Perhaps no one figure is more responsible for the legitimization of kabbalah as an authentic esoteric tradition of Judaism than Moses ben Nahman (1194–1270). Although from the beginnings of its literary history kabbalah was associated with men of rabbinic standing, such as R. Abraham ben David of Posquieres, no one before Nahmanides had attained a reputation for excellence in halakhic and mystical matters and had written extensively in both domains. Nahmanides' involvement with kabbalah, especially in the context of a commentary on the Torah written for the layman, as the author plainly states in his introduction, surely lent a stamp of approval to the whole enterprise. R. Shem Tov ibn Gaon in his Baddei ha-'Aron u-Migdal Hananel gave the following characterization of Nahmanides' kabbalistic literary activity:
The great rabbi, Moses ben Naḥman, may his memory be for a blessing, wrote his book [i.e., the commentary on the Torah] and a book [on] Job. He alluded to hidden matters in every place () to arouse [people's awareness] as is appropriate and according to what he received. However, he concealed his words to a high degree, for it is written, “Honey and milk are under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4: 11).
An earlier draft of this paper was read at a seminar of the combined faculties of Hebrew Union College, New York, and the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University (April 1988). I would like to thank my colleagues, Professors Robert Chazan and Lawrence Schiffman, who read the earlier draft and made useful comments and suggestions. My gratitude is also extended to Professor David Berger, whose critical review of the manuscript has given me the opportunity to reformulate some of my arguments. Finally, I would also like to thank Professor Moshe Idel, who helped sharpen the focus of my analysis, even at points of disagreement, through extended conversations treating some of the issues that I have dealt with in this paper.
1. Perush ha-RaMBaN 'alha-Torah, ed. Chavel, C. (Jerusalem, 1959), 1: Introduction, p. 7.
2. An obvious play on the famous talmudic discussion in b. Bava Batra 14b concerning biblical authorship of various books: … . My thanks to Prof. David Berger for indicating this reference to me.
3. Cf. the interesting formulation in Shem Tov ibn Gaon's Keter Shem Tov, printed in Koriat, J., ed., Ma'or wa-Shemesh (Livorno, 1839), fol. 39a, where it is stated that Nahmanides “also revealed a lot to the enlightened one () through an oral transmission going back to Moses, our rabbi, peace be upon him.”
4. Baddei ha-'Aron u-Migdal Hananel (Jerusalem, 1977), p. 29. For the use of this text to explain the inherent necessity of concealing truth in parabolic form, see Maimonides' introduction to his commentary on the mishnaic order of Zera'im, in Mishnah 'im Perush ha-RaMBaM, ed. Kafih, Y. (Jerusalem, 1984), p. 19, and idem, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Yesodeiha-Torah 2:12.
5. Scholem, G., Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton, 1987), p. 385. See also idem, Reshil haQabbalah (Jerusalem, 1948), pp. 50–51; Kabbalah (Jerusalem, 1974), p. 51.
6. Perush, Introduction, p. 7. See the use made of Nabmanides' comments in ha-Levi, R. Abraham ben Eliezer, Masoret Hokhmah, in Scholem, Qiryat Sefer 2 (1929): 126: Cf. Vital's, Hayyim introduction to 'Es Hayyim (Jerusalem, 1910), fols. 4c-d: “This wisdom [i.e., kabbalah] was openly revealed until the death of R. Shimeon b. Yohai…. From that time all the wise men who knew this wisdom were occupied with it in great concealment and not openly. And one would not reveal it except to one student in each generation, and even this only in chapter headings, from mouth to mouth…. This wisdom went on from generation until generation until the RaMBaN, blessed be his memory, the last of the true kabbalists …. The work [i.e., the Torah commentary] composed by the RaMBaN, blessed be his memory, is ‘true and firm, well-established and existing’ [according to the formulation of the prayer after the Shema' in the morning service: ] for the one who understands it … One should not come near all the books of the later kabbalists [who lived] after the RaMBaN, blessed be his memory, for from the RaMBaN and onward the way of his wisdom has been hidden from the eyes of all sages, and nothing remains but some of the branches of the introductions without their roots.” On the distinction between and in Nahmanides' thought, see idel, M., “We Have No Kabbalistic Tradition on This,” in Rabbi Moses Nahmanides (Ramban): Explorations in His Religious and Literary Virtuosity, ed. Twersky, I. (Cambridge, 1983), pp. 58–60. On p. 59, n. 33, Idel has referred to Abraham ibn Ezra and Judah ha-Levi as possible sources for Nabmanides. See also Tosafot, Sofah 24b, s.v. ; and Pseudo-Bahya, , Torot ha-Nefesh, ed. Broyde, I. (Paris, 1896), p. 24. And cf. the words of the R. Meir ha-Levi Abulafia cited in Septimus, B., Hispano-Jewish Culture in Transition (Cambridge, 1982), p. 77. For the supremacy of prophecy () or tradition () over rational inquiry (), see She'elot u-Teshuvol le-RaSHBA (Jerusalem, 1976) 1:9, and the extended analysis of this text in Horwitz, D., “The Role of Philosophy and Kabbalah in the Works of Rashba” (M.A. thesis, Yeshiva University, 1986), pp. 8–23. The supremacy of the force of an orally received tradition to the use of logic in the application of accepted hermeneutical principles is seen clearly in the famous story of Hillel and the Benei Betera in j. Pesahim 6:1, 33a. Cf.
7. See Gottlieb, E., Mehqarim be-Sifrut ha-Qabbalah (Jerusalem, 1976), pp. 88–90; Scholem, Origins, pp. 385–86; I. Twersky, Introduction to Rabbi Moses Nahmanides (Ramban): Explorations in His Religious and Literary Virtuosity, p. 3, and other references in the following note.
8. The most important of these are the articles by J. Perles, B. Septimus, D. Berger, and A. Funkenstein mentioned below at various points in my analysis. See also the work of E. Gottlieb cited in the preceding note. Noteworthy as well are the valuable comments of Gershom Scholem scattered through many of his writings, but mostly in Origins of the Kabbalah, chap. 4, and Ha-Qabbalah be-Gerona (Jerusalem, 1974). Note should also be made of Henoch, C., Ha-Ramban ke-Hoqer u-khe-Mequbbal (Jerusalem, 1978), dealing mostly with Nahmanides' interpretation of the commandments. Concerning the latter, see also Katz, J., Halakhah we-Qabbalah (Jerusalem, 1984), pp. 30–33.
9. See Idel, “We Have No Tradition,” pp. 51–73.
10. Definitions of peshat are numerous, although it is usually rendered as the “plain,” “simple,” “literal,” or “contextual” sense. For the most recent survey of various scholarly opinions, see Kamin, S., Rashi's Exegetical Categorization in Respect to the Distinction between Peshat and Derash (Jerusalem, 1986), pp. 12–14 [in Hebrew]. On p. 14 the author gives what seems to me to be a most sensible and comprehensive definition of peshat, and one that I believe is applicable to Nahmanides: “The explanation of a verse according to its language, syntactical structure, thematic connection, literary genre and structure, and the mutual relations between these elements.” In my hyphenated expression “literal-narrative” I have tried to capture this sense of the term. See Rogers, J. and McKim, D., The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible: An Historical Approach (New York, 1979), p. 16, who describe the biblical exegesis of John Chrysostom (347–407) and the Antiochene school from which he emerged as the “grammatical- historical interpretation.” See also Baur, Chrysostomus, John Chrysostom and His Time (London, 1959), 1:90–91, 96. On the Antiochene school's reaction to the allegorism of the Alexandrian school of Christian exegetes, see Guillet, J., “Les Exegeses d'alexandrie et d 'Antioche, conflit ou malentendue?” Recherches de science religieuse 34 (1947): 257–302;Lubac, H. de, L'Ecrilure dans la Tradition (Paris, 1966), pp. 67–69;Pelikan, J., The Preaching of Chrysostom: Homilies on the Sermon on the Mount (Philadelphia, 1967), pp. 14–15.
11. It is of interest that in Isaac of Acre's 'Osar fiayyim, derekh ha-sod is distinguished from derekh ha-'emet. See, e.g., MS Guenzberg 775, fol. 13b, where a particular verse, accord ing to the “way of mystery” ('al derekh ha-sod), is said to refer to Metafron, whereas according to the “way of truth” ('al derekh ha-'emei) it is said to refer to 'Afarah, i.e., the Shekhinah. From this and other examples one may assume that the exegetical categories have distinct ontological correlates: the derekh ha-'emet being reserved for the realm of the divine emanations, the sefirol, and derekh ha-sod for the angelic realm below the sefirol.
12. See also the article of Pines cited below, n. 100.
13. Funkenstein, A., “Nahmanides' Symbolical Reading of History,” in Studies in Jewish Mysticism, ed. Dan, J. and F. Talmage (Cambridge, 1982), p. 134.
14. Idel, “We Have No Tradition,” p. 63, n. 45.
15. Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven, 1988), p. 215.
16. My formulation is based partially on the definition of hermeneutics offered in Ricoeur, Paul, Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences, ed. and trans. John, B. Thompson (Cambridge, 1981), p. 43. I am not arguing that Naljmanides applies his hermeneutical method in any systematic manner. Indeed, his approach is that of an exegete rather than a philosopher or logician, responding therefore to the needs of the particular moment as determined by a given textual context. Nevertheless I think one can speak legitimately of a “hermeneutical method” in the case of the exegete, even if the underlying principles of interpretation are not stated in a methodical or systematic way.
17. Perles, J., “Ueber den Geist des Commentars des R. Moses ben Nachman zum Pentateuch,” Monatsschrifl fur Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums 7 (1858): 118.
18. Bacher, W., “L'exegese biblique dans le Zohar,” Revue des etudes juives 22 (1891): 33–46, 219–229.
19. The limited scope of Nahmanides' kabbalah, as described by Idel (see above, nn. 14–15), seems to me to be beside the point with respect to the issue of the hermeneutical principle that I am describing. After all, even if one accepts at face value that one can reconstruct all of Nahmanides' kabbalah from his written documents, the fact is that he does make general claims in his writings about the nature of Torah which inform his hermeneutical stance.
20. Kabbalists are rarely interested in commenting on the whole biblical context. This is not to say that context is entirely irrelevant for kabbalistic exegesis, but rather that kabbalists were not intertested in taking the full context into account when offering their theosophic interpretations. In this respect the kabbalists, like the older midrashists, are “verse-centered.” Cf. Kugel, J., “Two Interpretations of Midrash,” in Midrash and Literature, ed. Hartman, G. and S. Budick (New Haven, 1986), pp. 94–95.
21. See Scholem, , On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism (New York, 1965), p. 39;Idel, , “The Concept of Torah in the Hekhalot Literature and Kabbalah,” Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought 1 (1981): 52–53 [in Hebrew].
22. See Idel, “We Have No Tradition,” p. 54, n. 10: “It is worth mentioning that Nahmanides conceives of Kabbalah as a tradition about the Divine Names having no explicit theosophical implications.” See also the formulation of Idel, , “Some Conceptions of the Land of Israel in Medieval Jewish Thought,” in A Straight Path: Studies in Medieval Philosophy and Culture: Essays in Honor of Arthur Hyman, ed. Hackett, J.et al. (Washington, 1988), p. 132: “Nahmanides… seemingly disregarded the esoteric nature of such other Kabbalistic topics as the names of the Sefirot.” See, however, Funkenstein, “Nahmanides' Symbolical Reading of History,” p. 134, who understands Nahmanides' statement that the Torah is comprised of divine names as alluding to “constellations within the divine realm,” i.e., the sefirot, thus interpreting Nahmanides in a theosophic way.
23. The precise relationship between the theosophical reading of Torah and this alternative magical-mystical one is not worked out in Nahmanides, as far as I can tell. See Shu'aib, Joshua ibn, Derashot 'alha-Torah (Cracow, 1573; reprint ed., Jerusalem, 1969), fol. 59a, who cites and explicates Nahmandies' view about the primordial Torah. Ibn Shu'aib, based on a close reading of Nahmanides' introduction, concludes that this primordial Torah, written in one continuous manner (), was in fact divided into three parts or aspects, connected exegetically to the verse, “I wrote down for you a threefold lore,” (Prov. 22:20): (I) the names of God; (2) the fifty gates of understanding () in which are included the account of the chariot, the account of creation, physiognomy and chiromancy, and all other possible wisdom; and (3) the Torah as we have it with accentuated marks and divisions of words (). If we assume that theosophic kabbalah is to be included in the second category, the fifty gates of understanding having a definite theosophic reference, as is clear from Nahmanides himself (see Perush, Introduction, pp. 3–4), then perhaps we have here an effort to combine the two esoteric traditions in some hierarchical fashion. The matter requires further investigation. Cf. ibn Shu'aib, fol. 4a, where he offers an alternative threefold division of the contents of Torah: (1) secrets of the account of the chariot and the account of creation; (2) positive and negative commandments; and (3) narratives. See below, n. 44. On the conception of kabbalah as an esoteric tradition involving the divine names, see also Nahmanides' commentary to Exod. 28:30.
24. Cf. Funkenstein, “Nahmanides' Symbolical Reading of History,” p. 133.
25. Perush, Gen. 1:2 (p. 15). That this statement refers to an emanative process in the sefirotic realm that parallels the creation of the lower worlds is clear from the various supercommentaries on Nahmanides. See Gaon, Shem Tov Ibn, Keler Shem Tot, in Ma'or wa-Shemesh, ed. Koriat, J. (Livorno, 1839), fols. 27a-b;Be'ur le-Ferush ha-RaMBaN (Warsaw, attributed to Meir ibn Sahula [according to Scholem the author is Joshua ibn Shu'aib; for references and counterclaims, see Gottlieb, E., Ha-Qabbalah be-Khitvei Rabbenu Bahya ben 'Asher (Jerusalem, 1970), p. 214, n. 1]), fols. la-b; Isaac of Acre, Sefer Me'irat 'Einayim, ed. Goldreich, A. (Jerusalem, 1976), p. 13 (of critical text); the anonymous commentary in Oxford-Bodleian MS 1645, fols. 81a–b (concerning this text see Gottlieb, op. cit., p. 15, and Goldreich, op. cit., pp. 76–103 [of the introduction]); Joshua ibn Shu'aib, Derashot, fol. 3b.
26. Cf. the anonymous supercommentary on Nabmanides' commentary to Gen. 3:22, apparently from the school of R. Solomon ibn Adret, preserved in MS JTS Mic. 1895, fol. 1 Ib; Shem Tov ibn Gaon's Baddei ha-'Aron u-Migdal ifananel, p. 32; Isaac of Acre, Me'irat Einayim, p. 234.
