Sunday 1 March 2020


 Guest Article by Rabbi Boruch Clinton.                                                  

(By Gavin Michal)

A wonderful benefit - from the treasury of unearned gifts - is that by writing KOTZKBLOG, I get to meet some of the most wonderful writers and thinkers from all around the Jewish academic and Torah world.

One such individual is Rabbi Baruch Clinton, an author, educator and scholar who has the rare attribute of being able to think for himself and speak his mind honestly while remaining steadfastly true to Torah Judaism. He introduced himself to me as a Hirschian (a student of R. Shimshon Refael Hirsch) but he is so much more.

What follows is one of his articles which I share (with permission):

It deals with the important idea of Jewish mysticism which has today become the mainstream. Mysticism, of one sort or another, is now the default setting of probably most religious Jews, even those from non-Chassidic camps. Clinton’s article questions whether popularity alone is sufficient to override the small still voice of spiritual rationalism which may claim even deeper and more authentic roots.

Between Frankfurt and Tzfas touches on the theological tension between 19th- century Hirschian thought and 16th-century Kabbalistic theurgy and theosophy. Frankfurt was the centre for the rational thinking of R. Hirsch, and Tzfas (Safed, a town in northern Israel) became the new home of mysticism after the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492.

The separation of three centuries between Tzfas and Frankfurt had done nothing to heal the divide. If anything, it accentuated it.


When Clinton refers to Kabbalah, it is to these types of ideas (based on the Ari’s[1] interpretation of the Zohar) that he draws our attention:

The spiritual spheres, sefirot or partzufim[2], through which G-d is said to manifest, are ‘created products’ of G-d.

The names of G-d mentioned in the Tanach and the siddur, refer to these created entities and are not synonymous with our perception of G-d.

There is no value to praying to what we think of as G-d, as it is only to the created entity known as Zeyr Anpin that our prayers are directed. Zeyr Anpin is charged with receiving prayers and delivering results.

R. Chaim Vital (by his own account the foremost student of the Ari, see The Battle for the Soul of the Ari Zal) declares that the expression Hashem Elokeichem, refers to the two lowest of the partzufim, Zeyr Anpin and his ‘wife’.

Clinton writes:

“[W]hat I would like to see is a world where it’s normal and acceptable for a Jew to choose to live according to the traditional principles of pre-Tzfas Judaism...

[L]oyalty to the innovations of Tzfas should never be a test for loyalty to God’s Torah.”



By Rabbi Boruch Clinton.

It should surprise no one when I note that among Jews - even Torah-loyal Jews - there have always been significant disagreements. Even such seemingly basic texts as Rambam's thirteen principles have long been the subject of dispute (if your shul includes "מכניסי רחמים" in their סליחות then they're obviously not too comfortable with Rambam's fifth principle). Safely navigating these disputes can be a challenge.(1) The question I'd like to address in this article concerns whether it's possible for an individual or community to adopt a philosophical system with a clear and reliable tradition even though it stands at odds with what has become a widely adopted orthodoxy.

Specifically, I'd like to explore embracing Rabbi S.R. Hirsch's views on the goals and impact of mitzva observance as opposed to those of the "Tzfas" interpretation of the Zohar and other related works. The differences between these two world-views are far more than purely theoretical and stand close to the very core of how we see our relationship with G-d and the way we approach mitzvos and tefila. Let's begin by mapping out the key differences.

Hirsch on Mitzvos

Rabbi Hirsch thought of Torah and mitzvos as practical tools created to help us grow into perfect human beings striving to build and maintain perfect communities. He consciously and explicitly avoided any theosophical discussions (or, in other words, any discussion of how performing a mitzva might have some magical effect on either the physical or spiritual world), apparently considering the possibility as a waste of precious time and a distraction from our real goal. Man's purpose, in Hirsch's view, is not to see G-d, but to learn to see the world through G-d's eyes. Why should we care what happens beyond our sphere of knowledge when many very real responsibilities lie waiting for our attention?

Thus, for example, the purpose of the Temple offerings is not to mechanically change (or “fix”) the universe, but to dynamically change ourselves by absorbing the many profound lessons taught by the avoda's complex symbolic details.

This is nicely illustrated in the fourteenth letter of Hirsch's Nineteen Letters, where he detailed how each category of Temple service was meant to impress particular thoughts upon us: "The aron represented the concept that the Torah is G-d-given; and the menorah and shulchan, the concept that the physical and mental faculties needed for implementation of the Torah are G-d-given, too." Individual elements of the avoda served unique educational roles, inspiring our "...consecrating to G-d our life (zerikas ha-dam), our sentiments (ketorus) and, indeed, our entire personality (olah) by fulfilling the Torah." In the same letter, Hirsch similarly describes prayer as a "cleansing of the thoughts and of the heart" rather than an expression of power.

