Aryeh Cohen (University of Judaism)
Jacob Meskin (Princeton University and Rutgers University)
Michael Zank (Boston University)
FOUNDING EDITOR: Peter Ochs (Drew University)
Roger Badham, Drew University:
Postcritical Christian Philosophy and Judaism
S. Daniel Breslauer, U. of Kansas: Book Reviews
Aryeh Cohen: General Editor and Talmud
Philip Culbertson, St. Johns U., Auckland:
Christian Thought and Judaism
Robert Gibbs, University of Toronto:
Continental and Modern Jewish Philosophy
Susan Handelman, University of Maryland: Pedagogy
Steven Kepnes, Colgate University: Biblical Hermeneutics
Shaul Magid, Jewish Theological Seminary: Kabbalah
Jacob Meskin: General Editor and
Postmodern Jewish Thought and Philosophy
Vanessa Ochs, CLAL: Ritual, Ceremony and Material Culture
Ola Sigurdson, U. of Lund, Sweden:
Postcritical Christian Philosophy and Judaism
Martin Srajek, Illinois Wesleyan University:
Modern Continental and Jewish Philosophy
Michael Zank: Managing Editor and Book Reviews
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CONTENTS, PART ONE:
I. THE TEXTUAL REASONING CONFERENCE AT DREW UNIVERSITY
(DETAILED SCHEDULE AND ABSTRACTS)
II. JUDAISM AND EDUCATION
CONTRIBUTIONS BY ZE’EV FALK AND YONATAN KAGANOFF
CONTENTS, PART TWO:
III. PINCHAS GILLER (TRANSLATION AND INTRODUCTION):
EDITORIAL (May 29, 1997)
When I began thinking about this issue of Textual Reasoning, I
realized there are many reasons to feel excited about our Postmodern
Jewish Philosophy Network.
1) Over the past few weeks our discussion network (“tr-
firstname.lastname@example.org”) has been engaging in one of the most riveting
conversations in its history. Starting with an exchange between
Martin Jaffee, David Bakan, and others on the question of the
relation between Oral and Written Torah (Jaffee arguing for the
priority of the oral before the written Torah, and Bakan insisting on
the legal character of Halakhah as distinct from the pursuit of truth
(in the Gadamerian sense Jaffee seemed to impose on Halakhah),
David Bakan raised the following question:
HOWEVER. The big however is when halakhah became
sacramental. When? Luria? Not Mishnah and Talmud.
Between Talmud and Luria? When how? True: When
halakhah is a sacrament then its performance becomes a
STATEMENT. When halakhah becomes a statement then the
whole post modernist approach to sophia becomes relevant.
But not till then. What I need from Jaffee, is what happens to
his argument if he carefully distinguishes non sacramental from
sacramental halakhah. (D. Bakan on tr-list, May 14, 97)
This question triggered the ongoing discussion on the sacramental
character of Halakhah and the question of sacramental thinking in
general. Pinchas Giller pointed to the cultic (ceremonial) aspect of
the laws of the Torah as a sacramental practice. Martin Jaffee
augmented this statement by pointing to the religious significance of
the “whole rabbinic enterprise” that came in lieu of the destroyed
Halakhah is sacramental because it is an essentially religious
rather than a legal phenomenon. It’s as simple as that. Jewish
law is “law” in the degree that it prescribes norms. But it is
sacrament in the degree that its proper performance draws
blessings from the heavenly into the earthly domain, effecting
reconciliation between God and Israel, and forestalling the
powers of chaos. The power to effect the economy of the
cosmos through the powers of Torah and tradition is ascribed
to rabbinic sages from the third century on. It is the very
essence of their authority.
So to repeat: there is surely a legal aspect to halakhah
insofar as it functions sociologically as a legal tradition with
its own logic range of application. But, in my view, what is
“religious” about halakhah is not the legitimation of the
authority of those norms in “revelation”. That is a purely
ideological development. What is”religious” about halakhah is
precisely the sacramental piety that it inherits from the
priestly tradition of Israel. By doing “what Gd wants” one is
also effecting changes in the Universe Gd creates. This view is
not the invention of the Qabbalists; but they gave it a rather fine
metaphysical and mythic grounding. (M. Jaffee on tr-list, May
When David Bakan called for a clarification of the term “sacrament,”
a term usually undestood solely out of its function and usage in the
Christian context, other discussants began to pick up the thread.
Philip Culbertson from New Zealand carefully described the
Episcopalian theology of sacraments; Robert Goldenberg reminded
us of the fact that abstractions of Halakhah may generally be
suspected as modern inventions (“*The* halakhah” became a
problem when the rules became a problem. “What
is the significance of ‘the halakhah’?” became a code for “Why were
they so obsessed with rules anyway, and what are we going to do
about them now?” — Goldenberg on tr-list, May 18, 1997), leading
him to concluded that one whould look at mitsvah as a sacrament as
soon as the concept of a mitsvah arose. This, in turn, was countered
by Pinchas Giller who reminded Goldenberg of the fact that the
medieval trend to codify mitsvot was intricately related to the pursuit
of “reasons for the commandments” (ta’amey hamitsvot), hence not
a “modern” phenomenon if modern refers European modernity,
political emancipation, and Jewish Reform. Gesine Palmer
(Berlin/Jerusalem) denied that there ever was a time when mitsvot
were conceived of without concern for their meaning, adding
transcendental-philosophical support to Giller’s and Jaffee’s
religious categorization of the legal tradition.
And so it has been going on with new contributions on an almost
daily basis. A wealth of material waiting to be analyzed. Perhaps the
beginning of one or two or more forthcoming scholarly projects of
research, a number of books or conferences. — Which brings me to
2) THE TEXTUALITIES CONFERENCE. The next matter to be
excited about is the upcoming conference at Drew University (June
15-17, 1997). Below you will find the updated details of this event
as well as a few samples of the kind of contributions to expect. This
conference brings into conversation a number of philosophers and
text scholars, this time not in the virtual reality of the internet but
rather in the common time and space of Madison New Jersey, for
the purpose of taking stock of the various recent attempts in our
midst and beyond to overcome the dominant philological and
philosophical paradigms and restore a helpful otherness and
difference to the text-tradition which has been the well-spring of
reason and reasoning to our communities of faith.
This sounds like a return in repentance of a community of scholars
but I think it is rather a moment of reflection among scholars whose
common discomfort with earlier modes of scholarship has let them
to engage in various experiments with modes of meaning-making
that may prove helpful in our respective searches for intellectual
orientation. Peter Ochs, the spiritus rector and philosopher-in-
residence of the conference, describes the goal of the event as
The goal of the conference is to illustrate certain patterns of
textual reasoning that are practiced today and that may also be
read-into or discovered in certain practices of rabbinic text
reading. There are at least two ways to describe the setting of
the conference and its goal. First, the Society for Textual
Reasoning has gathered an increasingly large group of
readers/thinkers who appear to be practicing certain
overlapping methods of text-reasoning — rabbinic text-
reasoning in particular — and who would like to talk more
about what they are doing — comparing and contrasting their
methods. Second, for many members of the Society, the
dominant paradigms of western academic inquiry have lost
their hegemony: that is, their autonomous capacity and
authority to define the terms according to which non-Western
or extra-academic traditions of reading and thinking are
understood and evaluated. For these members, it is not self
evident how contemporary text-readers and -reasoners will
articulate their patterns of reading and reasoning: will they
articulate them through certain rules of discourse recommended
or imposed by the academy? will the text-readings and
reasonings generate their own rules of articulation? or will
these rules emerge out of some sort of hermeneutical dialogue
between what were dominant (alias western) and subjugated
(alias non-western, for example, rabbinic) modes of discourse?
The conference offers an occasion for both considering these
questions and experimenting with some answers.
The open-ended (i.e., talmudic) results of this encounter will be
made available in written form as a publication of the Society for
Textual Reasoning, becoming a first interpretation of, or even a
“New Testament” to, Steven Kepnes, Interpreting Judaism in a
Postmodern Age (New York: NYU Press, 1996) which itself
represents the first concerted attempt of coming to terms with the
methodological issues underlying the explorations of this Network.
3. Other events are coming up. Textual Reasoning plans to hold its
customary reception/study session at the annual conference of the
American Academy of Religion, this year in San Francisco,
November 22-25. The text which will be the basis for this event is
part of this issue of tr. The study session will be chaired by Pinchas
Giller of Washington University/St. Louis who also provided
translation and introduction of Sifra de Tseniuta. This will be the
first time we officially venture into the mystical tradition of texts and
study on such an occasion.
Similarly we hope to hold a roundtable discussion at the World
Congress of Philosophy in Bostoin , August 10-16, 1998. The
general theme of the Congress (only the second in its history to be
held in the USA) is PAIDEIA. Our network member Gerda Elata of
Ben Gurion University and I rather hurriedly put together the
following abstract on “TALMUD TORAH as PAIDEIA” which is,
of course, still open to suggestions for improvement and realization.
We propose to organize a set of roundtable study sessions on
the topic TALMUD TORAH AS PAIDEIA. ‘Talmud Torah’
means the ‘study of Torah,’ i..e, the study of the canon of
sacred literature (the Bible and its canonical streams of
interpretation) that in rabbinic Judaism is the central form of
religious piety. Torah-study was developed in close proximity
to Greco-Roman models of education. Hence it should be
worthwhile to explore whether it is possible to derive from
Talmud Torah a critical perspective on other Western forms of
We propose to study biblical and post-biblical Jewish texts
(from Midrash to Levinas) in which the notion of perfection as
the ideal of paideia is dialectically juxtaposed with models of
imperfection as a necessary condition of education both as
process and goal; so, e.g., in the story of Eden, in midrashic,
and mystical literature.
Out of these texts may emerge an exemplary pedagogical
narrative of a God “realizing” (learning) that (perhaps, in order
to create a finite world) He had to “imperfect” Himself (the
“process,” e.g. turning unified – androgynous, in His image
and likeness (spiritual?) – “man” into a twosome made of earth,
in mystical terms: tsimtsum/separating the Shekhina out from
Himself) and to recognize concomittantly the necessary
imperfection of His creation (after the Flood: “I will never
again curse…for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his
We shall look at the role of biblical imperfections of God, often
glossed over in later philosophical notions of divine
omnipotence, as a well-spring of pedagogical notions about
human development. In this way, we would demonstrate in
action how midrashic study of Torah can function as
interpretation with a view to education.
These and other special events can be monitored on our website
which is periodically updated
4. Speaking of EDUCATION: In this issue we continue the
discussion of JUDAISM IN THE CURRICULUM, a discussion
initiated by Aryeh Cohen who solicited contributions on this
matter. We would like to renew this call for submissions. The
matter is important and concerns most of us. How is Judaism
represented in instutions of higher (or lower?) learning? What
does it mean to educate ABOUT rather than IN Judaism? What
about the inside vs. the outside perspective? How much critical
scholarship should be part of our courses if our students often lack
much of the traditional knowledge or familiarity with content of
the sacred literature and its traditional interpretation? What are the
larger theoretical and methodological problems in education that
we ponder when we construct our syllabi and conduct ourselves
as teachers? — Ze’ev Falk contributed a remarkable statement on
this topic which we reproduce in this issue.