27. Maarekhet ha-'Elohut (Jerusalem, 1963; reprint of Mantua ed., 1558), fol. 90b. And see Bahya ben Asher's commentary to Gen. 6:2 (ed. Chavel, 1:98): “All the matters of the account of creation are twofold () and all is true.” Cf. Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives, pp. 207–209, where the author contrasts the hermeneutical stance of what he calls “theosophical” and “ecstatic” kabbalah on the grounds that the former, unlike the latter, knows no antinomy between the exoteric and esoteric, the plain and hidden meanings. Idel perceptively links the hermeneutical stance to the respective positions of the two schools on the question of the role of the body in religious life. That is, for the theosophic kabbalists, just as the body was seen as reflecting the higher structure of God, so the plain meaning was seen as reflecting the esoteric truth; for the ecstatic kabbalists, on the other hand, the body is seen as a hindrance to the mystical goal and, analogously, the plain meaning can be an obstruction to the hidden meaning. Concerning the latter, see also Idel, , “Kitvei R. 'Avraham 'Abula'fiyah u-Mishnato” (Ph.D. diss., Hebrew University, 1976), p. 193, and idem, Language, Torah, and Hermeneulics in Abraham Abulafia (Albany, N.Y., 1988), pp. 73–74. In my view, Idel's characterization of the hermeneutics of theosophic kabbalah is a fitting characterization of Nabmanides as well, and one is therefore quite justified in speaking of a hermeneutical method in conjunction with the latter.
28. Nahmanides' position is brought into focus when one contrasts his sense of the twofold nature of scripture with that of the eleventh-century Northern French exegete, R. Solomon ben Isaac of Troyes (Rashi). The latter too employs twofold exegesis, but for him this means only that the literal-syntactical and homiletic-aggadic meanings exist simultaneously (cf. Nahmanides' commentary to Gen. 8:4). There are no ontological correlates to these exegetical categories, whereas for Nahmanides there are. On Rashi's view, see S. Kamin, Rashi's Exegelical Categorization, pp. 158–208.
29. Perush, Gen. 3:22 (p. 42). Cf. Bahya ben Asher, Be'ur 'al ha-Torah, Gen. 2:9 (ed. Chavel, 1:67). See Ibid., Gen. 18:8, p. 173, where Babya employs the following saying to emphasize that the literal and esoteric are both true: See also Kitvei Ramban, 1:186, where, after hinting at the esoteric doctrine of transmigration alluded to in Eccles. 1:4, Nabmanides writes: . See also the anonymous supercommentary to Nahmanides' commentary preserved in MS JTS Mic. 1895, fol. lib: … The twofold nature of Nahmanides' interpretation of this biblical episode has already been discussed by B. Safran, “Rabbi Azriel and Nahmanides: Two Views of the Fall of Man,” in Rabbi Moses Nahmanides (Ramban): Explorations in His Religious and Literary Virtuosity, pp. 88–89. Safran, however, is not careful to distinguish between his usage of the terms “allegorical” and “symbolic,” and the reader is left with some confusion as to which term best describes Nabmanides' hermeneutical stance from his point of view. He thus writes: “Nahmanides repeats his contention that the Eden story is allegorical … and goes on to explain that the serpent is symbolic of Samael, of Satan. The allegorical identification of the serpent in Sha'ar ha-Gemul corroborates the reader's sense of Nahmanides' direction, (p. 89, my emphasis). By understanding Nabmanides' use of the word in the sense of allegorical versus literal, Safran is led to the conclusion that for Nabmanides “there must be a sense in which the serpent is no serpent.” In fact, however, this interpretation undermines the whole point of Nahmanides' approach. Nahmanides wants to argue that the various elements of the Eden story are true in two senses——in the literal sense and in a symbolic one. The symbolic meaning does not, however, undermine the literal. In kabbalistic terms, the serpent was a real serpent, but at the same time the serpent symbolizes the force of evil in the upper world, Samael. That this is the correct interpretation can be proven by a close examination of the context in Sha'ar ha-Gemul, for after Nahmanides cites chapter 21 of Pirqei Rabbi 'Eli'ezer wherein the figurative explanations are given, he stresses from chapter 20 of the same work as well as from other rabbinic contexts that it is clear that the Garden of Eden was an actual garden on the earth, (Kitvei Ramban, 2:296). See also the citation below at n. 33, and the passage from Ma'arekhet ha-'Elohul cited in n. 27. An allegorical reading attributed to Nahmanides that leads to the denial of the reality of a biblical datum, such as that of Safran, simply misses the mark. See above, n. 25, and below, nn. 56 and 60. Indeed the reading of the biblical episode that Safran attributes to Nahmanides is the very one adopted by Abraham Abulafia, who openly rejected the literal meaning of the text and proffered in its place an allegorical one; see Idel, “Kitvei 'Avraham 'Abul'afiyah u-Mishnato, p. 223. R. Solomon ibn Adret was much more favorably disposed to the allegorical mode of exegesis, especially when applied to rabbinic aggadah. Cf. Horowitz, C., “'On the Rashba's ‘Commentary to the Aggadot’—Between Kabbalah and Philosophy,” Da'at 18 (1986): 15–25 [in Hebrew]; D. Horwitz, “The Role of Philosophy and Kabbalah in the Works of Rashba,” pp. 89–118. See, however, She'elot u-Teshuvot le-RaSHBA 1:9, where ibn Adret criticizes those philosophers who treat matters in the Torah, such as resurrection of the dead, allegorically when these matters contradict the ways of reason. Ibn Adret's position is that at times verses in the Torah should be taken in an allegorical manner, but when there is a received tradition about a certain matter the literal meaning should not be denied even if it contradicts reason. The function of allegorical exegesis is even stronger in Bahya ben Asher, who incorporated it as one of the four modes of interpretation of Scripture (see below, n. 60). See Idel, “We Have No Tradition,” p. 69. On the kabbalistic aversion to allegorization of Scripture, see the comment of Recanati, Sefer Ja'amei ha-Mifwot (Basel, 1581), fol. 3a: “In every place in the Torah that you can elevate the event or the commandment to an entity higher than it, you must elevate i t … provided that you do not say that the matter is not as it is in its literal sense but it alludes to [or symbolizes] the thing above it.” Recanati therefore advocates a symbolic reading of the text by means of which a particular narrative or commandment is understood in terms of a higher process, but he cautions against this symbolic reading leading to a denial of the literal sense of the text.
30. Kitvei Ramban 2:296–97.
31. Ibid. 2:297. Cf.Gikatilla, Joseph, Sha'arei 'Orah, ed. Ben-Shlomo, J. (Jerusalem 1981), 1:49–51. See also the anonymous commentary on the sefirot preserved in MS Paris 770, fol. 62a, where the point is made in language that is close to that of Gikatilla: “Know that man is made in the image of the upper sefirot … for there are upper potencies () that are called hand, foot, eye, head, as you find it written in Scripture in many places…. So in man there is an eye, a hand, and [other] limbs. And this is [the import of] the saying of the sages, blessed be their memory, ‘The Torah speaks in the language of man.’ In any event these [sefirot] are potencies and not [physical] limbs. Yet the limbs of man are called by [the names of] these potencies. Therefore the limbs of man and his intellect are like the sefirot.” And cf. Sefer ha-Bahir. ed. Margaliot, R. (Jerusalem, 1978), §80 and the interpretation thereof in Shem Tov ibn Shem Tov, Sefer ha-'Emunot (Jerusalem, 1969), fol. 19b.
32. For Nabmanides, there are actually three levels: the earthly Garden of Eden, the heavenly Garden of Eden in the seventh heaven, 'Aravot, and the upper Eden in the divine realm, the Shekhinah. also referred to as the , “bundle of life.” See Kitvei Ramban, 1:160–161, 2:297–298. This structure is found in theZohar and in the Hebrew theosophic writings of R. Moses de Leon as well, expressed in language that is derived from Nabmanides. For references, see Moses de Leon, Shushan 'Edut, ed. G. Scholem, Qovej 'at Yad n.s. 8 (1976): 350, n. 164. See also Tishby, I., Mishnat ha-Zohar (Jerusalem, 1970), 1:419–421.
33. Kitvei Ramban, 2:298–299: See the extended discussion in n. 29. On the technical terms and, see discussion below.
34. Perush, Gen. 14:18 (p. 87).
35. According to the classical 'aggadah, the purpose of Israel's blowing the shofar is to change the attribute of judgment into that of mercy; see Pesikta de-Rav Kahana, ed. Mandelbaum, M. (New York, 1962), pp. 337, 344; Leviticus Rabbah 29:3, ed. Margulies, p. 674; Midrash Tehilim 47:2. For the use of this motif in later kabbalistic sources, see references in my The Book of the Pomegranate: Moses de Leon's Sefer ha-Rimmon (Atlanta, 1988), p. 144, n. 4 (Hebrew section).
36. Perush, 23:24 (pp. 153–154). Cf. the parallel in Nahmanides' sermon for Rosh Hashanah, printed in Kitvei Ramban, 1:221. And cf. the anonymous fragment in MS Vat. 214, fol. 6b:
37. Perush, Num. 23:1 (p. 293). In Sha'ar ha-Gemul (Kitvei Ramban, 2:303) Nahmanides reiterates this symbolism but adds that the seven sefirot comprehended by the sages in this world are also alluded to in the seven candles of the menorah. It is interesting that in his commentary to Num. 23:1 Naljmanides approvingly notes that ibn Ezra had alluded to the mystical meaning of the number seven. For other points of contact with ibn Ezra on kabbalistic matters, see-the references given by B. Septimus, ”‘Open Rebuke and Concealed Love’: Nahmanides and the Andalusian Tradition,” in Rabbi Moses Nahmanides fRamban): Explorations in His Religious and Literary Virtuosity, pp. 23–24, n. 43. See also Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, p. 387. Yet seethe historically revealing remark of Isaac of Acre in Me'irat 'Enayim, pp. 81–82: “R. Abraham [, i.e., R. Abraham ibn Ezra] did not speak in accordance with the way of kabbalah, which is the way of truth (), for he was not a kabbalist ).” R. Isaac's remarks are based on Nahmanides' own criticism of ibn Ezra in his commentary to Exod. 13:21. See also Nahmanides' own comment concerning ibn Ezra in his commentary to Exod. 33:12 (p. 519): “He could not know the truth, for he did not hear it nor did he prophesy ().”
38. See also Nahmanides' commentary to Exod. 25:3, Lev. 16:2. By contrast the word m is a symbol for the masculine Yesod, the sign of the covenant (); cf. Nahmanides, Exod. 15:2.
39. Perush, Gen. 2:20 (p. 39). On the identification of Shekhinah and Torah, see also Nabmanides' commentary to Gen. 1:1. On the identification of Shekhinah and berit, cf. commentary to Gen. 9:12, 17:9, Deut. 4:21.
40. Be'ur le-Ferush ha-RaMBaN, fol. 3a. See also Recanati, Menahem, Perush 'alha-Torah (Jerusalem, 1961), Gen. 2:23, fols. 12a-b.
41. Cf. the “Secret of Du-Parsufim” attributed to David, R. Abraham ben of Posquieres, published by Scholem, Reshit ha-Qabbalah (Tel Aviv, 1948), p. 79: “Adam and Eve were created du-parsufim. …it is well-known that two opposites were emanated, one of them judgment and the other mercy.” Cf. Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, pp. 217–218; Twersky, I., Rabad of Posquieres (Cambridge, 1962), p. 291, n. 20; and, most recently, Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives, pp. 128'129.
42. Published in Ma'or wa-Shemesh, fol. 29a.
43. The understanding of symbolism in kabbalah has been dominated by Scholem's view of the symbol, which, as is well known, was influenced by Romantic conceptions, particularly those of Goethe. (Cf. Biale, D., Gershom Scholem: Kabbalah and Counter-History [Cambridge, 1983], p. 138, n. 108; Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives, p. 218.) According to Scholem, , “the mystical symbol is an expressible representation of something which lies beyond the sphere of expression and communication” (Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism [New York, 1956], p. 27). Similar definitions are to be found in Tishby, Isaiah (see Netivei 'Emunah u-Minut [Jerusalem, 1964], p. 13) and Dan, Joseph (see The Early Kabbalah [New York, 1986], pp. 9–12). This conception of the symbol implies an unbridgeable gap separating signifier and that which is signified, for the latter forever remains something hidden, inexpressible, out of range of phenomenological discernment. It strikes me, however, that the force of symbols as they are understood by the kabbalists consists precisely in the fact that there is a much closer connection—indeed coincidence—between the signans and the signatum. The latter are two sides of one coin, the one reflecting and influencing the reality of the other. (See Eco, U., Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language [Bloomington, 1984], p. 130.) There is no inexpressible signatum for the kabbalist; on the contrary, words from Scripture (or even later rabbinic texts) can be transformed into symbols precisely because the reality which they symbolize can be so expressed. In the absence of expression there is no symbol except for symbols that depict the inexpressible, such as 'Ein Sof (the Infinite), Ayin or Efes (i.e., Nothingness), or Hoshekh (i.e., Darkness), terms which have the symbolic function of being beyond expressibility and hence beyond symbolization. Where the symbol is something expressible, so too that which is symbolized. In the kabbalistic symbol the gap between abstract and concrete is closed, for there is only one reality with two parallel manifestations. Hence, the choice of particular symbols is not arbitrary but is determined rather by the fact that there is something in the nature of that symbol that informs one about the essential reality of that which is symbolized. For a slightly different formulation, but one which similarly calls into question Scholem's point of view, see Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives, pp. 231–232.
44. Here it is worth mentioning again (see above n. 23) that, as is evident from the introduction to the Torah commentary, Nahmanides has besides the theosophic reading of Scripture another mystical tradition based on reading the text as a fabric of divine names. There too Nahmanides upheld the simultaneous veracity of two textual levels, the literal-narrative () and the esoteric-mystical (). Both ways of reading the text were given to Moses at Sinai, the former in writing and the latter orally. In this case it does not appear that the esoteric reading has anything to do with theosophical symbolism. See, however, Katz, Halakhah we-Qabbalah, p. 30, who assumes that Nahmanides is speaking about theosophic truths in his characterization of the Torah as an amalgam of names. What is not sufficiently worked out in Nahmanides is the relationship between the esoteric and exoteric reading with respect to the question of commandments. Interestingly, Abraham Abulafia, who employed Nahmanides' formulation of the Torah as being a composite of names as a cornerstone for his own hermeneutics (see Idel, “Kitvei R. 'Avraham 'Abula'fiyah u-Mishnato,” pp. 177–178; and idem, Language, Torah and Hermeneutics in Abraham Abulafia, pp. 46–47) attempts in some passages to link the esoteric and exoteric levels. See, e.g., Sitrei Torah, MS Paris 774, fol. 119a, where the Written Torah is described as the Torah “understood in its plain meaning, all of its matters and commandments,” whereas the Oral Torah is the Torah “in its secret meaning … having to do with the secret names and the reasons for the commandments.” See Idel, Language, Torah and Hermeneutics, p. 171, n. 88. And cf. Sitrei Torah, fol. 125a, cited in Idel, op, cit., p. 55, where the revealed aspect of Torah is identified as the commandment and the concealed aspect as Torah, “for it refers to the entire body of wisdom of this commandment, its purpose and its substance.” Hence, in contrast to Nahmanides, at least as one may gather from his writings, Abulafia forges an essential link between the magico-mystical conception of Torah as names and la'amei ha-miswot. Elsewhere Abulafia's formulation is closer to Nahmanides and no explicit relationship is established between the two modes of reading; see 'Osar 'Eden Ganuz, MS Oxford 1580, fols. 26a-b; Sefer Mafteah ha-Hokhmol, the first part of the larger commentary on the Pentateuch entitled Sefer ha-Maftehot (cf. Idel, “Kitvei R. 'Avraham “Abula'fiyah,” pp. 20–21) preserved in MS JTS Mic. 1686, fols. 96a, 102a. Cf. Ibid., fol. 146a.
