.

And another thing which nullifying this belief can accomplish is that this {belief} can lead to weakening a person from endeavoring in the service of God, and even at the beginning of his time, for he will think about his soul which was found when not in him, and he will think that if it sinned in the other, the punishments will come to him upon that which he did no wrong with his own hands, and he will be in turmoil on this and stand always in fear and weak hands from this. And so too if when it was in the other body it was righteous, behold it will arise that his time will be good and sweet because of the recompense of the previous righteousness,

and he will be negligent as a result from adding more. For many men improve their way in hope of reward and from fear of punishment.

And furthermore, when many times the troubles jump upon one who thinks himself to be pure and righteous, but with all this is not so sure of himself, he will increase to suspect his own soul {=self}, and judge that there were hidden sins {which he performed in this lifetime, which is his only lifetime} upon which he is being punished, and behold because of this there will increase confessions and repentance. But with this belief {in gilgul} he will certainly be compelled to attribute his tribulations to the wickedness of his soul in another another body, and he will begin to blame, because of his suffering, the conduct on High {that he is suffering through no fault of his own} and to decree upon himself completions {? to make up for this unfair sufferings}, and this will be a cause of neglect from repentance.

And furthermore, this {belief in gilgul} will harm one of the cornerstones of our strong faith, and that is resurrection of the dead. For if there is found within two or three souls only a single soul, how will both or all three of them live at once? For to each living thing there is perforce but one soul, etc." End quote.

And the man {=the guest} added and said: And how did the heart of Rabbi Yedaya swell to speak such words before the Rashba who was a kabbalist, in a letter which he wrote to turn away from himself his {=the Rashba's} wrath in which he was angry with those engaged in outside wisdoms? Unless it was clear to him that the belief in gilgul was not a traditional belief in our nation of old, even according to the kabbalists themselves?

And when it comes down to it, how can you say to me that there was to the kabbalists a true tradition {kabbalah} in the matter of gilgul?

Take to me the sefer haEmunot of Rabbi Shem Tov and see.

{The author now narrates:} And I went and took the sefer haEmunot of Rabbi Shem Tov, and he found written in it (gate 7, chapter 8): "Know that that which a few of the early ones thought that there is transmigration from man to beast, I have also found to a few people who travel the paths of kabbalah, something which is not fitting for anyone of intellect to introduce into his heart."

And the man said to me: And behold, the entire congregation of later kabbalists believe with a complete belief in the gilgul of souls from man to beast, and behold they believe something which according to the opinion of one of the eminent early kabbalists is not fitting for any person of intellect to enter into his heart. And where is their agreement, and where is their tradition {kabbalah}?


Anonymous said...

Where can I get a copy of the full vikuach?

joshwaxman said...

in the unsorted bin at, though their copy is missing a few pages here and there, which I supplement with my own copy.

The YU library has it, and probably other libraries as well.

joshwaxman said...

Alternatively, you can click on the label "vikuach al chochmat hakabbalah" on parshablog. As you can see, I am serializing it, and actually have much of the sefer already posted -- the last two chapters of the book are posted, and this is the first chapter I'm in the middle of posting. But I think there are two more chapters, and the entirety of the sefer will probably not be up for several months.

Kol Tuv,

Anonymous said...

I found it online here:
You might want to add a link to it.


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