Kabbalah meditations Browse 63 guided meditations, music tracks, and talks about Kabbalah. Soulmate Circuitry 4. Re-Energize Yourself 4. Set Your Intentions With Light 4. Align With The Universe 4. Join now. Kabbalah Teachers There are 4. At the end of the forty days, I pronounced the Great Name and brought down [the angel Yofiel]. He descended in a flaming fire, and his face was like a flash of lightning. When I saw him, I trembled and was confounded. My limbs seemed to dismember themselves, and I fell over backward.
He said to me, " Son of man, how dare you agitate the great Assembly on high? Even if your soul has begun [to purify itself], you are still attached to a defiled body. If you wish that I reveal myself to you, fast for forty days, and immerse yourself twenty-four times each day. Do not taste anything that causes an odor, nor eat any kind of beans or vegetables. Sit in a dark room and do not look at any woman. After I had done this, he taught me a Divine Name, with which I would ascend and descend.
He is a mighty prince, greater than any in the Family on high. He constantly stands and serves the King of the universe in cleanliness, abstinence and purity, in terror and fear for the glory of his Master, since the Divine Presence is with him in every place. Through the knowledge that he will reveal to me, I will oblige him and learn from him.
Before that day, he should purify himself for seven days [with the ashes of the Red Heifer]. He should immerse himself in a stream of water, and not speak any idle words. Before binding [the angel] with an oath, he should say, ' I bind you by an oath, princes of pride and terror, who are appointed to strike down one who is not pure and clean and who dares to reach out to make use of the servants on high. I do this through the glorious and fearsome Name Ezekiel lived after the destruction [of Solomon' s Temple], and he therefore only received prophecy from Atzilut after it was clothed in Beriyah, with Beriyah itself clothed entirely in Yetzirah.
After this, the lights of Atzilut and Beriyah were no longer revealed at all. Attaining this level is called " Ascending to the Orchard Pardes. These techniques were then forgotten. From then on, people only made use of techniques involving the universe of Asiyah. Since this is the lowest of the universes, its angels have only a little good, and are mostly evil.
Besides this, this is a level where good and evil are closely intertwined [and it is very difficult to separate them]. This does not bring any enlightenment, since it is impossible to perceive good alone, and one' s perception is therefore a combination of good and evil, truth and falsehood. This is the significance of the Practical Kabbalah. I t is forbidden to make use of it, since evil necessarily attaches itself to the good.
One may actually intend to cleanse his soul, but as a res ult of the evil, he actually defiles it. Even if one does gain some perception, it is truth intermingled with falsehood. This is especially true today, since the ashes of the Red Heifer no longer exist.
Therefore, "he who watches his soul should keep far from them. We also have a tradition that such an individual will be punished in this world. Either he or his children will become sick, will be impoverished, or will become apostates. All this is because of the above-mentioned reason. This involves a realm where there is no good devoid of evil. Besides this, it involves coercing angels with oaths against their will.
These angels retaliate by enticing this individuaL drawing him into evil ways until his soul is destroyed. Beyond this, the methods involving these oaths were concealed by earlier generations, and we are not well-versed in the proper techniques. One must therefore keep himself far from these things. It is also one of the few ancient tracts that explicitly describe the methods through which one enters the mystical state. The key appears to be a type of mantra meditation where a series of Divine Names is repeated times.
Through the repetition of this formula, one enters the threshold of the mystical Chambers, and one must then proceed from one Chamber to the next. The ascent through the Chambers seems to be a sort of spiritual projection. One creates for himself a spiritual "body," and with the hands of this "body, " he holds the Seals that must be shown to the angels guarding each gate in order to gain admittance.
Since the initiate is ascending mentally rather than physically, these Seals must also be mental images of the Names in question. The most probable meaning is that one must concentrate on these names, and possibly depict them in his mind. If this is the case, then this method would be very closely related to the method of Unifications Yichudim taught by the Ari. In the selection just quoted, Rabbi Chaim Vital states that the initiate would make use of Unifications in his ascent.
When one reaches the step before the seventh and final chamber, he is placed in a chariot Karon, li'il. It should be recalled that the general word for this type of mystical experience is Merkava, which also means a chariot. The Merkava is a spiritual vehicle that one creates for himself, with which he ascends into the mystical state. Also of great interest is the interpretation given to the Nogah glow and Chashmal seen in Ezekiel's vision. These two concepts are important elements in the ascent into the transcendental realm.
In the Hekhalot, we find that the person descending into the Merkava is the first carried away by a stormy wind sa'arah, This is the same stormy wind that lifted up Elijah, described in the verse, " There appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, which separated the two, and Elijah went into heaven in a stormy wind sa'arah " 2 Kings 2: This is also obviously the "stormy wind" described by Ezekiel at the beginning of his vision.
He is then brought upward in a chariot of Nogah, This being the glow seen by Ezekiel. The Nogah that Ezekiel saw was therefore the vehicle that brings the initiate into the heavenly realm. Finally, when he is about to enter the highest levels of the Merkava the initiate is tested by the Chashmal to see if he is worthy. This fits very well into the Kabbalistic teaching that the Chashmal is the spiritual element that forms a barrier between good and evil, preventing evil from treading on the domain of the Holy. Crucial to the entire process is a precise knowledge of the names of the angels, as well as the various formulas and seals needed to ascend from one chamber to the next.