45. Cf. Perush, Introduction, p. 3. See also Sheshet, Jacob ben, Meshiv Devarim Nekhohim, ed. Vajda, G. (Jerusalem, 1970), p. 29. And cf. Eleazar of Worms, Sefer ha-Shem, MS British Museum 737, fols. 205b–206a: “Why [are there] thirty-two [paths of wisdom according to Sefer Yesirah]? Because the Torah begins with [the letter] bet and ends with lamed [the consonants equal thirty-two] to teach you that everything is hinted at in the Torah but it is hidden from people, for the secrets of Torah were not transmitted but ‘the secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him’ (Ps. 25:14).” The view that all sciences are contained in the Torah is wellattested in the medieval philosophic literature as well; see Wolfson, H., Philo: Foundations of Religious Philosophy in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Cambridge, 1947), 1:162–163;Twersky, I., “Some Non-Halakhic Aspects of the Mishneh Torah,” in Jewish Medieval and Renaissance Studies, ed. Altmann, A. (Cambridge, 1967), pp. 114–115. Cf. Maimonides, 'Iggerel Teiman, in 'Iggerot ha-RaMBaM, ed. J. Kafih (Jerusalem, 1987), p. 22. Idel, “We Have No Tradition,” p. 62, notes the similarity between Maimonides' and Nahmanides' views regarding an ancient esoteric lore in Judaism. The crucial difference between the two, apart from the nature of the content of this lore, is with respect to the question of the remnant of this lore in medieval times. In Idel's mind, according to Maimonides, the tradition was completely lost and thus had to be reconstructed on the basis of philosophic sources; according to Nahmanides, however, there still are traces of this ancient lore lingering on in the tradition and one cannot therefore freely reconstruct it but rather must preserve the authoritative interpretations that we possess. In point of fact, however, at times Maimonides does speak of the ancient lore (consisting of physics and metaphysics) that was neglected and forgotten (cf. Guide of the Perplexed, 1,71 and Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Qiddush ha-Hodesh 17:24; Altmann, , “Das Verhaltnis Maimunis zur judischen Mystik,” Monatsschrift fur Geschichte und Wissensehaft des Judentums 80 : 315), but at other times he speaks of a residue of this lore in prophetic and rabbinic literature that can be rediscovered through interpretative techniques (cf. Guide of the Perplexed, Introduction; I, 17; II, 3, 11, 30). Cf. Twersky, I., Introduction to the Code of Maimonides (New Haven, 1980), p. 370, who writes that Maimonides' “passion for philosophy is thus in a formal sense restorative rather than innovative.” See also Rosenberg, S., “Biblical Exegesis in the Guide,” Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought 1 (1981): 94–95 [in Hebrew];Altmann, A., “Maimonides on the Intellect and the Scope of Metaphysics,” in his Von der mittelalterlichen zur modernen Aufklarung (Tubingen, 1987), p. 129 and other references given there in n. 151. Cf. Teicher, J. L., “The Mediaeval Mind,” Journal of Jewish Studies 6 (1955): 11, who writes that Maimonides' feeling “that he is only restoring and recovering the lost sciences of the ancient sages” is “typical, not of the Middle Ages, but of the Renaissance.” In truth, however, the tendency to cloak innovation in the garb of traditional authority, and hence to present new insights as a recovery of ancient truth, is very characteristic of the medieval mentality; see the citation from J. Preus given below, n. 156. And cf. Berman, L., “Maimonides, the disciple of Alfarabi,” Israel Oriental Studies 4 (1974): 167, n. 44, who describes Maimonides' “back projection” of philosophy into rabbinic texts in light of Alfarabi's thesis that a truly virtuous religion must have been preceded by demonstrative philosophy. Perhaps a more precise way of expressing the difference between Maimonides and Naljmanides would be with respect to the question of constraint on one's exegetical activity. Whereas Naljmanides restricts the viability of exegesis as a vehicle to establish kabbalistic lore, for these secrets were transmitted orally from Sinai and one therefore requires a teacher to ascertain them, it would seem that Mai monides allows for much greater exegetical freedom as long as one's interpretative stance accords with what is known from external sources to be rationally sound.
46. Kitvei Ramban, 1:163.
47. Cf. Scholem, Major Trends, p. 207. This identification of the upper chariot with the sefirotic realm also underlies the statement of R. Solomon ibn Adret in his letter to the Jews of Provence to the effect that “things alluded to in the commandments of the Torah [i.e., the kabbalistic ta'amei ha-miswot] constitute the ma'aseh merkavah.” The letter is printed in 'Ein Ya'aqov to Sukkah 28a, 46b: Cf. J. Katz, Halakhah we-Qabbalah, pp. 73–75; D. Horwitz, “The Role of Philosophy and Kabbalah in the Works of Rashba,” pp. 87, 121–125. It must be pointed out that in the context of that letter ibn Adret is attacking the rationalists, who neglected the practical fulfillment of commandments such as prayer and phylacteries and instead were given to the study of philosophic and scientific books. Such people, following Maimonides no doubt, viewed the highest goal to be the study of ma'aseh merkavah, or metaphysics. Against them ibn Adret is skillfully pointing out that ma'aseh merkavah is essentially the study of the reasons for the commandments which are alluded to and contained () in the actual precepts. (Hence the application of the term to the study of , for the mystical reasons are comprised——within the particular commandments.) For a discussion of a similar theme in other thirteenth-century kabbalistic sources, see D. Matt, “The Mystic and the Mizwot,” in Jewish Spirituality from the Bible through the Middle Ages, ed. A. Green (New York, 1986), pp. 372–376; and E. Wolfson, “Mystical Rationalization of the Commandments in Sefer ha-Rimmon,” Hebrew Union College Annual 59 (1988). See also She'elot u-Teshuvot ha-RaSHBA (Jerusalem, 1976), 1:94, where ibn Adret states that every commandment has a body and a soul, the latter being identified with the mystical reason of that particular commandment. And cf. J. Perles, R. Salomo b. Abraham b. Adereth sein Leben and seine Schriften (Breslau, 1863), pp. 28–29 (Hebrew section). The centrality of la'amei ha-miswot in the kabbalah of Nahmanides has been pointed out by Idel; see “We Have No Tradition,” pp. 63, 67. See, in particular, Nafrmanides' comment in his “Derashah'al Divrei Kohelet,” Kitvei Ramban, 1:190. In the context of addressing the issues of creation vs. eternity, Nahmanides writes: “But [with respect to] these matters and others like them one cannot understand their truth from one's own mind () but only through a tradition (). This matter is explained in the Torah for whoever has heard the reasons for the commandments through the [mystical], as is fitting. This one receives from another until Moses, our teacher, who received from God.” The centrality of la'amei ha-miswot in kabbalah is also evident from the oft-cited quote from Meir ibn Sahula's commentary on Sefer Yefirah to the effect that kabbalah consists of two disciplines, the doctrine of the sefirot and the explication of (a'amei ha-miswot. See Scholem, Reshit ha-Qabbalah (Jerusalem, 1948), p. 17; Matt, “The Mystic and the Mizwot,” p. 377. See also the definition of kabbalah offered by Joseph Jabez in his Commentary on 'Avot.M and cited by Matt, op. cit., p. 401, n. 28: “the knowledge of ta'amei ha-miswot.”
48. For a description of kabbalistic symbolism, see above, n. 43. On the use of accommodation as an exegetical technique in early Christian biblical interpretation, cf. Battler, F. L., “God Was Accommodating Himself to Human Capacity,” Interpretation 31 (1977): 22–26; Rogers and McKim, The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible, pp. 9–12, 18–19, 27–30, 53–54. For the use of accommodation in Origen, see also Hanson, R. P. C., Allegory and Event (Richmond, Va., 1959), pp. 226–227. For the analogue to the principle of accommodation in Philonic exegesis and some parallels in rabbinic sources, see H. A. Wolfson, Philo: Foundations of Religious Philosophy in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, pp. 115–138.
49. Cf. the passage from the anonymous German Pietistic work, Sefer ha-lfayyim, cited in Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, pp. 182–183: “And it is the same with all the [divine] middoth, and everything that comes to pass in the lower world takes place through them, and this is the secret of the whole Torah and the whole Scripture.” On the proximity of the theology of this text to kabbalistic theosophy, see also Scholem, Major Trends, p. 112; and Dan, J., Torat ha-Sod shel Hasidut 'Ashkenaz (Jerusalem, 1968), pp. 143–156.
50. See citation from Ma'arekhet ha-'Elohut given above, n. 27.
51. The is thus equated with the , which causes the existence of the , the latter term being a technical reference in Nahmanides for a cosmic cycle; see his commentary to Lev. 25:2. Nahmanides' terminology is based partially on Sefer ha-Bahir § 158. For a slightly different interpretation of this passage, see Idel, M., “The Sefirot above the Sefirot,” Tarbiz 51 (1982): 245–246 (in Hebrew). A similar expression occurs in a kabbalistic explanation of the Sinaitic theophany found in a collection of materials, apparently from the school of R. Solomon ibn Adret, extant in several manuscripts, including MSS JTS Mic. 1895, fol. 7a, 1896, fols. 78a-b, and 8124, fol. 5b; See also MS Oxford 1974, fol. la.
52. Perush, Gen. 1:3 (p. 16). The six days of creation are interpreted as a symbolic reference to the sefirot already in Sefer ha-Bahir, §§ 57, 82.
53. For Nahmanides the six days of creation also prefigure the six millennia of world history. Cf. Perush to Gen. 2:3; Exod. 20:11, 21:2; Lev. 23:36, 25:2. Cf. Funkenstein, “Nahmanides' Symbolic Reading of History,” p. 140. See also She'elot u-Teshuvot le-RaSHBA 1:9 and 423. The theosophical and typological interpretations are brought together by Menahem Recanati in the introduction to his Sefer Ta'amei ha-Miswot, fol. 3a: “The seven last sefirot are the seven days of creation, as is known to the sages of kabbalah. And do not wonder at the fact that the sages of kabbalah said that the secret of the seven days of creation alludes to what was and what will be afterward. This can be understood from what the rabbis, blessed be their memory, said. ‘The world exists for six thousand years and is desolate for one thousand’ [cf. b. Sanhedrin 97a].”
54. For the latter view, see Keter Shem Tov, fol. 25b. Cf. also Nahmanides' commentary to Lev. 18:25 where it is said that the Shekhinah () created everything and placed the force of the upper realities in the lower ones.
55. Gottlieb, Mehqarim be-Sifrut ha-Qabbalah, pp. 18–28.
56. Cf. Guide of the Perplexed, Introduction, and I, 71. A clear formulation of the Maimonidean perspective is given by R. Levi ben Abraham ben Hayyim in his Liwyat Hen, extant in MS Oxford 1285, fol. 35a. In this regard Teicher's characterization of R. Solomon ibn Adret as one who sought a “compromise between the fundamentalist's view and a selection of some elements of Maimonides' view” is applicable to Nahmanides as well. See Teicher, “The Mediaeval Mind,” p. 8. That is to say, Nahmanides employed the Maimonidean esotericexoteric distinction in his hermeneutic, but he wished to maintain a fundamentalist reading of the text that unequivocally preserved the literal, historical sense. See above, n. 29.
57. Interesting in this regard is a passage in Abraham Abulafia's Sitrei Torah, MS Paris 774, fol. 115a, wherein he tries to uphold the truth of the revealed aspect of Torah, i.e., the literal sense, as well as the concealed aspect, i.e., the mystical sense. The Torah, says Abulafia, “operates on two levels of existence … the revealed and concealed aspects.” Abulafia then compares the two respectively to the body and the soul. Here it would seem that we have an instance of trying to connect the Maimonidean hermeneutic with ontic categories, or, in Abulafia's terms, “two levels of existence.” In fact, however, as Idel has shown, Language, Torah and Hermeneulics, p. 77, the meaning of this passage is that there is only one reality, and the concealed aspect consists of the fact that this world preexisted. That is to say, the esoteric sense is basically a denial of a traditionalist view of creation. For Maimonides there is one cosmic continuum with the divine agent outside the world; for the kabbalists, by contrast, the divine and cosmic are not only parallel worlds but they are intersecting realms that mutually interact and interpenetrate.
58. On the use of the word in Nabmanides' writings, see below, n. 188.
59. Kitvei Ramban, 1:180. See also Ibid. 2:297. For ibn Ezra's passage, see Perushei ha-Torah le-R. 'Avraham ibn 'Ezra, ed. Weiser, A. (Jerusalem, 1977), 1:7.