Hirsch felt that the Torah opposes any attempt to represent G-d - whether as image or symbolic concept. His comments to Shemos 20:21 are an example of his firm belief that nowhere should we try to "bring heavenly things down to you on earth, but to elevate all earthly things up to Me. When you wish to come to Me, you have not to represent to yourselves things that you imagine are with Me in heaven, but rather to ponder on how I wish things to be carried on by you on earth."

Furthermore, everything a Jew could possibly need to achieve spiritual and moral perfection is easily within his grasp (as long, of course, as he's willing to work hard). There are, Hirsch points out in his comments to Devarim 30:11-14, no secrets or esoteric rituals needed in the pursuit of Torah greatness. “The teachings and actions which it has in view do not move in the sphere of the supernatural or the heavens, and nothing which was necessary for its being understood and accomplished remained in heaven in the Divine Revelation...”

Finally - and, in our context, quite significantly - anyone can achieve a profound relationship with G-d and His will without the need for the intermediary efforts of any other human being. See Hirsch's commentary to Bamidbar 11:29 and Tehilim 145:18.

Tzfas on Mitzvos

First some definitions. For the purposes of this article, by "Kabbala" I mean the interpretation of Zohar that was taught by Rabbi Yitzchak Luria ("the Ari") and his students. This is the interpretation that has subsequently been accepted as authentic by many Torah scholars of great standing (including Ramchal, the Gra and Rabbi Chaim Volozhin, and early leaders of the chassidus movement). If we take Rabbi Luria's student, Rabbi Chaim Vital, at his word, his is the only authoritative presentation of Rabbi Luria's teachings:

"וכל אשר תמצא כתוב באיזה קונטריסים על שמו ז"ל ויהיה מנגד מה שכתבתי בספר הזה טעות גמור הוא" כי לא הבינו דבריו - הקדמה לספר עץ חיים

The key teachings of the Sixteenth Century Tzfas kabbalists - like the Ramban and others before them - revolved around the doctrine of tzimtzum.
(2) However, Rabbi Luria expanded the scope of the doctrine far beyond the sefiros found at least implicitly in Zohar and later sources like Ramban.

Tzimtzum itself is used as a resolution to a philosophical conflict: if G-d is infinite, how does that leave room for a physical world? Tzimtzum proposed that G-d somehow withdrew into Himself to make room for creation, only revealing Himself and passing His influence through the medium of sefiros.

Rabbi Luria himself, however, proposed that human beings, when conscious of a "shattering of vessels" (
שבירת הכלים) that accompanied tzimtzum, can become active in correcting the consequent flaws in creation through tikunim. A mitzva, therefore, takes on special theosophic importance within this context, because it can effect changes far beyond the local environment of the one performing it.

As far as I can see, a great deal of the substance of the mainstream literature of the Tzfas kabbalists is taken up with instructions on how to use mitzvos and tefila to, on some level, control the cosmos for both universal and personal purposes (with much of the rest focusing on describing and defining the supernatural realms and G-d Himself).

Hirsch on Kabbala

Even if he had made no explicit reference to Kabbala in his writings, I believe that the conflicts between its modern interpretation and most - if not all - of the basic principles of Hirschian thought would be obvious. But as it turns out, Hirsch did address the issue in his book "The Nineteen Letters" in two separate passages:

“Presently, a form of learning came into existence about which, not being initiated in it, I dare not venture to express any opinion. However, if I properly understand that which I believe I do comprehend, then it is, indeed, an invaluable repository of the spirit of the Tanach and the Talmud, but it was also unfortunately misunderstood; the eternal progressive development which it taught came to be considered a static mechanism, and what was to be understood as inner perception was seen as external dreamworlds. As this branch of learning came into being, the mind could turn either to external sharp-witted dialectics in the study of Talmud, mentioned before [i.e., the “pilpul” style of learning that was popular in centuries before Rabbi Hirsch], or to this new field of study, which appealed to the emotions as well. Had it been correctly comprehended, it might perhaps have imbued practical Judaism with spirituality; but, as it was misconstrued, the practice of Judaism was interpreted to be a form of magical mechanistic manipulation, a means of influencing or resisting theosophic worlds and anti-worlds.” (Letter Eighteen)

