Readings in Kabbalistic Texts: Prayer
Dr. Alan Brill – Spring 2001
Disclaimer: I am not responsible for typos or errors, or random tirades.
If however, you do find a mistake, please e-mail me at email@example.com
There are numerous references to the sources handed out in class.
Week 1 – January 24
We will be examining a variety of Ashkenaz texts of all sorts and different schools, and philosophical texts as well. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the majoe schools were Provence, Gerona, Castille, Zohar, and Hug Ha-Iyin, Tikkunei Zohar. We have texts in late 13th, beginning of 14th which discuss the oral traditions of how one prays. The most important is Yitzhak of Ako who will collect the oral traditions of how to pray. Have David Ben Yehuda ha-Hasid. 16th century (if we get there) Cordovero who in some ways will be used in the method of Gerona, but content of Zohar, Luria who will use content of Gerona but method of Tikkunei Zohar among others. Also Ibn Gabbai who will be straight Zohar. 17th and 18th century, have enthusiasm, and in 19th, mitnagdut, hassidut, and contemplations.
Not much written on prayer. In 1933, Friedrich Heiler wrote “Prayer” which had a strong influence on the study. Heiler has three categories of prayer:
1) Petitionary prayer which is communal, prophetic with everyday needs
2) Mystical – emotional which is alone. Prayer is an outpouring of the soul, and is always spontaneous. Will look for outpourings of the soul. Heiler talks about how the mystical prayers are anarchistic, unethical (no justification for the prayer – just a demand of some sort), and know nothing of this world. The prophetic prayer seeks fellowship with other people, mystical seeks fellowship with God.
3) Adoration – what if you were to show love towards God. Heiler calls this secular because all you are doing is expressing your emotions and your treating God as an icon or image (Keirkegaard) and your using human emotions to express it. Adoration leads to contemplation, meditation, and all sorts of mean nasty horrible things.
Evelin Underhill in “Worship” makes the prime form of prayer to be Heiler’s adorations. Focus on God, show love for God, etc. Organized religions all flow from this reason to adore God – the need to go to something greater than yourself.
In Van der Leuws will read both but in “Religion and Essence of Manifistation” will have prayer as a ritual and not an outpouring of the soul. He holds, prayer is an incantation – you get power, control, and these words have a relevatory power. The sequence and forms are important. It’s a ritual of words. Praise is confrontation without asking for the magic, elation is trying for ecstasy, and the importance of music, sanctuary, etc. sacrament type integration – not random.
J.L. Austin will introduce speech acts.
Locution – intentionality for what you are saying
Illocution – what you’re thinking about while you’re doing it
Perlocution – the effect you want it to have on a person. – Symbols
Most medievals deal with the Illocution – when you actually are praying. If intentionality means when you pray you are magnifying God’s name, that is specific illocution.
Stanley Tembia, has an article about this which we will get later.
More categories of prayer:
Focusing the mind and attention includes meditation, contemplation etc. Any thought of concentration and having a special effect from this concentration. A model of focusing the mind, not like Heiler.
Specific form of attention, but involves a clear act of filling your mind with something, either of God or emptiness. Something beyond the attention act. Meditation leads to enlightenment or illumination which comes from this.
This is not used much in English. The assumption that we create a realm of imagination, and that imagination takes on a life of their own. Within that realm we think in symbolic turns, and generate its own realms like Jung. Corbin will use this to explain Islamic prayer – once you enter the Imaginal, this is where God makes himself manifest and man receives revelation.
Someplace between attention and meditation which is a hypnotic state. Creating a sense of calm.
I. Orientation – Preparing yourself
a. Beit Kenesset
b. Talit Tefillin
c. Ethical purity
II. Maintining Steady Icon as a tether – Attention
a. Visualizing the divine name
III. Static Image of an Expanse – meditation/hypnosis
a. Create a visual screen for range
b. This could be all 10 sephirot
IV. Dynamic visualizations – contemplations
a. Possibility of Visions
b. Further focused on the Static Image
c. Theosophy and Theurgy (e.g. combinig tiferet and malchut)
d. Repair or Tikkun – go in, fix, come out
e. Transformational – meditate on the sechina as a
dove which gets killed by the eagle and comes back and kills the eagle
a. Ahava and Yirah
b. Bitul Hayesh
c. Chanting as Deautomation
b. Bringing sown blessing
c. Physical sensation
d. Something magical
1-6 would be a ritual approach to prayer. Adoration is 2-5 because the effect doesn’t play a role. 3-5 is a meditation of some form. Mysticism is generally only 4-5.
Back to speech acts.
Gerona will expect all of this (1-5) to occur during prayer, while the Zohar will expect 1-4 before prayer and only 5 during.
Scholem written post-Heiler on kavanah in early kabbalah will start by saying kabbalah valued theosophy over mysticism and is reticent of how to do these things. Scholem will give a rabbinic kavannah and connect it directly to the Zohar. Zohar has nothing original regarding prayer, but Ahava and Yirah. However, he notes Gerona has a system of mysticism of deveikut. Scholem has devotion, a little of mahashava, and doesn’t touch out chart.
Idel originally separated the 1) neoplatonic ascent of soul and bring down blessing 2) Aristolelian of conjunction and 3) hermetic of bringing down ruhaniyut. Now it’s 1) magic or 2) theosophy and theurgy i.e. you believe in sephirot and you do an act which effects the sephirot. The neo-platonic disappears. Idel will use the term meso-cosmos – the middle realm between the divine and the human for this whole realm you create. All the kabbalist will have kavannah on a sephira and hamshacha where you bring down shefa from it.
Idel won’t ask question about the different sephirot. He won’t distinguish between the movements. All of this will be a process of kavanna. Idel’s meso-cosmos as what it means for the imaginal. What is this whole mental realm? He will not distinguish the prerequisites and will leave out the preparations. He will also not distinguish between the parts of prayer. A kavannah for aleinu can’t be brought over to shema.
Wolfson has clear pieces of the Kuzari where prayer is the active imagination of the heart. He will talk about how the letters ascend even without kavanah. However, he also does not differentiate between the kavanot of different prayer.
Heineman will find petitionary non-liturgical prayers in hazal and Moshe Greenberg will find it in the Bible e.g. Boaz in the field. We will look at prayer more like Ethanan. Non-spontaneous Moshe and God, but also non-conversational. Kabbalists will have as a model of prayers “may something happen” (jussive form) a fixed vision of what prayer is. Kabbalists will view it as a relationship or future vision. Heineman will praise the spontaneous bayit sheni prayers which were fluid before they were fixed, and how wonderful piyut is for keeping the spirit of prayer open. All petitionary and only the rabbis formulated one fixed version. Ezra Fleischer put out an article on the history of the amida and claims it was fixed post hurban. The ideal texts of yeshaya and yirmiya – the tzedek and mishpat, the ideal worlds. None of it is petitionary, but apocalyptic. The kabbalists like this as well as the rabbis with ruach ha-kodesh putting all of this together.
Greek Prayer Simon Poulian differences between Greek prayer and the rabbis. His claim is that the rabbis don’t have petitionary prayer. In Greek parts, have praise, what your asking for and why you want it to be. There is never a quid pro quo in classic rabbinic prayer. (Note: He’s wrong. See the chapter of Heineman on law-court patterns, and Judith Newman’s book on Scriptualization which shows a similar form in Bayit Sheni literature.)
Solomon Schechter – assumes that Judaism is not theological, but has an idea that prayer is entering into a relationship with the king. Ol machut shamayim is what all philosophers and kabbalists were talking about. He will deal with the Rosh Hashana service as we are the kingdom worshipping the king on a public place. He will talk about zechut avot – that we are born into the servants of the king.
E.J. Articles of Ginsberg – emphasizes forms of adoration, clear icon representation of a king.
Uri Erlich deals with the non-verbal gestures and shows how there is a presence which should be invoked, not the spontaneous, but the set of halachot don’t make sense without this iconography. E.g. taking three steps back, bowing, etc. There is a clear sense of the shekhina before you pray. He will limit himself to rabbinic texts.
Shlomo Naeh holds of prayer as “speaking through you” Shagur bepiv means talking in toungues – a form ecstatic speaking. He proves this from the Syriac and other texts.
In the text in the Yerushalmi where you have the amoraim who ask what are you thinking about during prayer, one person says I never had kavanah. The question is what does that mean? Others have as their kavanah staring at a brick wall or the clouds. Some will interpret these as special concentrations.
How to view Berachot as a Kabbalist
Kabbalists will understand the gemara Berachot 3 R. Yishmael talking to Akatriel and the final blessing as moving from midat hadin to midat harahamim. Tosafot there talks about the meaning of yehei shmei rabba. Debbei Rashi say this means an increase in the divine name. When you come to a phrase like “tefila rahame ninhu” in the hands of the kabbalist means middat hadin à middat harahamim not an emotional outpouring of the texts. Throughout berachot, these words are seen as having power.