These are some of the things that went through my head when I
thought about Textual Reasoning 6-2. Very exciting, indeed. —
Then I remembered a conversation I had with Allan Udoff of Baltimore
Hebrew College, one of the first members of what was
then called the Postmodern Jewish Bitnetwork. Allan had
cancelled his subscription a while ago and I asked him, Why? —
Allan told me that at one point he was looking at what was coming
over his computer screen and he felt disgusted by what he called a
self-congratulatory style which he saw taking over an enterprise he
had once supported and which he no longer felt comfortable with.
So in order not to be to self-congratulatory I would like to raise
two issues of concern to the editors.
1. Our subject editors have been conspicuously silent and I would
like to take this opportunity to invite you to get in touch with us
and let us know what you are working on. What are your ideas for
projects and for the direction in which you would like to see the
journal develop? This goes for our readers in general. Textual
Reasoning is an experiment that, in order to succeed, needs
2. This goes also for money. In the past, Peter Ochs paid
expenses incurred, for example at the AAR receptions, out of his
own pocket. Embarassingly generous! How about y’all? Please
consider making a contribution to the operating costs of Textual
Reasoning. Some recipients of the hard-copy edition have been
very generous and kind to do so already. We know, we could ask
more politely, but, in fact, we did so in the past without result. So
here, in plain text: We need at least $ 250.- for the AAR reception
alone! Please give generously! Thanks again, on this occasion, to
Steven T. Katz, Director of the Center for Judaic Studies at BU,
who sponsored our very elegant website. Thanks also to Miriam
Shenitzer who donated the original artwork which graces the
website and the title page of the hardcopy of the journal.
There may be other, more profound, matters of concern for the
future but these are the most pressing ones for now. Plus, there is
a whole issue of Textual Reasoningwaiting for your attention.
Thank you for reading/reasoning!
For the Editors,
I. DETAILED SCHEDULE AND ABSTRACTS
FOR THE CONFERENCE ON TEXTUAL REASONING
DREW UNIVERSITY, JUNE 1997
Following is a detailed schedule of the upcoming conference at
Drew. This program contains a brief description of the main paper
topic, thesis, and/or abstracts of the planned responses.
SUNDAY JUNE 15. SESSION 1: MIDRASH HALACHA
“COMMENTARY WITHOUT LOGOS,
OR INTERPRETATION IN A BARTER ECONOMY:
PEREK HAZAHAV (TB BABA MATZIA)”
This first session warms us up for the whole conference:
introducing some of the most dramatic issues and debates on the
relation of theory to practice to textual reasoning.
The main speaker is Daniel Boyarin: a rabbinic text response to
Jean-Joseph Goux’s neo-Marxian, semi-structuralist analysis of
Prof. Boyarin writes that his “intention is to use the teaching of
Hazahav to introduce the non-logocentricity of rabbinic culture,
expressed through its non-monatery nature. This is rabbinic
Judaism as a mode of signification, dictated by its non-logos.”
Drawing on a study previously presented in the electronic journal
Textual Reasoning, Robert Gibbs suggests that the Amoraim, albeit
not the Tannaitic commentary, may be more open to monetary value
and its associated semiotic than Boyarin allows.
ABSTRACT OF ROBERT GIBBS, RESPONSE TO DANIEL BOYARIN
The central topic of Boyarin’s paper is the Sages’ semiotics, and I
find myself in profound agreement with his desire to travel across
fields of semiosis (money, Scriptural interpretation, gender
relations, etc.), in order to understand the self-conscious rejection of
a certain sort of Platonising view of reality and signs. My job,
however, is to respond not merely to affirm, and I believe that I can
set in motion a discussion that addresses both the economics and the
sort of reasoning the Sages do.
The theory I propose is less well-formed than Goux’s but I believe
that you will also see that it is inclined toward theology more
specifically. At the level of the text, I would like to consider further
the economics of the Sages and its relation to what I will call the
Temple economy. I will distinguish three historical phases of the
economic theory. The chapter of mishnah addresses the relation of
money as signs and things, but it is confused about whether signs
themselves are things and is concerned about the exchange of one
sign (gold) for another (silver). This is the problem of translation of
meaning. The Tannaim seem determined to make the reality lie in the
thing (fruit), and not in the money (only a sign). But their anxiety,
as Peter Ochs and I read it, is complicated because there used to be a
Temple economy where things and money had absolute value,
ascribed through sanctification, and measured by the requirements
of Temple service (See Mishnayot 6-8). Thus a third element is
introduced by recourse to the Temple economics: the process of
signifiying, the way of making a cow or some money sanctified and
revalued in relation to the Temple. This way of absolute
signification/sanctification is destroyed with the destruction.
The problem is the transition from the a Temple Economics (Phase
1) to a realistic economics, where the realia, the produce serves as
norm for the economic exchange (Phase 2). I wish to raise the
question of how these phases relate to a gold standard economy?
Can we make a gold standard substitute for a Temple standard? Or
had we better to advocate barter? Our reading of the gemarah,
however, points in a quite different direction. While the Tannaim
sought an ersatz for the Temple economy, the Amoraim accept the
reality of the money economy, but understand it not as a gold
standard, but as an exchange between monetary systems, in which
there is no absolute standard for the meaning (Phase 3). The focus
now is not on money or thing, but on the way we exchange from
money to money, from thing to thing. But this elevates that third
element, the process of signification and allows the ethical issues of
exchange to dominate (See 45a and following).
At the heart of that examination of signification is an analysis of how
authority is secured–how rules of exchange and meaning
themselves get established. Without an absolute sanctification
securing the rules, the Sages themselves became agents in
determining the semiosis. Thus, with Danny, I hold that the
Amoraim self-consciously frame their economics against the gold
standard, but their interests are not simply barter, a barter that is
historically situated after the collapse of an absolute economy.
The second level of my response is a translation of these economic
semiotics into a general theory. The distance from Temple Economy
to Gold standard becomes one from a theological discourse that has
a transcendent God to one that tries to Platonize in the sense of
elevating one human idea to a standard position. It is not clear that
the Tannaim are following this Platonic tendency, but it is quite clear
that the Amoraim are refusing it. One could note that God’s Name
follows a semiotic like the Temple economy, while theological
discourse understood as descriptive disourse about a transcendental
principle follows that of the gold standard. But what of the
gemarah? If there is a third phase, a post-absolute barter, then this
becomes the discourse of a God withdrawn, no longer speaking
through prophets, but also not the transcendental signified of
philosophic discourse. Just as translations begin to appear kosher,
so exchange between currencies is possible. An erased, withdrawn,
exiled God is neither the present God nor the pinacle of logic and
authority. Instead of securing reference by recourse to the
transcendentally real, we look more to the question of how rules get
If we can distinguish between 1) some idea that governs all
discourse and 2) the God who spoke through the prophets and 3)
the situation of the name vulnerable to erasure, then we can see that
the transcendence of the revealing God does not model the violence
and governance of the Platonic logos, but provides for a richer
materialism and a more thorough-going exchange economy than the
inversion of the Platonic logos/Gold Standard. The absolute
transcendence–especially withdrawn–produces a greater role for the
human interpreters, who can neither rely on a natural order nor on a
logocentric one. The Sages offer a model not of inverted Platonism,
but of God who in exceeding the economy of present entities
generates an abundance of meanings for those who interpret.
[END OF ABSTRACT]
Susan Shapiro has recently joined this debate to ask if Boyarin’s
critique of logocentricism would be better served if it began, itself,
in midrash before theory; she asks what midrash itself may say
about “economy.” Here is what Susan submitted to us in preparation
for the exchange.
ABSTRACT OF SUSAN SHAPIRO’S RESPONSE TO BOYARIN
I find intruiging the notion of treating midrash in the context of a
barter economy, as Boyarin, following Goux, suggests. If one
wants to make determinative economic relations for how all other
exchanges were enacted, including all forms of discursive
judgments and communication–legal and narratological–then
reading midrash in these terms helps to locate its economy. But,
surely, this is to be only the starting point of Boyarin’s treatment of
midrash. For, although I think Boyarin attempts to free midrash a
bit from its containment within Goux’s developmental and
explanatory narrative, B. does not fully succed in doing so and
midrash remains captive to the logoscentric (and phalocentric)
charater of Goux’s theory.
In order to lift out the barter-economic aspect of Goux’s theory
from within its teleological narrative, I suggest that B. reverse or, at
least, double his starting point. Why not begin with midrash, even
the midrashim that are now embedded within the Goux theory? Or,
retain the Goux beginning and supplement it by a second beginning
within barter economy and the exchange of midrashim? Starting
with another midrashic reading would also be in keeping with the
surplus economy of midrash in which meaning is not fulfilled, but
augmented. Is there something about economy that midrash can
teach us, if we follow its modes of argument, supplement, addition
as well as displacement (without loss)? If Goux, in other words,
can be used to tell us something about the exchange of words, can
midrash tell us something about “economy”? Would even thinking
economically differ for being outside of the logoscentric mode?
Another possiblity. Take another midrashic text (the Brachot
material on dreams, for example) and interpret it in such a way that
the issues of Goux and Boyarin are thematized but also interpreted
differently, i.e., questioned. I would like to do–and at some point
will– this latter project.
There are other matters having to do with God as the measurer and
not only as the measured or standard that may complicate some of
Boyarin’s present ideas about the shift away from phallocentrism.
(Some of this is in Yoma, I believe).
[END OF ABSTRACT]
Susan Handelman, the session host, also reflects on the relation of
non-logocentric textual study to the theory of non-logocentricity.
She offers an appeal . . To enter into this discussion, participants
may want first to read Perek Hazahav as a study of semiotics as well
as economy: that is, of how money represents a means of
signification that separates use (economic or linguistic) from
absolute value. Goux’s theory interjects themes of money and
mediterranean patriarchy. The resultant discourse finds its way,
gradually, from the Father-Logos back to text-immanent reasoning.
ABSTRACT HANDELMAN, RESPONSE TO BOYARIN
This paper raises for me certain questions which I have been
struggling with in my own work, and my own engagement
with postmodern literary and cultural theory. They are not so
much directed at the “argument” of the essay itself but about
methodology, theology, language, academic discoruse, and
the goal of our endeavors.
**isn’t there some ultimate abyss between the assumptions
of “cultural materialism” and the renewal of theology which
I think a psotmodern sensibility can bring?
** Postmodernism should help us also question and alter
the very rhetoric and pretentiousness of our academic
discourse…and yet all too often we wind up feeling
constrained to speak in the jargon of the reigning theorists,
who become a kind of new Canon. In the name of
differentiating rabbinic or “jewish discourse” from
“hellenistic”, we often adopt the “hellenistic ” language of
current academic discourse–whether it be Derridean,
Lacanian, New Historicist,body studies etc. How
should/could our own academic writing itself enact and
emody that which we claim for rabbinic discourse?
** who are we writing for? what is the relation of our work
to *amcha* and to undergaduate students in their spiritual
struggles? How can their resistance to our work also teach
us? How do we speak to those in deep search for a
language about God, a language of mitzvah, a language of
the soul…the latter being a word not commonly found in
cultural materialist writing.
