Friday, May 16, 2008

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xxiv

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest continues discussing Sefirot, and now contrasts the words of Rabbenu Bachya with those found in teshuvot Rivash, from another kabbalist, Don Yosef ben Shoshan, that one does not pray to the Sefirot, but only to Ein Sof, but asks that He direct the Sefirah appointed over a specific matter. But not that they are Divinity. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The guest: I will make the matter entirely clear before you. And now, let us bless upon the food which we have eaten.

And it was after the blessing that the man said to me: I do not know how the kabbalists can boast that their wisdom is mekubelet {received} in their hands, and that there is none who ponders after their words, except to accept them as if they were given from Sinai, after I find them perplexed and without agreement in the great fundamental upon which all their wisdom relies.

The author: Be careful with your words, for it may be because of the depth of the concept and the deficiency of those contemplating it, it is easy to stumble and think that they argue, while they never argued in their lives, but rather we have not descended to the end of their thought, and if it is all but from us.

The guest: All this is true. But what will you believe, my brother, about the words of Rabbenu Bachya about the yud found in the word Bore`echa, and upon the name Elohim which is divided, according to his opinion, into two words, El and Hem? Do you not believe with all your heart that the intent of the Rav {=Rabbenu Bachya} was that the Sefirot were themselves the Identity of the Divinity?

The author: So it appears to me in truth, but it is possible that I err, for I have not received the wisdom from the mouth of a kabbalist sage.

The guest: And now hear what the gaon of renown, Rivash (who was the student of Rabbenu Nissim), wrote. Take, please, the sefer of his Teshuvot, or the sefer Avodat haKodesh which brings down his words (in chelek haAvodah, chapter 13), and see.

And I took the sefer Sheelot uTeshuvot Rivash {but not in the linked-to version} and the man read before me from Teshuva 157: "And it already happened to me when I was in Sarkista that the very old sage Don Yosef ben Shoshan came there, whom I had already seen in Balansia, and he was a sage in Talmud, and a seer {?} in philosophy, and was a kabbalist and a pious man and was scrupulous in commandments, and between me and him was great love and friendliness. And one time I asked him how you kabbalists, with one blessing, have intent for a specific known Sefirah, and with another blessing for a different Sefirah; and furthermore if there is Divinity to the Sefirot, such that a person would pray to them.

And he answered me: Forfend that the prayer would be to anyone to Hashem Yisbarach Most High. But this matter is like one who has a dispute and asks the king to perform justice for him, he will ask him to command the one who sits upon judgment that he judge for him, and not that he command the one appointed over the treasury, for then the request would be in error. And so too if one asks from the king that he give him a present, he does not say to him that he should command the judge but rather to command the treasurer. And so too if one asked from him wine, he will ask that he command the royal butler, and if he asks for bread he will say to the royal baker, and not the opposite.

So is the matter of prayer. For it is always to the Highest of High, but he intends in thought to extend the abundance to that Sefirah which is associated with that matter upon which he asks. Such as one says that in the blessing on the righteous one should have intent on the Sefirah called Chesed which is the Trait of Mercy, and in the blessing on the Minim {apostates} one should have intent on the Sefirah which is called Gevurah which is the Trait of Judgment. And this is analogous to this. This is what the aforementioned pious man explained to me about the intent of the kabbalists, and behold it is very good.

However who brought us into all this? Is it not good to pray plainly to Hashem Yisbarach in intent, and He Knows in which way to pay the one who makes the request, like the statement which is written {Tehillim 37:5}:
ה גּוֹל עַל-ה דַּרְכֶּךָ; וּבְטַח עָלָיו, וְהוּא יַעֲשֶׂה. 5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in Him, and He will bring it to pass.

And this is what the great Rav, Rabbi Shimshon dekinun z"l who I mentioned above. And so do I inform you of that what my teacher the Rav Rabbenu Nissim z"l told me in private {?} that Ramban z"l invested himself in believing in the matter of this kabbalah, etc."

End quote from the words of the Rivash in the responsum.

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