Here, unfortunately, we are faced with a serious difficulty, since these exhibit considerable variation in different manuscripts and printed texts of the Hekhlllol, and it is impossible to determine which versions are correct. The only way to do this would be through a logical derivation of these formulas, and this is presently beyond our means. What is presented here is a synthesis of the best readings found in the various editions. When one is on a higher level, he can enter, and is brought in and led to the heavenly Chambers, where he is allowed to stand before the Throne of Glory.
He then knows what will happen in the future, who will be raised and who will be lowered, who will be made strong and Talmudi c Mystics I 43 who will be cut off, who will be made poor and who will be made rich, who will die and who will live, who will have his inheritance taken from him, and who will have it given to him, who will be invested with the Torah, and who will be given wisdom.
When one is on a [still] higher level , he can see all the secret deeds of man. He knows and recognizes the adulterer , the murderer, and the one who is only suspected of these things. All this he knows and recognizes. When one is on a [still] higher level , he knows all kinds of sorcery. When one is on a [still] higher level, whoever raises his hand to strike him is clothed in leprosy When one is on a [still] higher level , whoever speaks against him maliciously is taken and cast down.
He is dealt severe blows , and suffers from infected wounds. When one is on a [still] higher leveL he is separated from all men, and distinguished from all humanity by his traits. He is honored by those on earth and by those on high. Whoever sins against him, sins greatly, and evil falls upon him from heaven. Whoever casts a hand against him, suffers retribution by the hand of the heavenly tribunal.
Chapter 2 When one is on a [still] higher level , all humanity stands before him like silver before a refiner who can distinguish when silver is pure and which is adulterated. Similarly, this individual can look at a family and see how many converts it contains, how many with mutilated genitalia and how many conceived from a menstruous woman, how many slaves, and how many uncircumcised. When one is on a [still] higher leveL whoever is disrespectful in his presence has his eyesigh t diminished.
When one is on a [still] higher level, whoever insults him is torn out, root and branch, and is not left with any heir. When one is on a [still] higher leveL whoever speaks badly of him is beset with destruction and bewilderment, and none have mercy. When one is on a [still] higher level , when he gives permission, they sound the Shofar and excommunicate [whoever he wills]. Three times a day do they pronounce the ban of excommunication.
Permission was granted to the proper, the meek, the humble, the wise, the upright, the pious, the chosen, the ascetics perushim , the righteous, and the perfected ones to descend and ascend in the Merkava. Rabbi Ishmael said : This has been taught about gazing in the Merkava. A person so engaged may not stand, except in three cases: before a king, before the High Priest, and before the Great Tribunal Sanhedrin , when the President is with them.
But if the President is not among them, he may not stand, even before the Great Tribunal. If he stands , his blood is on his head, since he diminishes his days, and reduces his years. Rabbi Ishmael said : What is the meaning of the songs that a person sings in order to descend into the Merkava? He s tarts with praise and begins with song. I sat on a couch of pure marble, given to me by my father Elisha We all came and sat before [Rabbi Nehunia ben Hakana].
The throngs of our companions stood on their feet , for they saw rivers of fire and brilliant flames separating them from us. Rabbi Nehunia ben Hakana sat and explained everything involving the Merkava. He described its descent and ascent ; how one who descends must descend, and how one who ascends mus t ascend : When a person wishes to descend to the Merkava, he must call upon Surayah, the Prince of the Face.
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For if one adds or subtracts, his blood is on his head. But his mouth should utter the names , and with his fingers , he should count up to He then immediately descends and has authority over the Merkava. Sharp swords are in their hands , flashing lightning shoots from their eyes, streams of fire come from their nostril s, and burning coals from their mouths.
They are garbed with helmet and armor, with spears and lances hanging at their sides. This is a description of the guardians at the door of the Seventh Chamber, and the horses at the door of each chamber. All the masters who would descend into the Merkava would also ascend again and not be harmed, even though they saw everything in this Chamber.
They would descend in peace and return, and would stand and bear witness to the fearsome, confounding visions of things not found in the palace of any mortal king. Then they would bless, praise, sing out Dehaviel , the angel who is the chief guardian of the door of the First Chamber, and overseer of the First Chamber, who stands at the right of the lintel, and Tofhiel, the angel who stands at the left of the lintel with him, will immediately grasp you. They will give you over to Tagriel , the angel who is chief guardian of the door of the Second Chamber, who stands to the right of the lintel , and to Mathpiel, the angel who stands with him to the left of the lintel.
Immediately they will grasp you, one to the right and one to the left. Perfecting and illuminating you, they will bring you and give you over to Shaburiel, the angel who is the chief guardian of the Third Chamber, who stands to the right of the lintel, and to Ratzutziel , the angel who stands with him to the left. Immediately they will grasp you, one to your right , and one to your left, and two angels will precede you and two will follow you.
