Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xxiii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest now asks how kabbalah can be mekubelet, if there is a dispute in the fundamental upon which everything else relies, namely whether the Sefirot are etzem elahut or keilim nivraim, or something else. Rabbenu Bachya maintains the former, while Rabbi Mordechai Yitzchak Kolonia (and others) held otherwise. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The author: This is not truly the way of wise men to judge from the particular on the entirety of the general. And if one finds also in the congregation of kabbalists one of a thousand who is not crowned with all the exemplary traits ...

The guest: and is an idiot, a wicked person, and a haughty person ...

The author: still, will you not admit that the majority, as if all of them, are men of accomplishment, those who fear God, men of truth, haters of {improper} profit, who are luminaries within their nation, and they are mentioned in each and every generation for praise, renown, and glory. And who will say about holy ones such as these "you are saying falsehood, and all of your kabbalah is made up and forged?"

The guest: And how can I believe that it is received {mekubelet} in their hands. And behold, they argue on on the other in the fundamental upon which everything depends. Is it not the matter of the Sefirot. For some of them say that they are the Identity of the Creator. And some of them say that are only created vessels.

And a wisdom whose fundamental is in a state of doubt, how can it be a received and true kabbalah {received wisdom}?

The author: Behold, this is an extremely lofty and deep matter, and we shall not discuss it together with the food and the drink.

But this I will say to you, that you have reminded me with these words of yours an incident which happened to me in the days of my youth, and all me days I have been aggravated about it, and I have not found an explanation to the matter.

Know that I was 16 years old, and I was attending before my primary teacher {rabbi muvhak} the pious sage Rabbi Mordechai Yitzchak Kolonia, zlh"h (*), who was at the end of his days a blind man, and I would read before him, and write from his dictation his derashot.

And it was that day that I read before him the verse {in Kohelet 12:1} וּזְכֹר, אֶת-בּוֹרְאֶיךָ, בִּימֵי, בְּחוּרֹתֶיךָ and I said to him: Rabbi! The word בוראך is written with a yud.

And he said: Silence! What are you putting forth out of your mouth? Is this not a scribal error?

And I answered and said: But my master, it appears to me that in have already seen in Rabbenu Bachya that he darshens this yud, and behold it appears that there is no scribal error here.

And he said to me: Take the sefer Minchas Shai.

And I took it, and I found written therein: בּוֹרְאֶיךָ written plene with a yud, and see in Bachya at the beginning of parashat Bereishit.

And my rebbi said to me: Take sefer Bachya.

And I took it, and I sought in it, and I found that he darshens the word אלהים as two words, אל and הם, and that this is the explanation of the yud of וּזְכֹר אֶת-בּוֹרְאֶיךָ written plene.

{The implication is El Hem, they are God. And the yud implies 10, such that there are ten of them. Thus, the Sefirot.}

And my rebbi was astonished and he said: Forfend! The Sefirot are not Divinity!

And I heard this and did not understand, and I stood shaking, how Rabbenu Bachya {bar Asher} could say something upon which it correct to say "Forfend!" And I knew the aforementioned rabbi who extremely great in wisdom, and also the wisdom of kabbalah was not concealed from before him, even though all his days he did not wish to speak in it a word.
And I was more astounded when I grew up and read a bit in the books of kabbalah, and saw the disputes between the kabbalists in the matter of the Sefirot, and I said in my heart: How is it possible that there is found any more dispute, after the Rav, the Ari, arose and resolved all the doubts with ruach hakodesh which rested upon him?

And from where did this tradition {kabbalah} come to this rabbi that the Sefirot were not Divinity, after the Rav the Ari (zal) already taught they they are the Identity of the Divinity?

(*) He was gathered to his nation on Adar I, 524, and he was the brother of the magnificent Rav Avraham di Koloniah.

The following is some of the text from Rabbenu Bachya from parshas Bereishis:


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