Monday, May 19, 2008

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xxvi

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest wishes to demonstrate that there is dispute among the early kabbalists about fundamentals such as the nature of the Sefirot, and so he begins a lengthy citation of the words of Rabbi Menachem Ricanti, an eminent fourteenth century Italian kabbalist, in the sefer Taamei haMitzvot. For some reason, perhaps because they are at odds with common kabbalistic belief about Sefirot (?), they are not in the printed edition. See Shadal's footnote in segments xxix, which is not yet posted. This text is, however, cited by Rabbi Yehuda Chayyat, and also exists in manuscript form. The text of the Vikuach follows:

And the man answered: Go and I will show you one holy one who was at the beginning of the sixth millennium -- is he not the eminent kabbalist Rabbi Menachem miRikanti, and see what he wrote in the sefer Taamei haMitzvot, which the Chayyat brings down (from page 33 until page 40), and he said that there is in this a place for doubt, and many are perplexed by it, and that he has not seen one who has descended to the depth of this drush {exposition?} except for Rav Menachem, and these are the words of Rav Menachem:

"Know that there is not in the Creator Yisbarach any difference in the world, but rather He Yisbarach relates the end from the beginning, and when things are new by us, there is no change in will by Him, Yisbarach. For he already knew from the beginning this matter which would be in the future, and nothing changed in the desire of the Creator such that one would be able to say that this desire went from the potential to the actual, like the matter of the desire found in us. For any actor with the exception of Him Yisbarach only acts because he needs the action. Therefore his thoughts do not cool until he finishes that action. And if so, it turns out that his desire was in potential and went out to action with the completion of his labors. And forfend that the matter would be so by the Creator. For He did not do the think in order to attain that specific need. And if we believe that there is a new desire in Him, it would turn out that that novelty would be in the essence of Hashem Yisbarach veYis`aleh, and this would compel an novelty of the kadmon.

Rather, the Creator Yisbarach veYis`aleh, He and His Desire are One, and just like He is kadmon, so is His desire. He relates the end from the beginning, and all the future events are revealed before Him. If so it is made clear that there is not to the Creator Yisbarach neither a change of desire not a change of will, nor wavering nor activity. And one cannot say upon Him neither that "there is" nor that "there is not" nor any matter in the world. Nor do the limitations of the world bound Him, for He Yisbarach is equal in all places.

And after these things are made for us as true axioms -- for one who does not admit to them has no God at all -- if so, there is for us to fix all things, whether from the words of the Torah or whether from the words of Chazal which appear to contradict these words of ours.

We have already explained that it is not possible to say about the Creator Yisbarach anything from which we are able to understand from it that He is bounded, for anything bounded changed, while by the Creator Yisbarach veYis`aleh there is neither difference nor change.

And if you ask and say "Behold we see from the Scripture that it seizes a way of boundary, for it states "And Hashem descended"; "And Hashem ascended"; "And Hashem went"; "And Hashem came"; "And Hashem stated"; "And Hashem said"; and all the like to this --

Know that the answer to this question is that, besides that which Razal said that the Torah speaks in the language of people, it is extremely deep. And I have seen one of the Sages of kabbalah, z"l, who wrote that all of this, and in every place that it says the like to one of these things which imply a lack in the lap of the Creator, Yisbarach, all is said about the Sefirot, but the Creator, Yisbarach veYis'aleh, the First Cause, one cannot say upon Him anything which implies physicality. And it appears to me that Rabbi Eliezer miGermaiza leans towards this opinion. For he wrote, and this is his language: "And that which is written {Yeshaya 57:15}
טו כִּי כֹה אָמַר רָם וְנִשָּׂא, שֹׁכֵן עַד וְקָדוֹשׁ שְׁמוֹ--מָרוֹם וְקָדוֹשׁ, אֶשְׁכּוֹן; וְאֶת-דַּכָּא, וּשְׁפַל-רוּחַ, לְהַחֲיוֹת רוּחַ שְׁפָלִים, וּלְהַחֲיוֹת לֵב נִדְכָּאִים. 15 For thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
all is about the Shechina, etc." Thus it is understandable from his words that the verse does not speak about the actual Creator. And furthermore, one who peruses his books is able to understand his intent quite well without any doubt.

And another difficulty from that which they say about the Chariot Mysticism: It tells you the measure of our Fashioner, etc. And it is known that the Creator, Yisbarach veYisaleh, has no boundary or end, and walls do not surround Him. Therefore some say that that which they measured was not speaking of the Creator but rather the limbs of the Shechina they measured, and they think that the Shechina is some created form. And so is not the opinion of the Ramban z"l, and all the sages of kabbalah argue on this.

And furthermore it appears to me that it is difficult to say this, for there, in the Maaseh Merkava, it states in this language: "I saw Hashem God of Israel, King of the world, sitting on a high and lofty throne, and to His left were the ministers of the interior {sari hapanim}, etc.," until it said, "I will tell you the measure of our Fashioner {Yotzereinu}, etc." And if they measured a created form, he would not have said Our Fashioner -- there is no "Our Fashioner" except for the Creator, Yisbarach.

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