Talmudic Mystics I 47 Perfecting and illuminating you, they will bring you to Pachdiel, the chief guardian of the door of the Fourth Chamber, standing at the right of the lintel, and to Geburathiel, the angel who stands to the left of the lintel with him. Immediately, they will grasp you, one to the right and one to the left. Perfecting and illuminating you, they will bring you and give you over to Techiel, the angel who is head of the Fifth Chamber, who stands to the right of the lintel, and to Uziel, the angel who stands to the left of the lintel with him.
Immediately [six] angels will grasp you, three from in front, and three from behind.
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The guardians of the Sixth Chamber will attack those who descend into the Merkava but do not descend into the Merkava, [attempting this] without authority. They throng around such individuals, striking at them and burning them, and then they send others in their place who do the same. They have no compunction, nor do they ever stop to think and ask, "Why are we burning them?
What enjoyment do we have when we attack those individuals who descend to the Merkava but do not descend, without authority? Chapter 20 Rabbi Ishmael said: The entire company said to me, " Son of the haughty, you rule with the light of the Torah, just like Rabbi Nehunia ben Hakana. See if you can bring him back from his gazing perception.
Let him sit with us and tell us the meaning of those who ' descend to the Merkava but do not descend. Why do they not touch those who [actually] descend into the Merkava at all? What is the difference between the two? This was to be a case that if brought to the sages, one would say that she was forbidden, but the majority would say that she was permitted. Do not press on it, but touch it lightly, as if you were removing a cinder from your eye, where you barely brush it.
He caught it up on a perfumed twig of myrtle, which had been soaked in pure balsamum. He then placed it on the knees of Rabbi Nehunia ben Hakana, and the latter was immediately dismissed from before the Throne of Glory We then asked him, " Who are the ones who descend into the Merkava, but do not descend into the Merkava?
You should therefore be careful that you choose for yourselves proper individuals, and they should be members of the society who have been screened. When you come and stand before the door of the Sixth Chamber, show three seals to the guardians of the door. Show two seals to Katzpiel, the angel whose sword is unsheathed in his hand.
Lightning flashes from him, exploding and blinding all who are not worthy of gazing at the King and the Throne. Nothing can hold him back. His outstretched sword screams out, " Destruction and Annihilation! Then show one to Dumiel. Is Dumiel then his name? Is his name not the mighty Gahidriham? What I see I silence dum, en. The same is true of Dumiel His authority is over the right lintel, and it is the same as the angel Kaptziel.
But there is no enmity, hatred, jealousy, or competition between them, since both of them serve only for His Glory. The [seal of] Broniah show to the angel Dumiel, an upright and humble angel. Kaptziel immediately then draws his bow and fires it. This brings a stormy wind Sa'arah , and places you in a chariot of Brightness Nogah. They trumpet before you with eighty million horns, thirty million shofars, and forty million bugles. The angel Dumiel then grasps a prize and goes before you.
And what is this prize? The prize that the angel Dumiel holds before the chariot of the individual who is worthy of descending to the Merkava is not one of silver or gold. But the prize is that this individual is left alone. He can show them all the seal [of Dumiel], and they allow him to enter. At the right of the door of the Sixth Chamber is the angel Dumiel, keeper of the gate, to the right of the door.
He sits on a couch of pure platinum,59 glowing like the radiance of the heavens, like the covenant of the universe. J:l the Lord, God of israel,60 and the angel Dumiel receive this individual with a pleasant countenance, sitting him on a couch of pure platinum. They then sit by him to his right. He used to say : i bear witness regarding two things and warn you. One dare not descend to the Merkava unless he has two qualifications. First, he must have read and reviewed the Torah, Prophets and Writings that is, the entire Bible , and have mastered the Mishnah, the Law, the Agadah, as well as the deeper meaning of Law regarding what is permitted and what is forbidden.
Secondly, he must be an individual who keeps the entire Torah, and heeds all of its prohibitions, decrees, judgments and laws, taught to Moses on Sinai. Chapter 22 If. He writes a note with red ink and hangs it on the chariot karon of that individual. When the guardians of the door of the Seventh Chamber see Dumiel, Gabriel and Kaptziel coming before the chariot of the individual worthy of descending to the Merkava, they cover their faces, and since they were previously standing, they sit down.
They also unloosen their drawn bows and return their swords to their sheaths. They then bring him before the Throne of Glory. They take out all kinds of musical instruments and play before him until they elevate him and sit him next to the Cherubim, next to the Ophanim, and [finally], next to the Holy Chayot. He then sees wonders and power, majesty and greatness, holiness, purity, terror, humility, and uprightness. Rabbi Ishmael said: All the fellows likened this to a person who has a ladder in his house. He goes up and down on it and no one can prevent him.
Amen Amen. Rabbi Ishmael said: Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel was enraged at me. Because we have been guilty of error. Do you then think that Jonathan ben Uziel is a minor figure in Israel [that he sat at the feet of Rabbi Nehuniah ben Hakana]? What would have happened if we would have approached the door of the seventh chamber?
