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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.

This 14th-century CE manuscript is a compendium of 33 kabbalistic treatises. Among these are several commentaries on Sefer Yetisrah (Book of Creation or Book of Formation) including one by the eminent medieval scholar Moses ben Nahman (1194–1270 CE; folios 1r–5v), and another by Dunash Ibn Tamim, a well-known physician and astronomer active in the 10th century CE (folios 11v–16r).

Other noteworthy tracts are: Sefer ha-Yihud (Book of Unity; folios 75r–78r) by Asher ben David, who was active in the middle of the 13th century CE, which provides explanations on the Divine Name and the Divine emanations, and Sefer ha-‘Iyun (Book of Contemplation; folios 112v–114v) on the existence and unity of God, ascribed to Rav Hamai Gaon (939-1038 CE), one of the last Talmudic scholars of the Pumbeditha academy in Babylonia.  

Almost 100 leaves are missing from this manuscript, which was copied in a square Ashkenazic hand by Mosheh (Moses), whose name is marked frequently in the body of the text. The last owner of the manuscript was the Duke of Sussex (1773–1843 CE), whose coat of arms is displayed on a plate affixed to the verso of the front cover.

Browse through the entire manuscript on the Digitised Manuscripts website.

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