60. It is of interest that the one layer of meaning that Nabmanides neglects is precisely the one utilized by Maimonides, viz., the allegorical. Cf. Guide of the Perplexed III, 8, where the “capable woman” of Prov. 31:10 is interpreted as an allegorical reference to matter. See also Ibid: I, 34, where “Do not give your strength to women” (Prov. 31:3) is interpreted as a reference to material or sensual pursuits. Cf. Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot De'ot 4:19. If one were to add the allegorical to Nahmanides' list, then one would have a striking example of the four levels of meaning that one finds explicitly for the first time in kabbalistic sources from the end of the thirteenth century. See Bacher, W., “L'exegese biblique dans le Zohar,” Revue des etudes juives 22 (1891): 37–39;Sandier, P., “On the Problem of Pardes,” Festschrift for E. Auerbach (Jerusalem, 1955), pp. 223–235 [in Hebrew];Scholem, , On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism (New York, 1969), pp. 53–61;Heide, A. Van der, “Pardes: Methodological Reflections on the Theory of the Four Senses,” Journal of Jewish Studies 34 (1983): 147–159; F. Talmage, “Apples of Gold: The Inner Meaning of Sacred Texts in Medieval Judaism,” in Jewish Spirituality from the Bible through the Middle Ages, pp. 319–321. On Nabmanides' general avoidance of allegory as an exegetical technique, see Scholem, op. cit., p. 53, and idem, Origins of the Kabbalah, p. 386. And see above nn. 29 and 56. Scholem's description of Nabmanides is, of course, one specific example of his overall position that the medieval kabbalists employed symbols in place of the allegories utilized by the philosophers. See e.g., Scholem, Major Trends, pp. 26–27; Origins, p. 407. Scholem's allegory-symbol schematization, based as it is on the Romantic model of Goethe, has been criticized by several scholars. See Schweid, E., “Mysticism and Judaism according to Gershom Scholem: A Critical Analysis,” Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought, Supplement 2 (1983): 18–20 [in Hebrew];Saperstein, M., Decoding the Rabbis (Cambridge, 1980), p. 220, n. 62;Shoham, Uri, Ha-Mashmaul ha-'Aheret (Tel Aviv, 1982), pp. 61–64; Talmage, “Apples of Gold,” p. 341; and Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives, pp. 218–219. Notwithstanding the need to revise Scholem's oversimplified schema, it seems to me that his characterization is accurate as far as Nahmanides goes, although this does not imply that Nabmanides never relies on the mode of allegorical exegesis (see, e.g., Perush, Gen. 6:6, to be discussed below). For an example of Nahmanides' rejection of allegorical interpretation, see Kitvei Ramban, 1:24. Nahmanides rejects the philosophers who allegorically explain Satan, the angel of death, or the evil inclination (identified as such by Resh Laqish; see b. Baba Batra 16a) as a reference to the material principle in the world. “The sages of Israel attributed to him [i.e., Satan] all these names because of their conviction that he is an existing angel and not some natural phenomenon or force.” For a discussion of some of the sources in which this allegorical conception of Satan is found, see Idel, M., Studies in Ecstatic Kabbalah (Albany, 1988), pp. 34–35. See also D. Silver, “Nachmanides' Commentary on the Book of Job,” p. 15, who has pointed out that in his comments to Job 1:1 Nahmanides emphasizes the historicity of this biblical episode and thereby tacitly rejects the allegorical line of interpretation suggested by the rabbis and reinforced by Maimonides. Finally, in Sha'ar ha-Gemul, Kitvei Ramban, 2:283, Nahmanides affirmed the actual existence of Gehenna as a distinct locality. This stands in marked contrast to Maimonides' interpretation of Gehenna as an allegory for an individual's punishment. Maimonides was already attacked for this allegorical interpretation by Meshullam ben Solomon Dapiera; see Brody, H., “Poems of Meshullam ben Solomon Dapiera,” Studies of the Research Institute for Hebrew Poetry in Jerusalem (Jerusalem, 1938), 4:17. A mediating position between Maimonides and Nabmanides was attempted by ibn Adret; see discussion in D. Horwitz, “The Role of Philosophy and Kabbalah in the Works of Rashba,” pp. 105–107. Nahmanides' upholding of a literal reading of Scripture and his frequent rejection of allegorical interpretations thus has to be seen as a reaction to Jewish rationalistic tendencies. It should be noted that other Jewish exegetes, especially in the Franco-German orbit, e.g., Joseph Bekhor Shor, Solomon ben Meir, David Kimbi, Meir ben Simeon, and the anonymous author of Sefer ha-Maskil, reacted to both Jewish and Christian allegorists. See Stein, S., Jewish-Christian Disputations in Thirteenth-Century Narbonne (London, 1969), p. 11;Talmage, F., David Kimhi: The Man and the Commentaries (Cambridge, 1975), pp. 82–83;Urbach, E. E., Ba'alei ha-Tosafot (Jerusalem, 1980), pp. 135–136;Ta-Shema, I., ”Sefer ha-Maskil—An Unknown Text from the End of the Thirteenth Century,” Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought 2 (1982 /83): 416–438 [in Hebrew];Touitou, E., “Peshaf and Apologetics in the RaSHBaM's Commentary on the Biblical Stories of Moses,” Tarbiz 51 (1982): 227–238 [in Hebrew];idem, , “The Exegetical Method of RaSHBaM in the Light of the Historical Background of His Time,” 'Iyyunim be- Sifrut HaZal ba-Miqra u-ve-Toledot Yisra'el (Ramat-Gan, 1982): 51–74 [in Hebrew];Kamin, S., “The Polemic against Allegory in the Commentary of Rabbi Joseph Bekhor Shor,” Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought 3 (1983 /84): 367–392 [in Hebrew];Haran, M., “Midrashic Exegesis and the Peshat, and the Critical Approach in Bible Research,” in Studies in Judaica, ed. Bar-Asher, M. (Jerusalem, 1986), pp. 76–77 [in Hebrew]. For the interchange between Jewish and Christian exegetes in this area and in this period, see especially Smalley, B., The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1952), pp. 103 ff.;Grabois, A, “The Hebraica Veritas and Jewish-Christian Intellectual Relations in the Twelfth Century,” Speculum 50 (1975): 619–626.
61. Cf. Efros, I., Philosophical Terms in the Moreh Nebukhim (New York: 1924), p. 82, s.v. . Efros refers to the Guide of the Perplexed II, 29 and 57, where means primary or literal meaning. On the Arabic root underlying the medieval usage of for the external sense or utterance, cf. Wolfson, H., Crescas' Critique of Aristotle (Cambridge, 1929), p. 639. The usage is also found in a passage in the Sefer ha-Maskil cited in I. Ta-Shema, “Sefer ha-Maskil,” p. 422, n. 16. See also below, n. 219.
62. On in the sense of allegory or figurative meaning in Nahmanides, see also citation from Sha'ar ha-Gemul above, n. 33. And cf. Efros, Philosophical Terms, p. 80, s.v. p a. To be sure, although this usage became widespread in medieval Hebrew literature, especially in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the word was used in the sense of allegory already in classical midrashic literature; see Lieberman, S., Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (New York, 1962), p. 68, and other references given there in n. 170.
63. See, for instance, the introduction of Abraham ibn Ezra to his Perush 'al ha-Torah, ed. Weiser, 1:6. On the words mashal and hidah as synonyms for allegory in Maimonides, see Guide, Introduction; Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 8:2, and Hilkhot Melakhim 12:1. Cf. Bacher, Ha-RaMBaM Parshan ha-Miqra', pp. 19–20, n. 6. See also the comments of Scholem, On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism, p. 55, n. 2. And cf. Shor, Joseph ben Isaac Bekhor, Perush 'al ha-Torah (London 1956), Num. 12:8, p. 78 (for a detailed analysis of this passage, see S. Kamin's article mentioned above n. 60). For some kabbalists mashal was used in the sense of kabbalistic symbol. See Judah ben Yaqar, Perush ha-Tejillot we-ha-Berakhot, ed. S. Yerushalmi (Jerusalem, 1979), pt. 1, p. 98, who comments on the merkavah tradition of the image of Jacob inscribed on the Throne in these words: and see Perush 'al Shir ha-Shirim, Kitvei Ramban, 2:481, where R. Ezra of Gerona says about the term wine: (cf. Vajda's, French translation, Le commentaire d 'Ezra de Gerone sur le Canlique des Cantiques [Paris, 1969], p. 48: “symbolisent la Sagesse”). See also Ezra's, R. comment in Perush ha-'Aggadot le-R. 'Azri'el, ed. Tishby, I. (Jerusalem, 1949), p. 12: Cf. MS JTS Mic. 1878, fol. 25a. To be sure, in other contexts R. Ezra employs the word in the sense of allegory; cf. Kitvei Ramban, 2:480: . This latter example has already been noted by Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives, p. 219. See also Yom Tov Lipmann Miihlhausen, Sefer ha-'Eshkol, ed. J. Kaufman (New York, 1926), p. 143, where and refer respectively to allegory, the literal sense, and kabbalistic meaning. It seems to me that this division reflects Nahmanides' usage.
64. For references, see Perles, “Ueber den Geist des Commentars des R. Moses ben Nachman zum Pentateuch,” p. 120, n. 2; Septimus, “Naljmanides and the Andalusian Tradition,” p. 23, n. 41.
65. Kitvei Ramban, 1:308. The interchangeability of the words and is by no means unique to Nahmanides. See, e.g., Abraham ben Isaac of Narbonne, Sefer ha-'Eshkoi, ed. B. H. Auerbach (Halberstadt, 1868), pt. 2, p. 47. See also the sources cited in Talmage, David Kimhi: The Man and the Commentaries, pp. 74–76.
66. Cf. b. Shabbat 63a; Yevamot l ib and 24a. Of the many discussions concerning this rabbinic principle, see in particular I. Frankel, Peshat in Talmudic and Midrashic Literature (Toronto, 1956), pp. 71–77; R. Loewe, “The ‘Plain’ Meaning of Scripture in Early Jewish Exegesis,” pp. 164–167; S. Kamin, Rashi's Exegetical Categorization, pp. 37–43. Maimonides' position is that in the case of an explicit tradition that is traced back to Mosaic revelation at Sinai it is possible for a halakhic exegesis to take the verse in a nonliteral way. The limitation on nonliteral exegesis is only applicable in those cases where there is no explicit tradition. Cf. Maimonides' introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah, Seder Zera'im, in Mishnah 'im Perush ha-RaMBaM, ed. Kafib, pp. 9–10, where he makes clear that those laws which are considered cannot be derived on the basis of the hermeneutical principles nor is there any allusion to them in Scripture. Cf. Maimonides' commentary to Nazir 4:7, in Kafih ed., Seder Nashim, p. 123: “this law has no allusion () in Scripture but is only a tradition ().” A similar formulation appears in Maimonides' commentary to Sanhedrin 6:6, ed. Kafih, Seder Neziqin, p. 119. And see Maimonides' commentary to Kelim 17:12, ed. J. Kafib, Seder Toharot, p. 100: “Whatever is not explained in the language of the Torah () is called ‘from the words of the scribes’ (), and [this includes] even those things which are laws [given] to Moses at Sinai (), for the meaning of [the expression] ‘from the words of the sages’ is that the matter is either a scribal tradition [, but see the alternative reading from the standard printed edition cited by Kafib, n. 26, which has nsn instead of ] as all the explanations and laws that were received () from Moses, or a scribal amendment (), as all the amendments and decrees.” Extrabiblical scribal traditions thus comprise two categories for Maimonides: either that which was received from Moses or that which was instituted by the sages. Concerning the latter, see the monograph by Neubauer, J., Ha-RaMBaM 'al Divrei Soferim (Jerusalem, 1957). See also the commentary of Horowitz, R. Aryeh Leib, Margenita' Tava, to Seferha-Miswot (Jerusalem, 1985), 18b, s.v., 131.
67. I am citing from Chavel's, edition, Sefer ha-Mifwot leha-RaMBaM we-hassagot ha- RaMBaN (Jerusalem, 1981), p. 44. On Nahmanides' interpretation ofthis principle, see Kamin, Rashi's Exegetical Categorization, p. 38. Nahmanides, of course, recognized that certain rabbinic rulings exceded biblical law; see, e.g., his commentary to Lev. 19:19, where he distinguishes two types of law, one whose basis is and the other whose basis is And cf. Ibid., Deut. 4:2, where Naljmanides follows Maimonides' opinion regarding the legal status of taqqanot (cf. Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Mamrim 2:9).
68. Sefer ha-Mifwot, loc. cit.
69. B. Septimus, “Nahmanides and the Andalusian Tradition,” p. 18. It is of interest to note that Abraham Abulafia expresses the notion that the Written Torah comprises three subjects: see Idel, “Kitvei R. 'Avraham 'Abul'afiyah,” pp. 178–179, 222 (and cf. now idem, Language, Torah, and Hermeneutics, pp. 48–49). Of particular relevance to my analysis is a passage from Sefer ha-Hokhmot cited by Idel, “Kitvei R. 'Avraham 'Abul'afiyah,” p. 222, for the view expressed by Abulafia resembles Nahmanides' position. According to Abulafia the Torah is given in three ways that correspond to the (literal), (interpretative or explanatory), and or (homiletical and legendary or mythical). “It was necessary for the Torah to perfect the house of the righteous by means of these three ways. The first ones are dependent on the literal sense ()…. The second is its [i.e., the verse's] interpretation (), for even the words of interpretation () are in accordance with their literal sense (). And the third are the homiletical and legendary [or mythical] () when they too are understood according to their literal sense ()…. It is appropriate to include all three ways in the first name, since all are the .” For a different rendering in English, see Idel, Language, Torah, and Hermeneutics, p. 90. Mention should also be made of Isaac ibn Latif s somewhat unusual classification of the four methods of scriptural interpretation: the literal (), which comprises grammatical meaning; the aggadic, which is identified as ; the allegorical (); and the mystical (). See S. O. Heller-Wilensky, “Isaac Ibn Latif—Philosopher or Kabbalist?” Jewish Medieval and Renaissance Studies, ed. A. Altmann, p. 210.