Week 2 – January 31
Role of Liturgy
Bahya Ibn Pakuda
Love and Devotion
Dependence upon the divine
All is dependent on God
No Trust in God, no Philosophy to appreciate God’s unity, this world
Yehuda Haleivi (Kuzari)
Active Imagination of Presence
Ain Sichli of Words – meaning of the words in the mind’s eye
Actualize Inyan Eloki – where your mind’s eye becomes the divine.
Active Restoration of World
Hasid à Navi
Body, not doing mitzvoth or not having the right sense of the mitzvoth
1) Pro-liturgy, 2) Words have power
3) Emphasizes role of tzibbur
Comprehension, abstraction, heshek
Presence of God as Hochma
To Actualize self as Ish Ha-Elokinm since you aren’t affecting the cosmos
Hacham à Hasid à Navi
Sickness, education, wealth, body as a whole
Getting inner comprehension as to what it truly means.
Shmuel Bar Hofni holds all mitzvoth and tefillah need kavvanah without any question – he just assumes it. R. Saadiah Gaon has prayer as an entreatment to the divine – a gesture to the divine like ethanan. You get a sense that kavvanat halev is having a sense of the divine.
Bahya (see handout) will hold there are two types of mitzvoth 1) of the limbs and 2) of the heart. You have to know the words of what your saying, but the goal is the act of submission in prayer. The liturgy is downplayed. The prayer is the words. The words require the idea, the idea doesn’t require the words. You have a seder and invoke submission through this seder. Not about the recitation of the liturgy, but what it invokes in the internal states. You go about praying by:
1) make sure mind isn’t elsewhere
2) body is absolutely still – contemplative state and
3) still feelings and thoughts of outside mind. Attention and meditation here. Think about nothing except God.
Importance of trust, faithfulness – see everything in your life, not just the prayer is one of giving yourself over to the divine. All about the inner piety and not about getting anything in this world. His view minimizing the significance of the liturgy is probably from Sufi influence.
Yehuda Ha-Levi (see handout): he rejects the mortification tradition of the Sufis and reject the need to run off on your own. Even though you don’t need the mortification, the model is Eliyahu or Enoch because your company is with angels and not people. If anything suffering would take part in this world and you wouldn’t mind death. There is a level called benei hanevieim. They do go off in the desert and help each other. This is seen as a lower level. But once there are no more neveiim, there is no point to this anymore since we don’t have the divine light anymore. Instead, we now have tefillah betzibbur which has the same function. Ramban will cite Eliyahu and Enoch as current models for himself. The hasid is defined as someone with complete control of your body and your life. The true way to be pious is to have a complete conceptual control over your imagination and over your desires. The intellect must decide what’s good and what’s bad. The ultimate goal is to invoke imagery of Har Sinai, the Akeida, the mikdash. You actively construct images of these ideas. This active imagination is called memory – brining on clear ideas from your mind and controlling these ideas in a fixed way and don’t let imagination/illusion, or desires to interfere. Remove from gestures of 3 steps to having a complete mastery of control – it shows control over all parts of the self. Ultimately life should be for those moments of prayer and that is ultimately what we are striving for in this world.
The locution is knowing the intention of the rabbinic statements. Use controlled memory, ain sichli, to understand what the words mean and visualize what you are saying. E.g. when mention the meorot, think of yourself in the cosmos. During Ahavt Olam, you see how the divine light shines on all of the community of Israel (the collective) as a clear mirror. This whole goal is for God’s kingdom to be on earth. You’re picturing the divine light, the goal is to bring God’s glory to some restored reality from people who understand the role of mitzvoth. Shema becomes a kabbalah of Torah. You can do bakashot if you want in shomeia tefilla. He should envision the divine presence for hamachazir scheninato, you treat the divine presence as if it’s there.(457) Ose shalom is taking leave of this divine presence. The entire liturgy is comprised of ideas which can be referred to by imagination. God comes down like rain to the community.
Rambam (see handout): Rambam clearly against all piyutim and any changes to the nusach. This is the biggest reason people don’t have kavanah and that’s why people talk during davening. Rambam will do away with the hazara in Egypt because there is no reason if the people are talking. He will have teshuvot about the purpose of the kavanah – better to have less with kavanah than more without it. Rambam will hold there is no benefit to pray quickly. Do contemplation with recitation – without contemplation, there is no purpose. Originally, people would say their own prayers, but now there is a fixed liturgy. Kavanah during tefillah is an absolute in Mishah Torah chapter 4, in 10, just shema and amida is sufficient. In The Guide, Rambam says we are limited to the words used in the mikra and we can’t use our own language. Any praise not done with the language of anshe kenesset hagedola is unacceptable. Your intellect should be completely to God. Divine presence is complete conceptual apprehension which is called the divine. There is never and image, it’s always your apprehension. Your internal stream of consciousness is receiving from God. Rambam is anti-physicality unlike R. Yehuda Ha-Levi. If you think about the wrong conception of God, it isn’t God. You can only worship God after intellectual apprehension. One can only pour out the heshek proportional to one’s knowledge. After you have abstraction, and love, you have contemplating the first sechel hapoel – the first level of universal knowledge. Things which come into your mind is not considered knowledge. Rambam holds isolationism is a virtue for contemplation. Like Bayha, you need kavanah.
Practically, Rambam holds you fix your mind on the divine unity on the divine name, understand not just that God is one, but make sure your body doesn’t get in the way. You are identifying your internal narrative in the divine. Regarding sacrifices, the nature of man is to do what it is accustomed. The second intention are rituals which bring you to the first intention of knowing God.
The Provence school will say this means if you have the appropriate intention, you don’t need the liturgy. You have this method in Talmidei Bet Yonah where he says you should remove neshama from guf. The Mabit (non-kabbalist in 16th century tzefat) in beit elokim has a Maimonidean approach to tefillah. (on suggested reading). Radbaz has Maimonidean teshuvot as well emphasizing the kavanah.
Avraham Ben Ha-Rambam will abolish piyut and all talking. You have to wash your feet in additional to your hands like the Muslims. No lighting of candles for the dead, no petitions for refuah or parnasa. Everyone has to sit perfectly in rows. This didn’t go over well. In terms of his doctrine, there are 5 levels of avoda. 1) Esoteric worship in which tefillah is entirely kavanah and mahshava – only for the elite, not even the neviim could reach this level 2) lev and evarim – also for the elite – make sure 3) everybody – work together to have kavanah through the evarim and will introduce full prostration like the Muslims at the end of every mizmor of hallel and pesukei d’zimra, and singin shmei rabba in kadish, kedusha… When you pray you must do full raising of the hands like Gemara megillah – biblical modeling. 4) For those who stick to normal gestures – bow when hazal tell you to bow. 5) The amida of the mikdash – just the awe you get from being in the mikdash without liturgy or gestures. He will advocate going into the desert. His son Ovadia will continue this method and tell you what to do in the desert. Since all about the kavanah, just saying the words without the gestures is not an legitimate option.
Week 3 – February 7
Get the Meirat Enayim from the sefarim sale, Cordovero, all Scholem, Tishby, Zohar, Tiqquinei Zohar, Siddurim of the Rishonim, Reishit Hochma for Tzefat.
See Daniel Falk’s book on Bayit Sheni Prayer. Heichalot is a literature parallel to rabbinic literature which tells you how to ascend to heaven. In telling you how to get to higher levels, the protagonists sing hymns and the angels sing hymns. They will sing Qeddusha, aleinu, aderet veemuna, etc. Philip Bloch wrote in German proving all of these prayers originated from the heichalot. Scholem accepted it. People are rejecting it now although no one is reading the original German. The current trends are that some of these prayers come from Qumran, some from rabbinic literature, some from the original heichalot, some from apocrypha, priestly traditions.
Scholem categorizes them as numinous – evoking a sense of awe, dependence before this great otherness of God. Current trends reject that. Halpern and Schafer hold that the heichalot is about magic and not about God. Peter Schafer would say that you are saying these prayers to get the power the rabbis had in the heichalot. Moved from locution to perlocution. For Scholem, you didn’t care what they meant, the prayers had an effect on you but didn’t have meaning. You are just rattling off the attributes of God. The reason you are doing this is that the words of the prayers have an effect on you. The others hold that it is a magical formula.
These prayers already assume some binary structure to God in the sense that there is a higher and a lower part of God. In Aleinu, you first praise the adon hakol and then give gedula to the demiurge underneath – the yotzer bereishit. This lower demiurge will be associated with metatron and anapheal. In some of these texts, you will find responsive reading, animals singing, etc. Baruch sheamar had originally followed the formulistic criteria – it had a fixed number of verses corresponding to sephirot etc. Idel will find theurgy – that we find the divine.