**in the trinity of “gender, race, class” or “knowledge,
power, subversion” where is there room for *emunah*,
faith? A story in my college alumna magazine (Smith
college) about “religion on campus” quoted a Smith student
who said “It is easier to come out as a Lesbian at Smith than
as a person of faith.” Professors of religion, someone
noted, are the only people who are forbidden to profess what
SUNDAY. PANEL 1: “BEGINNINGS”
An introduction to a new book project on “Beginnings,” edited by
Aryeh Cohen and Shaul Magid. The panel introduces some of the
new approaches to textual reasoning displayed in the book: for
example, by Shaul Magid, Charlotte Fonrobert, and Aryeh Cohen as
well as by other Conference participants.
MONDAY MORNING JUNE 16.
SESSION 2: BIBLE “REVELATION REVEALED”
(Nu 25: 1-5; Ex 19; 1 King 22; Ezek 20:21-26)
The center and model of all Jewish and other monotheistic revealed
religions is the Torah with its assumption of the Mosaic revelation.
The main speaker, Tikvah Frymer-Kensky, will present her
provocative re-readings of the Biblical texts listed above. In a
conference focussing on Talmud Torah — the oral interpretation of
Torah –we might expect a session on the written Torah to return us
to the conditions and signs of “revelation” itself. Not so, says Prof.
Frymer-Kensky: the written Torah itself expresses doubts about the
non-interpretive character of any revealed text. The *torah she
b’chtav* has its own thickness, we might say.
Virginia Burrus responds affirmatively, articulating the session’s
critique of foundationalist text-reading, wondering aloud whether
the session’s thesis might not raise questions about the very
distinction between written and oral Torah, and extending the issues
to the study of Patristic oral tradition as well. Here is her abstract.
ABSTRACT VIRGINIA BURRUS, RESPONSE TO TIKVA
The four scriptural texts selected by Dr. Frymer-Kensky–Nu 25:1-
5, Ex 19, 1 King 22, Ezek 20:21-26–all constitute, in various
ways, through the instantiation of “chaotic” or self-contesting,
multi-vocal discourses, “stumbling blocks” for any simple reading
of the authoritative status of Scripture itself. Dr. Frymer-Kensky
seems to invite us to follow with her the non-linear and self-
dissolving “(dia)logic” of a “prohetic” or “revelatory” book that
represents Moses himself as a lying prophet, questions the
possibility of a final assessment of the reliability of any voice in the
clamor of competitive and contradictory revelations, and suggests
that God Godself is capably of issuing “bad laws” purposefully. At
stake (perhaps)is the viability of the distinction between “written”
and “oral” Torah, between “text” and “commentary.” “The authority
of Scripture to say, ‘It’s true because it’s written,’ simply
disappears.” The multivocality and unresolved contestatory structure
of “oral” traditions of commentary are sunk deep into the “written”
text itself, on her reading, so that the line between the two “simply
Among my own scholarly preoccupations are questions about
similarities and differences between “Christian” and “Jewish”
theories and practices of reading in late antiquity; this present
conversation seems to offer a productive opportunity for one
“reperformance” of the ancient dialogue. Several possible lines of
exploration suggest themselves at this point. If it may be argued that
many early Christians were inclined to subordinate the “letter” of the
written text to the prior “authority” of the “Logos” (or “Gospel of
Christ”), as mediated by an “oral (apostolic) tradition” that
effectively dissolved the distinction between divine author and
human commentator (perhaps reflected in the shift from the use of
scrolls to more everyday “notebooks” or codices for the copying of
Scripture), how does this strategy compare? What is to be said about
the structure of a Christian “oral tradition” that began to take the
form, first, of schematized narrative “rules of faith” and, later, of
codified “creeds”? Origen of Alexandria might provide an interesting
focus, given his preoccupation with the “stumbling blocks” in
Scripture, his willingness to entertain the possibility of a God who
is a “lying” “author,” his conviction that truth is to be pursued (but
never grasped) through the text of Scripture, and his irrepressible
hunch that “rules of faith” provide merely the starting point for a
salvific “oral” interpretive enterprise that begins with their
disciplined transgression. Later, Origen’s conversation about “lies”
in Scripture is taken up in a famous epistolary debate between
Jerome and Augustine.
Other, more particular and idiosyncratic directions for my own
reflections might include consideration of Patristic readings of the
figure of Phineas in Numbers 25, or the Christian production (partly
outside the commentary tradition) of “chaotic” multivocal texts that
enact unresolved contestations of gender roles analogous to those of
the Exodus 19 text.
[END OF ABSTRACT]
Session host, Aryeh Cohen, draws lessons for feminist readings of
rabbinic as well as biblical literature.
MONDAY LUNCH. SESSION 3: MIDRASH AGGADAH
“TALMUD TORAH AS SPIRITUAL DESIRE:
ON SHIR HASHIRIM RABBAH”
The main speaker, Michael Fishbane, summons our attention with
these few words:
“Song of Songs Rabba I.2 offers a unique opportunity to consider a
midrashic pericope as a religious-cultural instruction. In the present
case, numerous traditions have been anthologized with a
pedagogical purpose. Much can be learned from it regarding the
mythic dimensions of Torah, the task of study, and the connections
between study and spiritual desire. Diverse dynamics shall be
considered — particularly those of fulness/emptiness; presence/loss;
national/individual eschatology; spiritual desire/sin. I shall hope to
consider the semiotics of the whole collection, as well as the
religious hermeneutics of two or three key units.”
Prof. Fishbane’s previous work displays his tendency to offer
concentric circles of readings, moving out from the narrative in its
historical, literary, and redactional setting, to phenomenological,
semiotic, and what we might call religious and spiritual dimensions
of reading — or perhaps what we should call readings of the
religious and spiritual dimensions of the text.
Steven Fraade’s commentary addresses the latter perspective in
particular: how the midrash may disclose inner dimensions of the
biblical text itself, or at least bring the text into intimate, dialogic
relation with those who engage in Talmud Torah.
ABSTRACT STEVEN FRAADE, RESPONSE TO FISHBANE
Midrash Song of Songs Rabba, like all early midrashic
commentaries, is an anthology of comments that derive from
different authorities, times, and contexts. Many of the traditions
contained within our sample have previous careers, some first
evidenced in earlier midrashic commentaries to books of the Torah
(e.g., the Mekilta to Exodus and the Sifre to Deuteronomy in con-
junction with explicating the Song at the Sea or the revelation at Mt.
Sinai). Reading Neusner’s brief explanations to our text, it would
appear that the creation of a running commentary to the Song of
Songs was simply an editorial opportunity to join together such
thematically related tradtions with little hermeneutical relation to the
sequential verses of Song of Songs to which they were attached.
However, reading the list of themes that Buzzy will be addressing in
his exploration of this commentary, we might ask to what extent the
anthologized commentary, not withstanding its characteristically
midrashic reading of single verses or parts of verses out of context
(or, into other contexts), is not, indeed, deeply colored and shaped
by an engagement with the Song of Songs as a whole.
The recurring midrashic trope of desire and its deferral is certainly
that of the Song of Songs itself, however much its sensual terms
have been allegorized or rabbinized. Thus, the lovers of the Song,
like Israel and God of the midrash, shuttle between intimacy of each
other’s presence and the sorrow of mutual loss, the simultaneous
desire for and fear of unmediated (“mouth to mouth”) contact, being
alone to each other while in the lurking presence of others, the
longing for knowledge and the fear of forgetting, the blending of
love and death.
But there is a third level — besides that of the Song of Songs and its
literary midrash — at which these correspondences play out in the
formation of commentary: the relation between the midrashic
commentary and its oral enactment through social study by and
between its students. In the time between promise/desire and its
fulfillment, they too seek, experience, but ultimately defer spiritual
intimacy. In their active yet anxious engage- ment with midrash,
they uncover meaning even as it escapes them, they gain knowledge
even as they forget it, they foretaste transcendence and holiness in
the very midst of their mortality and evil. To borrow a
psychoanalytic term, how does midrashic process fashion for its
students a “talking cure” for the anxieties of these anomalies?
[END OF ABSTRACT]
Session host, Steven Kepnes, will address how Talmud Torah may
disclose inner dimensions of the community of reading.
MONDAY AFTERNOON. SESSION 4: TALMUD
“IF THE TORAH HAD NOT BEEN GIVEN TO MOSHE . . . ?
On: b Sanhedrin. 21b-22a and parallels”
The main speaker, David Weiss Halivni, will present his
theologically charged, historiographic reading of tb Sanh 21b-22
and related Talmudic passages. Halivni articulates a talmudic
tradition according to which Ezra received, restored and repaired a
“maculate” Torah, thereby initiating the tradition of oral Torah, torah
she b’chtav, to which the rabbinic sages, and also Halivni,
contribute. Commenting on Talmudic treatments of Shimon
haTsaddik and on related texts, Halivni will make further claims
about the evolutionary development of the oral torah throughout
In response to Halivni, Menachem Lorberbaum asks “if a number of
questions are not being conflated in Halivni’s uses of the image of
Ezra: the importance of Ezra, the meaning of the redaction of the
Torah, and the question of analyzing a Talmudic sugya, or
argument.. . . I think this is all unnecessary because I think Hazal
(the sages) were of a radical hemeneutic mindset.”
Offering another response, Peter Ochs asks if Halivni has not
introduced a paradigm for postcritical historiography. He suggests
that the burden of modern academic inquiry has been reductive
historicism as well as reductive theoria. In the manner of his
academic colleagues, Halivni offers “plain sense historiography,”
but he also offers a “depth historiography”
MONDAY EVENING. FIFTH SESSION:
“GERSONIDES ON THE TORAH OF CREATION:
ON PESHAT AND TRANSLATION”
The main speaker on this topic is Norbert Samuelson, who will
focus on pp. 9a-b of Levi ben Gershom’s (Gersonides’) Interpretive
Commentary on Gen.1.1. The texts to be studied under Norbert’s
guidance is a line by line comparison of the Hebrew of Gersonides
used by Samuelson and by Robert Eisen, line by line comparisons
of their two translations, and a letter from Samuelson about what he
will present at the conference. Rober Eisen, Michael Signer, and
session host Almut Bruckstein will respond to this guided reading.
Samuelson’s Jewish-philosophic interest in this philosopher’s Bible
commentary will be captured through comments on how Gersonides
has been translated and, in turn, how he “translates” the words and
meanings of Genesis.
TUESDAY JUNE 17. BREAKFAST PANEL
RESPONSES TO THE CONFERENCE BY A PANEL OF
George Lindbeck, David Ford, Daniel Hardy
TUESDAY MORNING. SIXTH SESSION: MYSTICISM
“TALMUD TORAH AS TIKKUN HASHECHINA:
MOSHE H. LUZZATTO’S ADIR BAMAROM
(a commentary on the Zohar)”
Elliot Wolfson will present the main paper for this panel. He
“In my presentation, I will focus on the link between Torah study
and the task of repairing the Shekhina in the messianic kabbalah of
Ramhal (1707-1746). The kernel of this idea is much older, indeed
traceable to a passage in the BAHIR, on of the foundational texts in
the emergence of kabbalah. What interests me is not the textual
history of this idea, but the experiential dimension it assumes in its
particular application within the kabbalistic fraternity of Luzzatto.”
