Sacred Writings

As Light Before Dawn: The Inner World of a Medieval by Eitan P. Fishbane

By Eitan P. Fishbane

As mild sooner than sunrise explores the magical considered Isaac ben Samuel of Akko, a massive medieval kabbalist whose paintings has in the past bought particularly little realization. via attention of an intensive literary corpus, together with a lot that also is still in manuscript, this examine examines an array of issues and questions that experience nice applicability to the comparative examine of mysticism and the wider learn of faith. those comprise prayer and the character of mystical event; meditative focus directed to God; and the ability of psychological purpose, authority, creativity, and the transmission of knowledge.

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286. 37. , p. 282. 38. , p. 286; Graboïs, “Akko as a Gate for Immigration to the Land of Israel in the Crusader Period,” pp. 102–103. 39. See Fenton, The Treatise of the Pool by ‘Obadyah Maimonides. 29 30 Context bestowed upon him by others. In Isaac of Akko’s ’Oz. ar H . ayyim, this mentality was also associated with a social group known as the ­perushim ha-mitbodedim, which might be loosely translated as “the ascetics who meditate in seclusion” (for more on this, see Chapter 8). As Ephraim Kanarfogel has demonstrated recently,40 the extensive use of the term perushim, as well as the content of this form of asceticism and extreme humility, was a dominant feature of Ashkenazi pietism as it was expressed and practiced among tosafist scholars in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

This well-known connection involved Isaac’s persistent search for the truth about the Zohar’s authorship, his purported encounter with Moses de Leon just before the latter’s death (at which time de Leon reportedly affirmed the antiquity of the Zohar to the curious traveler), and Isaac’s subsequent conversation with another scholar who himself heard a very different story, if only thirdhand: both de Leon’s widow and de Leon’s daughter had claimed that their husband and father had composed the work himself and did not copy it from an ancient manuscript.

Isaac was almost certainly referring to the well-known kabbalists from Gerona and Barcelona. 39 40 Context and the context clearly indicates that Sefarad was understood by Isaac (in most cases) to connote the Castilian region in particular. In this passage, Isaac displays an acute awareness of the divide between Castilian and Catalonian Kabbalah on the issue of the “impure evil” dimensions that exist alongside the “holy and pure” sefirot. This awareness of fundamental differences in geographically defined kabbalistic schools reflects a relatively broad sense of the intellectual climate and concerns of his day, and is, I believe, in large part a function of his itinerant profile.

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