70. Sefer ha-Miswot, loc. cit.
71. Ibid., p. 45.
72. Cf. Gen. 2:8 (p. 35).
73. Funkenstein, “Nahmanides' Symbolical Reading of History,” p. 133.
74. Septimus, “Nahmanides and the Andalusian Tradition,” p. 21, n. 37.
75. Berger, “Miracles and the Natural Order in Nahmanides,” in Rabbi Moses Nahmanides, p. 112, n. 19.
76. In fact, it is not at all evident that Nahmanides consistently employs the term sod to refer to kabbalistic truth. Cf. Nahmanides' commentary to Lev. 16:8 (cited by Septimus) where the secret of the matter ) of the scapegoat to Azazel, based on ibn Ezra's esoteric explanation, is explained as an offering on behalf of God to the force of destruction in the world that is connected with Mars in the celestial realm, with Esau (i.e., Christianity) in the earthly realm, with goats in the animal kingdom, and with demonic forces that Scripture refers to as (satyrs). It is interesting to note as well that in that context Nahmanides approvingly cites ibn Ezra's Neoplatonic position. See parallel in Kitvei Ramban, 1:165, where Nahmanides' refers to ibn Ezra's and calls it the plain meaning, . And cf. Perush, Lev. 18:25, where the “secret of the matter,” , refers to a mystical—though not kabbalistic—idea rooted in older aggadic sources; the text is discussed below. See also the commentary to Lev. 23:17. In another case, not noted by Berger or Septimus, in his commentary to Num. 21:9 Nahmanides explains the “secret of the matter” () concerning the serpent of brass made by Moseses a reference to the medical principle that illness is sometimes healed by means of the cause of the sickness. Such a principle does not seem to me to have anything uniquely or intrinsically kabbalistic about it, even though kabbalists may have employed some such view in their theosophic systems. See the commentary of Menahem Recanati to Num. 21:8, fol. 77d. Recanati cites the “esoteric” interpretation (sod) of Nabmanides and calls it peshaf; . Recanati goes on to suggest, in contrast to Nahmanides' view, an esoteric interpretation based on a zoharic passage (cf. Zohar 3:130b). Cf. Perles, “Ueber den Geist des Commentars des R. Moses ben Nachman zum Pentateuch,” p. 118, n. 6. See also Isaac of Acre, Me'irat 'Einayim, p. 201: “I am astounded at the RaMBaN, blessed be his memory, for he mentions a secret () in connection with this matter [i.e., the brass serpent of Num. 21:8] but does not allude to any secret…. Perhaps the Rabbi [Nahmanides] called even a physical entity () a secret, since they are hidden from the many.” It should be noted that R. Isaac also offers his own kabbalistic interpretation: the brass serpent symbolized the unity of mercy and judgment, for through it God had the power to both heal and wound. And cf. Kitvei Ramban, 1:262 where we find the expression used to designate the secret of messianic computation. See, by contrast, Scholem's unqualified statement in Origins, p. 387: “Authors like Ezra and Nahmanides … understood by sod only that which, in their circle, had already become the subject of a kabbalistic tradition.” See also D. Horwitz, “The Role of Philosophy and Kabbalah in the Works of Rashba,” pp. 100–101, who writes that “the word sod according to Rashba (as according to Ramban) had a specific connotation: the sefirotic doctrine of the Gerona school.” It can be shown, at least in the case of Nahmanides, that this characterization is not borne out by the textual evidence.
77. The same may be said about Naljmanides' reading of Job 32:3 in his commentary ad loc; see Berger, “Miracles and the Natural Order,” p. 112., n. 19. See also Katz, Halakhah we-Qabbalah, p. 31.
78. Perush. Lev. 1:9 (p. 13).
79. Cf. b. Menahot 110a; Sifre Be-Midbar, pisqa 143.
80. Cf. Perush, Lev. 23:17; “for sacrifices are to the will of the honorable name, 1333H aw [i.e., the Shekhinah].”
81. See Ibid., where the need to combine the attributes of mercy and judgment is also connected to the act of sacrifices. For a study of a similar motif in much earlier sources, see Baer, Y., “The Service of the Sacrifice in Second Temple Times,” Zion 40 (1975): 957–153 [in Hebrew].
82. Cf. ibn Ezra's commentary to Exod. 23:20 (ed. Weiser, 2:162); and see Nahmanides' commentary to Exod. 33:12.
83. Perush, Exod. 14:19 (p. 351).
84. The notion of the court of God has its origin in rabbinic 'aggadah. Cf. Genesis Rabbah 51:2 (ed. Theodor-Albeck, p. 533); Exodus Rabbah 12:4. For Nahmanides, as other kabbalists, the reference is to the Shekhinah, the attribute of judgment. Cf., e.g., Perush to Gen. 19:24, Exod. 13:21, Num. 15:25; Deut. 8:18.
85. Cf. Isaac of Acre, Me'irat 'Einayim, p. 82: And see Be'ur le-Ferush ha- RaMBaN, fol. 13a; Recanati, Perush 'al ha-Torah, fol. 43b, who adds the numerological equivalence of and i.e., both words equal 91.
86. Cf. Perush to Gen. 18:1, to be discussed below. In several places the Shekhinah is also designated as the ; see Gen. 22:12, 48:15, Exod. 3:2, 12:12, 23:20, 24:1. In his commentary to Exod. 33:12 (p. 519) Nahmanides refers to the Shekhinah as the “first angel” () in whom is the name of God (cf. Exod. 23:21), while in the commentary to Exod. 33:14 She is referred to, on the basis of Malachi 3:1, as the angel of the covenant (). See below, nn. 99–100.
87. In several places Nahmanides accepts the philosophical characterization of angels as separate intellects. Cf. Perush, Gen. 18:1; Num. 22:23, 23:4.
88. See n. 84.
89. Isaac of Acre, Me'irat 'Einayim, p. 81; Recanati, Perush 'al ha-Torah, fol. 43a.
90. That the expression “the all,” , should be taken here as a technical term for the Shekhinah (see below, n. 116), and should not be translated simply as “everything” (as has been rendered by Chavel in his English translation of Nahmanides' commentary, vol. 2, p. 179), is evident from the fact that the verb used is the feminine form, , rather than , the masculine form required if the word were to be taken in its normal sense. Cf. Be'ur le-Ferush ha-RaMBaN, fol. 13a; Isaac of Acre, Me'irat 'Einayim, p. 81.
91. Perush, Exod. 13:21 (p. 348). For a discussion of this passage and its influence on the author of the Zohar, see Wolfson, E., “Left Contained in the Right: A Study in Zoharic Hermeneutics,” AJS Review 11 (1986): 40–41.
92. Kilvei Ramban, 1:26.
93. See, e.g., Guide I, 49; II, 42. And cf. Teicher, “The Mediaeval Mind,” p. 10. It must be said that on noetic grounds there is no difference between a prophetic vision and regular sense experience. On the contrary, as Maimonides states in Guide III, 24, one of the signs of genuine prophecy is that “all that is seen by the prophet in a vision of prophecy is, for the prophet, true and certain,” for “the prophet has no doubts in any way concerning anything in it, and that, for him, its status is the same as that of all existing things that are apprehended through the senses or the intellect.” It is nevertheless the case that Maimonides denies the facticity or objective pole of the images seen by the prophet. That is, the images seen by the prophet occur only within the prophet's mind, with no sense datum in the external world. Maimonides can thus contrast that which is and that which is apprehended in a prophetic state. In terms of this doctrine Maimonides followed the view of Avicenna and not that of al-Farabi. See Sirat, C., Les Theories des visions surnaturelles dans la Pensee juive du Moyen Age (Leiden, 1969), p. 142.
94. Nahmanides himself, as far as I am aware, does not use the expression , though he does use the word ; see citation in n. 98. On the former expression, see Recanati, Perush al ha-Torah, Deut. 22:5, fol. 88c.
95. Cf. Guide II, 41. And see Sirat, Les Theories, pp. 147–149.
96. From Naljmanides' language, “when [Scripture] mentions angels in the name of men,” some commentators have explained that he is essentially following Maimonides' view cf. Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah 2:7 that only angels from the group called could be seen by men. Cf. Aldabi, Meir, Shevilei 'Emunah (Warsaw, 1887), fol. 13c; Isaac of Acre, Me'irat 'Einayim, p. 49, and Gabbai, Meir ibn, 'Avodai ha-Qodesh (Jerusalem, 1973), fol. 162b. See also Be'ur le-Ferush ha-RaMBaN 'al ha-Torah, fol. 5d. This interpretation has been recently reiterated by Cohen-Alloro, Dorit, The Secret of the Garment in the Zohar (Jerusalem, 1987), p. 30 [in Hebrew]. In fact, however, Naljmanides did not intend this at all. See Nahmanides' explicit critique of Maimonides' position in Kitvei Ramban 1:148. Nahmanides was rather speaking generally of the appearance of angels in anthropomorphic forms. That this generic explanation is correct may be proven by the fact that after the relevant remark Nahmanides cites several other examples, one with Lot (cf. Gen. 19:Iff.) and two with Jacob (cf. Gen. 32:25 and 37:15), where the angels are in the form of a man, not specifically from the group of angels called See also Perush, Num. 22:23 (p. 291) where Naljmanides puts the matter as follows: .
97. See, however, the reading in the fourth part of Vital's, HayyimSha'arei Qedushah, recently published in Ketavim Hadashim le-R. Hayyim Vital (Jerusalem, 1988), part 4, gate 2, p. 14: .
98. See Perush, Gen. 18:1 (pp. 105–106).
99. Cf. Keter Shem Tov, fol. 30b, where ibn Gaon states that the malbush refers to 'Afarah, i.e., Shekhinah, who is called angel, . On this tradition in Nabmanides' commentary, see references given above, n. 86; cf. Ma'arekhet ha-'Elohut, chap. 4, fol. 72b, and chap. 13, fol. 185b. On fol. 31 a, however, ibn Gaon states, in apparent contradiction to the former view, that Nahmanides “called the angels by the name 'Afarah … because the angels evolve from 'alarah.” On fol. 30b the view is cited in the name of the that God makes a “garment” for his pious ones and at times they come to the world in order to act as God's messengers, i.e., . Isaac of Acre reports the same view, in slightly different terminology, in the name of his teacher; see Me'irat 'Einayim, p. 48. See also MS Oxford 1943, fols. 20b–21b. Nahmanides himself briefly alludes to such a view in his commentary to Gen. 49:33 (pp. 276–277). Cf. also Asher, Bahya ben, Had ha-Qemah, in Kitvei Rabbenu Bahya, ed. Chavel, (Jerusalem, 1970), p. 356. Nahmanides' view on the , if my interpretation is correct, should be distinguished from the view expressed many times in the zoharic corpus as well as in de Leon's Hebrew theosophic texts regarding the angels being clothed in the form of mortal humans in their descent to the world. Nahmandes was interpreted in this way already by Moses de Leon; see The Book of the Pomegranate: Moses de Leon's Sefer ha-Rimmon, ed. E. Wolfson, p. 316, and references to the Zohar in n. 22 ad loc. (Hebrew section). See also Menahem Recanati, Perush al ha-Torah, fols. 24a-b, who combined the two traditions. For a fuller discussion of the zoharic view, see Cohen-Alloro, The Secret of the Garment in the Zohar, pp. 26–44.
100. The term “created Glory” is traceable to Saadya Gaon, where it refers to a created material light, superior to the angels, that appears in various forms to man. See The Book of Beliefs and Opinions, trans, by S. Rosenblatt (New Haven, 1948), pp. 130, 151 ff.; Saadya's Commentary to Genesis, ed. by M. Zucker (New York, 1984), p. 9 (Hebrew translation, pp. 175–176); Barzilai, Judah ben, Perush Sefer Yesirah, ed. Halberstam, S. J. (Berlin, 1885), pp. 31 ff., 234–235;Altmann, A., Studies in Religious Philosophy and Mysticism (Ithaca, 1969), pp. 152–155. And see, in particular, the language of the responsum of Saadya to a certain heretic (cf. Davidson, I., The Book of the Wars of the Lord [New York, 1934], pp. 25–26, who identifies the heretic as Salman ben Yeruham, also known as Ibn Sakawaihi; see however Mann, J., Texts and Studies in Jewish History and Literature [Philadelphia, 1935], 2:1469–70), preserved in Hebrew translation in Judah ben Barzilai's Perush Sefer Yesirah, p. 21: “Every angel and every form is a created light … and the Holy One, blessed be He, created it for His Glory,” In that context Saadya makes a distinction between two aspects of the Glory: the lower aspect is the created light which is seen by human beings, both prophets and saints, whereas the higher aspect, although also a created light, is only apprehended by the angels. While the former aspect of the Glory is connected with the visionary experience of angels, the latter is connected specifically with the object of mystical vision in the Shi'ur Qomah text. Cf. Dan, Torat ha-Sod shel Hasidut 'Ashkenaz, pp. 109–111, and idem, , “Kavod Nistar,” in Da'al we-Safah, ed. by Hallamish, M. and A. Kasher (Jerusalem, 1981), pp. 73–76. Judah ha-Levi and Maimonides likewise identified the Shekhinah with the created Glory that was seen by the prophets; see Kuzari IV, 3 (cf. Wolfson, H., Studies in the History of Philosophy and Religion [Cambridge, 1977], 2:93; Efros, Studies in Medieval Jewish Philosophy, p. 152, n. 50; Silman, Y., Thinker and Seer: The Development of the Thought of R. Yehuda Halevi in the Kuzari (Bar llan, 1985), p. 178, n. 40 [in Hebrew]); Guide I, 11, 25, 46, and 64. For Nahmanides, in contrast to Saadya, ha-Levi, and Maimonides, the created Glory is not really a created entity at all, but is rather the manifestation of the divine, the last of the emanations. See in particular Nahmanides' criticism of Maimonides' position in his commentary to Gen. 46:1 (pp. 250–251): “God forbid that the thing which is called Shekhinah or created Glory is something distinct from God, blessed be He, as the rabbi [i.e., Maimondes] thought here…. And Jonathan ben Uziel translated [Ezek. 3:12, ‘Blessed be the Glory from His place’] ‘Blessed be the Glory of the Lord from the place of the inhabitation of the Shekhinah’ (). If by the [word] glory Scripture here intends the essence and truth of the Creator … behold it says ‘place’ and ‘habitation of the Shekhinah’. And if you say that the created Glory is like the view of the rabbi… how can the [word] blessed be established [in the verse ‘Blessed be the Glory of God from its place’], for the one who blesses and prays to the created Glory [understood, that is, in the Maimonidean sense] is like one who worships idols. In the words of the rabbis there are many things that show that the Shekhinah is God, blessed be He.” In other words, for Nahmanides, the Glory is distinct from the infinite Godhead (what he refers to as the Creator in His essence and truth) but yet is not something created or distinct from God. Cf. Isaac of Acre, 'Osar Hayyim, MS Guenzberg 775, fols. 13a, 16b, who distinguishes between the , i.e., an angel, and the , i.e., the divine attribute. Natimanides' conception has great affinity with that of the German Pietists, particularly from the main school of Judah he-Hasid and Eleazar of Worms. See Scholem, Major Trends, pp. 111 – 113, and Dan, Torat ha-Sod shel Hasidut 'Ashkenaz, pp. 104–170. See, in particular, the following passage in Eleazar of Worms, Sefer ha-Shem, MS British Museum 737, fol. 223a: “It is customary for God to clothe the thoughts of His decrees, to show [them] to the prophets so that they will know that God has set His decrees. The prophet knows His thoughts according to the vision that he sees. At times this vision is called an angel.” Cf. idem, , Sodei Razaya, ed. Kamelhar, I. (Bilgraj, 1936), pp. 3–4, 7–8, 11, 34–35, 51–52. And cf. the text from Sefer ha-Hayyim cited in Dan, op. cit., pp. 151 – 152. The similarity between Nahmanides' discussion of the secret of the garment and the view of R. Eleazar of Worms was already noted by Kamelhar, I., Rabbenu Eleazar Mi-Germaiza ha-Roqeah (New York, 1930), p. 52. Mention should also be made of the view expressed in the early Provencal document published by Scholem, , “Traces of Gabirol in the Kabbalah,” Me'assef Sofrei 'Eres Yisra'el, ed. Kabak, A. and A. Steinman (Tel-Aviv, 1940), pp. 175–176 [in Hebrew], and in English translation in Origins of the Kabbalah, p. 225. In that text a tradition is recorded according to which the tenth sefirah is described as the angelic Prince of the Divine Countenance or Prince of the World who speaks to prophets in God's name. See Septimus, Hispano-Jewish Culture in Transition, p. 167, n. 14. On the kabbalistic identification of Shekhinah with Metatron, see below, n. 217. Cf. also Pines, S., “God, the Divine Glory and the Angels according to a Second-Century Theology,” in “Proceedings of the Second International Conference on the History of Jewish Mysticism,” Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought 6 (1987): 11–12 [in Hebrew]. Pines argues that Nahmanides' conception of the kavod as that which is not distinct from God but yet appears to men in various forms is an echo of a presumably Jewish tradition reported by Justin Martyr (110–165). Curiously, Pines does not mention Nahmanides' doctrine of the malbush in his commentary to Gen. 18:1 which brings his position even closer to that reported by Justin, for according to that tradition the glory, which is not separate from God, appears to men in the form of angels. This is precisely the essence of Nahmanides' esoteric doctrine of the malbush.