First Respondent is Tzvi Blanchard, Session Chair and Second
Respondent is David Novak. Novak’s response will focus on the
question of sexuality:
NOVAK ON WOLFSON
Wolfson’s presentation cogently analyzes not only the motif of
sexuality that is integral to kabbalistic theology, but also how
specific its symbolism becomes in the work of Luzzatto. That
specificity extends to actually seeing symbolic significance in the
parts of the male genitalia. After Freud, however, one must ask
Wolfson just how one is to take the connection between religious
and sexual reality in kabbalistic theology, especially but not
exclusively that of Luzzatto. Is it one that assumes a pansexuality,
where sexuality is the key whereby all reality is to be understood?
Or, is it a cosmic sublimation of sexuality, one that takes sexuality to
be essentially epiphenomenal and thus ultimately deprived of its own
reality for the sake of a superphysical and superpsychical
replacement? If the former, then how is religious practice
sexualized? If the latter, then how is sexual practice transcended?
Finally, what does all of this contribute to the cultural and political
debates about embodiment, gender, and sexuality taking place in our
[END OF ABSTRACT]
In a third response, Edith Wyschogrod raises the question of
“epistemic affinities” between Luzzatto and Spinoza.
WYSCHOGROD ON WOLFSON
The theological disclosures of Luzzato’s text are read through its
rich imagery. How are images as such construed, ie can a meta-
level theory of images be discerned in his work? Where are the
similarities and differences between the structural and lexical
elements of Luzzato’s account of image/imagination and those of the
preceding rationalist view of Spinoza? Elliot argues (contra
Scholem) that Luzzato’s theistic view of the partsufim is not merely
a demythologizing strategy; instead Luzzato is said to espouse the
myth of the theosophical kabbalah but to locate the myth in the
imagination. Elliot (in his galleys) cites Luzzato as saying “The soul
that sees what it sees outside the body depicts these things the
imagination” (p. 292n). Spinoza, amicus of intellecrt rather than of
imagination, nevertheless contends that so long as the mind
imagjnes those things that increase the body’s power to act, the
body’s powers are actually increased and, as a result, the mind’s
power of thinking is increased; conversely the mind’s powers are
diminished when it imagines what diminishes the body’s actions.
Does imagination function in something like this fashion in the
reparation of the Shekhina in Luzzato? (This is not intended as a
historical question about the possible kabbalistic resonances in
Spinoza but rather as one about epistemic affinities.)
TUESDAY LUNCH: CONCLUDING PANEL:
“MODERN AND POSTMODERN JEWISH THOUGHT”
Session Chair and First Presenter: Eugene Borowitz
Panel: Yudit Greenberg, Irwin Kula, Jacob Meskin, Michael Zank,
“Textualities” is underwritten by a Collaborative Research Grant
from the National Endowment for the Humanities, with matching
support from The Wallerstein Foundation and from additional
individual contributors, and with the sponsorship of Drew
University and The Society for Textual Reasoning.
II. ON JUDAISM AND JEWISH STUDIES
In the following, we continue our series of reflections on Judaism
and education, more specifically on the teaching of Judaism within
the curriculum of secondary and tertiary education. You will find
two very different contributions below. The first is by Professor
Ze’ev Falk who will spend the coming summer in New York City to
work on a postmodern approach to biblical texts. The second is by
Yonatan Kaganoff, a student at Yeshiva University. The former
considers the shift of paradigms from historicist philology to a
postmodern reading of the sources to arrive at a fundamental
programmatic statement, the second responds to Aryeh Cohen’s
initial exploration of the often tense relation between traditional and
academic talmud study. We gratefully acknowledge both of these
submissions which indicate something of the variety of perspectives
among our members.
REFLECTIONS ON JEWISH STUDIES
By Ze’ev Falk
“Jewish Studies”, the present term for the “Wissenschaft des
Judentums” inaugurated by Leopold Zunz in 1818, constitute those
studies of the culture of the people of Israel based on the historical,
philological and comparative methods. Texts and phenomena are
being interpreted, in this dicipline, in their human and historical
settings as objectively as possible and without any subjective
commitment or bias.
But already one of the founders of the new discipline, Samuel David
Luzzatto (1800-1865), criticized those who study Israel’s culture
exactly like the cultures of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia and Persia,
without making an attempt to understand the Bible as the Word of
God and as a struggle between the divine and the human spirit.
Studying and teaching religious texts “objectively” “from outside”
and “from a distance” means, indeed, missing an essential part of
the message. He who applies the Weberian “Wertfreiheit” to the
study of spiritual literature is like measuring the decibells of a
concert or analyzing the colour print of a poem.
Being haunted by the historical-philological method, scholars of
Jewish Studies usually miss the opportunities offered by the
methods of comparative religion, anthropology and new literary
criticism. The first discipline could have led them to a better
understanding of the divine or of holiness. The second might have
taught them about human capacity of self-transcendence, while the
last could have developed the concept of continuous revelation.
Even more important would have been a greater use of an up-to-date
hermeneutics. According to the teachings of Wilhelm Dilthey
(1833-1911) and Hans Georg Gadamer (1900- ), there is no
understanding of the past without a re-experience at present and
without some prior commitment to the text under consideration
(Gadamer: Truth and Method, London-New York, 1976). The
criticism of language, as developed by Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-
1951), should also serve as a warning to Jewish Studies against the
hybris of knowing the “true” sense of a given text.
The study of any text is actually a dialogue between the text and its
reader. Paul Ricoeur (1913- ) calls therefore for a criticism which
is no longer reductive but restorative, for a “second naivete” and for
an understanding in order to believe, as well as for believing in
order to understand (The Symbolism of Evil, transl. E. Buchanan,
Boston, Beacon Press, 1969, 350-352).
The sooner we get away from the illusion that there is only one
“true”, critical and “scholarly” meaning of any text, the greater is our
perceive its spiritual meaning and to listen to its intended message.
Oddly enough, this insight of the ancient rabbis creating the Midrash
is the guideline of present-day hermeneutics, but not of the scholars
of Jewish Studies.
Jewish Studies are urgently in need of theology and philosophy.
There can be no real understanding of Torah, Prophets and
Scriptures without engagement in the question of truth and
metaphysics, and the same applies to rabbinical texts. The
overemphasis of historical questions and the evasion of questions of
meaning in the interpretation of a culture of metaphysics must lead to
As Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) put it, “when we turn to
the Bible with an empty spirit, moved by intellectual vanity, striving
to show our superiority to the text; or as barren souls who go sight-
seeing to the words of the prophets, we discover the shells but miss
the core… Just as we cannot test thinking without thinking, we
cannot sense holiness without being holy… Thus we must accept
the Bible in order to know the Bible; we must accept its unique
authority in order to sense its unique quality. This, indeed, is the
paradox of faith, the paradox of existence”.
The prevalent insistentence among the scholars of Jewish Studies
upon a secular attitude and their demonstration of irreligiosity is very
often a means to differentiate them from the religious public
studying the same sources out of religious identification. According
to various studies, analyzed by Robert Wuthnow, faculty members
in the social sciences or the humanities who believed in God were
far more likely to say they had to keep their religious convictions
and their research separate than those in the natural sciences, who
felt they did not have to keep the two separate. Irreligiosity,
therefore, plays a “boundary-posturing” function compensating for
an ill-defined discipline to distance it from the general public
(Science and the Sacred, in: P.E. Hammond: The Sacred in a
Secular Age, Berkeley, UC Press, 1985, 187-203).
Jewish Scholars, obviously, cannot return to the “primitive naivete”,
which is the rule among orthodox students of the classic texts.
However, once the critical aspects to any given text have been
discussed, they should follow the example of Brevard S. Childs in
his Exodus commentary. The latter completes the critical discourse
of every chapter by a christological exposition. A Jewish teacher of
the Bible or other spiritual texts, likewise, should supplement his
critical presentation by discussing with his students around the table
the existential and spiritual meaning of the studied text for him or her
Ze’ev W. Falk
1 Adar II 5757 (3/9/97)
A RESPONSE TO ARYEH COHEN,
“On Judaism and Jewish Studies” (tr 5-1, 1997)
By Yonatan Kaganoff
Aryeh Cohen in his essay, “On Judaism and Jewish Studies”,
attempts to argue against the possibility for common dialogue
between the Yeshiva and the New Academy. Particular to this
barrier is the current competition for the authoritative interpretation
of texts, especially Rabbinic texts of late Antiquity. At most, each
side acknowledges a wary awareness of the other’s existence, but
they are prohibited from communicating by their different traditions
and the inability to share a common language. Cohen also notes a
social division between Rabbi and Heretic, or, as he denotes,
“University Professor of Talmud”. I find it erroneous, however, to
assume that an uncrossable chasm exists between these two
artificially constructed “academies.” It would be more profitable to
construct a model of textual analysis where the players are
determined by their approach to text rather than historically, based
upon entrance into modernity. With this understanding, those of the
Yeshiva and the New Academy are seen in alliance against those
using a Historical/Geographic approach. For both the Sugyetist and
the Talmudist (see below, note 1) respect an inherent cohesiveness
within the text, between the question and the answer, alternative
resolutions to textual issues, and various options in interpreting
earlier statements, in contrast to the Historicist, who dissects the
text into independent components. Both the Talmudist and Sugyetist
seek a careful literary reading of the text and of its primary
commentaries, seeing subtle, nuanced tensions within the wording
and ideas give rise to multiple understandings, revealed in the
reading of commentators from the canonization of the text through
the current era.
By highlighting their common assumptions and techniques, a
common language can easily be found between the Postmodern
Academy and the Bait Medrash. A glaring example for this potential
for communication is highlighted by Cohen himself in his latest
piece on Kiddush Hashem, which is predicated upon the famous
first essay of Rav Haym Soloveitchik of Brisk (1853-1918) where
Soloveitchik reads the passive/active dialectic within the Kiddush
But questions must be asked. “What profit could this dialogue offer
to each of its participants?” Among other benefits, the Sugyetists
offer a deeper understanding of metaphor and psychological
motivations than is currently available within the canon of the
Yeshiva. Additionally, they present the possibility to translate the
highly nuanced terminology of Brisker lomdus, the current
conceptual approach of the Bait Medrash, into a language accessible
to those outside of its four walls. For example, we lacked a proper
literary equivalent to the idea of never totally rejecting a “I would
have said” (Hava Amina), a building block of lomdus, until the
invention of concepts under erasure. The Yeshiva offers the New
Academy 1000 years of insightful readings of texts. It also offers a
partnership with those who have mastered the corpus of the
literature of late Antiquity and its “narrative arc” as guides and
partners in exploring these texts. “Who could be asked to mediate
this unprecedented dialogue of those from such divergent
backgrounds?” But it is precisely in “academies” such as Yeshiva
University (I do not know of the Conservative Seminaries), where
instead of the chasm being clearest, as described by Cohen, that a
possibility for a bridge across the gap exists with students and
faculty assisting “philosophers” and Talmudists across into each
other’s domains. I envision a scene where the Talmudist would
guide the philosopher through the text, with its medieval, and
modern interpreters who reread and unify the Sugyah. The
philosopher could then express those ideas in post-Modern
terminology, expanding, elaborating, and further revealing the text,
in a give and take chavrusa with the Talmudist. This unique
possibility for textual reasoning is closed off in Aryeh’s essay.