“What if, in addition, one aspect of Judaism, the actual repository of its spirit, was studied in such an uncomprehending way as to reduce its spirit to physical terms, and man's inner and outer endeavors came to be interpreted as a mere mechanical, magical, dynamic building of cosmic worlds - thereby often reducing all those activities that were meant to train and give vitality to the spirit to mere preoccupation with amulets?” (Letter Ten)

Here, Hirsch clearly makes two points: that the "form of learning" in its original state was a perfectly legitimate and valuable source of inspiration (probably in much the same way as midrash), and that a more recent - incorrect - interpretation has dominated and overpowered the original understanding to the point where the original has been lost.

I believe that Hirsch
(3) felt that Zohar, in its original state, was meant to be a tool for firing our emotions with the thought of G-d's supernal greatness and then applying ourselves with even more vigor to the problems of religious life. However, he saw the Tzfas school's emphasis on trying to quantify G-d and His actions in a mechanistic way - or on trying to understand G-d at all - as, at best, a distraction. At worst, the (mis)use of mitzvos to "force" heavenly blessings of one sort or another would be seen by Hirsch as virtually pagan.

Hirsch vs. the World?

Now back to my original question: do I have the right to adopt the Hirschian system even when, in many ways, it is a rejection of "Tzfas principles" that have since become standards? Off the bat I can think of a couple of arguments suggesting that I can't. For one thing, weren't many of Rabbi Luria's interpretations received through various kinds of supernatural inspiration? That's certainly the claim of Rabbi Chaim Vital in his introduction to Eitz Chaim.

But that is itself a solid reason why Hirsch might have had no problem rejecting it. The Torah is no longer in the Heavens, and even prophets have no right to introduce innovations:

שבת קד. והכתיב (ויקרא כז) אלה המצות שאין הנביא רשאי לחדש דבר מעתה

Secondly, since Rabbi Luria's teachings have been accepted by so many early Torah leaders (including Rabbi Yosef Karo and the Gra), what right does a later authority like Rabbi Hirsch have to reject his predecessors - and how could we choose to side with him? If it were just Rabbi Hirsch against all those powerful voices, then this would be a very strong question. So strong that, had he truly been alone on this, I can’t believe Hirsch would ever have written those words. But digging into the writings of rishonim and early acharonim reveals that sharp condemnation of the study and practice of kabbala without a direct personal mesora was widespread.

The Chavas Ya’ir, for instance, felt that even if some more modern rabbis have encouraged the popular seforim-based study of kabbala, their positions can’t possibly outweigh the consensus of their predecessors who forbade it. Quoting the Rema (in
ספר תורת העולה), Chavas Ya’ir adds that there simply are no qualified living teachers left to safely transmit kabbalistic ideas so, effectively, it’s no longer a viable option.

Similar positions were clearly taught by
שו"ת תשובה מאהבה שו"ת אליהו מזרחי ובעל נודע ביהודה. Among the rishonim, ריב"ש and רשב"ש, besides condemning any kabbalistic study outside of a personal mesora relationship, question the use of sefiros as part of our avoda and argue strongly for a simple relationship with G-d and His mitzvos – an approach that’s perfectly in line with that of Rabbi Hirsch. I certainly won’t claim that these opinions are binding. But I will suggest that, with their existence, one can’t say that the Hirsch approach is in any way "out of bounds" for us. On the contrary, it may well be far closer to the mainstream Judaism of the past few centuries.

שו"ת ריב"ש קנ"ז
כי מורי הרב רב' פרץ הכהן ז"ל לא היה כלל מדבר ולא מחשיב באותן הספירות...להוציא מלב המקובלים שהם מתפללים פעם לספירה אחת ופעם לספירה אחת...וכל זה הוא דבר זר מאד [באמת המשיך לבאר דרך נכונה בהבנת תפילה ע"י ספירות אבל לא ידע תועלת בה. וא"א אפילו להבין דברי הרמב"ן אפ' ע"י ביאורים נאמנים...] וקרוב לטעות בדבר מהם ולכן בחרתי לבל יהיה לי עסק בנסתרות...ולזה אני אומר שאין לסמוך בדברים כאלו אלא מפי חכם מקובל ועדיין אולי.