What pleasure have I in life? I have placed in your mouths the Torah, the Prophets, the Writings, Mishnah, Midrash, Laws, Agadah, and the legal decisions regarding what is permitted and what is forbidden. If not for the mysteries of the Torah that I have concealed from you, would you ever come and show yourself before me? I know why you have come. It is only to [learn about the guardians of the Seventh Chamber. But the sound of the names of the guardians at the door of the Seventh Talmudic Mystics I 51 Chamber dumbfounds a person. How can one influence them, since each one of them are named after the King of the Universe.
These I have not revealed. When the names leave my mouth, prostrate yourselves and fall on your faces. The scribes wrote, and they fell on their faces. Chapter 23 When one is ascending, these are the names of the guardians of the Seventh Chamber [that he encounters: 62 Zehpanuryay YVy, an honored and beloved angel. Abirzehyay YVY, an honored, beloved and fear some angel. Atarigiash YVY, an honored, beloved, fearsome and astounding angel. Nagarniel YVY, an honored, beloved, fearsome, astounding and precious angel.
Anpiel YVY, an honored, beloved, fearsome, astounding, precious and exulted angel. Naazuriel YVY, an honored, beloved, fearsome , astounding, precious, exulted and mighty angel. Sastiel YVY, an honored, beloved, fearsome, astounding, precious, exulted, mighty and majestic angel. And why? Because the Ring containing the seal of heaven and earth is given over into his hand. This is not true, however, of those on the highest level. You may wonder if these are the same ones who bow down before the Prince of the Face.
But those who stand before the Throne of Glory do not bow down to the Prince of the Face, but they do bow down before the angel Anpiel. These are the names of the guardians of the Seventh Chamber [that one encounters] when one descends. Anpiel YVY, an honored, beloved, fearsome, astounding, precious, exalted, mighty, majestic, powerful, upright, and stupen- dous angel, who is called Tufriei YVY. It is because of the foliage Anaph,. These cover and surround all the rooms in the Chamber in the [highest] heaven, [which is called] Aravot. In this respect, he is like the One who formed all creation.
Regarding the One who formed creation, it is written, " The heavens cover His glory" Habakkuk 3 This is also true of the angel Anpiei, a servant who is called by his Master' s name.
This is because he opens the door of the Seventh Chamber. Chapter 24 Each of the holy Chayot that stand opposite the door of the Seventh Chamber has faces. These great [angels] therefore each have eyes. Each of these [four] Chayot has the face of a man, [the face of a lion, the Talmudic Mystics I 53 face of an ox, and the face of an eagle].
Each [of these four] faces in turn has sixteen faces. When an individual wishes to descend to the Merkava the angel Anpiel opens the door of the Chamber. The individual then stands on the threshold of the door of the Seventh Chamber. The holy Chayot then lift up their eyes to gaze at him, and each eye of the Chayot is like a huge bushel.
All this is besides the eyes of the mighty Cherubs and the Ophanim of the Divine Presence, which are like scintillating flames and the fire of glowing coals. The individual then trembles, shakes and shudders, is stricken and faint, and he falls backwards. He is then supported by the angel Anpiel and the 63 other guardians of the seven doors of the Chambers. All of them support him and say, "Fear not, 0 son of the beloved seed. Enter and see the King in His glory. You will not be destroyed. You will not be burned.
Then, immediately, a horn is sounded above him, from the firmament that is over their head. The individual then stands alone before the Throne of God' s Glory. Chapter 25 When the individual stands before the Throne of His Glory, it begins to sing. For each day the Throne of Glory sings This tests the individual and determines whether or not he is worthy of descending to the Merkava.
If the individual is worthy to descend to the Merkava, they bid him to enter. If he does not enter, they again bid him to enter. He then enters immediately. They then praise him and say, " He is among those who have descended to the Merkava. If he still enters, they immediately cast thousands of steel axes at him. The guardians at the door of the Sixth Chamber act as if they are casting millions of waves of water at this individual. Actually, however, there is not even a single drop.
If the individual says, " What is the purpose of this water," they pursue him and say, " You miserable creature! You are probably a descendent of those who kissed the Golden Calf! You are not worthy of seeing the King and His Throne. Not only was he party to many important traditions, but he also wrote voluminously regarding them. Indeed, very little would be known about many of these traditions if not for his writings.
Unfortunately, however, very few of his writings have ever been published. Most exist only in manuscript form, either in major libraries or in the hands of Kabbalists who refuse to publicize the fact. Finding and correctly identifying Abulafia' s manuscripts has been a difficult task, since many of these were catalogued incorrectly or not catalogued at all.
In a number of cases, important manuscripts were tracked down by word of mouth and discovered in the libraries of individuals who had no idea as to their content. Although much important work has been done by library scientists, manuscriptologists and other scholars, the study of Abulafia's writings requires much basic research into the largely unexplored world of ancient manuscripts.
An important problem in working with manuscripts is the fact that many were written in ancient scripts that are almost illegible to the modern reader. Others were privately made, written hurriedly by individuals with poor handwriting. When added to the fact that their basic script may now be obsolete, the reading of these manuscripts becomes next to impossible. Much study has to be done to decipher the alphabets of many manuscripts , and in some cases, relevant portions had to be transcribed letter by letter before they could be read.
