Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xviii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) Does dispute show there is no tradition? What about machlokes in the Mishnah and Gemara? The guest draws a distinction. The author then brings the chain of tradition of kabbalah brought down in the sefer Brit Menuchah, and the guest shows some chronological improbabilities or impossibilities in the account. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The author: There is nothing to be astounded at in this, for also our teachers the authors of the Mishna and the Talmud were masters of true kabbalah, and they also many times argue one on the other in their opinions.

The guest: If they argue, they only argue in particulars which did not come to them in tradition {kabbalah}, or which were forgotten.

The author: There is in my hand the sefer Brit Menucha, upon which the Arizal said that all its words are words of Divine Inspiration {ruach hakodesh}, and I recall that he mentions in his introduction the order of the chain of tradition of the wisdom of kabbalah from the first generations. And now, I will show it to you, and you will put your eyes upon his words.

And I arose to take the sefer, and the man came after me in order to see my library {?}. And I took the sefer Brit Menucha, and I read before him in the introduction, and these are his words there: "And Ezra and his court transmitted it to Shemaya and Avtalyon, etc., and Shemaya and Avtalyon transmitted it to Hillel and Shammai, and this Hillel was Nearyah, of the descendants of David from the seed of the kingship who is mentioned in Divrei haYamim, etc. And Rabbi Akiva to Rabbi Yehuda haNasi, until it reached the hand of Rabbi Shimon." End quote.

{The reference is to Divrei haYamim I 3:22-23:
וּבְנֵי שְׁכַנְיָה, שְׁמַעְיָה; וּבְנֵי שְׁמַעְיָה, חַטּוּשׁ וְיִגְאָל וּבָרִיחַ וּנְעַרְיָה וְשָׁפָט--שִׁשָּׁה. כג וּבֶן-נְעַרְיָה, אֶלְיוֹעֵינַי וְחִזְקִיָּה וְעַזְרִיקָם--שְׁלֹשָׁה.
And the man laughed and said: How many bundles of mistakes are said in these two lines, which were {purportedly} written with ruach hakodesh! May lips of falsehood fall silent! And behold, first of all, he speaks falsehood when he said that Ezra and his court transmitted it to Shemaya and Avtalyon, who were at the very least 300 years after him, and if by way of miracle the matter was such, rabbenu hakadosh {=Rabbi Yehuda haNasi} would not have omitted mention of it in perek {of Avot} Moshe received the Torah from Sinai, for a great strengthening comes out to us from this in the matter of the truth of the Oral Law.

The author: Have you forgotten that we find in the Talmud, that Rabbi Dosa ben Hyrcanus who was in the generation of the destruction of the Second Temple testified that upon this seat sat Chaggai the prophet? {J: See here. And perhaps, based on the context in Yevamot 16a, it means that he dealt with this issue. In which case it need not be eyewitness testimony. לשבת על המדוֹכה פירושו להתעמק בבעיה, לבחון אותה לעומק ולמצוא לה את הפתרון הנכון. But this is not how Shadal takes it.}

The guest: This was known to him by tradition from his fathers. And if you wish to believe that he saw with his eyes Chaggai the prophet, and that Ezra transmitted to Shemaya and Avtalyon, the permission is in your hands.

And what will you answer about the second? Hillel was Nearyah? And did he not begin his Nesiut {prince-ship} only 100 years before the destruction of the Second Temple, and he was the community leader of Israel for 40 years. If so, he was born 180 years before the destruction, and how can it be believed that he was of those mentioned in sefer Divrei haYamim which was written in Bavel in the days of the exile, before the building of the {Second} Temple of in the beginning of the Second Temple, more than 200 years before Hillel was born?

The author
: When it comes down to it, do you not see that there is mentioned in Divrei haYamim six generations from Zerubavel and on, and Zerubavel was conceived in Bavel, according to the words of our teachers. And it is difficult according to the normal way of the world that six generations are born in 70 years. If so, what shall we say? Rather, a bit of that genealogy was added to sefer Divrei haTamim a few generations after the closing of the sefer and after the construction of the Second Temple. And now it is not difficult to us any more to believe that Hillel the elder was mentioned in Divrei haYamim.

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