שו"ת רשב"ש (ר' שלמה בן ששון דוראן) סימן קפ"ט
כי ראיתי רבים מעמי הארץ מתיהרים ומחכבדים בחכמת הקבלה והם ריקים מחכמה ולא ידעו עד מה אני רוצה לבאר כי הם בחשכה יתהלכו תחלה שקבלה אינה אלא [כשמה] מהפה לאוזן והדבר ידוע שאין מוסרין אותה אלא לחכם ומבין מדעתו ואלו היתה זו שכתובה בספרים היא הקבלה האמיתית איך יטעו המקובלים לכתוב אותה בספרים להטעות בה בני אדם ואם חאמר שבאותן דברים יש כפלים לחושיה לא יחלט משני פנים או שאותם דברים לא יודעו אלא מפי מקבל מפה לאוזן א"כ חזר הדין להיות הדבר מפה לאוזן ואם הדבר ההוא השאירוהו לחכמים להתבונן חזר הדבר להיות סברא ולא קבלה. ועוד שהם לא ידעו אלו עשר ספירות מה הם אם הם או תוארים או שמות השפעות שופעות מאתו י"ת ואין כפי השכל חלוקה רביעית ואם תאמר שהם שמי' א"כ אין הם עצמיות ואם הם עצמיות הם תוספת א"כ אם הנוצריים טועני' השלישיות אלו טוענים העשיריות ואם תאמר תוארים הם מה נשנו תוארים אלו משאר התוארי' והרי הב"ה [הוביע] למשה י"ג מדות ולמה מעטו הם ג' מהם ואם תאמר שאינם אלו הכתובים בתורה לא ימלט [אלו] הספירות הם בסגנון אחד עם המדות האלו או יותרחשובים מהם או פתוחים מהם ואם הם בסגנון אתד מה בשתנו אלו מאלו ואם יותר טובים למה העליתם הש״י מן משה ואם נעלמו ממשה ח' יודעם אם ר' לא שנאה ר' חייא מנין לו ואם משה לא ידעם מי הוא הסקובל שידעם ומתי קבלם שהרי גם הם אומרי' שגם משה לא הגיע לכלל כל הספירות ואם משה לא הגיע לכללם איך יגיע זולתו אליהם ואם הם פחותים ממדות הכתובות בתורה למה נחליף אלו באלו ואם תאמר שהם השפעות א"כ הם כחות כלומר מלאכים והמתפלל אליהם אם אומר שהם כחות או השפעות א"כ המתפלל והמכוין בהם שהם עצמיות הוא כופר שכל המתפלל למלאך מהמלאכים כופר הוא והחושב שיש עצמיות בלתי עצם הבורא שגה לעצמותו וכופר הוא ואם תאמר שם תוארים יודיענו מה נשתנו אלו מזולתו וקשה עוד מזו שהם דורשים כרכים כעניני הספירות ורומזים אליהם וחושבים לדבר בסתרי תורה ודברים אלו קשים ומרים כלענה שאם הם םתרי תורה אין לגלותם ואם אינם סתרי תורה א"כ הם סברא וכחה רע ומר לומר הסברא שהם סחרי תורה וכמו שאמרו בגמרא למי שאמר שצלפחד היה מקושש עתיד ליתן עליו את הדין אם הוא התורה כיסתו ואתה תגלהו ואם אינו אתה מוציא לעז על אותו צדיק כך הדבר הזה אם הם סתרי תורה התורה הסתירתם והוא מגלה אותם ואם אינם הלא מוציא לעז על התורה לומר שאלו הם סתריה ומ"מ עתיד ליתן את הדין וראוי לגעור באלו הדורשים גם באלו המתפארים בזה ותלמידים שלא שמשו כל צרכם ואינם רוצים לטרוח בסוגיות ההלכות בוחרים בקצרה בחבורים כאלה להתפאר בחכמת הקבלה להתגדל בפני נשים ועמי הארץ וליטול עטרה לעצמם בדברים קלים כאלה והם ריקים ממנה ועל כיוצא כזה נאמר הרוצה לכזב ירחיק את עדיו והרוצה ליחנק יתלה לאילן גדול ושומר נפשו ירחק מהם

חות יאיר ר"י (קרוב לסוף הסימן)
אע"פ שרבים וכן שלמים ממקובלים האחרונים התעוררו במאוד לבות בני אדם על לימוד הקבלה והוכיחינו מדברי הזהר ותיקונים...נראה לי כמר אמר חדא ומא"ח ולא פליגי בודאי מי שיכול ללמוד מפי מקובל אלקיי...אשרי חלקו...אבל מה נעשה שכבר העיד הגאון בספר תורת העולה שאפילו בימיו לא נמצא איש מקובל יודע הדבר על בוריה...ואת"ל דפליגי והאחרונים התירו ללמוד הקבלה גם מהספרים ולהבין מדעתו מ"מ כיון שהקדמונים מיחו בדבר טובה צפרנן של ראשונים אליהם תשמעון שב ואל תעשה טפי עדיף...קיי"ל ספק איסורא לחומרא ומכ"ש סכנתא דחמירא מאיסורא...ואין לנו לחקור מנסתרות כי אם לשמוע בלימודי הזוהר פשטי מנקראות בדרך הנגלה ותוכחת מוסרים...