101. The point is well made by Baljya ben Asher in his commentary to Gen. 18:8 (p. 172): “This section cannot be taught to any intelligent person except by way of the kabbalistic explanation, for the meaning of these angels, referred to as human beings, is that the created Glory [is embodied] in the angels, and the true enlightened ones call this [phenomenon] the garment.”
102. For this usage, see Even-Shohan, A., Ha-Millon he-tjadash (Jerusalem, 1969), 1:272, s.v..
103. Perush, Exod. 33:14 (pp. 520–521). This text was adduced already by Septimus; see above, n. 74.
104. Cf. Perush, Gen. 32:2; Exod. 3:2, 20:3, 23:16, 25:30; Lev. 20:3; Num. 15:25; Deut. 4:32.
105. Perush. Gen. 31:42 (p. 178). Again, this is one of the examples mentioned by Septimus; see n. 103.
106. Cf. Perush, Gen. 15:1; Exod. 19:3, 20; Deut. 4:12, 32; 5:5, 19. Cf. Isaac of Acre, Me'iral 'Einayim, p. 102: “Even though from what is apparent () it seems that [Nabmanides] did not mention this [explanation] here by any allusion to esoteric truth (), and he said the matter … [in a way] that one who sees them thinks that the rabbi [Nahmanides] did not pay attention to them. Yet, all his intention was dependent on them, to allude through them to the wonderful and hidden secrets. Know that if one desires the words of the rabbi then one will find the external [sense] to be ‘silver showpieces’ (), and if one's heart is burning and inflamed with regard to their inner [sense] then one will find ‘apples of gold’ ().” The latter reference is, of course, to Prov. 25:11, the verse which Maimonides, in the introduction to the Guide, used to express the inner (balin)—outer (zahir), esotericexoteric polarity in the text. Cf. Talmage, “Apples of Gold,” p. 315.
107. Perush, Exod. 14:31; and cf. to Deut. 5:15.
108. This example was mentioned by Septimus; see reference above, n. 74. Cf. R. Ezra, Perush 'al Shir ha-Shirim, Kitvei Ramban, 2:477–478.
109. See e.g., Perush to Gen. 11:2, 17:1, 18:20, 19:24, 22:2, 46:1, 48:15; Exod. 2:25, 6:2, 13:16, 15:2, 19:3, 19:20, 20:2, 32:10, 11; Lev. 18:2, 19:12; Num. 6:24, 15:25, 20:1, 23:16; Deut. 3:25, 4:12, 21, 32, 8:18.
110. Perush, Exod. 6:2 (p. 304); mentioned by both Septimus and Berger (see nn. 74–75).
111. See, e.g., Perush, Exod. 20:3; Num. 4:20.
112. Perush, Num. 10:6; and cf. to Lev. 23:24.
113. See also Nahmanides' hassagot to the “first root” in Maimonides' Sefer ha-Miswot, ed. Chavel, p. 4, where he again criticizes this view of Rashi, ending with these words: “I do not know if it is an 'aggadah, but in any event it is not from the Torah.”
114. The earliest source for this computation appears to have been the Halakhot Qesuvot attributed erroneously to Yehudai Gaon; cf. 'Osar ha-Ge'onim le-Masekhet Sanhedrin, ed. Taubes, Z. (Jerusalem, 1966), p. 462. The numerology is repeated in several texts deriving from the school of R. Moses ha-Darshan, and these may have been the direct source for Rashi. Cf. Midrash 'Aggadah, ed. Buber, S. (Vienna, 1894), p. 113; Numbers Rabbah 18:21 and parallel in Tanhuma, Qorah, 12. The latter passage has been long recognized as a later addition to the Tanhuma text; cf. S. Buber's introduction to his edition of Midrash Tanhuma, chap. 10, §34, p. 101. See also Tobias ben Eliezer, Midrash Leqah Tov, ed. S. Buber, to Num. 15:39, p. 224 (already mentioned by Isaac of Acre in Me'irat 'Einayim, ed. Goldreich, p. 194).
115. Cf. Rashi's commentary to Num. 15:39; and his commentary to b. Menahot 43b, s.v. See also Hilkhot Sisit le-RaSHI in Shibbolei ha-Leqet ha-Shalem, ed. Buber, S. (New York, 1959), 190b;Sefer ha-Pardes, ed. Ehrenreich, H. (Budapest, 1924), p. 21;Mahzor Vitry, ed. Horowitz, S. (Nuremberg, 1923), p. 635;Tosafot to b. Menahot 39a, s.v. ; ha-Yarlji, Abraham ben Nathan, Sefer ha-Manhig, ed. Raphael, Y. (Jerusalem, 1978), 2: 638; R. Asher, Hilkhot Sisit, §15 (in the name of the Tanhuma) and similarly in Jacob ben Asher, Tur, 'Orah Hayyim, 24; Isaac ben Abba Mari, Sefer ha-'Iffur (Vilna, 1874), Hilkhot Sisit, 69c; Perush ha-Roqeah 'al ha-Torah, ed. Konyevsky, Ch. (Benai Beraq, 1981), 3:60 (concerning the authorship of this commentary see Dan, J., The Ashkenazi Hasidic ‘Gates of Wisdom,’ Hommage a Georges Vajda, ed. Nahon, G. and C. Touati [Louvain, 1980], pp. 183–189). This numerology was clearly intended to be a support () for the talmudic dictum that the commandment of the fringe garment is equivalent to all the other commandments. See b. Menahot 43b, Nedarim 25b, Shevu'ot 29a. For an interesting parallel to this theme in Samaritan literature, see Loewenstamm, A., “On the Problem of 613 Commandments in Samaritanism,” Tarbiz 41 (1972): 310–312 [in Hebrew]. For an alternative computation intended to link the 613 commandments to the one commandment of the fringe garment, see R. Ezra, Perush 'al Shir ha-Shirim, Kitvei Ramban, 2:496. R. Ezra's text is cited anonymously by Isaac of Acre in Me'irat 'Einayim, pp. 194–195.
116. Cf. Perush, Gen. 24:1; Exod. 13:21.
117. Cf. the exact language in Zohar 3:175b: .
118. Perush, Num. 15:31 (p. 254). For a similar critique of Rashi's explanation (cited in the name of the “commentators”), see Abulafia, Todros, 'Osar ha-Kavod ha-Shalem (Warsaw, 1879), fol. 6a. Nahmanides' explanation had a decisive influence on subsequent kabbalists, including Moses de Leon. See Wolfson, The Book of the Pomegranate, p. 234 (Hebrew section) and discussion on p. 19 (English section). On the kabbalistic identification of Shekhinah with mifwah, a theme that is expressed already in Sefer ha-Bahir, see references given in Wolfson, op. cit., p. 18, n. 35, and see pp. 59–61.
119. Cf. C. Henoch, Ha-Ramban ke-Hoqer u-khe-Mequbbal, pp. 346–350.
120. Cf. J. Katz, Halakhah we-Qabbalah, p. 31. In yet another context, in his commentary to Lev. 19:19 (p. 120), Nahmanides takes issue with Rashi's claim that huqim represent divine decrees for which there is no reason. “The statutes of the Holy One, blessed be He ().” counters Nahmanides, “are His secrets () in the Torah, which the people do not appreciate [literally, enjoy, ] through their thinking as they do in the case of mishpatim, but yet they all have a proper reason () and a perfect benefit ().” Cf. Henoch, Ha-Ramban ke-Hoqer u-khe-Mequbbal, pp. 386–394. The specific rationale adduced for the prohibition of mixed species (kil'ayim) is that all vegetative and animal forces below are generated by powers that have their origin in the supernal realm; therefore by combining two different species one “changes and defies the work of Creation.” Cf. R. Ezra, Perush 'al Shir ha-Shirim, Kitvei Ramban, 2:544. It is interesting to note that Moses de Leon employs the Geronese formulation but transforms it in light of the Castilian doctrine of dual forces, i.e., the prohibition of mixing the species is construed as the prohibition of mixing the divine and the demonic. See E. Wolfson, The Book of the Pomegranate, p. 41, n. 149 (English section). (The reference there to Nahmanides' commentary on Lev. 19:9 should be corrected to Lev. 19:19). The critical point in this case, however, is even though Nahmanides insists that the particular biblical injunction can only be understood in light of the kabbalistic rationale, the latter is in no way connected to a particular term in the text and therefore cannot count as an example of the identity or convergence of sod and peshaf in the realm of exegesis. The formulation of this last point is based on a comment of David Berger to the author.
121. Perush, Exod. 25:30 (p. 463). This kabbalistic orientation is, of course, related to a much older aggadic motif regarding the parallel structure between the terrestrial and celestial Temples. Cf. the comprehensive study of Aptowitzer, V., “The Heavenly Temple in the Aggadah,” Tarbiz 2 (1931): 137–153, 257–285 [in Hebrew].
122. Cf. Exodus Rabbah 34:2; Tanhuma, Vayaqhel, 8; Numbers Rabbah 4:13, 14:10. For a slightly different formulation, but one which expresses the same idea, see b. Yoma 82b and see the commentary of Rashi ad loc, s.v. . See also commentary of Rashi to m. Avot 4:13, s.v. .
123. Perush, Exod. 25:24 (p. 461). Cf. Keter Shem Tov, fol. 39a; Bahya's commentary to Exod. 25:24 (p. 280). For a different explanation, see Me'irat 'Einayim, p. 121.
124. Cf. 1. Sam. 4:4, 2 Sam. 6:6, 1 Chron. 13:6, 2 Kings 19:15, Isa. 37:16, Ps. 80:2, 99:1.
125. Perush, Exod. 25:21 (p. 460). Cf. the recent analysis, which corroborates Nahmanides' explanation, in Mettinger, T. N. D., The Dethronement of Sabaoth: Studies in the Shem and Kabod Theologies (Coniectanea Biblica, Old Testament Series 18, 1982), pp. 19–24.
126. Cf. Perush, Num. 11:15, and see Racanati, Perush 'alha-Torah, Exod. 25:10, fol. 49b: “There are those who explain that the cherubim allude to [or symbolize: ] the du-parsufin [i.e., Tif'eret and Shekhinah], and this appears to be the opinion of the RaMBaN, blessed be his memory.” For other Geronese kabbalists the cherubim were said to symbolize Hesed and Gevurah; see Tishby, Perush ha-'Aggadot le-R. 'Azri'el, p. 11, n. 1. For still other kabbalists, such as Joseph Hamadan, who wrote in the last decade of the thirteenth century, the cherubim symbolized Yesod and Shekhinah. Cf. Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives, p. 134. And see Isaac of Acre, Me'irat 'Einayim, p. 121, who reports having received a tradition similar to that of Joseph Hamadan in the name of an anonymous “enlightened kabbalist” (). On p. 123, however, R. Isaac follows the tradition of Nahmanides and identifies the symbolic correspondence of the cherubim as the du-parsufin, i.e., Tif'eret and Shekhinah.
127. Perush, Num. 20:1 (p. 276); mentioned by Septimus and Berger (see nn. 74–75).
129. Ibid. My explication of this passage is based largely on the explanation of Shem Tov ibn Gaon in his Keler Shem Tov. See Ma or wa-Shemesh, fol. 49a, and Recanati, Perush 'alha-Torah, Num. 20:11, fol. 77c.
130. Cf. Isaac of Acre, Me'iral 'Einayim, pp. 200–201, where this aspect of Nabmanides' explanation is emphasized. See also Be'ur le-Ferush ha-RaMBaN, attributed to ibn Sahula, fol. 27a.
131. Perush, loc. cit.
132. Cf. Perush, Deut. 32:7 (p. 486). Cf. Ibid., Gen 33:20, Deut. 4:15.
133. Cf. Genesis Rabbah 82:2 (ed. Theodor-Albeck, p. 978). For ben Yaqar's interpretation of this passage, see above, n. 63.
134. Perush, Gen. 33:20 (p. 189).
135. See Be'ur le-Ferush ha-RaMBaN fol. 7b; Recanati, Perush 'al ha-Torah, fols. 31 d-32a; Isaac of Acre, Me'irat 'Einayim, p. 62. In the commentary attributed to ibn Sahula a second explanation is given whereby Jacob, or Tif'eret, is identified with the throne itself, but this does not imply any feminine image of Jacob, for a distinction is made there between a higher and lower Throne, referring respectively to the masculine and feminine potencies of God. Cf. the anonymous commentary on the sefirot in MS JTS 8124, fol. 5a: ”Tif'eret is the attribute of truth … and it is called the Throne…. And thus Jacob is [the attribute of] truth, and he is called the Throne of Glory. Therefore it is said that the form of Jacob is engraved on the Throne of Glory.” See also Zohar 2: 242a.
136. According to Nabmanides, the special holiness of the land of Israel is connected particularly to the fact that in this geographical place all the commandments can be most properly fulfilled. Cf. Chavel, Cd., Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (Jerusalem, 1967), p. 166 [in Hebrew]; Henoch, Ha-Ramban ke-ljoqer u-khe-Mequbbal, pp. 149–154. See n. 139. With respect to this idea of a “mystical geography” Nabmanides shares much in common with Judah ha-Levi; cf. Silman, Thinker and Seer, pp. 138–141; Rosenberg, S., “The Link to the Land of Israel in Jewish Thought,” in Hoffman, L., ed., The Land of Israel: Jewish Perspectives (Notre Dame, 1986), pp. 148–156.
137. See the exact parallel in Nabmanides' sermon for Rosh Hashanah, in Kitvei Ramban, 1:250. In that context Nahmanides adds that in the land of Israel the Jewish people will be “especially united with His Name that is there,” . Cf. Zohar 1:108b.