1. I am using the term Talmudist only to designate the resident of
the Yeshiva in contrast to the Sugyetist of the New Academy, but
intend for no further implications.
Yonatan Kaganoff is a student at Yeshiva University and the RIETS
of YU studying towards S’micha. He is a subscriber and avid reader
III. A WORKING TRANSLATION OF THE SIFRA DE-TZENIUTA
Pinchas Giller, Washington University, St. Louis
The Zohar is the central work of the Kabbalah, and the central
passages of the Zohar are the Idrot which present the mysteries of
the Divine anthropos. The Idrot serve as the basis for the subsequent
development of Kabbalah, particularly the school of Isaac Luria.
These texts include the Idra Rabbah or “great Idra” (Zohar III 127b-
145a) and the Idra Zuta or “lesser Idra” (Zohar III 287b-296b). A
third Idra, the Idra de-Bei Mashkena (“the Idra of the Tabernacle’) is
also referred to at the beginning of the Idra Rabbah, although it
seems not to be extant at this time.The Idrot are summarized and
glossed in the allusive little work before us, “The Hidden Book”
(Sifra de-Tzeniuta, Zohar II 176a-179a).
Kabbalah means, literally, “that which is received.” Sifra de-
Tzeniuta is not meant to be an open palette of symbolism, or a
spiritual Rorscharch. It alludes to a very specific myth which is
more fully explored in the Idrot. A faithful reading of the text
presupposes that the reader is familiar with the accompanying myth.
This myth, embellished in many ways, made up the oral tradition of
the Safed kabbalists. Attempts to present the myth systematically
make up the bulk of subsequent kabbalistic literature. It will be
presented, as best as is possible, though the medium of the remarks
in the end notes, (1) although they are not comprehensive. Sifra de-
Tzeniuta presents many questions for scholarship. Was it composed
as a precis to the Idrot. If so, was it composed before or after? Is it
the work of the same author as the Idrot (2)?
This, then, is the center of the Kabbalah, a work that serves as a
meditation text for kabbalists in the Lurianic school of R. Shalom
Shar’abi and is thence considered, in the emerging spirituality of the
Land of Israel, canon. Besides the myth of the Idrot, the text also
works as a midrash on the first chapters of Genesis. The Sifra de-
Tzeniuta contains imagery from across the Jewish mystical tradition,
with much symbolic exegesis of the Bible (3). There is also a strong
doctrine of the powers inherent in the Divine name YHVH, and how
these powers alter based on the various ways that one may vocalize
the Name. Finally, there are allusions to the sefirot, both directly
and in the form of symbols, a mysticism of language that is the
essence of theosophical Kabbalah.
THE HIDDEN BOOK
(SIFRA DE TZENIUTA)
It has been learned- The hidden book (4), the book that was
weighed on the scale.
Until there was a scale, they did not examine face to face.
The primordial kings died (5) and their unions were not found,and
the land came to naught.
Until the start of the desire of desires, the garments of glory were set
forth and stored.
This scale hangs in a place that is not, weighed on it are those who
do not exist (6).
The cups are balanced on the stand (7).
It is not unified and it is not seen.
On it rise those who are not, who are and who will be.
Aspect within aspect, they are set forth and summoned in one skull
(8), which is full of the dew of the bedellium (9).
The membrane of the air is gleaming and sealed.
The bleached wool hangs like a weight, the Will of Wills is revealed
in prayer of those below.
Sharp, watchful, unblinking Overseen, watched constantly, ever
The oversight below is like the oversight that shines above.
Two windows of the command post (“pardashka”), arousing the
spirit to all.
“First God Created Heaven and Earth,” six-“Breishit.”(10) Created
six above them.
All are below and are contingent on the seven of the skull, until the
glory of glories.
“And the Earth” two, but not in number, and does it not say, from
that which was cursed it came forth, as it is written,” from the land
that God cursed (Gen . 5:29).”
It was “unformed and chaos and darkness was on the face of the
Deep and the spirit of Elohim hovered on the face of the water.”
Thirteen contingent on thirteen, glory of glories.
Six thousand years contingent on the first six.
The seventh above them, overcoming alone.
Everything was destroyed in twelve hours.
As it is written, “it was unformed and void and darkness was on the
face of the Deep and the spirit of Elohim hovered on the face of the
Thirteen are upheld in mercy and renewed as before, and the six
arise, as it says “created “after which it says i”t was” for it truly
was.And in the end, unformed and chaos and darkness.
“None but the Lord shall be exalted on that day( Isaiah 2:11).”
He engraved engravings (11), like the image of a long snake,
extending here and there, its tail to its head and its head to its
shoulder (12), passing quickly, guarded and hidden.
Once in a thousand short days it is revealed the understanding,
absorbing the gleanings (13).
Its fin is its portion.
Its head is broken in the waters of the great sea as it says (Psalm
74:13): “You broke the head of the sea serpents on the water.”
There were two, and one was returned (for “taninim “is written in
the shorter way).Heads, as it says (Ezekiel 1:22): “The image was
on the heads of the beasts of the firmament.”
“And God said let there by light and there was light.”
As it is written (Psalms 33:9): “He spoke and it came to pass.”
And afterwards, there returned one YHV”Y YH”V VY”V.
And the last Y’ is the lower Shekhinah, as the Shekhinah is found
in the H’, and they are weighed in one scale.
“And the beasts flew back and forth,” as it says, “God saw the light,
that it was good.” “Say of the tzaddik that he is good” (Isaiah 3:10).
This one rises on the scale.
The first one is alone, and all returns to one.
The sister and her intimate (14) are subsumed, one in the other in
YU” D H” E, the loving crowns that embrace.
Six go out from the branch of the root of the body.
The language of great speech.
The language, hidden between YU” D and H” E.
As it is written (Isaiah 44:5): “This one will say, I am for YHVH,
another will use the name ” Jacob” another will mark his arm for
YHVH and adopt the name of Israel. ”
Truly this one will say, for YHVH: sister.
And everything is said in YH” V.
All are contained in the hidden language for Imma, for she opens
herself to bring forth.
Abba sits at the head. Imma in the middle, covered here and here.
Woe to the one that uncovers their nakedness!
“And God said let there by lights in the firmament of heaven,” the
male ruling the female (15).
As it is written (Proverbs 10:25) “The tzaddik is the foundation of
The YU” D shines in two and shines past the feminine (“nukvah)”.
The YU”D unifies alone, rising though its levels, higher and higher.
The feminine darkens, Imma shines and is open through her gates.
Comes the key that is subsumed into six, and covers the opening
and unifies below with this one and that one.
Woe is he that reveals the opening!
The beard of faith is not mentioned (16) because it is the
preciousness of all (17).
From the ears it goes out, circling the face; rising and falling, a
In the thirteen they separate (18).
In that glory of glories, it is written (Jeremiah 2:6) No man (ish)
passed by it and no man (adam) sat there.
Adam is outside (19).
Adam is not included here, or “Ish,” all the more so.
In the thirteen rushing springs, four are specifically guarded, and
nine water the body.
Before the orifice of the ears the glory begins to set itself forth.
It descends in the beauty of the head of the lips.
It stands over this head to that head.
The path that goes out under the two windows of the command
post, passing off sin, as it is written (Prov. 19:11): “And His glory
passes over sin..”
His lower lip is surrounded by hair for the other head. The other
path goes out beneath it, heaped with the fragrant offering for the
The two apples appear, shining with sparks.
The mazal of everything hangs down to the heart, on it are
contingent the upper and lower.
The hanging ones do not go out from one another.
The shorter ones cover the throat of the glory.
The greater ones are measured out in a full measure.
The lips turn in from all sides.
Worthy is the one who is kissed with those kisses!
In that mazal of everything flow thirteen anointings of pure
All are found and hidden in that mazal.
When Tishrei comes, the seventh month, these thirteen are found in
the upper world and thirteen gates of mercy open.
In that time it is written (Isaiah 55:6): “Seek YHVH where He is
It is written (Gen. 1:11):”Let the Earth be covered with grasses
sprouting seed, tree bearing fruit.”
As it is written (Lev. 16:31):”You will afflict yours souls “on the
ninth of the month towards evening.
“ADN”Y YHVH you began to show Your servant Your greatness
(Deut. 3:24).” YHVH, whole in his aspects. And here, in this
arousal of the land, it is not whole.
YH” Y is not written.
We call the higher Yo” d the lower Yo” d.
“Va-yiytzer” (And he formed) the higher Y’ , the lower Y’.
“Va-Yehiy”(And it was) The higher Y’, the lower Y, H’ in its body,
the general wholeness.
Whole, (but) not to every aspect.
This name is uprooted from this place and planted in another.
As it says “YHVH the Lord planted (Gen. 2:8).”
H’ between Yo” d to Yo” d of YH”Y.
A breeze from the command post (21) of ‘Attika to Zeira Anpin.
With no spirit (ruach), it could not stand.
In H”e are contained the higher H’, the lower H’ and it is written
(Jeremiah 1:6): “Aha, YHVH Lord!”
In the Divine flow(22) in the spirit of the scale YH” Y.
The higher Y’ that is crowned in the knot of ‘Attika is the higher
membrane that is shining and sealed.
The higher H” e, that is crowned in the spirit of the command post
(23), goes out to give life.
The higher V’, the dark spark (24) (Butzina de-Kardinuta) that is
crowned in its aspects, letters spreading back, subsumed in Zeira
As it begins in the skull, it is found extending through the whole
body, to ornament everything like clean wool as these letters hang
As it is revealed to Zeira, these letters are settled in it and it is
The Yo” D of ‘Attika is sealed in its crowns(25), for the left is
The H”H opens in another and is penetrated with two orifices and is
present in tis tiqqunim.
Va” v is opened in the other as it is written (Songs 7:10): “My
beloved walks the straight path.”
In the dark spark is the opening covered.
V’ above and V’ below. H’ above and H’ below.
Y’ above and no other joins with it and it does not rise in this,
except though a hint that is hinted when the two are revealed and
unify as one level, one feeling in order to separate.
O” D included in Yo” d.
Woe, when this departs and is revealed!
These spices of the empty scale(26), passing, are not detained in
(Ezekiel 1:14)”The beasts passed back and forth..”
Flee back to your place!
“If you nest high as an eagle and if you place your nest between the
stars, from there I will bring you down (Ovadiah 1:4).”
“And the land brought forth seed (Gen. 1:12).”
When the name was planted.
Then the aether went forth and the spark was summoned.
One skull, extended in its aspects, full of dew, ascending in two
Three chambers of the engraved letters are revealed in it.
Black as a raven, hanging over deep chasms that cannot be heard
here, right or left. Here is one slender path upwards.
The brow in which no worldly conflict shines, except when the will
oversees it (27). Eyes of three hues glimmer before him, surrounded
by shining milk.
As it is written:”Your eyes will see Jerusalem, the tranquil dwelling
And it is written (Isaiah 1:21): “Righteousness will lodge there.”