One reason why Abulafia' s works were not published was undoubtedly related to the general retincence surrounding the publication of materials dealing with meditation and the mystical arts. But another reason was the controversy that surrounded Abulafia as a person. For the most part, however, these are ambiguous, and it is probable that when he speaks of himself as the " anointed one, " he means that he is enlightened, and not that he is the promised messiah.
In a number of places, he speaks of the prophet experience as one resembling being anointed with oiL I In no place did Abulafia ever attempt to actually implement a messianic role for himself, so this interpretation appears highly probable. All of his alleged claims, however, did not escape the notice of the religious leaders of his generation. His strongest opposition came from the Rashba Rabbi Shlomo ben Adret, Five years older than AbulaHa, the Rashba had been appointed rabbi in Barcelona in , and he enjoyed a reputation as the leading sage of his time.
Even today, his Talmudic commentaries are counted among the most important, and his responsa are considered basic to Jewish Law.
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It is evident that while Abulafia was in Sicily, the Rashba mounted a scathing attack against him. This involved his own letters as well as messages that he influenced the leaders of other congregations to send to Sicily, denouncing Abulafia. In the early 's, the Rashba wrote a responsum to the community of Saragosta, Abulafia' s birthplace, regarding a self-proclaimed prophet in A vila, possibly a disciple of AbulaHa.
In it, he alludes to his earlier attacks on Abulafia, denouncing him in no uncertain terms. This attack by the leading figure of the generation was enough to virtually guarantee that the religious establishment would shun and ignore Abulafia's works. In some ways, however , the intensity of the attack is understandable, considering the status of the Kabbalah at the time.
The Zohar had not yet been published, and although the Bahir had been published in , it was far from being universally accepted. A very strong school opposed the Kabbalah, denouncing its teachings as approaching heresy. This is best exemplified by a statement by the Rashbash Rabbi Shlomo ben Shimon Duran, , a century later, who wrote, " The Christians believe in the Three, while the Kabbalists believe in the Ten. Abulafia was very much hurt by the Rashba' s attacks, and it was as a reply to them that he wrote his famous epistle, VeZot LiYehudah And This is to Judah.
The entire attack against Abulafia was then expanded upon by the Yashar of Candia Rabbi Yoseph Shlomo Delmedigo, , one of the most important defenders of the Kabbalah. This, however, turns out to be far from true, and his works are quoted, albeit guardedly, by many of the most important Kabbalists. Another major figure, the Radbaz Rabbi David abu Zimra, , mentions Abulafia' s works in a positive context. Quoting a number of attacks against Abulafia, the Chida then cites the fact that his works have been accepted by the greatest Kabbalists, and have been found to be beneficial.
In view of this opinion, the general trend among knowledgeable Kabbalists has been to accept the teachings of Abulafia, even though his methods are considered to be very advanced and dangerous. His manuscripts have been copied and circulated among many Kabbalists, and they form an important part of the curriculum in some secret schools. While the personality of Abulafia may be questioned, it is generally recognized that he was in possession of authentic traditions, and that he recorded them faithfully and accurately.
One is the disgusting creature, "may the name of the wicked rot," whose name is Abraham [Abulafia]. He proclaimed himself as a prophet and messiah in Sicily, and enticed many people with his lies. Through the mercy of God, I was able to slam the door in his face. If not for this, he would have actually been able to begin. He invented many false ideas, totally foolishness which resembles high wisdom, and with this, he could have done much damage.
Making use of a certain consistence, he places his mind on an idea for many days, and comes up with elaborate numerical exercizes gematriot involving both scripture and the words of our sages. The Rashba. In his foolishness and pride But it is taught that since the Temple has been destroyed, "prophecy has been given over to the insane. His books are filled with his own inventions, imaginations and falsehood. How idiotic it is to invent a Kabbalistic commentary to the Guide! Maimonides would never even dream of such an interpretation! He writes the entire book as a series of circles so as to confuse those who look at it.
S As if this would make up for its lack of true content! He filled this book with word manipulations, made up by his own deficient mind. Rabbi Judah Chayit. I have seen a manuscript of it, written on parchment. Still, I must tell the truth, I saw a great rabbi, one of the major masters of the mysteries, of great reputation.
According to his words, there is no question that he made use of this book and benefited greatly from it. The Chidah. He was born in the year This does not appear very significant until we realize that on the Hebrew calendar, which counts from the birth of Adam, this was the year , literally the beginning of a new millennium. Abulafia was very much aware of this distinction, and in a number of places, cites it as proof that he was destined for a special mission.
In his autobiography, Abulafia speaks about many of his disciples. The most important of these was Rabbi Joseph Gikatalia, who later was to become one of the greatest Kabbalists of that period. Eight years younger than Abulafia, it can be ascertained that he came under the influence of Abulafia in the year , when he was twenty-five years old.