See the handout “Ritual Practices to Gain Power.” The perlocution is clearly magical. The first part, has anapheal the demiurge speaking. There is an illocution of meditating on the deeds of the creator while simultaneously have a locution of one letter at a time even though it’s magic. There is a split consciousness in kavannah and you are mentioning the letters while doing it. See Nishmat handout 105: The original phrase hai olam was when you used God’s name when you shouldn’t have. You are using the texts for magical or theurgic reasons. Idel will set everything up as theurgy. Idel will avoid the heichalot literature and will look to the pesikta de’rav kahana and look for gevura as a hypostatic quality. Through prayer you are increasing God’s powers. Idel’s model is that your hands and words add something to the divine.
We will have many groups in Ashkenaz.
1) Ashkenaz which applies to everybody
2) Debei Rashi
3) Rokeach – exoteric
4) Rokeach – esoteric
5) Keruv Hameyuhad
6) Proto-kabbalistic texts – Eliezer Ha-Darshan
7) Tosafot – not very mystical
General Ashkenaz will have a great deal of body postures during tefillah e.g. shukelling. The statement in the gemara that your eyes should be down is taken as a directive. The raising 3 times at kadosh will be generated in Ashkenaz. The general tradition is to pray slowly without extraneous thoughts. Prayer will have preconditions e.g. men going to the mikvah regularly is assumed as is keeping women out of the temple or holding sifre torah.
Tosafot is responsible for tefillah ein tzericha kavannah, but they still expect you to have some iconic representation of the shekhinah. God is only on the East-West meridian not North-South. Clear spatial sense of which way to look. God is literally in the East for the Tosafot. They do not have a full cosmology to go along with this.
Debei Rashi: no good research done on them. From Sanhedrin, we see Rashi accepting angelic prayers. There is a certain amount of accepting general piety in Rashi. When you say kaddish, you are combining God’s broken name into one. When the gemara says you should go through two doors before you daven, it means you should settle in your minds first before you pray. This is taken as a given and will be important because the kabbalists will later use this line of going through two doors.
Exoteric Ashkenaz: Unlike England and France, the German Jews assume that every letter was sacrosanct and not be altered. Each letter will have significance. See Ashkenazic Pietism handout. Even into modernity, Emden, Aibshitz, and Hatam Sofer still thought in these terms. Their whole conception of reality was different which accounts for their perception of the sacredness of every letter. Even if the bore is everywhere, we still look up at the divine kavod which is God’s clear manifestation which is a clear image we look at even though we are thinking of the borei. We think about the absolute even though we visualize something else. The general Ashkenaz trend is you know what you say and pour out your heart to that you understand. You have a simple explanation to what you say. God desires the heart. Recall the shepherd story on Yom Kippur. There is no resolution between the personal kavannah and the significance of the letters.
Esoteric Ashkenaz: Three movements within this world
1) Keruv Hameyuhad – figures like Elkana of London and various French texts.
a. Have Borei à kavod à kruv hameyuhad - don’t think of the apprehension when you pray. Think of the Kavod but pray to the kruv
2) Rokeach, Eleizer of Worms
a. Emphasizes the Borei which is everywhere à regular kavod à melachim. Think Borei – God’s infiniteness and being everywhere, look at the kavod and don’t pray to the melachim
a. Borei à Kavod à Shechina – another ontic part of God below.
The Kruv Hameyuhad See Emergence of Mystical Prayer reading: Even though the keruv hameyuhad appears, you should only think of the kavod which is formless, but it does have sound and speech. Ignore the Borei since it’s too great to comprehend. Holiness is another name for the middle kavod. The Kruv will work on the East West axis. It will be called gedulah, malchut, and it’s in the East. You keep your mind on the true kisei hakavod even as you look to that Eastern meridian. According to the kruv hameyuhad circle, it is the vision of akatriel from the gemara – Shemuel didn’t see God, but bumped into the kruv. That kruv have a light blue partition. West (Kavod) à East Blue. You don’t pray to the kruv, but to the source of its energy.
Yosef Dan frames this as in opposition to the philosophers. This is in response to the anthropomorphism. Danny Abrams says the problem isn’t the anthopomorphism which wasn’t an issue, but if God is incomprehensible, what are you seeing? It must be this kruv. The idiom kruv hameyuha for Dan means special. For Abrams, this mean yahid – the part of the angel which reflects the divine light. These texts are not talking about human worship, but what the melachim serve. He will point out that you have a binary structure to the divine – you have the infinite and the down below.
Rokeach: Most of Rokeach’s thoughts on prayers are written in siddurim. Dan looks at the arbitrary writings. Wolfson brings a little material of visualizing shem hashem as the borei, you keep your eyes down and think of the borei. Abrams (in Daat 94) points out that according to Eliezer of worms there are two parts: physical and spiritual. The Hasidim are worried about techniques. If the borei is infinite and mental, that’s where you think. If the kavod is physical, that to what you move – all gesture are addressed to the kavod. Since mental in infinite and not inherent to the body, it goes to the borei. We will find in the prayer texts a separate kavod below. The Borei is everywhere in every place. If he’s everywhere, there is one kavod up and one kavod on earth. When we say God is one, keep your mind on the borei despite the other levels. Ashkenaz will hold the shul is a minor mikdash. The prayer image is that of the anthropomorphic God, there is an image of yaakov, a female image, rahamim and din, and there will be a personified God and when you say keddusha, God will kiss Yaakov on the kavod. As a prayer, your recitation, thinking about the borei has the effect automatically if you are saying these things properly. The amida will save you from gehenom because the image of God is as large as gehenom. It will save you from eating tereifot (still following Eretz Yisrael and 18 tereifot) and the 18 vertebrae, etc. Just as God fills everything above, God fills everything below. When you pray with kavannat halev – devotion and simple intention, Sandalphon comes and clarifies the words of your heart. If they are correct, he brings them up to keter i.e. God. Sandalphon takes your breath as an object (visible in the winter) and calls these breaths stones. He will take these prayers through the celetial hierarchy from the oneness of Israel to the oneness of God. Sandalphon crowns God with these tefillot and is therefore called keter. The angels do keddusah after this and it reaches its climax at baruch shem when these words are placed on keter. If you are praying properly with simha, then you are increasing the light of this kavod and you are storing up this light which you will receive in the atid lavo.
No one has written on these passages this yet. They are using a divine drama. For the humans, you are storing up light for the world to come. Light mysticism, but eschatological. Not the vision of the blue electrum. You are not seeing anything, just praying properly. Idel will take as the meaning of all this is that the atara is placed on God by the 42 letter name – akatriel is God personified not a separate entity. Idel brings out the piece where the shechina is personified and is crowned as the consort of God and is called “daughter” and sits besides the king. This is called prayer itself – the theurgic act of uniting and completing God. This is theurgic and what we’ve see until now has either been to see the light or to store up light for the future.
At the turn of the 12th century, R. Yaakov Hanazir will teach kabbalah and have a student R. Asher who writes Sefer Haminhagot connected to the baalei hamaor.
The other school is Raavad whose father-in-law is the Ravi.
The main one is R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor. His students are R. Azariya, and R. Azriel. In the 1230’s have R. Yaakov Bar Sheshet. Ramban is related to this school but has his own system. Ramban’s student is R. Sheshet in the 1260’s and the Rashba, R. Behaya.
In Castille have R. Turdis Abulafia
Shaat Hakavanot is written post Ibn Tibbon in the 1260’s.
There was a really cool chart which I can’t transcribe.
The issue is what happens when Ashkenaz meets the newly translated Islamic tradition of Rambam and Kuzari.
Week 4 – February 14
We last left off with the cool chart. We are in a region which was not Arabic speaking. Provence, Spain, etc. are becoming under one rule. At the end of the 12th century they will translate works from Arabic into Hebrew. They will know Ashkenaz traditions and Judeo-Arabic traditions. The same way in halacha they will know Tosafot and not use their method, the Rambam, the Provence scholars will try to sort everything out and resolve contradictions. They will do the same thing for kabbalah. Those from Ashkenaz will see Ashkenaz in Provence, those from Spain will see Arabic thought. We start seeing the prayer techniques in the halakhic writings like the eshkol. The two people who are now credited with the birth of kabbalah – the revealing of the secrets – are the Raavad and R. Yaakov Hanazir (1190-1200). The question is how to they relate to their antecedents in Ashkenaz and their antecedents in philosophy like the Ramban, R. Yehuda, and R. Bahya (see above table). 1220’s have R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor and the Ramban. We will jump today to the prayer method presented by they thought and then work backwards to the antecedents and then go forward. Both Scholem and Idel will simply use the word kavannah. Brill will present his typology and then we will analyze Idel and how he picks and chooses. Instead of a simple kavannah, we will see:
1) Attention – Shem Hashem continuous
2) Static – 10 sefirot – start
3) Dynamic image – specific sefirah for a specific verse – constantly changing
4) Dynamic image – divine name with vowels – specific on divine name.
Idel will assume Shem Hashem = 10 sefitot = 1 sefirah. It’s all about the same process.
