Description

    Manuscript Introduction to the
    Wisdom of the Kabbalah

    [Italian Hebrew Manuscript]. Joseph Gikatilla. Sha'arei Tzedek. (Exposition of the Ten Sephiroth in ascending order). Pisa, 1548.
    Classic work of Kabbalah in the hand of Samuel da Pisa, scion of illustrious family of Italian Rennaisance banker-scholars, thirteen years before book was ever in print. Quarto, 115 leaves. Modern antique calf with blind-stamped covers and gilt spine with title in Hebrew. Twenty-two lines per page, sepia ink on coarse paper. Presented to the Hebrew Teachers College by Dr. Louis M. Epstein, 1947 with bookplate. Missing few leaves at beginning (manuscript begins in the middle of Sephirath Malchuth), preliminary pages lightly soiled. Near fine. From the Krown & Spellman Collection.
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    Colophon reads "Nishlam chibur Sha'arei Tzedek she-chiber he-chacham ha-shalem R. Yosef ibn Gikitilia (!). Ha-yom yom vav, asarah yamim le-yerach Shevat, shenath shin-cheth li-p (erat) k(atan), poh Pisa, al-yedei ha-tza'ir Shmuel ben Yechiel Nissim, ish Pisa" (Completed the book Sha'arei Tzedek composed by the sage R. Joseph ibn Gikitilia (!). Today is Friday, 10 Shevat, 1548, Pisa, by the youth Samuel ben Jechiel Nissim of Pisa).

    Like Gikatilla's more famous work Sha'arei Orah ("Gates of Light"), Sha'arei Tzedek ("Gates of Righteousness"), is intended as an introduction to the Wisdom of the Kabbalah, systematically leading the reader through the Ten Sephiroth in ascending order from the Sephirah of Malchuth through the Sephirah of Kether. Prof. Farber-Ginat opines that Sha'arei Tzedek is in reality an early version ("mahadura kama") of Sha'arei Orah. This is the only plausible explanation for the considerable overlap between the two works. In some instances, whole passages from Sha'arei Tzedek appear verbatim in Sha'arei Orah; other times, the material has been reworked and expanded. See Farber-Ginat, p.16, n. 23. Sha'arei Tzedek was printed in Riva di Trento in 1561. That same year, Sha'arei Orah was printed in Riva di Trento, as well as Mantua. At the conclusion of our manuscript (ff.108v.-115v.), appears Sod ha-Chashmal (The Mystery of the Electrum) by "R. Yosef ibn Gikatilia."

    Sod ha-Chashmal first appeared in print in the collection Arzei Levanon (Venice, 1601), ff.40v.-42r. According to Farber-Ginat, it is inconceivable that this is an independent work by Gikatilia. Rather, Sod ha-Chashmal represents selected readings from Gikatilia's extensive Commentary to Ezekiel's Chariot (Peirush ha-Merkavah), assembled by a later editor (Farber-Ginat, pp. 15-17). The Prophet Ezekiel's vision, referred to in the Mishnah (Hagigah 2:1) as the "Merkavah," is considered one of the most ancient and crucial portions of the esoteric wisdom. Our manuscript of Sod ha-Chashmal is incomplete, wanting the last 17 lines of the printed version (see facsimile of Sod ha-Chashmal from Arzei Levanon in Farber-Ginat, pp. 24-27). There are variants between our manuscript version and the printed version of Sod ha-Chashmal. (Farber-Ginat's critical apparatus records variants between the printed version of Sod ha-Chashmal and Peirush ha-Merkavah, but not the variants in our manuscript).

    Joseph Gikatilla (or Chiquatilla) (1248-1325), Spanish kabbalist whose works exerted a profound and permanent influence on kabbalism. Gikitilla, who was born in Medinaceli, Castile, lived for many years in Segovia. Bewteen 1272 and 1274 he studied under Abraham Abulafia, who praises him as his most successful pupil. Gikatilla, who was at first greatly influenced by Abulafia's ecstatic, prophetic system of kabbalism, soon showed a greater affinity for philosophy....Gikatilla's most influential kabbalistic work, written before 1293, is his Sha'arei Orah, a detailed explanation of kabbalistic symbolism and the designations of the ten Sefirot. He adopted a system intermediate between that of the Gerones school of kabbalists and the Zohar. This is one of the first writings to disclose knowledge of portions of the Zohar, although it departs from its approach in several fundamental respects.....Sefer Sha'arei Zedek provides another explanation of the theory of Sefirot, reversing their normal succession...Gikatilla made an original attempt to provide a detailed yet lucid and systematic exposition of kabbalism. He was also the orignator of the doctrine equating the infinite, Ein Sof, with the first of ten Sefirot. The conception was rejected by the majority of kabbalists from the 16th century onward, but his works continued to be highly esteemed and were published in many editions." - MacMillan, Encyclopedia Judaica Vol.7: 564-5.

    The Aristocratic Da Pisa Family: In 1416, the son of Matassia di Sabato, Jechiel (Vitale) (d. 1422/3) opened a bank in Pisa. This was the beginning of a long line of banker-scholars renowned throughout the Renaissance period. Jechiel's grandson, Jechiel II (d. 1490), the most outstanding member of the family, moved to Florence, where he obtained a concession to engage in banking. On the international scene, he interfaced with the Portuguese financiers Abraham Hayun and Don Isaac Abravanel. Thanks to his influence with Lorenzo de'Medici (or Lorenzo the Magnificent), Da Pisa was able to avert an order of expulsion of the Jews set for 1488, fomented by the local Franciscan preacher. In 1527, with the downfall of the Medici, the Da Pisa family were expelled from Florence. The copyist, Samuel (Simone) da Pisa continued the family tradition of learning. In 1554, he graduated as a doctor of medicine from the University of Pisa (by special permission of Pope Julius III).

    See EJ, Vol. XIII, cols. 563-564. Kabbalah. Cabala. Jews. Hebrew. Judaica. Religion. Manuscript. Pisa.



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