Another disciple mentioned in the autobiography is a certain Shem Tov of Burgos. We shall meet him again as one of the possible authors of Shaarey Tzedek Gates of Righteousness , an important exposition of Abulafia' s techniques. It has often been stated that Abulafia was opposed to the Talmud and deficient in its knowledge, but this is an inaccurate conclusion. As a teenager , Abulafia learned Scripture, Mishnah and Talmud from his father, attaining what was then considered an adequate knowledge of these subjects.
He also states that he had mastered Chullin, the Talmudic tract that deals with the fine points of the dietary laws, and that which forms the core of traditional rabbinical training. Once, he openly states that if not pressed by his disciples, he would rather study the Talmud than write books on the mysteries. I 4 Abulafia' s earliest study consisted largely of the works of the great Jewish philosophers, and he writes that he originally considered philosophy to be the greatest of all disciplines.
Abulafia mentions that he was introduced to the Guide by a certain Rabbi Hillel in Capua. This is most certainly Rabbi Hillel of Verona , who lived in Capua between and Rabbi Hillel had been a disciple of the famed Rabbi Jonah Gerondi Rabbi Jonah had been a vehement opponent of Maimonides' Guide, but toward the end of his life, he made a public confession regretting this opposition.
Rabbi Hillel followed his master, and also became a staunch advocate of Maimonides' teachings. When Shlomo Petit, a leading Kabbalist from Acco, attempted to reintroduce a ban against the Guide, Rabbi Hillel became one of its most important defenders. Besides this, Abulafia was thoroughly familiar with the mystical works from the Talmudical period, such as the Bahir, which he calls the greatest of all Kabbalah texts.
I 6 In at least one place, he uses a term prominent in the Zohar, indicating that he might also have had some access to that body of literature, even though it had not yet been publishedP It is of great significance that Abulafia also refers to the Hekhalot, which we have discussed in the previous chapter. Although he was familiar with this text, in no place does he mention the actual use of its methods, but instead, advocates a different system entirely.
This would appear to indicate that, like the Ari, he realized that the techniques described in the Hekhalot require a system of purification that was no longer in existence. Rabbi Abraham Abulafia I 63 Another reason may be the fact that Abulafia considered himself a follower of the way of the Sefer Yetzirah Book of Formation , a system that he considered unique and different than other Kabbalistic teachings. In one place, he discussed the Kabbalistic school utilizing the Ten Sefirot, and clearly states that the way of the Sefer Yetzirah is different and higher, involving the Twenty-Two Letters of the Hebrew alphabet rather than the ten numbers.
I 8 There is no question that the Sefer Yetzirah played a most important role in Abulafia' s career. In his autobiographical sketch, he writes that he considered his initiation into the mysteries of the Sefer Yetzirah as the major turning point in his life. Elsewhere, he writes that he had studied the Sefer Yetzirah with twelve of its major commentaries, both philosophical and Kabbalistic. Rabbi Baruch wrote a book Maftechot HaKabbalah Keys of Kabbalah , a commentary on the Sefer Yetzirah involving numerical manipulations gematria in a style very much like that of Abulafia.
This would imply that the mystical tradition may have been preserved there in an unbroken tradition. This is quite likely, since at the time, Turkey had a Jewish community that had flourished there since the time of Alexander the Great. There has been much confusion regarding the temptations that Abulafia mentions in his autobiographical sketch.
A key is provided by his statement that " for fifteen years, the Satan was at my right hand to mislead me. This is supported by his poem at the beginning of Chayay Olam Habah, where he speaks of his body" defiled with seed, " worthy of death, and apparently guilty of murder. A later mystic, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov , considered it one of his greatest accomplishments that he was able to discover a General Rectification Tikun HaKelali to undo the spiritual damage caused by masturbation. In a number of places, he makes use of foreign terms to prove a point, and even incorporates them into his numerical calculations.
In one place he states, " There is no question that there are individuals among the Christians who know this mystery. They discussed the mysteries with me and revealed that this is unquestionably their opinion, whereupon I judged them to be among the pious of the gentiles. One need not worry about the fools of any nation, since the Torah was only given to those with in telligence. In a number of places, he speaks of such Christian ideas as the Trinity and Incarnation as being false.
This Pope was best known for having established the Vatican as a permanent seat of the papacy, and for sending missionari es to Persia and China. Abulafia came to see him shortly before Rosh HaShllnah , and it was only the Pope's sudden death that saved him from being burned at the stake. Abulafia himself wrote an autobiographical account of this conversion attempt in his Sefer HaEdot Book of Testimonies.
This is particularly significant, since the Rashba, the main opponent of Abulafia, had assumed the post of Rabbi in Barcelona in It may well have been the denunciation on the part of the Rashba that Abulafia refers to when he states that he " was captured by gentiles because of denunciation on the part of the Jews.
It was also here that he gained Rabbi Achitov the physician as a disciple. It was to this Rabbi Achitov that the Rashba sent a scathing denunciation of Abulafia' s methods. He calls this city Mi-Sinai, meaning " from Sinai, " possibly indicating that it was a place of revelation. His opposition, however, grew even stronger, and by , he had been forced to move to the tiny island of Camino near Malta. After this, very little is known of his personal life, although a few of his existant works seem to have been written during this period.