Levels 1-3 will be “revealed” i.e. accessible to the masses by the 1220’s, level 4 will remain a secret in the kabbalah.
We will be looking at full practices actually in use.
Meirat Eynaim p 278 (Yitzhak from Acco see handout): We are dealing with the continuous attention. This is for individuals and the masses. This is a general directive from Y. Sagi Nahor – that everyone has to do this to bind your soul to the above. We have closer to the Maimonidean focus on God here. Your mahshava is continuous (attention) on putting the letters of shem hashem as they are written in ktav ashuri. This is the basic point that you are keeping in your mind, no matter what you do. First, each letter of the divine name should be so great in your eyes, they should fill your entire mental screen. It fills your whole vision. Note: But if you are thinking of something totally, how do you think of something else? This will be a point of debate – do you shrink the previous image, superimpose a new one, clear the slate etc. The Meirat Eynaim changes from going from the mental screen, you have a split consciousness with your heart being pointed to the ein sof. You have a dual consciousness, visionary (what you are seeing) and thought (what you are thinking about – in this case, the ein sof). Which means, does this undercut the first sentence or not? In other words, what is the nature of this shift? Does this mean the mental screen is more important, or the divine name has the infinite behind it? You will find both interpretations. Possibly based on different girsaot. At any rate, while a person’s soul is in the state of cleaving to the divine name, you will have complete intellectual conjunction, no accidents or mistakes will occur since your reality is above the world of accidents (similar to Rambam).
This attention will be used in Tzefat and they will apply colors. You will start in black – the world of asiyah. Once you see other colors, you move up to yetziah. If you see a shining white light you are in azilut. This meditation continues, but depending where you are, your mind will take different directions e.g. knowing what level you have reached. The traditions will use this meditation on all the parts of the body e.g. for healing – it will be used as your channel to read almost anything.
Back to Meirat Einayim: Yitzhak, though blind, was able to know what was going on in the outside realm. Why visualize the divine name? The divine name stands for ilot haillot (Ashkenaz phrase), the sibot hasibot (philosophy phrase), the sephirot, and the ein sof. They assumed kabbalah interacted with the natural order at this time – sefirot went down to gnats as one divine being. The name is the ultimate reality of everything. Meirat Einayim will drop the use of illot haillot and call it tiferet, the central of all sefirot, which gets its energy from gedulah/hessed. If you have this continuous attention, before you have tefillah, you are now moving from tiferet à bina or tiferet à hessed depending on your system. What is the static image you now need during tefillah? The mental screen will be the divine name with a source behind it or above it.
Preparations: If you have the secret of cleaving to the divine name, you have the secret of equanimity which enables the secret of meditation which will lead to ruach hakodesh and the ability to tell the future. Someone came to R. Avner who wanted to join the meditation circle. His response was you need equanimity to join. So long as you don’t have the stilling of emotions, you can’t get ruach hakodesh.
How do you now pray? Preface: Clear traditions of Yitzhak Sagi Nahor and Ramban. R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor will hold tefillah goes up to bina while Ramban will hold it is totally in tiferet. From the Ramban’s point of view, before you pray you need an image of hessed and gevurah from tiferet. Ultimately you are engaged in something coming down from the ein sof. For R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor you have to raise or see the higher place of hochma and keter with the ein sof coming into keter. Yitzhak from Acco will have another approach where you have bina but hessed and gevurah before it. It is not static, but you have a mental range where tifillah happens. If your mind (the hamon) thinks of the tiferet, you are now going though hessed and gevurah to get to bina. The external gesture of walking back, parallels the stepping back of the mental image of going back to the shem hashem in your mind. God now refers to your mental icon. This then means that God is praying – God himself needs to be raised in this vision when you praise. You want to bless shem hashem and not want to stand outside. You have a certain mental space for you to enter. He will have a picture of the 10 galgalim – not a subjective image, but an objective realm to enter the space when you pray. There is some cosmic reality as to why everything is linked. If you received an understanding about this circle as reality, good. You need the tradition to get this picture because this is reality. This is the static image of the 10 sefirot. Their reality was that you are distant from the sephirot like viewing planets. They lived in a closed interconnected reality. Provence will be reading Ashkenaz texts with now reality around them. Ashkenaz texts can be seen in the mind. Even if you aren’t thinking about the steps, you know you pass the moon to get there (before television corrupted our minds so now we can invoke any image without thinking of transversing space, but by clicking on our mental remote control to go from image to image). This is cosmic imagery not Islamic centering imagery.
You open up at the bottom of the chart, you then have two doorways to go through before you’ve even started the formal berachot of the amida. We’re now at level 3. You’re already setting up your realm and your goal to bring shefa down from bina. If you have already set up from malchut to keter, what is the level of setting up a kavannah for each word? (switch to Idel article 28) Once you have the image of the 10 sefira, each word will have a specific kavannah. Idel will make all the things the same. The shem hashem from before is placed on the back burner. When it comes to the higher divine name shem hashem, you will concentrate on correct nikkud. When you use it in tefillah, it has vowels, normally it does not. Think of bina as it absorbs hessed and gevurah. You are bringing it down before you. The question for him is how far down is “before you” (i.e. is it directly in front of you or further back). After you bring it down, you bring it back up. You’re visualizing the divine name at the end of the hatima and at the same time you are bringing down the beracha to tiferet. According to R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor tefilla is bringing from bina to sod every day. During the aseret yemei teshuva, you never leave sod. The Ramban will never let you get past tiferet. Tiferet becomes a chattel for hessed and gevurah. For R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor, you are making a mental ascent and you are in the process, for Ramban, it’s a fixed reality and your connection to tiferet. When you do tahanunim, you don’t get any further than malchut.
Continuing the debate between R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor and Ramban, at night you can go up to bina. For Ramban, you stay there for R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor, there is more going on. For the Ramban, the first and last 3 are to bina, the middle is to tiferet and you go back up, but a blessing which has a blessing at the end, the beginning is for bina and the end for all 10 sefirot – you go back to the cosmic vision. For the Meirat Einayim, you can’t skip around – you have to chose which method you are using to pray.
Week 5 – February 21
Mechilta Beshalach on Zeh Keili Vanveuhu
Last class we were discussing the position of R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor, we dealt with the mental focus, going through two doors about which Brill made a big deal, the dynamic of thinking about different sefirot. This is a slower process of being revealed. We will go back today and do the shema and then back in time to Raavad and R. Yaakov Hanazir and compare what we are doing with them with Idel.
Page 114 in the Meirat Einayim – finishing off the shemot
Yitzhak from Acre will quote from many different sources
He gives the rabbinic warning (Sanhedrin 90a) that you can’t pronounce the name according to its letters. We live in a lowly fallen world because of our sins so we of course can’t pronounce the divine name. But what you do is to imagine it internally as if the nikkud is in front of you. What this means will be debated – what does yahshov belibo mean? What are you doing? Are you just visualizing it as one icon or are you saying it – how much do you mentally pronounce it? The Ari holds this is only graphic and he breaks it up into different units (i.e. breaks up the letters into various patterns). There are a myriad of varieties of the nikkud – there are different versions, so we have a dynamic sequence. There is a koach to the divine name – it has a great power to it. You find this point in Ashkenaz and in the Kuzari and Ibn Ezra. Ultimately, this will be accepted by all post-13th century. The Gerona school assumes this is all part of Torah Shebeal Peh. In the same way you only know safrut through kabbalah, you need a masorah for kabbalah. They are not kabbalists here, but they are teaching hochmei yisrael. Meirat Einayim – You can use this for your own purposes. There is an element of magic i.e. the petitionary prayer. You visualize the divine name. According to Cordovero, you just vision the hessed in your mind in white to invoke hessed. Meirat Einayim – there is a real need for Penthos – the cry. Crying isn’t for expressionistic purposes, you have to cry to open up the gates of mercy or the shaarei hatefillah. For them, even crying without emotion, or fake tears works – crying is a ritual act until the 19th century.
13th century figures did not write out the divine name, they used verbs instead. The first word is all kamatz (Keter for Cordovero), then mixed packages. There are 10 discrete sefirot which are all together in the ein sof. Idel in the R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor article will say Hashem = 1 sefira = 10 sefirot. Therefore a text which says 1, will be equated with texts with 10. This is all kabbalah, you can’t do any sort of sevara. The process of recording these things on paper will necessitate sevara though. If it’s your own pilpul and you understand it by analogy or implications, its permitted to write, but you can understand davar mitoch davar from this.
Moral and ethical prerequisites – you can’t do things unless your on the right level. The order of the vowels are: Kamatz, Sheva, Kamatz, Hirik. How you now relate to the divine names to the ein sof? You just visualize the divine name in this form. This is less the illocution but are the sefirot the mental screen or are they dynamic? Or are they part of the ever expanding icon at that moment or it remains the same but is not the focus at that point – a difference in illocution.