The tranquil dwelling is the sealed Attika..
It is written: “your eyes (28).”
The nose of the countenance Zeir, to be known (29)!
Three torches burning in its nostrils.
A deep level, teaching good and evil.
It is written(Isaiah 42:8): “I am YHVH, it is my name.”
And it is written (Deut. 32:39):”I kill and bring to life.”
And it is written (Isaiah 46:4): “I will bear and I will suffer.”
“He is the one who made us and not ourselves (Psalms 100:3).”
“He does not reply to any mans charges (Job 33:13).”
He is that which is called sealed, inaccessible and unseeable.
He is that which cannot be called by a name.
H’ containing V’.
V’ containing A’ and not containing H’.
A’ Y’ , that is hidden of all hiddennesses to which the O” d does
Woe when the Y’ does not shine on the O” d!
When the Y’ withdraws from the O” d through the sins of the
World, the nakedness of all is revealed.
Of this it is written (Lev. 18:7): “Do not reveal the nakedness of
When the Yu” d deserts the H” e, of this it is written: ‘And the
nakedness of your mother, do not reveal her nakedness.”
She is truly your mother, “For you shall call Understanding (Binah)
your mother (Proverbs 2:3).”
Nine precious tiqqunim were passed on to the beard (30).
Everything that is hidden and not revealed, high and precious, it is
found, and yet it is called “hidden.”
The first tiqqun of the beard, strands upon strands, from above the
opening of the ears until the upper lip, this top to that top it is
Beneath the two nostrils, a path so full that it is not visible.
The cheeks overlap from this side and that.
In them are visible the apples that are red as roses.
On one thread strong black locks hang to the chest; lips turning, red
Short ones descend down the throat and cover the neck.
Long and short fall down evenly.In these is found the mighty hero,
wherever it is found.
As it is written ( Ps. 118: 5): “From the straits I called, Y” H.”
Nine did David say (31), until “all the Gentiles surrounded me,” to
surround and to defend himself.
“Let the Earth be covered with grasses sprouting seed, every seed in
its own kind, tree bearing fruit. (Gen. 1:11).”
These nine were uprooted from the whole name and afterwards were
planted in the whole name, as it is written(Gen. 2:8): “and YHVH
The tiqqunim of the beard are thirteen in the higher one, and nine
are visible in the lower.
Twenty-two letters engraved because of them.
On this, whoever sees in a dream that he has seized the beard of an
important man, or that he stretches out his hand to him, let him
know that he is one with his Master (32).
Those who hate him will be bent beneath him.
So much more so is the high beard that shines on the lower, for the
higher is called “great lovingkindness,” and the smaller is called
simply “lovingkindness” and when necessary the higher beard
shines on it and it is also called ” great lovingkindness.” “And
Elohim said: Let the waters swarm with every manner of living
creature (Heb. Nefesh chayah) (Gen. 1:20);” that is to say, Ch”Y
Y”H extended the shining of this one onto that.
All of them were aroused at one time, the good waters and the evil
waters, for he said “Let (them) swarm ”
The higher creature and the lower creature.
The good creature and the evil creature.
“And Elohim said: Let us make man! (Gen. 1:26)”
Not “the man,” but simply “man.” To exclude the higher man, who
was made from the whole name.
When this one was completed, that one was completed.
Male and female were created to complete everything, YHV” H the
realm of the male.
Elohim the realm of the female.
The male extended and set forth its tiqqunim like a mother in the
mouth of a maidservant.
The kings that were negated are set up here.
The dinnim of the male are mighty at the beginning and rest at the
end, while the reverse is true of the female.
And Y” H, the hard shells of the knots are tucked into the bosom,
and the small Y’ is found within it.
‘Attika wanted to discern if the dinnim had been perfumed.
The serpent had intercourse with Eve (33) and a nest of pollution
was established within her, creating a dwelling of sin, as it is written
(Gen. 4:1): ” she conceived and bore Cain,” the nest (34) of the
dwelling of the evil spirits, the storms (35) and malevolent demons
He set forth in that man crowns (37), general and specific (38)
contained in specific and general.
highs and arms, right and left.
This one divided in its aspects.
Set forth male and female, YH”V. Y’, male, H’ female.
V’, it is written ( Gen. 1:27): “Male and female he created them. and
he blessed them and he called their name Adam.”
The form and countenance of a man sitting on a throne.
And it is written (Ezekiel 1:26): “And on the image of the throne the
image like a man on it from above.”
‘Attika is hidden and sealed.
Zeira de-Anpin is revealed and not revealed.
For it is revealed in written letters, and concealed, sealed in letters
that are not settled in their places, for the higher and the lower are
unsettled in it.
“And Elohim said let the Earth bring forth every living being in its
kind, animal and creeping thing (Gen. 1:24).”
As it is written (Psalms 36:8): “Man and beast will praise God.”
One is found in the in the essence of another.
The beast in the category of the man, as it is written (Lev. 1:2):
“When a man (Adam)brings a sacrifice from you to YHVH, of an
animal…” because it is in the category of the man.
When Adam descended below in the higher form, there were found
two spirits from two aspects, and the man included both right and
From the right, the holy soul (neshamah).
Of the left, the living soul (nefesh chayyah).
When Adam sinned, the left extended, and these extended
When they embraced together, they gave birth like that beast that
gives birth to many from one embrace.
Twenty two sealed letters, twenty two revealed letters.
A hidden Y’ and a revealed Y’.
Hidden and revealed, weighed on balanced scales.
Male and female come out of Y’.
U” D (39) in this place, V’ male, D’ female.
In this way, D”U two (40) crowns.
Y’ specifically male. H’ female.
H’ was first D’.
And when it conceived in a vav within it there came forth a vav .
It appeared as Y’ in the general vision of YH” V.
When Yo” d came forth, as male and female, it dwelt behind and
“And the sons of God saw the daughters of man.(Gen. 6: 2)” As it
is written (Joshua 2:1): “Two men, secret spies.”
What are the daughters of men?
As it is written (Kings I 3:16): “Then came to two prostitutes to the
Because of them, it is written (Kings I 3:28): “For they saw that the
wisdom of Elohim was within him.”
Then they came, and not before.
On the rule of the embrace (knot) of the stillborn, there were two
Below, they descended and inherited the dust.
They lost the good portion that they had, the crown of mercy and
they were crown in a tunic of grapes.
“And Elohim said to Moses, why do you cry out to me? (Exodus
“To me, “specifically.
“Speak to the children of Israel and let them move.”
“Let them move,” specifically.
In the mazal on which it is contingent, that comes to glorify the
“Do what is right in his eyes and hearken to his commandments and
keep all of his laws (Exodus 15:26).”
“For I, YHVH, am your healer,” specifically for this.
“Oh sinning nation, people laden with iniquity, evil seed, degenerate
children (Isaiah 1:4)!”
Seven levels Yo” d H’ V’ H’ H’ Y’ bringing forth V’ D’ , it is H’
bringing V’ , V’ bringing forth H’.
V’ D’ outside are hidden the Adam, the man and woman who are
As it is written: “degenerate children..”
“In the beginning (he) created.”
” In the beginning,” a statement.
“Created,” a half-statement.
Father and son.
Sealed and revealed.
The higher Eden, sealed and hidden.
The lower Eden extends in portability (41) and there are revealed
YHV”H, Y” H Elohim Et. ADN” Y AHY” H.
Right and left combined as one.
The heavens and as it is written (Chronicles 1 29:11): “the glory and
“The Earth ”
As it is written (Psalms 8:2): “How great is your name in the all the
“The whole Earth is full of His Glory (Isaiah 6:3).”
“Let there be a firmament within the waters “(Gen. 1:6) to divide the
Holy and the Holy of Holies.’
Attika to Zeira , separate and cleaving, not really separate and the
mouth says great things.
They are detached and crowned with small crowns, with five kinds
And it is written: “He places upon it living waters (Numbers
“He is the living Elohim and King of the World/(Jeremiah 10:10).”
“I will walk before YHVH in the lands of life ( Psalms 116:9).”
“And let the soul of my master be bound in the bond of life (Samuel
“And a Tree of Life within the Garden (Gen. 2: 9).”
Y” H Yo” d H” e AHY” Y.
“Between the waters and the waters (Gen. 1:6).”
The whole waters and the waters that are not whole.
The whole mercy and the mercy that is not whole.
“And YHVH said, my soul will not be vexed by Man forever, for
he is also flesh (Gen. 6:3).”
“And YHVH said, “when it was settled in Zeira.
From this, to say the word in the name of the one who said it (42).
For ‘Attika is hidden, as was said. “My soul will not be vexed by
For in that spirit exhaled from the two windows of the guardhouse
was drawn down.
So it is written (Gen. 6:3):”And his days will be one hundred and
Yo” d, whole and not whole.
Y’ alone is one hundred.
Two letters, two instances.
One hundred and twenty year.
Y’ alone when it is revealed in Zeira it is drawn down in ten
From this it is written (Psalms 139:5): “You lay your hand upon
“And the nefillim were in the land then (Gen. 6:4).”
As it is written( Gen. 2:10):”From there it separated and come to
From the place that the garden divided is called “the nefillim” as is
written: “From there it separated. ”
They “were in the land “in those days and not at another time.
Until the arrival of Joshua and the sons of Elohim were hidden.
Until the arrival of Solomon, and the daughters of man were
As it is written: (Ecclesiastes 2: 8 ) “and delights (ta’anugot, f.)”;
not ta’anugim (m.).
The sons of man were cast forth from the other spirits, not included
in the higher wisdom, as it is written (Kings 1 5:26): “YHVH gave
wisdom to Solomon. ”
And it is written (Ibid 5:11): “and he was wiser than any man
For these were not included in Adam.
“YHVH gave wisdom.” The higher H’ “and he was wiser ” for
through him was conveyed
“They are the heroes that were forever (me-‘olam) ( Gen. 6:4).”
The higher world.
“Men of renown (anshei shem) (Ibid).”
That they conducted themselves according to the Name (shem).
What is the Name?
The Holy Name, according to which the less than holy ones below
conduct themselves, who only conduct themselves according to the
Simply men of the Name.
Not men of YHVH.
Not of the hidden hiddenness but flawed, and those who are not
Men of renown (anshei shem) come out of the category of Adam.
As it is written (Psalms 49: 13): “Man (adam) does not abide in
A man’s honor is in the honor of the King.
He does not abide, without a spirit.
Thirteen kings of war in seven.
Seven kings in the land, appearing as victorious in battle.
Nine ascend on levels that run with their will and there is none that
will erase it from their hands, Five kings exist in confusion.
Before four none one can stand.
Four kings go out to before the four.
From them hang, like grapes in a cluster, knots of seven runners,
bearing witness when they are not in their own place.
The perfumed tree sits within, its branches unified, a nesting place
In its shade shelters the beast that rules that tree in twelve paths,
passing through seven columns that surround it.
In the four beasts they revolve through four sides.
The serpent that runs in three hundred and seventy leaps over the
mountains and skips over the heights.
Its tail is in its mouth, in its teeth it punctures both sides.
When it takes its portion (43) it divides to three sides.