138. Cf. the usage in Num. 7:23:.
139. Cf. Gottlieb, Mehqarim be-Sifrut ha-Qabbalah, pp. 93–94; Henoch, Ha-Ramban ke-Hoqer u-khe-Mequbbal, pp. 147–148, 152–154. This symbolic correlation between Shekhinah and the land of Israel may also explain Nahmanides' appropriation of the rabbinic idea concerning the equivalence of Israel to all the commandments (cf. Tosefta, 'Avodah Zarah, 5:3; Sifrei Deut. pisqa 80, ed. Finkelstein, p. 146); see Perush to Lev. 18:25 (p. 112). And cf. Henoch, op. cit., pp. 145–146; M. Idel, “The Land of Israel in Medieval Kabbalah,” in The Land of Israel p. 178. That is, just as the Shekhinah is the divine grade that is equivalent to all the commandments (see above, n. 118), so the land of Israel is the particular commandment that is the basis for, or the ground of, all the other commandments. Cf. Perush, Gen. 26:5; Deut. 4:5, 11:18. For a slightly different formulation on the nexus between kabbalah and the commandments, on one hand, and kabbalah and the land of Israel, on the other, in Nahmanides, see M. Idel, “Some Conceptions of the Land of Israel in Medieval Jewish Thought,” pp. 131–132. On the nexus between the holiness of the land of Israel, fulfillment of the commandments of the Torah, and the presence of God, see Davies, W. D., The Territorial Dimension of Judaism (Berkeley, 1982), pp. 18–29, 37–38.
140. Perush, Lev. 18:25 (p. 212). Cf. Ibid., Gen. 6:13, 7:23, 9:12, 14:18, 24:3, 26:5, 28:17; Lev. 20:3, 26:42. See also Nahmanides' prayer on the ruins of Jerusalem, in Kitvei Ramban, 1:424–425 (already noted by Idel, “The Land of Israel in Medieval Kabbalah,” p. 185, n. 45).
141. For Nahmanides the locus of devequt, or communion, is the Shekhinah; see his commentary to Lev. 18:4, Deut. 11:22. A possible source for Nahmanides' particular formulation may have been ibn Ezra's commentary to Exod. 3:15 (ed. Weiser, p. 34): Cf. Scholem, , The Messianic Idea in Judaism (New York, 1971), pp. 205–206.
142. Perush, Num. 35:33 (p. 340).
143. Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, pp. 86–87, 373–375; Tishby, , Hiqrei Qabbalah u-Sheluhoteha (Jerusalem, 1982), pp. 31–35.
144. Kilvei Ramban, 2:479.
145. Cf. Sifre Deuteronomy, 'Eqev, piska 49 (ed. Finkelstein, p. 115).
146. Perush ha-Tefillot we-ha-Berakhot, pt. 2, p. 23.
147. See, e.g., Kitvei Ramban, 2:481.
148. An important exception to this is R. Jacob ben Sheshet. See his comment in Ha- Emunah we-ha-Bi/lahon, in Kitvei Ramban, 2:370: “If I had not originated this [idea] in my mind, I would have said that it is [of the status of] a law given to Moses at Sinai,” . Cf. Idel, “We Have No Tradition,” p. 68, n. 58. See also Racanati, Sefer Ja'amei ha-Miswof, fol. 3a: “In every place in the Torah where you can elevate an event or a commandment to a thing higher than it [i.e., adduce a symbolic interpretation by connecting the text with the divine realm; see above, n. 29] you must elevate i t … even though you have not received that explanation [or reason] from a kabbalistic sage or even if you have not seen it in one of the books of the sages.” See Ibid., fol. 4b, where Recanati, using a philoformulation close to that of Jacob ben Sheshet, characterizes himself as follows: “I have not received these reasons [for the commandments] from a kabbalistic sage, for had I received them I would have said that they are a law given to Moses at Sinai” .
149. Cf. Wolfson, ed., The Book of the Pomegranate, p. 256 (Hebrew section). See Ibid., p. 270.
150. MS Berlin Quat. Or. 833, fol. 51a (cited by Scholem, Major Trends, pp. 201–202). See Ibid., fols. 53a, 57b, 58b.
151. Cf. M. Saperstein, Decoding the Rabbis, pp. 1–20; Talmage, “Apples of Gold,” pp. 333–337. See also Talmage, David Kimhi, pp. 77–83.
152. Cf. Scholem, Major Trends, pp. 30–32. For a partial critique of Scholem's position, see Saperstein, op. cit., pp. 17–20. Saperstein criticizes Scholem's statement that philosophers in all cases regarded aggadah ”as a stumbling-block rather than as a precious heritage.” He does not, however, challenge what I take to be the essential point of Scholem's analysis: the kabbalists' employment of mythic structures enabled them to live in a world that is “historically continuous” with that of the old aggadah. The same cannot be said about the philosophers. See also Septimus, Hispano-Jewish Culture in Transition, pp. 106–110.
153. Cf. Wolfson, E., “Mystical-Theurgical Dimensions of Prayer in Sefer ha-Rimmon,” in Approaches to Judaism in Medieval Times, ed. Blumenthal, D., vol. 3 (Atlanta, 1988), pp. 62–64. See also the suggestive remarks of Ginzberg, L., On Jewish Law and Lore (Philadelphia, 1955), pp. 188–191; and cf. Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives, pp. 128–136, 156–172. The notion that mystical ideas were embedded in the aggadic proclamations of the rabbis was also suggested by Baron, S.; see A Social and Religious History of the Jews (New York, 1958), 8:4–7.
154. Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, p. 86.
155. Scholem's position has been challenged most recently by Idel in Kabbalah: New Perspectives, pp. 30–32. See also my review of the English translation of Scholem's, Origins of the Kabbalah The Journal of Religion, 69 (1989): 139–140.
156. J. Preus, “Theological Legitimation for Innovation in the Middle Ages,” Viator 3 (1972): 2. Concerning a similar phenomenon of cloaking innovation in the guise of conservatism in the German Pietists, see Marcus, I., Piety and Society (Leiden, 1981), pp. 65–71, 82–83;Chazan, R., European Jewry and the First Crusade (Berkeley, 1987), p. 207.
157. Cf. Llewelyn, John, Beyond Metaphysics? The Hermeneutic Circle in Contemporary Philosophy (New Jersey, 1985), pp. 161–162.
158. I am well aware of the critique of empathy advocated by earlier hermeneutic theories in more recent post-Heideggerian hermeneutics. Cf. Gadamer, H.-G., Truth and Method (New York, 1982), p. 221. The critical point is the difficulty in assuming that one can get out of one's mind in order to transport oneself imaginatively into the mind of the author, for this assumption is rooted in oversimplistic ideas about the nature of self-consciousness and intersubjectivity. Nevertheless this disengagement is the sine qua non of the scientific attitude towards texts. A discussion about the meaning of texts will, of course, always involve self-understanding on the part of the interpreter, but even this self-understanding is attainable only after one “enters” into the text that one is reading. Cf. P. Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences, p. 113: “… if it remains true that hermeneutics terminates in self-understanding, then the subjectivism of this proposition must be rectified by saying that to understand oneself is to understand oneself in front of the text. Consequently, what is appropriation from one point of view is disappropriation from another…. What is appropriated is indeed the matter of the text. But the matter of the text becomes my own only if I disappropriate myself, in order to let the matter of the text be. So I exchange the me, master of itself, for the self, disciple of the text” (author's emphasis).
159. See, e.g., Gen. 1:1, 3,7, 14,2:3,7,8,6:4,6, 13,8:21,23,9:12, 11:2, 14:18, 18:20,24:1, 26:5, 28:21, 29:2, 33:20, 35:13, 46:1; Exod. 3:13, 14:21, 16:6, 19:5, 13, 25:3, 24; Lev. 1:9, 16:2, 18:25, 20:3, 23:17, 24, 36, 40 (cf. Kitvei Ramban, 1:181), 26:12, 42; Num. 30:3; Deut. 5:16, 21:22, 33:1. Cf. Kitvei Ramban, 1:90.
160. Cf. j. Ta'anit 2:1, 8b.
161. Cf. Gen. 8:21.
162. Cf. Perush, Gen. 6:6 and 8:21.
163. Cf. Exod. 2:25 and see Nabmanides' commentary ad loc.
164. Perush. 18:20 (p. 112).
165. It is interesting to note that some of the commentators on Natimanides understood the holy spirit as a reference to the Shekhinah. Cf. Shem Tov ibn Gaon, Keler Shem Tov, fol. 29b; Isaac of Acre, Me'irat 'Einayim, p. 36. By interpreting Nabmanides in this way, however, one fails to grasp fully the two levels of interpretation with which he is operating here, to wit, the allegorical and the midrashic-mystical.
166. Cf. Genesis Rabbah 27:4. In the critical edition of Theodor-Albeck, pp. 258–259, only the first parable about the architect is given. For the reading of the other parable as well, see editor's note 6 ad loc.
167. Perush, Gen. 6:6 (p. 50).
168. Cf. Shem Tov ibn Gaon, Keter Shem Tov, fol. 29b; Isaac of Acre, Me'iral 'Einayim, p. 36.
169. Cf. Ashkenazi, Joseph ben Shalom, A Kabbalistic Commentary on Genesis Rabbah, ed. Hallamish, M. (Jerusalem, 1984), p. 274.
170. Cf. Bahya ben Asher, Perush al ha-Torah, Gen. 6:6 (ed. Chavel, p. 102).
171. Perush, Gen. 33:20 (p. 189).
172. Ibid., Gen. 46:1 (p. 245).
173. Sefer ha-Bahir. ed. Margaliot (Jerusalem, 1978), §135.
174. See, e.g., Gen. 2:8; Exod. 21:6.
175. b. Sanhedrin 46b.
176. Perush, Deut. 21:22 (p. 446).
177. Cf. Bahya ben Asher, Perush 'al ha-Torah, Deut. 21:22 (p. 383). Bahya cites the tal mudic passage under the heading “by way of midrash,” and then explains that the mystical interpretation, “by way of kabbalah,” comprises “an explanation of what is written [in Scripture] and the parable (), for the king is the Glory which is called the ‘image of God’ (), i.e., separated from him, i.e., the servant of God (). Since the impaled person is in the appearance of the image of God () it is ‘an affront to God’ () if he is not buried during the day and is left there during the night which is the time of the attribute of judgment.” Cf. Judah ben Yaqar, Perush ha-Tefillot we-ha-Berakhot, pt. 2, p. 39. See also Recanati, Perush 'al ha-Torah, ad loc, 88a, who refers to a passage in Zohar 3:143b. On the divine origin of the soul in Nahmanides, see Perush, Gen. 2:7; Kitvei Ramban 1:103, 134; MS JTS Mic. 1895, fols. 1 lb–12a. And cf. Chaze, M., “Le sens esoterique du voeu et du serment selon quelques auteurs des XIIIe et XIVe siecles en Espagne et en Italie,” Revue des eludes juives 138 (1979): 250–251.
178. Cf. Be'ur le-Ferush ha-RaMBaN, fol. 29c; Shem Tov ibn Gaon, Keter Shem Tov, fol. 52a; Isaac of Acre, Me'iral 'Einayim, pp. 234–235.
179. Cited by Joshua ibn Shu'aib, Derashot, fol. 86a. See D. Horwitz, “The Role of Philosophy and Kabbalah in the Rashba,” p. 85.
180. Perush, Exod. 25 (p. 453).
181. Cf. Sifre Be-Midbar, pisqa 58 (ed. Horovitz, p. 56). Chavel has suggested in the notes to his edition of Nahmanides' commentary (2:452) that the source for Nabmanides is Numbers Rabbah 14:32.
182. Cf. Perush, Gen. 46:1 (p. 251) where Nahmanides says the Aramaic translators, Onkelos and Jonathan ben Uziel, were guided in their translations by “things that were known to them by tradition, and their secret is for those who know hidden wisdom.” Cf. commentary to Lev. 18:4 (p. 100) where Nabmanides says about the spiritual state of Elijah: “as it appears from what is written [in Scripture]… and from what we know about him in the tradition ().” See also Nabmanides' introduction to the Commentary on Job, Kilvei Ramban, 1:23. And cf. Kilvei Ramban, 1:160, where Nahmanides refers to an aggadic passage in b. Sanhedrin 92a in these terms: . See also Perush, Gen. 34:12; Lev. 23:24; Num. 11:16, 22:33, 24:20; Deut. 8:3; Kilvei Ramban, 1:266.
183. Cf. Perush to Exod. 3:2, Lev. 23:40, Num. 20:1 (noted by Septimus, “Nahmanides and the Andalusian Tradition,” p. 21, n. 37).
184. For examples, see Septimus, op. cit., p. 23, n. 41.
185. Ibid., p. 22, n. 41.
186. Cf. Perush to Gen. 48:7. And see She'elot u-Teshuvot le-RaSHBA, 1:9: “In every thing for which there is a tradition … at times the matter is alluded to in Scripture. It is not that this allusion is necessitated [by the text] but only that the tradition necessitates it. And the matter is verified by [both] Scripture and the tradition” Elsewhere ibn Adret uses the technical expression that the Torah “speaks and alludes,” i.e., has both a literal and figurative, exoteric and esoteric, meaning. See She'elot u-Teshuvot le-RaSHBA, 1:423: “the words of Torah … are revealed and hidden, they speak and allude” 5:55: “the Torah in its entirety alludes and speaks” .
187. For examples in tannaitic and amoraic literature, see Bacher, W.. 'Erkhei Midrash, trans. Rabinowitz, A. (Tel Aviv, 1923), pp. 124–125, 295–297.
188. See Septimus, “Nahmanides and the Andalusian Tradition,” pp. 22–23, n. 41, and references cited there. To these may be added Gen. 15:7, 20:3, 23:40, 24:1, 26:5; Exod. 12:12, 13:5, 13:8, 14:19, 16:6, 21:2; Lev. 16:8, 25:15; Num. 8:3; Deut. 32:7; Kitvei Ramban, 1:161,2:303. The word also characterizes typological exegesis for Nahmanides; see commentary to Gen. 2:3 and parallel in Kitvei Ramban, 1:168; Lev. 26:16 and parallel in Kitvei Ramban, 1:262; Deut. 4:30. On this theme in Nabmanides, see Funkenstein, “Nahmanides' Symbolical Reading of History,” and esp. the citations in nn. 44–45. And cf. Bacher, “L'Exegese Biblique dans le Zohar,” p. 39, who makes a similar observation with respect to the use of the word in the Zohar as an interpretative method that corresponds to typology in Christian exegesis. Nah manides also employs the word or derivatives in the sense of symbol, i.e., a thing below is a for that which is above, for the former is a sign or symbol of the latter. In that sense is equivalent to . Cf. Bacher, op. cit., p. 38 who has noted this equivalence in zoharic terminology. See also idem, 'Erkhei Midrash, p. 125, n. 1. This usage is widespread in medieval kabbalistic sources. The identification of as the allegorical mode of interpretation in the famous acrostic PaRDeS is misleading if one does not bear in mind that does in fact function primarily in the kabbalistic sources in the sense of mystical symbol. This point, as far as I am aware, has been largely overlooked in the scholarly literature.