If you try all combinations, you will have 10. it’s not that you don’t have to do it for the other ones, but at least you will do the divine name with three nekudot. You have to do 10 permutation for the berachot and the amida, for the rest, you can do one image of 3 nekkudot. You suspend the sefirot long enough for you to have the divine name. The only question is are you now expanding the mental screen or is it that you have the mental screen but the name flashes. Meirat Einayim will break up the divine name into sephirot.
The divine name is the continuous focus in your mind, but the two doors is only for tefillah. Do you have that vision yet or do you not? Moshe said to Yisrael and used eloheinu not elohecha because Moshe unified God in front of the Jewish people. You just said shema which is to God. What does the Atara – the lower level get? She smelled your offering, but how does she get some of what is being offered? You then say baruch shem for that lower level. We don’t want to show she is lacking and jealous and therefore we say it quietly. What is the secret of shema? You have a shema to the higher oneness of the divine, there is a lower hypostasy which isn’t getting its due, we recognize this, and we say to whatever this ontic element is, you say another verse to that lower state. Ultimately, this isn’t about yihud like Castille or the Zohar, but about Ashkenaz dealing with the higher level first followed by the lower level. We’ve already seen this to the rabbinic heichalot patterns in Aleinu. Idel does this nicely in sefirot meal hasefirot from Tarbitz – roads into kabbalah not through the Bahir. You don’t do Bahir à Zohar or the creation of kabbalah.
They are conscious that it is not a petitionary prayer, but an affirmation.
Shema Yisrael Hashem = The top three levels
Eloheinu = Hesed and Gevura
Hashem = Tiferet, Nezach, Yesod, and Hod
Ehad = Unification of all 9
The final Daled stands for the loneliness of Malchut and repository of the final 9. She is the beit david, the Kallah. This is post-Calstillian and how he sees the unity.
The second verse is:
Shem = name – you raise the kavod to the tiferet.
Kevodo = tiferet which is the teshuva
Malchuto = go up to teshuva
Leolam = Descend from bina to tiferet
Vaed = Back to malchut and you brought down the shefa from bina to tiferet to malchut.
You have two separate addresses. The first verse is bringing everything down from the top 3 sefirot to malchut and the second verse, you are now going up and back down to bring down the beracha. Are you flashing them individually or creating a new mental screen (Brill’s choice). You are clearly going up and coming back down. Ultimately he realizes that everything is now unified in the ein sof.
Until now, we have been reading 1220. We’ve had Ashkenaz, and the philosophy. How do we get there?
Someplace around 1190, we have a change.
For Scholem, R. Yaakov Hanazir held tiferet and higher than that you have keter. Raavad held yotzer bereishot and illot haillot higher. You now have a system of sefirot. Raavad uses the Ashkenaz names, R. Yaakov Hanazir use the names we know now. Most manuscripts back up Scholem. For Scholem, these levels correspond – it’s part of the same Gnostic theme.
For Idel: Based on another manuscript, For R. Yaakov Hanazir, Yoezer bereishit and a higher ilot hailot i.e. he’s still following Ashkenaz. Rather than automatically being new, ultimately, he is still doing the form of Ashkenaz. The Raavad invented something new – i.e. the father gets the credit for the theosophy and theurgy.
(Last page of Emergence of Prayer packet)
What are people thinking in 1170-1180 to see how people are thinking.
Everyone has picked up the Ashkenaz custom of adding el melech neeman to have 248 words when you do not have a minyan. Almost all of these Ashkenaz customs will have the hint of kabbalah. For Ta-Shema most of this is Ashkenaz – kabbalah is not picking up the letter counting. You go from a cosmic recognition of the divine to realizing Torah represents a natural order an ultimately on the unity of God. Two very different ways ofsaying what the shema means. 1) Public demonstrative statement and you are affirming that God rests on the keruvim – but in some way, this act of affirming the kavod takes you back up to keter which is the bore olam. Ultimately, the ehad takes you up to the infinite while your concerned with the kavod and keruvim. 2) There is another school which says the secret of shema is tiferet. This one has a deep secret – everyone knows the Ashkenaz traditions, but he can’t tell you about tiferet. Why is tiferet not just another icon who sits on a keruv, but something else. The first approach assumed that there was something you could visualize. It can’t mean Reishit Ha-kabbalah is the that you are going through the two doors. It will be stage 3, assuming there is a mental space, assuming that there is something there besides what you are imaging. You are not merely visualizing the image, but creating something beyond the image. There is something deeper to the tiferet.
Eshkol – The Shema Texts (last 3 pages in unique cherub reading)
According to Berachot is to acknowledge God in 6 directions around you. In Ashkenaz, the six directions will be connected to the seraphim – the angelic realm. In Provence (the author of the Eshkol – the Ra’bi, father of Raavad) will time the length. Het = 3, daled = 6. You rotate your head while doing the shema. He uses sefer yezira for permutations of the divine name to do with the head rotation. Notice the sense of space is the cube around you. What went on between 1170 and 1220 which created this text. R. Ezra of Gerona (student of Isaac the Blind) – We now have the tree imagery, everything is unified into the ein sof. You don’t see the prior texts having the raising and lowering, but they have separate levels. The sense of space is also no longer around your body, but the sephirotic realm. At that point, the shema is about creating that realm. You are moving from the body to the mental screen.
Next class: Gerona
Week 6 – February 28
Idel clearly thinks the Ashkenazi material became the Provencal material. Keter and bina are the same as illot haillot which equals all ten sephirot and therefore the unification. R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor is theurgy because you are thinking of a sefira and you are bringing down the shefa. It’s a two-step up and down process. None of these texts use the word kavannah but remez or negged. Idel leaves out anything which deals with the mental screen. 13th century Gerona texts – some talk about the ein sof or the tetragrameton as a choice i.e. you have one or the other. Brill sees you have both – actually a process. Idel will say rikuz mahshava, yihud hasephirot, meshihat hashefa, kavannah lesifiot, and deveikut hamahshava are all the same. He will point out in general that Zohar and Geketilla will use R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor’s approach, while Rashba will use Ramban’s approach.
Each person has different personalities. We have Azriel of Gerona who will be more philosophic than the others. He will say there is no difference between the philosophers (Andalusian neo-platonists) and the kabbalists – the same world of Giketilla. R. Ezra and R. Azriel will cite Ibn Tibbon. Bar Sheshet in the next generation will reject them. This world is not the privation of the one and the good. Rather, the more richer the set, the more good it can send below – the one is the one because it has enough blessing to permeate the entire world. The quick version of Azriel is that you go all the way up to keter and hochma where R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor says you only get up to bina. He also wrote a full page of aggadot. R. Azriel is bothered by the gemara problems and works through how this thought fits the gemara.
Back to Avicenna…
Ibn Sina – Avicenna à will be developed by Suhawarbi à Ibn Arabi (don’t know connection in Jewish world). Henri Corbin in Alone with the Alone presents a certain world view that R. Azriel will be apart of. In Corbin’s modern terms, you are starting with an Aristotillean position of abstraction – you find God in your heart. You have a process of abstraction which gets you into a realm which from Corbin’s perspective, a realm in which God an man meet a sympathy of emotions which become one in this realm. Theophatic imagination – what you’re thinking is God’s manifestation. God binds his will his ratzon to you to the extent that you bind your ratzon to him. When you see God, God sees you. Prayer is something which is a revelation of the divine. God is revealing itself to you. In Avicenna, it’s filled with angels and images, but they are seen as objective. Corbin will point out to continuous creation – it’s dependent on divine will and continuously created the world – you are entering a place where the world is coming to be. R. Azriel will be doing a version of this in Avicenna.
Idel’s Meso-cosmos replaces Scholem’s Gnostic. He doesn’t differentiate between all the different variations of this meso-cosmos.
R. Azriel 1220
Fountain of blessing is the spirit of hochma. As much as keter is found through hochma, this is not a label of an attribute, but there is a whole fountain which defines the divine. When you say “amen,” you bring down blessing, but you have to do it correctly so you don’t get flooded. Your actions do have this effect – even just saying amen releases these fountains and bring down the blessing or divine energy into everything you do. Different than R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor in that you expand the source of the blessing itself. R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor will have the mental screen of what you are visualizing. Also, it’s all about bringing down the blessing, not about the focus or the power of the divine name. Rather, R. Azriel talks about the conduit. Keter ein sof flows through hochma which is manifested (makes itself known) in bina. Rather than having a chart, R. Azriel makes this into an energy region where bina contains the energy of the keter ein sof, and the hochma to which you direct your concentration. Sense of three which function as one. He plays simultaneously on amen – saying God is infinite, God is manifest, and God is established and all are one in one unified activity. Brill thinks this is dynamic since you’re getting into the flow of beracha. The same way we have intelligence, concept, and thinker (Aristolelean) thought and thinker are one in abstraction. R. Azriel will come back to these philosophic terms which we won’t see in R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor. He associates wisdom with wisdom which is dynamic. When it’s kodesh, you don’t need to mention 10 sephirot since it’s implicit – you assume it’s coming down in the mikdash. Koach requires the yod as it is a human concept. (See Birkat Kohanim on Behaalotcha and Ramban.) You have Kadosh at the top – the pure energy and beracha. A 5-6 middle level for the hitpashtut, the sovev, coming down. One of the more extreme statements is that you bind yourself to wisdom – you bind your mind up above, more than a mental focus. You’re going up to hochma and bring it down to its sister bina since she is now called kol – the entire process of creation is in bina. This mental binding doesn’t happen automatically, you need to have the kavannah.