As it is written( Gen. 5:23): “And Chanokh walked with Elohim. ”
And it is written (Prov. 22:6): “Educate (chanokh) the youth (na’ar)
according to his way.” The youth, that is known (44).
“With Elohim “and not with YHVH.
“And he was not (Gen. 5:28).”
With this name. “For Elohim took him,” to be called by His name.
The three courts are really four.
Four courts above and four below.
As it is written (Lev. 19:35): “You shall not falsify measures
(mishpat), of length weight or capacity.”
Harsh Din (judgement).
Din that is less harsh.
Din that is weighed and Din that is not weighed.
And soft Din that is neither this one nor that.
“And when man had begun to multiply upon the face of the Earth
Man had begun to multiply, as it is written (Gen. 6:6): “For he is
also flesh…The higher Adam.”
As it is written”upon the face of the Earth (Gen. 6:1).”
“And Moses did not know that his face was shining rays( keren ‘or)
As it is written : “a tunic of leather (‘or) ( Genesis 3:24).”
Keren, as it is written( Sam. I 16:13): “and Samuel took the horn of
There is no anointing (meshiach) except through the keren:
“And through Your name will our keren be exalted ( Psalms
“There will flower the keren of David (Psalms 132:17).”
The tenth of the King, Coming from the Jubilee which is Imma, as it
is written (Joshua 6:5): “And it shall come to pass when they draw
the keren of the Jubilee. ”
The keren of the Jubilee is crowned with the tenth of Imma.
A keren for he takes a keren and the spirit to return the spirit to him.
And this keren is of the Jubilee.
And the Jubilee is H’.
H’ is the drawing of spirit for all.
All return to their place, as it is written (Jeremiah 1:6): “Aha, YHVH
Elohim!” And when the H’ is seen and the H’ of YHVH Elohim is
called the full name, at is written (Isa 2:17): “None but the Lord
shall be exalted on that day.”
Therefore he is sealed and crowned the hiddenness of the king,
which is the Book of Hiddenness (Sifra de-Tzeniuta).
Worthy is the one who ascended and went out and knew its paths
B. Huss. “The Hidden Light in R. Shim’on Lavi’s Ketem Paz, in
comparison to the Lurianic Doctrine of Zimzum” in The Kabbalah of
the AR”I. :343, 345;
__________ . Ketem Paz- The Kabbalistic Doctrine of Rabbi
Simeon Lavi in his commentary to the Zohar (Hebrew) (Ph.D.
dissertation, Hebrew University, 1992) p. 183, 209n;
Y. Liebes. “On the Image, Writings and Kabbalah of the Author of
Emek ha-Melekh” Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought 10,
Jerusalem: Magnes 1992. : 101-139;
__________ . Some Chapters in a Zohar Lexicon (Hebrew)Ph.D.
dissertation, Hebrew University, 1976, Jerusalem: Hebrew
University, 1982. pp. 145-151.
__________ . “The Kabbalistic Myth of Orpheus” Studies in
Jewish Myth and Mysticism, trans. Batya Stein (Albany 1992) pp.
R. Meroz, “Redemption in the Lurianic Teaching ” pp. 26, 136, see
Y. Liebes “On the Image”, 101-139;
G. Scholem. “Did Moshe de-Leon Write the Zohar?”
(Hebrew)Maddai ha-Yahadut 1(1926), p. 12)
_________ . Kabbalah (New York: Meridian, 1978) p. 47.
_________. Kabbalistic Manuscripts Found in the National and
University Library in Jerusalem p. 223)
_________. Origins of the Kabbalah . Trans. A. Arkush. Princeton:
Jewish Publication Society and Princeton University Press, 1987.
pp. 343-344 and p. 336, n. 278.
I. Tishby, “Assessing the Qualities of Fulfilment and Emanation in
Kabbalah” in Paths of Faith and Heresy pp. 23-29.
M. Verman, The Books of Contemplation: Medieval Jewish
Mystical Sources. (Albany: State University of New York Press
1989) pp. 79-82,
E. Wolfson, “Woman-The Feminine as Other in Theosophic
Kabbalah: Some Philosophical Observations on the Divine
Androgyne” In The Other in Jewish Thought and History ed. L.
Silberstein and R. Cohn (New York 1994). note 53.
1. Issues in the Idrot form the core of two seminal essays by
Yehudah Liebes, “The Messiah of the Zohar” and “How was the
Zohar Written?,” which are contained in Liebes’ Studies in the
Zohar (S.U.N.Y. l981). See Cordovero, Or Yaqar-Tiqqunei ha-
Zohar 1:15, on Tiqqunei Zohar Chadash 93b.
2. Yehudah Liebes has pointed out that there seems to be no trace of
the in the Hebrew writings of Moshe de-Leon (“How was the Zohar
Written?” p. 98).
3. The use of symbols in Kabbalah is addressed in Joseph Dan,
“Midrash and the Dawn of Kabbalah” in Midrash and Literature pp.
127-139; Pinchas Giller, The Enlightened Will Shine pp. 7-20;
Moshe Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives pp. 173-249; “Infinities of
Torah in Kabbalah” in Midrash and Literature pp. 141-157;
“Reification of Language in Jewish Mysticism” in Mysticism and
Language, pp. 42-79.; Ronit Meroz, Redemption in the Lurianic
Teaching (Ph.D.. Thesis; Hebrew University 1988) pp. 33-35;
Mikhal Oron “Place me for a Sign upon your heart: Studies in the
Poetics of the Zohar’s Author in Sabba de-Mishpatim” in Massuot:
Studies in Kabbalistic Literature and Jewish Thought Presented in
Memory of Professor Ephraim Gottlieb, pp. 8-13; Gershom
Scholem, “The Meaning of the Torah in Jewish Mysticism” in On
the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism pp. 32-86, “The Name of God and
Linguistic Theory of the Kabbalah,” pp. 59-80, 164-94; David
Stern “The Rabbinic Parable and the Narrative of Interpretation” in
The Midrashic Imagination p. 82; Isaiah Tishby, “Symbol and
Religion in Kabbalah” in Paths of Faith and Heresy pp. 11-22. See
also Elliot Wolfson, “By Way of Truth: Aspects of Nahmanides’
Kabbalistic Hermeneutic” pp. 116-117, note 43; “Female Imaging
of the Torah: From Literary Metaphor to Religous Symbol,” From
Ancient Israel to Modern Judaism, Essays in Honor of Marvin Fox
II ( Atlanta: Scholars Press 1989) pp. 271-307; “The Hermeneutics
of Visionary Experience: Revelation and Interpretation in the Zohar”
: 311-345, idem. Through a Speculum That Shines pp. 283-285,
4. The word “tzeniuta” implies putting away for later use, according
to Targum Yonatan Ex. 16:23 and Targum Onkelos Ex. 16:24.; c.f.
Liebes “How was the Zohar Written?” p. 201, no. 58.
5. The Idrot and Sifra de-Tzeniuta are haunted by an incident in
prehistory, the mysterious account of the “Death of the Kings.” This
tradition maintains that the “Kings of Edom,” mentioned in
Genesis 36, are an allegory for a midrashic tradition that God had
made many worlds prior to the present one, but had discarded them
(boneh ‘olamot u-machrivan : Bereishit Rabbah 3:7, 15:1, Kohelet
Rabbah 3:11). This foreshadowing of Divine catastrophe is
mentioned as a principle in the Idrot and Sifra de-Tzeniuta and
provided a basis for the later Lurianic myth. Nonetheless, the Idrot
and Sifra de-Tzeniuta do not present the myth of the death of the
Kings in a systematic fashion (Zohar III 48b-49a, 128a,135a-b,
142a, 292a-b; c.f. Tishby, The Wisdom of the Zohar pp. 276-277,
289, 332-336; idem. “Distinguishing the Nature of Embodiment and
Ineffability in Kabbalah” Paths of Faith and Heresy pp. 25-26.
6. The original worlds were not balanced appropriately in the proper
measures of Chesed, Gevurah and Tiferet , which balance,
complement, and counter one another. This balance is the “weighing
on the scale,” literally the hanging scale of antiquity. The early kings
who are not “weighed on the scale” are constructedin a world based
on judgement, untempered by the quality of mercy. Therefore, in
the Idrah Rabbah, R. Shimon avers that he can only reveal the
secrets to those who are “weighed in the balance,” in Liebes view,
who are not celibate (Zohar III 141a; Liebes “The Messiah of the
Zohar” p. 68.) The association of gender balance with the
“balanced” emanation is also the position of Isaac Luria in his
commentary to the Sifra de-Tzeniuta (chapter 1), one of his rare
original compostions, that he wrote while still in Egypt, before his
arrival in Safed.
In this regard, some accounts refer to seven kings who
similarly could not survive because they did not have the “tiqqun of
Adam,” the emanation of the sefirot in their anthropomorphic model,
in which various sefirot are balanced in a series of triune structures
along the model of a human body or the Tree of Life. This balancing
allowed negative aspects to be included in the Divine superstructure
and not render it unstable. The answer to the problem of the
stillborn worlds that have been improperly emanated is their
balanced emanation into the world, through the form of the Divine
Anthopos, the three primordial figures of ‘Attika, Zeir and Nukvah.
This instabilility of the unbalanced sefirot is also expressed in erotic
terms (Zohar III 142a) as Nukvah, the feminine countenance, being
“unperfumed” until the quality of transcendent lovingkindness
(chesed ‘elyon) descended, when “the tiqqunim of nukvah were
perfumed in yesod.” “Edom” symbolizes the source of the powers
of judgement (dinnim). Chesed, the realm of lovingkindness,
descended and nestled in the mouth of Yesod, the sefirah that
regulates sexuality, and “they were suffused, Din in Din.”
7. The Idrot expound on the Sifra de-Tzeniuta’s obscure allusion in
a number of ways, such as: “We learn in the hidden book that before
the ‘Attika de-‘Attikin prepared his attributes, he brought the kings,
gathered the kings and arranged the kings, and they could not
survive until he had crushed them and put them away after a time
(Zohar III 135a).” The destroyed worlds alluded to in the aggadah
are flawed, stillborn emanations. They are described as being like
patterns woven into a curtain or veil, which become indistinct
(Zohar III 128a) or the sparks which fly off of a hammer and are
extinguished immediately, “like the craftsman who strikes the anvil,
the sparks flash and are extinguished (Zohar III 292b).”
The most important thing about the mythos of the death of
the Kings is its implication of imminent and past catastrophe, which
was to become such a formative motif in subsquent kabbalah.The
destruction of the Kings was a necessary element of the creation of
the final perfected world. This notion of the necessity of
destruction, sacrifice and chaos would figure prominently when the
Lurianic myth was brought to bear on the Idra traditions.
8. The Idra Rabba begins with a description of the skull (gulgolta)
of ‘Attika de-Attikin, ( Zohar III 128a-b) in which are housed the
celestial ether (avira) and the hidden intellect (“mocha stima’ah”).
From the skull pours out a revivifying dew (tal). ‘Attika Kadisha’s
cascading hair also pours out light from the hidden mocha, or
intellect, which pours, like a fountain, down to the second
countenance, Zeir Anpin.
