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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 16th-century CE paper manuscript is a collection of some 28 kabbalistic and philosophical tracts and fragments, the first piece dealing with a division of knowledge into seven branches. Other tracts worth mentioning are: Sidur Shem-ha-Meforash (the Order of God’s preeminent Name; folios 21r–23r) which contains a short commentary on God’s 42 letters name, and, Seder Pe’ulat ha-yetsirah (Order of the Formation activity; starts on folio 66r) which consists of notes on producing a golem (an automaton or anthropoid) by means of the letters of the alphabet.
Several scribes wrote the contents in an Italian cursive style of Hebrew writing but none is named in the manuscript. Two Italian censors inspected it in turn in 1597 and 1619 CE and signed their names on folios 68r–68v, leaving no visible censorial marks such as deletions or erasures in the body of the text.
Browse through the entire manuscript on the Digitised Manuscripts website.