189. Perush, Introduction (p. 4).
190. See, e.g., Gen. 1:1, 2:7, 24:1, 38:29, 46:1, 49:24; Exod. 2:25, 15:27, 20:8; Lev. 23:40 (see Kitvei Ramban, 1:181), 26:16; Num. 15:31; Deut. 16:20, 22:7, 33:12, 23. See also Shaarha- Getnul in Kitvei Ramban, 2:306.
191. Cf. Gen. 1:3, 8; Deut. 33:6.
192. Kitvei Ramban, 1:157.
193. Sefer ha-'Emunot (Jerusalem, 1968), fol. 94a, cited by Scholem, Madda'ei ha-Yahadut 2 (1927): 277. For discussion of this text and a partially different translation, see Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, pp. 4CMH.
194. Cf. Perush, Gen. 24:1, 46:1, Exod. 20:8; Lev. 23:40; Num. 15:31. See Abudarham ha-Shalem (Jerusalem, 1963), p. 127.
195. Cf. Saperstein, Decoding the Rabbis, p. 220, n. 65.
196. Cf. Perush, Exod. 19:5, Deut. 5:16.
197. Ibid., Gen. 1:7 (p. 19).
198. Ibid., Gen. 6:6 (p. 50).
199. Genesis Rabbah 3:6 (ed. Theodor-Albeck, p. 22).
200. Cf. b. Sanhedrin 42a.
201. Cf. b. Hullin 60b.
202. Perush, Gen. 1:14 (p. 23).
203. Cf. Be'ur le-Ferush ha-RaMBaN, fol. lc; Keter Shem Tov, fol. 28b; Me'irat 'Einavim, p. 25.
204. See Septimus, “Nahmanides and the Andalusian Tradition,” pp. 16–17, n. 21.
205. Sifre Deuteronomy, pisqa 43 (ed. Finkelstein, p. 102).
206. Perush, Deut. 11:18 (p. 394).
207. Keter Shem Tov, fol. 51b.
208. Perush. Gen. 26:5 (p. 150).
209. See above, nn. 138–139.
210. j. Berakhot 2:4 (5a). For other references to this legend in rabbinic sources, see Ginzberg, L., The Legends of the Jews (Philadelphia, 1968), 6:406, n. 53. The use of this aggadic tradition was extended by Friar Raymond Martini in his Pugiofidei adversus Mauros el Judeos. See Chazan, R., “From Friar Paul to Friar Raymond: The Development of Innovative Missionizing Argumentation,” Harvard Theological Review 76 (1983): 301–302.
211. Kitvei Ramban, 1:306.
212. Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, p. 459. See the text published by Scholem, , “A Study of the Theory of Transmigration in Kabbalah during the XIII Century,” Tarbiz 16 (1945): 143 [in Hebrew].
213. The Latin text simply states that Nahmanides denied the authority of aggadic texts because “they were, he claimed, sermons, in which their teachers often lied for the purpose of exhorting the people.” I have utilized the English translation in Chazan, R., “The Barcelona ‘Disputation’ of 1263: Christian Missionizing and Jewish Response,” Speculum 52 (1977): 836–837. The original text is published in Baer, Y., “The Disputations of R. Yehiel of Paris and of Nahmanides,” Tarbiz 2 (1931): 187 [in Hebrew].
214. Nalimanides ad loc. rejects Rashi's interpretation, according to which Metatron is the one who told Moses to come up to God. See the commentary of Rashi to b. Sanhedrin 38b, s.v., . Rashi's interpretation is accepted by R. Meir ha-Levi Abulafia; see Septimus, Hispano-Jewish Culture in Transition, p. 167, n. 18.
215. Perush, Exod. 24:1 (p. 448).
216. Cf. Ibid., Exod. 12:12, 23:20.
217. For other references to this tradition in thirteenth-century Catalan kabbalistic sources, see Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, p. 187, n. 214, and pp. 214–215, 299. On the identification of Shekhinah as an angelic presence, see above, n. 100. See also the anonymous fragment in MS JTS Mic. 1892, fol. 54a, where reference is made to Nahmanides' commentary to Exod. 24:1.
218. The etymology according to this interpretation is derived from the Latin metator, meaning a “measurer” or “one who marks out.” Such a usage is to be found already in tan naitic sources, as is pointed out by Nahmanides himself in the commentary to Exod. 24:1. See Sifre Deuteronomy, pisqa 338 (ed. Finkelstein, p. 388), and the editor's note 2, ad loc. The reference there, however, is not to Metatron the angel. Cf. Alexander, P. S., “The Historical Setting of the Hebrew Book of Enoch,” Journal of Jewish Studies 28 (1977): 164, n. 15. Nahmanides conflates this supposed Latin etymology with the Greek etymology—which he mentions specifically—of metator, which means “messenger.” The latter etymology was popularized by the talmudic dictionary Arukh of Nathan ben Yehiel of Rome. Such an etymology for Metafron is found in a citation by R. Ezra of Gerona in the name of Isaac the Blind of Provence; see Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, pp. 298–299. Cf. also Odeberg, H., S Enoch or the Hebrew Book of Enoch (New York, 1973), pp. 127–128 (Introduction). A recent attempt to substantiate the supposed etymology of Metatron from the Latin metator (combined perhaps with the Greek metron) has been made by Stroumsa, G., “Form(s) of God: Some Notes on Metatron and Christ,” Harvard Theological Review 76 (1983): 287. For another account of the etymology of Metatron as deriving from the Greek synthronos (which is synonymous with metalhronos), see Lieberman's, S. appendix in Gruenwald, I., Apocalyptic and Merkavah Mysticism (Leiden, 1980), pp. 235–240.
219. In this regard it is of interest to consider the following words of Yehiel ben Joseph of Paris in his disputation with Nicholas Donin at the court of Louis IX in 1240 (cited from S. Grunbaum, Wikkuah [Thorn, 1873], p. 2): “There are in them [the words of the rabbis in the Talmud] matters of aggadah to draw the heart of a person [cf. b. Hagigah 14a; Sifre Deuteronomy, pisqa 317, p. 359; and see Hillel of Verona, Sefer Tagmulei Nefesh (Jerusalem, 1981), p. 181] so that he will understand the external sense (). And there are in them wonderful [or secret] words () which are difficult for the infidel, heretic, or apostate to believe. Concerning these there is no need to respond to you. If you want you may believe them, and if not, then do not believe them, for no law is determined by them.” These words come strikingly close to those of Nahmanides (discussed below, see references in n. 222). Cf. Katz, J., Exclusiveness and Tolerance: Studies in Jewish-Gentile Relations in Medieval and Modern Times (New York, 1962), pp. 108–113:Chazan, R., “A Medieval Hebrew Polemical Melange,” Hebrew Union College Annual 51 (1980): 110, n. 68;Cohen, Jeremy, The Friars and the Jews: The Evolution of Medieval Anti-Judaism (Ithaca, 1982), p. 70;Maccoby, H., Judaism on Trial: Jewish-Christian Disputations in the Middle Ages (London, 1982), pp. 36–37.
220. Kitvei Ramban, 1:308–309.
221. The point is stated clearly in D. Berger's review of Maccoby's, H.Judaism on Trial, Jewish Quarterly Review 76 (1986): 255.
222. Kitvei Ramban, 1:308. See statement of Yehiel ben Joseph cited above, n. 219.
223. Y. Baer, “The Disputations of R. Yebiel of Paris and of Nahmanides,” p. 184; idem, , A History of the Jews in Christian Spain (Philadelphia, 1961), 1:153;Roth, C., “The Disputation at Barcelona (1263),” Harvard Theological Review 43 (1950): 128;Cohen, M., “Reflections on the Text and Context of the Disputation of Barcelona,” Hebrew Union College Annual 35(1964): 170–171:Ben-Sasson, H. H., Peraqim be-Toledot ha-Yehudim bi-Yemei ha-Beinayyim (Tel-Aviv, 1969), p. 251; R. Chazan, “The Barcelona ‘Disputation’ of 1263,” pp. 836–837; idem, “From Friar Paul to Friar Raymond,” pp. 300–301; J. Cohen, The Friars and the Jews, pp. 118–119. See also H. Beinart's article on the Barcelona disputation in Encyclopaedia Judaica 4:214.
224. See H. Maccoby, Judaism on Trial, pp. 44–48, 58–66, 68–74; and the review of Maccoby's book by D. Berger, p. 225. See also the articles of Lieberman, Septimus, and Fox mentioned in the following notes, and cf. the note of Chavel to his edition of Nahmanides' accounr of the disputation, Kitvei Ramban, 1:308.
225. Cf. S. Lieberman, Shikiin (Jerusalem, 1970), pp. 82–83. On the geonic tradition, see Aaron Marcus, Qeset Sofer, introduction to She'elot u-Teshuvot min ha-Shamayim (Cracow, 1895), pp. 22–23; and cf. S. W. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, 6:176 ff.
226. Septimus, “Nahmanides and the Andalusian Tradition,” p. 19. Cf. Schechter, S., Studies in Judaism (New York, 1970), pp. 223–224, who thus characterized Nahmanides' presentation of kabbalistic truths: “It was chiefly when philosophy called in question his deep sympathies with even lower humanity, and threatened to withdraw them from those ennobling influences under which he wanted to keep them, that he asserted his mystical theories.”
227. Septimus, op. cit., p. 21.
228. See, e.g., Perush, Exod. 1:1, 19:13; Lev. 16:8; Num. 1:32.
229. See Fox, M., “Nabmanides on the Status of Aggadot: Perspectives on the Disputation at Barcelona, 1263,” Journal of Jewish Studies, 40 (1989): 95–109.
230. A similar point has been made with respect to Nahmanides' disciple, R. Solomon ibn Adret; see the studies of C. Horowitz and D. Horvitz cited above, n. 29.
231. Septimus, “Nahmanides and the Andalusian Tradition,” p. 21, n. 37. This view is attributed by Septimus to Scholem, but I am unable to locate any passage in Scholem's writings that would warrant such an attribution. See the claim of Maccoby, Judaism on Trial, p. 37, that R. Yehiel of Paris certainly thought that aggadic passages have an allegorical or mystical meaning, “for Jewish mysticism took much of its sustenance from these very passages, understood in a figurative or coded sense.”
232. In this connection it is of interest to note that later Hasidic masters incorporated the study of 'aggadah under the category of the study of kabbalah. See., e.g., R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi, Tanya, pt. IV, chap. 23, fol. 137a. And cf. Dinur, B. Z., Be-Mifneh ha-Dorot (Jerusalem, 1955), p. 165, n. 37.
233. In the commentary to Sefer Yesirah which Scholem published in the name of Nahmanides, we do find the author divulging esoteric matters with the introductory phrase “And I have heard,” , thus suggesting that he has received these matters orally from a teacher. But, characteristically, no teacher is mentioned by name. See “The Authentic Commentary of the RaMBaN to Sefer Yesirah,” ed. by Scholem, , Qiryat Sefer 6 (1929–30): 404 [in Hebrew], It should also be noted that in at least three of the manuscripts of the same text, p. 406, mention is made of “the Hasid,” a term usually taken to refer in the writings of the Spanish kabbalists to R. Isaac the Blind (see Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, p. 254). The reference, though, does not suggest that the author, supposedly Nahmanides, received anything from the Hasid, but merely reflects that he was cognizant of an alternative reading and interpretation. See, however, p. 407 and Scholem's n. 2 ad loc, and cf. p. 410, n. 2. For another discrepancy between Nahmanides' explanation of a passage in Sefer Yesirah and that of Isaac, R. the Blind, see “The Commentary of R. Isaac of Acre to the First Chapter of Sefer Yesirah.” published by Scholem, Qiryat Sefer 31 (1955–1956); 383 [in Hebrew]. This discrepancy was already noted by Scholem, without relying on the evidence of Isaac, R. of Acre, in Qiryat Sefer 6 (1929–30): 402, n. 2.
234. Cf. Chavel, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, pp. 38–44.
235. See, however, Idel, “We Have No Tradition,” p. 57. See also Ginsburg, E., The Sabbath in the Classical Kabbalah (Albany, 1989), pp. 108–111, who has noted the influence of Judah ben Yaqar on Nahmanides with respect to the marital motif connected to the Sabbath. In particular, Ginsburg notes that in three places Nahmanides, like his mentor, interpreted Genesis Rabbah 11:8 as an allusion to the divine wedding. Cf. Perush to Gen. 2:3, Lev. 23:26, and Deut 5:15. See also below, n. 237.
236. See, for instance, Shem Tov ibn Gaon, Keter Shem Tov, fols. 29a (citing his teacher, i.e., R. Isaac ben Todros, who received from R. Judah, i.e., Judah ben Yaqar), 37b, 44b. The latter two references refer to the same interpretation found in ben Yaqar's Perush ha-Tefillot we-ha-Berakhot, p. 89.
237. One problem with this thesis is the fact that Nahmanides' conception of the divine emanations varies from that of the Bahir. For Nahmanides the sefirot are the divine essence, whereas in the Bahir the divine potencies are depicted as instruments or vessels. Cf. Idel, Kab balah: New Perspectives, pp. 137–138. The essentialist view seems to have been taken by Judah ben Yaqar as well; see Perush ha-Tefillot we-ha-Berakhot, pt. 1, p. 22, where we find that God is equated with His name and His attributes. On the relation between the traditional thirteen middot and the ten sefirol in the Nahmanidean tradition, see the cryptic remark in Keter Shem Tov, fol. 31b. See also Abulafia, Todros, 'Osar ha-Kavod ha-Shalem (Warsaw, 1879), fols. 16c-d. For a more general discussion of this problem in the early kabbalah, see Dan, J., Hugei ha-Mequbbalim ha-Rishonim (Jerusalem, 1984), pp. 1–10.
238. In the case of ben Yaqar there is no direct citation of the Bahir by name, though in some cases in his writings a possible influence of it can be detected. Cf. Perush ha-Tefillot we-ha-Berakhot, pt. 1, pp. 110–111 to Sefer ha-Bahir §§ 102 and 157, and pt. 2, p. 42 to Sefer ha-Bahir, §157. I am indebted to my colleague, Prof. Elliot Ginsburg, for these references.
239. Sefer ha-Zikhronot, appended to Divrei Soferim (Lublin, 1927), fol. 34d.
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