צל"ח ברכות כ"ח:
כאשר הזהיר [ר' אליעזר] לתלמידיו שילכו בארחות חיים הבטוחים ולא ילכון בדרכים המסוכנים המפולשים גם לדרכי מיתה אמר הזהרו בכבוד הבורא וכבודו הוא שלא תסתכל בארבע דברים הנזכרים ונם למנוע עצמם מלכוין בתכלתו ובמצות רק לעשות הדברים לשמן לקיים ציווי הבורא...ואמר וכשאתם מתפללים דעו לפני מי אתם עומדים לומר להם שלא יכוונו לשוס מדה וספירה רק דעו לפני מי אתם עומדים והוא מקור שממנו מקלחים כל אחד שפעו והוא ישפיע לכל מדה נכונה בחסדו ובגבורתו וברחמיו אבל אתם לא תכוונו רק אליו לבד ולא תדעו דבר רק לפני מי אתם עומדים. ובשביל כך שתשמרו עצמיכם מדרכים המסוכנים ותלכו כדרך בטוח בודאי תזכו לחיי עוה"ב כי אין כאן שוס מכשול ולא תדאגו שתקבלו חלילה איזה עונש על שאין אתם מתפללים על פי סודית לא כן הוא ואין כאן עונש ואדרבה תקבלו שכר על הפרישה כי בשביל כך תזכו לחיי עולם הבא

שו"ת נודע ביהודה יו"ד ס' צ"ג
אין לאדם להוציא מפיו שעושה הכונה במצוה או תפילה על פי הסוד

שו"ת תשובה מאהבה ח"א פתיחה
מאד יש להרחיק הלימוד הזה...

שו"ת אליהו מזרחי ס' א (בסופו)
שו"ת תשובה מאהבה ח"א פתיחה דה"ם ועוד רעה


Footnote One - In recent years, some have argued that the contemporary dominance of particular hashkafos can achieve the status of “psak” and can render even positions held by many rishonim as “kefira”. So how is a person supposed to learn and teach rishonim if he never knows which of their words is kefira and which kosher (and which will become kefira in another ten or twenty years)? I was told by one of the גדולי ראשי ישיבה to ignore the whole thing and continue teaching Ramban and Rambam as I always had. I consider that the starting point for this discussion.

Footnote Two - Isn't all this supposed to be a secret, known only to a few initiates and understood by even fewer? Once perhaps. More recently it can be called a secret in much the same way that the existence of an Israeli nuclear weapons program in the Dimona facility is a secret. Consider the
רבונו של עולם prayer that follows ספירת העומר in most sidurim which, in the absence of familiarity with these basic Tzfas-inspired principles, would be entirely incomprehensible.

Footnote Three - Some who are largely unfamiliar with Rabbi Hirsch’s work will argue that he didn’t really believe many of the ideas he taught, but only used them as a kind of
הוראת שעה in order to win over wavering Jews. But if such a thing were true, it would mean that he had essentially devoted his entire life to teaching things he knew were lies. And worse, that he then turned this lie around to harshly attack something (i.e., the Tzfas school) he would have known to be the truth. How could anyone with a trace of yiras shomayim act that way? But in any case, it’s not true. Rabbi Joseph Breuer, Rabbi Shimon Schwab, and Rabbi Yosef Elias all put themselves clearly on the record stating that Hirsch’s Torah im derech eretz position was entirely honestly held. I can’t imagine their understanding of this subject would be any different.



Here is my (Gavin Michal’s) loose translation of pertinent sections of the Hebrew sources above:


“My teacher Rabbeinu Peretz haKohen[4] never spoke nor paid any attention to the Sefirot...

[T]he Kabbalists would sometimes pray to one Sefirah and other times pray to another...This is something very bitter (unfortunate)...

It is impossible even to understand Ramban (Nachmanides 1194-1270) [on this matter] even with comprehensive commentaries...

Because it is so easy to be [Halachically] mistaken in these issues, I have chosen not to involve myself in mysticism...