There are 3 levels in tefilla 1) Needs of body 2) needs of soul 3) needs of olam haba. He said the middle level is called the nefesh, the lower is then the guf and the upper one is olam haba. Everything in the world is matter, form, and efes. Homer and Tzura – everything has matter and form, and efes. Scholem says this is a quote from the Moreh Nevuchim III:17. But Scholem makes a point that an Aristotelian concept of privation becomes a mystical symbol. For Scholem, Efes means cosmic nothingness – the world is created yeash meain which is God according to the kabbalists since God was auto-generated. Idel uses this line to say that we see kabbalah is not symbolic but philosophic as privation. If you have a plotinus world, the further you are from the source, the less you get. Danny Matt puts this in Buddhist terms that Ayin is the oriental nothingness – kabbalah is like the Buddhists, and he shows that homer and tzura is the relative divine, the ayin is the absolute divine. Brill’s read is that this middle theophanic world is the world of tzurot, but efes is clearly your coordinate on this world. Efes says how far down you are, how much manifest you are. It is your privation from your pure forms to your lower forms. Efes is a degree term – that’s what it means in avicenna. Azriel continues that there is a continuation of homer where if homer changes, it changes the tzura. This quality of image change is called efes because it is an implicit quality which is always there. No matter how it appears, that quality that the energy takes on lots of forms is called efes. That quality of continuous creation is called efes. The fact that God sustains this world is because of goodness. The forms of this overflowing – that the form just flow down on it. If you have tahanunim, you didn’t have that on R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor who wasn’t focused on the names, you give yourself up to this energy. You see that everything in this world is fluid. If you realize that human needs go back up to the bubbling fountain then that is proper prayer. When you pray, you have to everything to this quality of efes – that everything is transitory. Tefillah is petitionary, but not going back to Greek models of quid pro quo, but you offer yourself up to the transitory. If God is creating the world, he is sufficient for all of your needs. First you make this body contingent, then you make your mental contingent, finally you bring yourself up to bina. What is the yihud of shema? We say it morning and evening. We see in our world that hashem ehad – everything is one. In the night you go from below up, you have to set up the emtal screen and then bring it down, by the morning it’s assumed it’s there for you. Ramban will always think you are standing below. Hochmei hamechcar are (Paul Fenton article shows the Proclean verbs). When you go up the ladder you remove forms, when you go down, you add forms. /\ form of tzurot. He has the sephirotic stream of R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor, but R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor has the dynamic process of Ashkenaz. R. Azriel’s screen is now a whole energy cloud.
(P. 172 in Scholem’s concept of kavannah).
Scholem says this text is 1280, but others say it’s post Ibn-Tibbon. It’s from the school of R. Azriel, but will shift from telling you to do these things, but will have more light imagery and will have meditation.
Anyone who establishes in their mind, the principle matter will return. Therefore if you want prayer, or bless or something in truth, you should imagine in your mind that you are light and light surrounds you on all side and that light is cascading you into. This is a practical method of what to do. Light is a clear technique – no pesukim and is easy to tell over. In the middle of this light, there is a throne of light. You have nogah in one direction and tov in the other. These will stand for good and bad. Scholem points out that beiyun doesn’t turn this into prayer, and that noga becomes bad either because it’s the lowest thing in yehezkel’s vision or because of the Spanish noche. You turn to the right for tov for good, left for bad. Therefore you direct the words you want to the throne that you want. You are sitting on a ball of light. Light is all over you. Tov on the right, nogah on the left, above that you have bahir on the right and mazhir on the left. Above all this you have a big cloud of kavod and above that you have hayim. The goal is to reach yourself up to the true reality of this which according to R. Azriel is bina. Above this is keter (which R. Azriel calls hochma). Keter fountains forth into the life of the hayyim and the kavod. You can’t fathom or reach the end of it. If you have yihud, you have everything. Is this yihud the going up, or is it everything coming down into out heads. It’s not mutually contradictory. Is it the realization that it’s one single light or that all meorot are one source. Therefore everything goes into this light which is based on keter. Therefore you bind yourself to keter in thought and volition (Corbin’s sympathy or our ratzon) and it will come in a dream-like state and you can investigate the realm. The dimayon is changing – you are entering this realm and the images keep bubbling up – it’s happening automatically from being in this realm. As opposed to R. Yehuda Halevi where you control the images. According to how strongly you bind your ratzon to the divine, you are drawing down from the ein sof. If you are able to trim off the boundaries from this world to keep a pure image of your mind, now dealing with the intensity not just the directions, you are raising up all power with your kavannah. Ikkaro is this world and you move from there to hiddush or creation when you are up in keter. You are completely binding yourself to the infinite. You are raising yourself up to the ein sof. When you are up there, you need to have proper and complete kavannah so that the divine will will bind itself to your will. This doesn’t happen automatically, it’s only happening when you bind your will, your thought, all your personalities to this union do you get all of this coming down. The goal that you go up there is not for your own volition, but to clothe yourself in the volition of will that it nullifies this world and there is nothing but this pure hidden infinite – you go up to a place which transcends all our categories. If you do this properly, this will increase your strength you will have your worldly needs through this process. When you are up there, nothing else matters. When you come back down, you take the beracha with you. The hassidim harishonim would wait an hour before tefillah to set this properly. With a Maimonidean ending, this is how you raise your path to nevuah.
Week 7 – March 7
Yaakov Bar Sheshet – 1230’s in Provence. Most of the materil from Gerona and Provence are circulating Yaakov Bar Sheshet is from the school of Gerona, but is no longer assimilating the same texts, but is drawing the lines against the Ibn Tibbons and starts the Maimonidean controversies. Where the philosophers see the importance of prayer as the mental state, Yaakov Bar Sheshet will be defending the actual recitation of the words as opposed to merely the kavannah. Towards the precision of action and not lost in the mystical realm. He will not be telling the previous class, but he will change the orientation of kabbalah without teaching you exactly how to pray. From the school of R. Azriel we have light and levels of light. The dynamism is no longer between sefirot but channeled between light. The dynamic itself is within the light. The starting focus point is towards a Maimonidean mahshava, but the binding meditation is that of ratzon, volition of various sorts.
369 in the Ramban Haemuna Vehabitachon reading
R. Ezra: When it says you should think south, you should think to the “or bahir” and this is to what you are attached. “Shem” is a quality of the mahshava to which you are turning. R. Ezra has less Ashkenaz than R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor who has the requests for thinking about shemot. Where the last generation was creating, in Provence, they will disagree and be more concerned whether or not something appears correct. There is a strong quality of being in galut, and you don’t have direct access to the shem unless you are in Eretz Yisrael. In the1230’s there was an ideal of an Eretz Yisrael temple way of doing something and we are in a fallen state. Not given a prayer technique. We can’t bring the end of days like R. Hiyya could have because he had a special power. Eliyahu got do things because of the time. These are the exceptions not the rules. Nevertheless, there is power in tefillah and our prayers can be answered. He talks about theory to explain theology rather than telling you what to do while you pray. The ones who know how to create the binyanim of the words will have their prayers heard. R. Ezra was caught up in the meditiation, but he is converted into a correct sequence or formula. It’s not just a question of space or a spatial element. You have a formulaic form. It’s not that people did not know the shemot, but people did the correct formula and without the correct formula, you won’t be answered. Ramban’s read of R. Ezra is not formulaic. Ramban shows a shift from the previous generation. This is still the need for shem with tefillah.
You will reach the level of hochma. His tefillah starts with the idea that you go through 2 petachim – static and the goal is to get up to hochma, but doesn’t tell you how to get there. We have the bringing down of the razon from the emanation from fountain to fountain. This is the static point where you are starting. After you have the static kavannah of the two doors to hochma, you begin to pray. You pray by going up even further to the yod – to the peaks, pushing further to the depths of hochma which is keter. You have the whole mental screen up to hochma, but the point of prayer is to push forward. Through yod and vav, this is called hakadosh baruch hu. He avoids sefirot but you focus on the hey, and the bringing down the power through the yod. Ultimately, the lower parts of the divine energy is looking up at the higher ones. In Bereishit rabba, there is a primordial aleph and a question as who created the bet. Ramban says there are all these elements which are looking at each other. Aleph has a quality of all 10 sefirot. He reads the bahir as Bayit = bet and is another term for hochma – what you get up to. The higher source is from where you draw water and refresh your soul and it comes cascading down to the left – the yabasha. You are on the shore of the sea looking to go into it and that is what you’re going into for the amida – to merge with the ocean. Not that tefillah will give you any redemption, you have just reached the end of all things. You nullify this world and now you start tefillah which is ein sof – you have redemption already in the shema. Know that all ends have to come to the beginning. All of your tefillah is a way for you to unify to the ein sof. For R. Azriel, you don’t need this because you’ve already bound your will to its will. For Ezra, this is a way to make sure you’re in the correct mental state. He tells us that razon, the height of divinity is hidden and secluded in the
1) Muvan mitoch davar aher – going from one thing to another, you infer it
2) Pastetet mimennu – some manifestation from it and therefore you recognize that you have hasaga. You infer it and there is something coming forth
3) Hochma hamevareret – you have a clarified mind – awareness.