An excellent autobiographical account of this last period, couched in apocalyptic language, is found in Abulafia' s Sefer HaOt Book of the Sign. Here Abulafia uses another anonym, Zechariyahu which also has the same numerical value as Abraham. I, [Abraham Abulafia], the individual mentioned in the introduction, was born in Saragossa, in Argon, which is in the kingdom of Spain. Before I was weaned, while I was still an infant suckling milk from the breasts of my mother , I moved to [Navarra] , some sixteen parsangs from the city where I was born, together with my brothers and sisters.
I thus grew up on the Ebro River, which passes through both of these ci ties. It was from him that I also learned the Mishnah and Talmud, and most of my learning was under this instruction. I was eighteen years old when he died. I remained in the land of my birth for two years after my father passed away. At the age of twenty, God' s spirit moved me, and I left, heading straight for the Land of Israel by sea and by land. My intent was the rearh the land of the Sambation,34 but I did not get further than Acco.
I left [the Holy Land] and returned [to Europe] by way of Greece. It was while passing through [Greece] that I got married. God then aroused me, and, taking along my wife, I set out for the " waters of desire" where I could study the Torah. This I found in Capua, a journey of five days from Rome. I t was here that I found a distinguished sage, philosopher, and master physician by the name of Rabbi Hillel. We became friends , and it was from him that I learned philosophy, which I found very pleasant.
Exploring this discipline with all my might, I kept at it day and night. I was not satisfied until I had gone through the entire Guide to the Perplexed many times. In Capua I also had four disciples whom I taught occasionally. They were senseless young men, however, and when they went out to evil ways, I abandoned them. There were also another ten disciples, but these too did not benefit, and they lost both ways, the first and the second. In Agropoli there were four disciples. But these also did not benefit from my teachings.
They had very strange ideas, especially concerning the depths of wisdom and mysteries of the Torah. I did not find any who were worthy that I should even give them the barest hints of the Truth. With these I had some success, but they were very old and they died.
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In Barcelona I had two disciples. One, by the name of Rabbi Kalonymos, of blessed memory, an older man who was quite distinguished. The other was a brilliant unmarried man, a distinguished sage, and one of the leaders of the community, by the name of Rabbi Yauda, also called Solomon. The name of the master is Rabbi Moshe Sifno. Both he and his master only learned a few external points of the Kabbalah from me. In Medina Celi there were two disciples.
One was Samuel the Prophet, to whom I taught some Kabbalah. The other was Rabbi Joseph Gikatalia, may God continue to guide him. He had great intelligence, and will undoubtedly have great success if God is with him. I am now in Messina, which is " from Sinai " Mi-Sinai. Here I found six men, and I also brought a seventh along with me. These learned from me for a very short time, each one taking what he could, some much and some little. They all eventually left me, except for one. He was their leader, and he brought all the others to learn from me.
The name of this disciple is Rabbi Saadia ben Yitzchak Sanalmapi of blessed memory. He was followed by Rabbi Abraham ben Shalom, and then by the latter ' s son, Yaakov, and then by his friend Yitzchak. These were followed by other acquaintances, until I had three disciples on one level, and four on a lower level. He was the one who prevented the others from attaining what they could.
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It was here that some desired things occurred, and there were some normal events, some accidents, and some things that had to take place. When I was thirty-one years old, in Barcelona, God awakened me from my sleep, and I learned the Sefer Yetzirah with its commentaries. God' s hand was upon me, and I wrote books of wisdom and also some wondrous prophetic books.
My soul awakened within me, and a spirit of God touched my mouth. A spirit of holiness fluttered through me, and I saw many fearsome sights and wonders, through signs and miracles. But at the same time, spirits of jealousy gathered around me, and I was confronted with fantasy and error. My mind was totally confused, since I could not find anyone else like me, who would teach me the correct path. I was therefore like a blind man, groping around at noon. For fifteen years, the Satan was at my right hand to mislead me. All this time, I was driven mad from what my eyes saw. God had mercy on me and brought me to the Holy Palace.
It was written for. Seeing the affection with which he attached himself to me, [I wrote this for him] so that he should remember what he learned from me, since forgetfulness is rampant. When he has it, 1 know that it will also help his above-mentioned companions, since it is most probable that they will also learn from it. I realize that if not for various " accidents" 39 and fantasies, they would have never left me.
The fantasies that caused them to leave me and keep away from me are precisely the ones that I myself once had. God helped me to stand my ground, and withstanding the test enlightened my heart, since because of them I guarded my mouth and tongue. I continued to keep the covenant recognizing and perceiving what was hidden from me at the time. And I praise the name of the Lord, my God and God of my fathers, who did not withdraw His love and truth during all these times Otzar Eden HaGanuz.
The author was then 39 years old, and this was the ninth year of his prophecy. Until that year he did not write any prophetic books, even though he wrote many other books of wisdom, some dealing with the deepest mysteries of the Kabbalah. In that ninth year, God aroused him to go to Rome, as He commanded him in Barcelona in those years.