I, therefore, say that one should not place one’s trust in these matters, unless under the guidance of a scholarly mystic – and even then probably not.”

"I heard a philosopher (rationalist) speak negatively about the Kabbalists. He said that the non-Jews  believe in the Three [i.e., the Trinity] while the Kabbalists believe in the Ten [Sefirot]."


“We see that many of the ignorant masses boast [of their knowledge of] the wisdom of Kabbalah. [But] they are of empty of wisdom...and walk in darkness.

Originally, Kabbalah was, as its name implies, an oral transmission, and was only passed down to [selected] wise [recipients]. And if this [material] that is written in the [mystical] books is real Kabbalah, then why do the Kabbalists err to commit [these teachings] to writing and [thereby] mislead people?...

And if the Sefirot [refer to the] Essence [of G-d], then they are [non-monotheistic] additions [to His Oneness] and it follows that if the Christians err with the Three (Trinity), then [the Kabbalists] err with the Ten [Sefirot]...

And if [the Sefirot] are Emanations [from G-d], then they are energies, which are [essentially] angels – and one who prays to a heretic.

And [the Kabbalists] compose volumes on the nature of the Sefirot and allude [to their efficacy] and consider this to be [expounding on] the Secrets of Torah. – These matters are hard and bitter like wormwood, because if they are [indeed] Secrets of Torah, they should not be revealed; and if they are not the Secrets of Torah, they are [then] imaginings and of evil intent...

And one should castigate those who expound [on these matters] and those who glorify in them and those students who have not yet served their [scholarly] apprenticeships and do not want to labour in the chapters of Halacha and are [instead] looking for a short cut [by reading] these [mystical] compilations to boast in Kabbalistic wisdom in front of women and the ignorant and seize the crown [of glory] for themselves...”

CHAVAT YAIR[6] – 210:

“Even though many sincere latter Kabbalists have very much stirred the hearts of the Jewish People and inspired them to study Kabbalah...happy is he who is able to study Kabbalah from a holy Kabbalist.

However, [in practice] the Gaon [R. Moshe Isserless, Ramah (1530-1572)] has testified...that already in his days, it was impossible to find a Kabbalist who understood [Kabbalah] clearly...and something dangerous is more prohibited that a [Halachik] prohibition itself...

And we should [therefore] not delve into mysticism - although it is permitted to read the Zohar on a simple level...”


“When you pray, know before whom you are standing. [This is a popular statement found in many synagogues – perhaps for this reason?] In other words, do not focus [your prayers] on any attribute or Sefirah. Just know before whom you are standing...and only focus on Him [as an unarticulated and transcendent Being.]

This way you will you will guard yourself against dangerous paths...
And do not think that you will be punished, Heaven forefend, for not praying according to the Secrets...”


“A person should not [ever] express that he is intending doing a mitzvah or praying a prayer according to Sod (Secret or Kabbalistic intent).”

[1] Rabbi Isaac Luria 1534- 1572.
[2] According to the Ari Zal, the creation of sefirot cause the shevitat hakeilim (shattering of the vessels); and the partzufim (Divine faces or forms) represent the beginning of cosmic repair.
[3] R. Yitzchak ben Sheshet (1326-1408), also known as Rivash, studied in Barcelona under Rabbeinu Nissim of Gerona.
[4] This appears to refer to Rabbeinu Peretz of Corbeil (d. 1295). If this is correct it’s difficult to understand why Rivash called him his teacher if Rabbeinu Peretz died 31 years before Rivash was born?
[5] Algerian born R. Shlomo ben Shimon (Sason?) Duran (1400-1467).
[6] R. Yair Chaim Bacharach (1639-1702).
[7] R. Yechezkel Landau (1713-1793), also known as Nodah beYehudah and Tzalach (Tzion leNefesh Chaya).


  1. In the"Rivash records a joke" section: "I heard a philosopher (rationalist) speak negatively about the Kabbalists who believe in the Ten [Sefirot, comparing it to] the belief in the Three [Trinity], and he said heh [heh]."

    I'm not sure if this is itself a Purim joke, but the image is showing the quote wrong. The quote starts from the quotation mark in the middle, then after the הע read the quotation mark with ג for the abbreviation הע"ג and start from the right.

    The translation should be: "I heard a philosopher speak negatively about the kabbalists, and he said, the idol worshipers believe in three, but the kabbalists believe in ten."

  2. Thank you. That reads better!

  3. I've amended the text accordingly.