Kabbalah, also spelled Qabalah or Cabala, is the term traditionally used to describe the mystic and secret teachings in Judaism. The word kabbalah is derived from the Hebrew root kbl meaning ‘to receive’. In rabbinic literature kabbalah referred to any tradition received orally. Its definition changed around the 10th century CE when it started to refer more specifically to a secret form of received Jewish tradition that dealt with issues relating to the Divine names.
By the 13th century CE, as the word kabbalah became more widespread in literary sources, its significance – secret knowledge or understanding – imposed itself as the principal meaning of the term. This type of hidden wisdom that has been conveyed over the centuries, attempts to clarify the relationship between the Divine and earthly worlds.
The manuscript discussed here contains the text of Samuel Gallico’s Asis Rimonim (Juice of Pomegranates), which is a digest of Moses Cordovero’s masterwork Pardes Rimonim (Orchard of Pomegranates). According to the colophon (the inscription at the end of a manuscript providing details about its production), the manuscript was completed in 1588 CE. The unnamed scribe displays an Ashkenazic cursive script which suggests that the manuscript was most probably produced in Germany. Diagrams and volvelles (wheel charts) accompany the text.
Moses ben Jacob Cordovero (1522-1570 CE), was a noted kabbalist and leader of a mystical school in Safed, in the Holy Land. He was a prolific writer and aside from his mastery of Kabbalah, he was also a Talmudic scholar and a lucid philosopher. He composed Pardes Rimonim – a major kabbalistic work – in 1548 CE, when he was just 26 years old. In it, Cordovero systematically brings together earlier kabbalistic teachings, and endeavours to reconcile former schools of thought with the ideas of the Zohar (Radiance, a key text of the Jewish Kabbalah featuring a mystical interpretation of the Torah, or Five Books of Moses).
Browse through the entire manuscript on the Digitised Manuscripts website.