A miracle occurred and he escaped. He then settled in Capua for a short time. In the fifth month after Nissan, the eleventh month after Tishrei, that is, the month of Ab July , in the tenth year , he came to Rome. He had planned to appear before the Pope on the day before the [Hebrew] New Year. The Pope was then in Saronno, a day' s journey from Rome, and he instructed the gatekeepers that if Raziel should come to speak to him in the name of Judaism, he should be detained, and should not be granted an audience.
They were given instructions to take him out of the city and burn him at the stake. The wood was already prepared near the inner gate of the city. Raziel was informed of this, but he paid no heed to those who told him. He meditated hitboded and saw wonders, and at that time he wrote them down in his Book of Testimonies.
It would be a testimony between him and God that He had saved him from his enemies. On the day that he was to see the Pope, he was given two mouths. When he entered the outer gate of the city, a messenger greeted him and informed him that on the previous night, the one who had sought to kill him had suddenly died, as if from a plague. One was killed that night, and [the other] was saved.
In Rome he was then imprisoned by the " Little Brothers" Franciscans and he remained in their academy for twenty-eight days. He finally went free on the first of Cheshvan October 18, I write this to tell the praise of God, and His miracles and wonders with Raziel and His true servants. Metzaref LaSekhel. And God was with him to help him, and Zecharyahu wrote all that God commanded him.
He went quickly, declaring and announcing the living words of God to the Jews, circumcised in flesh, but uncircumcised in heart. But the poor to whom he was sent, and for whom he was revealed, did not pay attention to his coming. They began to speak about him and his God, saying things that should not be spoken. He did this, and they believed in the announcement from God. But they did not return to God, for they believed in their sword and bow, and God had hardened their unclean uncircumcised hearts.
God' s anger was then kindled against them, and He had mercy on His people Israel. And He then chose a time and season for the day of the proclamation And it was on that day, God went with joy and gladness, with seven lamps and five bright lights, seeking on all the tops of the mountains. Between the lions and bears , He found a lost sheep, without shepherd, but no lion had torn it, and no bear had eaten it. And God found the top of a high mountain, and its name is Mount Naples. The shepherd of is sheep sat on it for twenty years, until the passing of the time of anger and the instant of rage, during which the shepherd slept.
At that time, the God of Israel will awaken the heart of the shepherd, and he will be aroused from his sleep, and he will awaken the hearts that sleep in the dust. The dead will then come to life, and the sheep will come home, never again to be scattered. In the year , in the third lunar month, that is the month of Kislev, this being the ninth solar month September , in the tenth cycle, in the fifth year of the cycle, on the first of the month, on the sixth day Friday.
God awakened the spirit of Zecharyahu to review and double his prophetic books and to complete half of this book. On that day Zecharyahu the shepherd began to write wonders.. And God sent a physician to his people to heal the pain of their wound by teaching their sages His Name.
And the sages of wisdom were sick and wounded, with " every sickness and wound that is not wri tten in this book of the Torah" 43 And God said to Zecharyahu the healthy one, " Go, and I will send you to the people who are stricken in heart , to heal their sickness. He began to speak, and as he spoke, he ended. For he called out in the name of the Lord, the everlasting God, from the begi nning to the end, walking a straight line, not straying to the right or to the left. But only a few of the sages of Israel wished to hear the wisdom of God and the excellence of His ways from his mouth.
God appeared to Rabbi Abraham Abulafia I 71 the healthy among them, and asked them to heal the sick in spirit by the word of Zecharyahu. And those who would deny the highest wisdom stood up, sick and stricken with deadly wounds. They spoke high words against God and His anointed, and against all the healthy ones who had gone along with them, who recognized the depth of their sickness and pursued a cure. The hearts of those who followed melted, and their spirit became weak, and they stopped following those who knew the Name and are counted with it.
Because of such things, God became angry at those who provoked Him and denied His Name. He sent one to rebuke them, and his words were a shame and an insult to their name. So they chased him from city to city, from place to place, until he came to the land of Mastina Malta , to the island of Comino. There he sat for many days against his will. And it was in those days that God said to Zecharyahu, "Write for you this book, which will go against the sages of Israel in this generation, who boas t about that which I do not desire.
They say, why should we consider God' s Name, how will it help us when we utter it, and how will it benefit us if we calculate it? WRITINGS It is not because of his personal life that Abulafia is so fascinating, but because of the remarkable treasure of mystical lore that he has included in his writings. While this tradition was known to other masters of that period, none wrote down more than the barest hints regarding the explicit practices of the Kabbalah.
Abulafia himself writes, " no other Kabbalist before me wrote explicit books on this subject. They did not make it obvious that this was the main point of their books, but only mentioned it in passing. In one place he states that he was commanded by Elijah and Enoch in a vision to reveal these secrets. Instead, he wrotes, he did so for two reasons, one theological and one human. The theological reason is related to the final redemption, for which these mysteries are necessary, while the human reason is due to the lack of Kabbalah masters in his generation. He had already been persecuted by the Rashba, and was shunned by other Kabbalists for revealing their mysteries.
He writes that the mysteries involving the letters were revealed to the prophets, and they, in turn, revealed them to all Israel. He concludes, " Even though I know that people will denounce both me and my books, I will not desist from writing.