4) Purified volition – you know something else happened.
Different from R. Azriel in that with him you know you reach a state of oneness and there is a positive imagery. This is more apophatic, a negative approach, you know be inference, by your mind being enlightened. Sometimes volition is intentionality sometimes, it’s the object that you are reaching. You come down at the end of tefillah. The first two is to unto the two openings, you’ve undone the hochma-keter, and you’re back down to where you were with the shekhina in front of you. You bow right and left to still bring down the shekhina into this world.
We have two pesukim, one says God is light, the other says God is darkness. There is an image that there is darkness and you have God’s hiddenness which is pure light.
If we’re doing this up down, then the first shem hashem is the unknown essence of the divine, and the second is saying it’s the middah – an attribute, the tiferet, hakadosh baruch hu as a revealed entity. According to the one that goes top down…???
Have yisrael as a horrific being praising God in a firey way. This is a heichalot type imagery not coming from Provence/Gerona. We see a variant of this in R. Ezra. Aleph is oneness, Het is hochma, Daled is dimensionality or everything else. Infinite, hochma (mental focus), and all the spatialness. Not dealing with 10 sefirot. On Yaakov Bar Sheshet you have to spend your time on the het. The aleph is forever receding.
The het is hochma, the aleph is shill the infinite, but there is a tradition of R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor of sefirot and therefore you’re bringing it down to sod, and don’t worry about the rest.
Unlike R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor, there is no 10fold cosmos, and unlike R. Ezriel where you are sitting in light, we are on the shore of this higher source or koach and it has fourness, angels, fire, and whatnot. Above it you have an empty energy range called the kav. Above that, is the static icon of the hochma. Behind that is a receding infinite quality. Here, there is the current mental shore, above that you have the kav going all the way up to hochma which occupies the mental screen and keter isn’t really seen be it’s receding. Have binary pair of Ashkenaz, there is a meso-cosmos, but Idel didn’t have the tenfold level of R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor, and doesn’t have the hochma going down to sod.
14th century student of Ramban school. It knows no Castile or Zohar and thus keeps Ramban pure. The commentary is from Yehuda Hayat – wild Castile commentary neo Lurianic. When you say a beracha, you think about the highest level as it is the source of the beracha. No 2 gates, but you are just going up and down. All berachot go to bina and all tehinot go to atara. Most tefillot are only to tiferet, therefore you have to vary the correct for of how to have kavannah. Quotes Hasidei Ashkenaz as if it’s part of the Ramban’s approach. They can translate the binaryism of Ashkenaz into their binary of bina and tiferet as opposed to illot and illot or kavod as opposed to Yaakov Bar Sheshet who has hochma and some sort of malchut down below. By the 14th century, Ashkenaz looks the same.
Week 8 – March 14
Tefilla is tiferet atara is geula which is also called hamalach hagoel. Therefore you have samuch geula litfilla.
306 – Morechet Elokut on Shema
He doesn’t give names. There is a hanhaga and tells you that Shema means kibbutz an hibbur, yisrael is tiferet. The first name you think about tiferet with nekudot. It’s assumed there is an oral tradition of how to do it. You then make the ascent to elokeinu through hessed and gevura. He says pahad first – a vertical column, not just a binary pair. Pahad is under gevura or hessed. At the end, you think about keter and hochma, but not too much because it’s not revealed. Therefore don’t think about all 8 at once – don’t just flash a sefira chart because everything has to be included from everything down from bina and sod. You still have to go somewhere and do something and not make it as one single imprint. Finally, in the daled you think about the divine, this missing thing which he doesn’t tell you comes and goes. Ultimately, the 8 is revealing the ratzon of above. The daled is large to show that it includes everything up above from ein sof. She (atara) is the kabbalt ol malchot shamayim which gets the tiferet from the ein sof. This unity within malchut is alluded to, but we don’t mention it except for the fact that it’s in the letter. The first verse is ratzon à malchut, the second is malchut à this world. Most kabbalists follow a Castilian path. This is basically the path of R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor.
First, we’ll look at Moshe de Leon’s general statements and then his specific statements on tefilla. Moshe de Leon will have the mussar, the importance of doing mitzvoth with the full hanhagot of Ashkenaz. His cosmology has God as the necessary existent, the cause of everything in the world. He creates havayot, existence which come down and control the world for him. They control the world for him. They emanate down and effect the olam haemtzai. He’s using an Aristotelian cosmology that you have a higher world which will be sefirotic, and the fixed stars and under that, we have this world. God works the planetary spheres, which control the world. We have a more astronomical cosmology. The causality within the cosmology is the existence of the divine names. Even though this world is a separate existence, this world is completely feeding back into the divine. Scholem and Tishby will say this is polytheistic. Luria will take these statements in that you are in a dynamic energy cloud. There is a dynamism of things that are coming up and down. All movements are created by this. There is a continuous up and down movement. The Zohar will make this water and oil imageries. You are in some way partaking of these imageries. An oleh veyored. Unlike our Gerona where there is a clear vision, here you’re sitting in an ever changing reality. The part that is changing is not teva itself, but something within sechel itself. It’s a vertical transience. We have a pulsating divine realm above us and a lowly earth realm below. Man is between the two and human actions are what is important. We are maintaining this energy through our actions. Tzelem will be the volitional aspect unlike Gikatilla where tzelem is a mental state of being able to receive nevuah. Here it’s because we maintain the cosmos. We maintain the cosmos through maintaining a triad of
Make sure right and left are balanced and come into the middle. We are the tzelem, our actions mediate the pulsating energy in the world though the alchemetical process of balancing these things in the world. This triad comes down into and gets unified into Atara. Asiah, the third layer holds things together – the process of the above two and is then brought down to David hamelech in atara below. Atara is the moon, the rest is the sun, the result is the sun and moon combined.
10 sefirot are the rituals. Moshe de Leon defends the practice of raising your hands after netillat yadaim. You are raising your hands to be like what goes on up above. You are inviking powers when you do this. If you don’t raise your hands, you are destroying your dugma up above. It’s not about the kavannah, but about the actions which will automatically invoke these powers.
79 in Wolfson Readings
The term is to be konen. Understand why something is fixed a way. Tefilla is silent because you are completely in the olam haelyon. It’s if you are offering up our own self as a korban. The hassidim harishonim who would meditate would assume their prayers are outpouring, entreatments in order to have a correct arrangements of what’s up above. Ultimately, everything will be arranged up above. The hassidim were calling out for the sake of their own souls to have this connection to the divine – not through this own action, but to first see yourself as a tzelem elokim. You have to know how important what you have to do. You have to know the correct procedure of the actions which is the main kavannah.
You need ahava, but the way you express ahava by the gestures – the physical actions. Therefore you need to stand with your feet together like the egel to remember how lowly you are. Without the gestures, the ahava is meaningless. The thee berachot have the perfect unity of the tirad. Magen avraham show a triad harmony up above. You are maintaining the harmony more than merging with the divine. The gestures are not to bring kavannah to the prayer. Once you have the triad at the beginning, you don’t need to do more. What’s important isn’t the middle berachot, but the bowing. By you prostrating yourself, your action below of prostration has an effect up above of bringing bina to tiferet to malchut. That is how oleh veyored works – we are the cosmic priests. You are not making an ascent, you are busy prostrating.
The last three berachot repeats the triad and ultimately you bring it down to shalom. Everything rests now in sod. By tahanun, we have a light imagery of the divine and we will grasp it above and below. Moshe de Leon likes candle imagery. He will say the top part is a white flame with a dark flame on the bottom. Whatever is being consumed is being consumed by the dark flame. We are sitting after tefillah the blue light ready to be consumed after having sat in the light of the amida. There will be two qualities of day and night, yom and layla. Night is when we taste death and we should be ready for it by giving ourselves up for the divine as moser nefesh, so that we should be consumed during nefillat apayim. Scholem and Katz assume these are the new rituals of kabbalah. Ta-Shema holds all rituals are behavioristic from Ashkenaz.