9. Do you really know what bedolach (Gen. 2:12) is?
10. A well-known aramaic pun in the Zohar, “Bara”- created “shit”-
11. This image of engraving is characteristic of the Zohar’s creation
traditions, the Hormanuta accounts.
12. The Mithraic snake, a universal archetype! C.f. Joseph
Campbell The Mythic Image p. 292-301.
13. This term, kultra de-kultrui, is difficult. See Zohar III 288a,
289b, particularly the comments of Margoliot in Netzutzei Zohar,
who refers to Menachem de Lonzano’s Shtei Yadot, on the word
kltr. This translation is based on R. Shimon Lavi and Chayyim
Yosef Azulai, in the margins. The mysterious lexicon traditionally
linked to Shimon Lavi (this connection has reently been disproven
by Boaz Huss, See Kabbalah, Winter 1997 pp. 167-172) translates
kultra de-kitfa as a “sap-bucket,” that is, a receptacle for the Divine
14. These are symbols of the sefirot Chokhmah and Binnah, after
Proverbs (7:4), the “sister and the consort.” The term achta, for
sister, is also used further to mean “I descend.”
15. The main innovation of the Idra Zuta is to cast the imagery of the
Idra Rabbah in terms of the union of the pistis/sophia relationship of
Abba and Immah. Zeir Anpin emanates from Abba and Immah,
from the sparks that flash out to three hundred and twenty sides.
These sparks are called the first worlds. This act of creation is
portrayed in terms that fuse the imagery of the Hormanuta accounts
with symbols of sexual union and conception.
16. Because it is so hidden, the beard is not mentioned in the Torah
and was never revealed, only the beard of the higher high priest,
which flows onto that of the lower high priest, as described in
Psalm 133; c.f. Zohar III 132a.
17. Each of the parts of the countenance serve different functions
(Zohar III 130a-130b). Moral issues are controlled by the brow,
which emanates love and forbearance. The eyes of ‘Attika see with
undifferentiated love, while the eyes of Zeir reflect the divided
nature of lower reality, one eye guards the righteous and one eye is
watchful over the wicked. The whites of the eye pass between Arikh
and Zeir as go-betweens between the two countenances. The nostrils
of Arikh and Zeir have a similar divided function.
18. The beards of ‘Attika Kadisha and Zeir Anpin, which overlap
one another, are the main venue through which the spiritual energy
flows into the world, in tumbling streams of Divine effluence.The
beard of ‘Attika Kadisha has thirteen aspects, that is to say, thirteen
ways that the beard falls from the head to the lower regions. Each of
the comrades takes upon himself the description of one aspect of the
beard. In the Idra Rabbah, R. Yitzchak (Zohar III 130b-131a) notes
that the thirteen aspects of the beard of ‘Attika are compared to the
text that is popularly conceived as reflecting the thirteen attributes of
God delineated in Micah (7:18-19), while the nine aspects of the
beard of Zeir Anpin reflect the attributes recited at the incident of the
Golden calf (Exodus 34:6-7).
19. Liebes addresses the nuances of the use of the term Adam in a
different section of the Zohar (“How the Zohar was Written” p. 114,
on Zohar III 48a).
20. The beard is the agent of mazal, which is here described as the
source of the Divine effluence (Zohar III 289b). Mazal does not, in
the eyes of the theosophical kabbalists, refer the astrological
constellations. Mazal is the energy that courses though the beard (
Zohar I 43b, II 174b. The Idra Zuta stresses that the mazal is the
source of all life “the most precious preciousness,” Life, sustenance,
heaven and earth, the rains and the higher and lower Gardens of
Eden are all sustained by mazal (Zohar III 289b). Taken this way,
statements such as the mazal, “everything is contingent on mazal
even the sefer Torah in the palace’ may be seen as meditations on
the nature of the flow of the Divine effluence (Zohar III 134a; The
quotation exists nowhere else but the writings of R. Joseph
Gikatilla, Sha’arei Orah 3-4, 37a, 6, 74a, Sha’arei Tzedek 17a, as
well as being alluded to in his “Secret of the Thirteen Qualities,” a
work that substantially mirrors the teachings of the Idrot.
21. Pardashka, the “watch tower,” implying the nose.
22. The Divine anthropos is made up of the three countenances:
Arikh Anpin (which is also called ‘Attika Kadisha and ‘Attik
Yomin), Zeir Anpin and Nukvah.. Arikh and Zeir are each portrayed
in images of masculine physicality, as in terms such as ‘the beard.”
the “mane” and so forth, while Nukvah is portrayed as
23. Kitfui de-kitfin is somehwat impenetrable usage. Chayyim
Yosef David Azulai interprets it as “cleaving.” The Talmudic image
is that of flowing sap, see above note 13.
24. One of the most important images in the Zohar is that of the
engraving spark, butzina de-kardinuta., which is emanated from the
Infinite (Ein Sof). Butzina de-kardinuta is most often described as
the instrument through which God begins the emanation of the ten
sefirot . It is the instrument of the Divine, the pen or stylus with
which God engraves and colors the phenomenal world. The image
of God as measurer originates with Isaiah 40:12.
The imagery of butzina de-kardinuta has a number of
antecedents. The image of a primordial point, stylus or phallus that
splits some primeval mass in order to create the Universe is very
ancient. The Platonic idea that God, in order to create the world, had
to split the primodial aether (avir kadmon) remains a subtext of a
number early kabbalistic and pre-kabbalistic traditions, including the
Iyyun text Midrash of Simon the Just. and the poet Solomon Ibn
Gabirol’s work Keter Malkhut, which speaks of “drawing forth the
light from the nothingness, splitting existance and piercing it.”
(Zohar II 233a, Zohar Chadash 58b; see also Genesis Rabbah 1:8-9;
Azriel of Gerona, “Perush ha-Aggadot le-Rabbenu Azriel ”
(Jerusalem, 1945) pp. 89-90; Elliot Wolfson “Circle in the Square”
The image of the ring is synonymous with the function of
the primordial aether in Isaac the Blind’s commentary on Sefer
Yetzirah (Scholem, Origins p. 333; idem. “Traces of Gabirol in the
Kabbalah” (Hebrew) Meassef Sofrei Eretz Yisrael (Tel Aviv 1940).
One issue that has much exercised various commentators has
been the meaning of the very term “butzina de-kardinuta.” One
school of thought translates kardinuta as “hardened,” a misprision
of the Talmudic “hitte kurdanaita,” “Kurdistani wheat.” The Gaon
of Vilna tranlates the term as the hard candle, citing Rashi’s
translation. Menachem de Lonzano and Meir Poppers compare it to
the heart, or essence, like the greek “kard.” (Zohar ha-Raki’a 23b).
A second school of thought translates it as “the dark spark,” reading
kardinuta as a play on kadrut, or darkness. Cordovero, compares it
to the darkness of the moon. He also quotes Targum Onkelos as
referring to Mt. Arrarat as Har Kardo, implying height and
exaltedness, “although some say it means darkness.” Cordovero
The butzina means a candelabraum (menorah) indicating the ascent
of the light, to show that it is the high and exalted menorah, the
menorah of the morning offering. And why dark? Because of its
great light, it darkens the vision of those who gaze upon it, or
possibly the menorah that darkens all the light, so that all of them are
like darknress and nothingness.
See Elijah of Vilna, Yahel Or 6a (Vilna, Romm, 1918); Moshe
Cordovero, Or Yaqar 1: 119. See also Lavi, “Ketem Paz” 41b; c.f.
Isaiah Tishby and Fischel Lachover. The Wisdom of the Zohar
Translated by David Goldstein (Oxford: l991) , pp. 276-277.
25. As has been stated before, tiqqun is also a euphemism for
sefirah, as is the term atarah, or crown. Sometimes the two terms
blend into one another because of their multi-valences of meaning:
Who can see the hiddenness of the elder’s mane, sitting with the
crown of crowns of the cronws of all the crowns? Crowns that are
not subsumed into other crowns, and are like no other crowns. The
crowns of the lower crowns are unified with it and through them the
tiqqunim unify with the lower tiqqunim. The tiqqunim which have
been set forth must be blessed with whatever requires blessing, for
all the tiqqunim are set forth to receive them, the blessings are
brought about as them must be, for everything is contained in these
tiqqunim… If ‘Attik was not set forth with those tiqqunim, then the
upper and the lower would not exist, everything would be as
nothing (IR 132a).
26. “Tifsa shereikin,” based on pseudo-Lavi.
27. “In all of the physiognomies of the Divine, the brow is
equivalent to the Divine Will (Idra Rabbah 129a-129b), the source
of judgment, either as a trigger to Divine forebearance or the
flashing of punishment. The brow that is revealed in ‘Attika Kadisha
is called will, it is the supernal head that is sealed above…the Will
all Wills, set forth on the brow, revealed in the Spark(Idra Zuta
288b).” The brow is a dynamic center, even as early as its Biblical
model. Physically, the brow is the point at which the head is
revealed, and from it emanate four hundred and ten lower worlds.
28. “Einekha,” omitting the yu”d that is customarilly written in the
second syllable, implying the hiddenness of the Divine (symbolized
29.Zohar II 177b, See Zohar III 294a Margoliot (Nitzotzei ha-Zohar
8) on B.T.Yevamot 120a (“There is so witnessing except of a
countenance with the nose”).
30. The teachings regarding the beard are considered particularly
recondite, the beard being, once again, the agent of mazal, which is
here described as the source of the Divine effluence (Zohar III
289b). The center of the Idrot is the moment when the Rabbis recite
the various aspects (tiqqunim) the beard. The setting forth of these
tiqqunim, in which the various Rabbis actually embody the aspect of
the Divine emanation into present reality, is a goal of the Idra as a
whole.The beard is the “delight and glory” of the male
countenances, so the Rabbis linger over the description of their
aspects, or tiqqunim ( Zohar III 139a-140b).
31. Compare to the Idra Rabbah -“We learn in the Sifra de-Tzeniuta
that King David stated nine tiqqunim here, six of which are with the
Divine name, which has six names, including three times the name
Adam (ZoharIII 139b). The nine phrases beginnning with Psalm
118:5 are interpreted as signifying the nine tiqqunim of the beard of
32. Idra Rabbah – “We learn in the Sifra de-Tzenuta that one who
sees himself clutching the beard of someone important in a dream
should know that he is at peace with the higher powers” (Zohar III
33. See Giller, The Enlightened Will Shine pp. 35-37.
34. A play on words, the Hebrew Kayin (Cain) being linked with
the word ken (nest).
35. “‘Al’ulin,” see Targum to Psalm 107:25.
36. “Katfurin,” c.f. Ecclesiastes Rabbah on Ecclesiastes 10:2.
37. according to the Gr”a “kitrin (crowns),” in the editions “be-
train,” in two.
38. heb. “klal u-prat.”
39. Transliterations of Yu”d
40. Du- Aramic “two”.
41. Aram. “nafik le-metaltelai.”
42. A Talmudic injunction, to always repeat an adage in the name of
43. gistera, c.f. Lev. Rabbah 15.
44. Symbolizing Metatron, the demiurge, see David Halperin, The
Faces of the Chariot pp. 291, 301-305, 426.