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Class Two: Kabbalah in Safed

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1 Class Two: Kabbalah in Safed

2 Class Two Review (15mn.): Creation, Revelation, Redemption
Context (15mn.): A bit more history Luranic Kabbalah (20 mn.): Creation meets Revelation Table Text Study (20 mn.): Rules of Mystical Piety Hitbodedut (15mn.): Concentration in Kabbalah Table Conversation (15 mn.): Theory to Practice Plenary (20 mn.): The Chicken or the Egg? Mediation, Community, and Practice

3 Review Part One

4 Review Part Two Shimon bar Yochai
He was a disciple of R. Akiva. Jews started to believe that he authored the Zohar. He was forced into a 13-year exile as a result of his criticism of Rome. He died on Lag Be’Omaer He remains a powerful figure in Kabbalah.

5 Tomb of Shimon bar Yochai

6 Review Part Three: Language, Creation, and Revelation
Medieval kabbalists appropriated the ideas of the Sefer Yitzirah: that a linguistically founded world is understood as an expression of divine self-disclosure or emanation. Hebrew letters, then, and their combinations are not merely instruments by which the creator wrought creation, but forms assumed by the divine itself. That is, not only can the revelation of deity be described in terms of the sefirot, but it can be imagined as well as the ever unfolding word of God which expresses itself in a virtually infinite variety of combinations and gradations. In this symbolism, the Torah is understood to comprise a vast network of “names,” each of which signifies a particular concentration of divine power or energy. As such these “names” possess a plentitude of meaning not exhausted by conventional human language.

7 Context Part One: Abraham Abulafia (1240-1292?)
Meditation as a way to attain visions of God. Develops new forms of kabbalastic mediation and interpretation. Writes handbooks on how to achieve prophetic visions.

8 Context

9 Context Part Two: The Expulsion from Spain
Tens of thousands of Iberian Jews sought refuge in the Muslim countries of North Africa, to Italy and to various parts of the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Bayazid II ( ) is the reported to have said about the Spanish King Ferdinand: “Can you call such a King wise and intelligent? He is impoverishing his country and enriching my Kingdom.” The sentiment allegedly expressed by Bayazid was not foundationless. Jews brought with them valuable talents and expertise. Thet served as coutiers of the sultan, were physicans, bankers and diplomats. The majority turned to commervce and crafts including the manufacotring of weapons and gunpoweder. Ottomans were thrilled. After the Zohar’sw antiquity was accepted, and after the expolsuion of the Jews from Spain, the Zohar becomes the bible for kabbalaists. They accorded the Zohartop place as the authorative source of truth. The choice of Safed as a place of settlement for Jews attahced to the kabbalstic legacy had much to do with the proximity to Meron, the supposed burial place of Shimon bar Yocai. His tomb had been a site of pilgrmige earlier, but with the growth of the Safed community it beame a shrine. Both Moses Cordovero and Isaac Luria immigrated to Safed because of its nearness to graves.

10 Context Part Three: The year 1517
Selim the First gained control over Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and the Arabian Peninsula. As a result, Jews are allowed to settle in Palestine under favorable conditions. Many conversos immigrated to Palestine and joined the Musta’rabim (Arabic-Speaking Jews, who lived there even before the Arab conquest in the 7th century). By the middle of the century, around 10,000 Jews lived in Palestine.

11 Luranic Kabbalah

12 Safed Between 1530 and 1590, the Kabbalists of Safed evolved a theological worldview and a religious way of life the was highly idiosyncratic. This new outlook may be analyzed by five essential features of piety: messianic fervor organized communities ascetic behavior ritual innovation contemplative exercises.

13 Three Major Figures Joseph Karo (1488-1575)
Moses ben Jacob Cordovero (1522)-1570) Isaac Luria ( )

14 A brief Digression Creation is inexorably linked to destruction: no creativity w/o destruction. “I am the spirit that negates all! And rightly so, for all that comes to be Deserves to perish wretchedly” Mephistopheles

15 Safed Mysticism We need to be critical of our conceptions of God.
Ein Sof is an antidote to any fixed conception of God. Luranic Kabbalah is conservative and radical.

16 Isaac Luria “Prior to Creation, there was only the infinite light Ein Sof filling all existence. When it arose in God's Will to create worlds and emanate the emanated...He contracted Himself in the point at the center, in the very center of His light ("tzimtzum”). He restricted that light, distancing it to the sides surrounding the central point, so that there remained a void, a hollow empty space, away from the central point... After this tzimtzum... He drew down from the Or Ein Sof a single straight line [of light] from His light surrounding [the void] from above to below [into the void], and it chained down descending into that void.... In the space of that void He emanated, created, formed and made all the worlds. (Etz Chaim, Arizal Heichal, 2)

17 Luranic Cosmology The Paradox of TzimTzum
Luria’s concept of Tzimtzum contains an inherent paradox: God is simultaneously transcendent and immanent. On the one hand, if the "Infinite" did not restrict itself, then nothing could exist—everything would be overwhelmed by God's totality. Thus existence requires God's transcendence, as above. On the other hand, God continuously maintains the existence of, and is thus not absent from, the created universe. Creation therefore requires God's immanence.

18 Mystical Piety Developed Rules of mystical piety (Haganot).
Practical mysticism The deeds of individuals have cosmic consequences. Need pious communities to establish cosmic order.

19 Text Study (15-20mn.) Talk about R. Cordovero’s Haganot. How do you imagine these rules help Kabbalists attain a spiritual lifestyle? Do you detect a common theme in each rule? How might these rules help kabbalists meditate?

20 The Human Soul According to Hayyim Vital, the twenty two letters of the alphabet are present in each of the three aspects of the soul.

21 Hitbodedut Kabbalists do not distinguish between meditation and contemplation. Many hope to attain a vision of the merkevah. The concentration on the world of the Sefirot is not bound up with visions, but is solely a matter for the intellect prepared to ascend from level to level and to mediate on the qualities of each level.

22 Meditation and the Tabernacle

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