There is a secret of a higher level of elokeinu. You will reach this higher vision. This could be like an Ashkenaz kavod theory. The sod of shema is that it’s elokeinu not just the kavod. The secret of hashem elokeinu hashem is the triad. Moshe de Leon sees them nestled within each other. While the nestling of the divine energy is Provencal, the triad is Moshe de Leon. Moshe de Leon understood that right and left are mediated by the third and those three are mediated by the bottom. See ION in Jung’s collected writings. Everything comes down to the fourth pole. There is a promirdial cosmic dragon which you are bringing down into this world. From a Castilian point of view which assumes a sitra ahra, we say baruch shem quietly not to give it too much power.
The sephirot are attributes – there is nothing but the divine name. When we show God with midah harahamim or din it’s just the attribute. We never get passed our own mind – the malchut serving as a sechel hapoel. The kavannah for him is mental. Idel’s argument fits Gekitilla. You have kavannah – you will think about hessed, but hessed = the divine name since the sefirot = the divine name and it = any given sephira. If you have the correct kavannah, you have the correct hamshacha, so unlike Moshe de Leon which has a big performance, there, the simple act of thinking about it all within your mind works fro Gikatilla. He assumes you must have kavannah for God for tefillah closer to the Maimonidean philosophers – If you can’t, you don’t pray. It’s an act of mental kavannah. It’s not an ascent, but contemplation. When you want hesed, remember that hesed is connected down to malchut – there is unity. Each attribute really have all 10 behind it. The secret of the sefirot is that of the yod – the 10 sefirot. You have the energy of all the sefirot behind it. Hashem elokeinu hashem is seen as a unification of bina and tiferet. Shema is an affirmation of 10 sefirot unity. Each line pauses you to think – they happen automatically that you have all levels come together at shema. Ultimately all blessing is coming into adnut. You’re not contemplating it, but your mind is on malchut. You think about adnut which is the bottom point. There in automatic hydraulic system. Adnut has the power of 10. Combination of Maimonidean and the Gerona school.
Week 9 – March 21
The Zohar on vayahkel pekudei is similar to Hassidei Ashkenaz. Sandelphon takes these letters, and polishes them up, and gives them to God. Tishby pick out all passages which deal with yihud, harmonies, and didn’t really translate the angelic ones.
Page numbers from Tishby’s Wisdom of the Zohar
Midrash Haneelam is the first piece of the Zohar corpus and is the most philosophic part. Current thinking (Ronit Meroz) is that midrash haneelam is a separate early part of the Zohar, with an anachronistic midrashic style which served as a model for the Zohar itself. The Zohar doesn’t take the philosophy, but the style. God responds parallel to what God does. We have an example of higher than petition being offered. Ultimately, zaaka and tzaaka is related. It’s an outpouring of the soul. The locution here is a move from plea to cry, the illocution is the trust in God, the sincerity, or the emotionality. Tishby makes a lot of the connection between Bahya and Zohar. Crying is a gesture like all other gestures. Crying might even be the locution at one point. The perlocution is the redemption, or the world to come. Very rabbinic, not kabbalistic.
We’re not entering a meditative state, but modeling the divine realm, and we are creating this model down below. The Zohar will give lots of gestures like architects of the shul. It’s how to arrange the shul. All will follow a model. You should do a tikkun through your prayers. The way the tikkun function works is that you have model down below and if you perfect it down below, you will perfect it up above by doing the right activities. Tikkun will occur through the windows, in some way, the higher realm needs to be perfected and you have to look up to what you are fixing. This is closer to a magical thinking or a harmony as opposed to a theurgy. Isaac represnting gevura went into the field, but he was already different. His goal was to fight the evil side. If the shekhina be both an open field and a closed beit kenesset at the same time? Luria will split hairs and say that we are talking about two different things. The modeling is not enough without a prayer. Ultimately you are not walking into a shul, but into the divine: the synagogue is an incarnation of the divine. If you are the first 10 in the shul, those 10 become parallel to the sepfirot and therefore a parallel of the sepfirotic realm. Ultimately, on the popular level, there is a desire to become Lurianic priests. There is no intentionality in this texts. The gesture with the performance automatically does the action. The people who come there are adam kadmon corresponding to the limbs of adam kadmon up above. When the shekina comes without the minyan, she is looking for this adam kadmon. You’re not pulling strings, but tryiong to achieve a harmony from above and below. The adam kadmon is all 10 sefirot – what you do fills the higher adam.
Regarding the prayers: shaharit does a yihud, but all you need to do is the gladness and singing. As long as you do these two qualities it takes effect. You just show that your happy, a lay devotional revivalist type of prayer. The shekhina is automatically giving sustenance below. R. Hizkiyah expands on the blessings, the evening prayers are still essential because it perfoms the function of bringing down the divine energies to defeat the evil side. We add a little more that the incense is not for the lower lever, but creates a knot for all the sefirot. It’s an automatic function. You need to have kavannah because kavannah gives you a greater magical force to your actions. It’s another pietistic quality your adding to your performance.
When you recite the keriat shema you have a perfect will, a perfect volition, you are announceing the acceptance of ol malchot shamayim. You have the light keter imagery like you have by creation, matan torah, and mashiach. This light splits into 70 and into a tree of light in a wonderful cosmic vision. We then switch metaphors from light to garden of eden to wedding canopy and the bridal imagery. The question is what is the experience? The answer is nothing. The 10 sephirot all have to come together and from there you have the yihud of tiferet and malchut. The second stage is coming together. Keriat shema becomes tied into the mythic image of the Zohar. Shma yisrael is a call that the wedding is about to begin. Hashem Ehad is the coming of one body of the divine – you are now unifying the divine. We go back into divine name imagery, the four letters, the four names, the four keys, and we have this parallel down below. This time, it’s keys into a garden. We have a three plus one, hochma bina and tiferet combined with malchut. Hochma – the fountain, the idra – bina – move from fountain imagery to father and mother. We have 6 words in each sentence playing out the “theme with variations.” Almost every paragraph has the fighting of the sitra ahra. We have a play between Yaakov and the six sefirot around it vs. the human form around it simultaneously. There is the unity of the higher realm, the wedding unity, the getting rid of the evil forces unity, and there is the unity for the magic keys of the archangel.
We have a whole different imagery of the sun and the moon. Here we have tiferet going up to ein sof in a higher unity. We say it in a whisper because we say it at the time of prayer that the tiferet with the shekina is going up to ein sof, but since we’re not really allowed to be there. You seek to include yourself there. Ultimately the image is grabbin to tiferet then you going up.
Most of these have an opening from the Psalm. Gerona seems to be more halakhic and quote gemaras to trace them to rabbinic texts. We have the shekhina playing the cosmic tree. The shekhina is fighting the sitra ahra at night which is like a state of death. The night is seen of the security of shekhina, but not a real security because you are not really connected to the ture tree of life. You give your soul over to the true creator of this darkness. In the morning, you have to praise tiferet for the return of that relationship. What you’re binding is the order of tefillah. The liturgy and the worship service will be an ascent through the worship – you must bind through all of these. This is new. Now we have a parallel universe between the world of action and speech. In the morning, you have to go to the bathroom to separate out the kelipot from the tov, then the tallit, and then the tefillin. With the prayer service, you first to korbanot, then a unification, and then you have the amida having God in the mind. There are three actions and the three parts of the service. If you do not have perfect prepatory acts, your speech acts will be worthless. The act of unification was going to the bathroom on, creating the harmonies with the different triads of action and of the speech of davening. The cleaving of the will, the sincerity is all in the nefillat apayim not in the amida. All the intentionality was not with the halakhic keriat shema, but with the kabbalistic keriat shema of nefillat apayim.
Week 10 – March 28
What is imagination?
R. Yehuda ha-Levi: Active imagination, meaning you have to do active visualization. Not an autonomous thought, but based on reason, clear texts. A vision in the mind’s eye – the ein sichli.
R. Yitzhak Sagi Nahor: This is an “uplifting” image – you are to have a visualization, a clear goal to uplift you. There is a sub-level of the shem hashem which are bound and fixed above that.
R. Azriel: Is closer to Corbin’s actual realm of creative imagination. You are entereing the realm of the Tzurot and in that realm, there is a certain imagination possible far from ordinary imagination – not a free poetic, but a specific realm. This realm seems to be the most autonomous and the most separate realm. Similar to Yaakov Bar Sheshet.
Yaakov Bar Sheshet: Will also be uplifting, but will be converting shem hashem to spatial visualization. Also, not any free range vision.
Moshe de Leon: We now get the alchemetical groups of four, or triads. How do you bring together the different entities. It’s about the process, the manipulation of the pieces not of uplifting.
Zohar: 1) We have the fours and triads of Moshe de Leon. 2) We will also have some Gerona influence of uplifting. 3) Spatial 10 sefirot 4) mythopoesis free associations – you can’t say it’s wrong to shift from water to space to tree imagery. 1-3 must be done in a certain way, but 4 could be anything – the poetic element.