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A Dynamic Linguistic Picture: The Name YHWH in Sefer ha-Bahir and in Early Provencal and Geronese Kabbalah

  • Hillel Ben-Sasson
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Part of the Jewish Thought and Philosophy book series (JTP)

Abstract

This chapter offers a detailed discussion of the Name in the early Kabbalah of Provence and Gerona. It follows the writings of R. Isaac the Blind, R. Ezra and R. Azriel of Gerona, R. Abraham Ben David, R. Jacob Ben Sheshet, and Nahmanides. Four principal interpretive trends emerge out of this elaborate survey. The first views the Name as a powerful theurgical instrument utilized to direct the mystical intention (kavanah) in its ascendance to heaven in order to mend fractures within the divine worlds. The second trend identifies the name YHWH with a central sefirah or emanation, usually tif’eret, rendering the Name a theosophical cornerstone of the Godhead. The third trend locates a distinct reference in each of the four letters comprising the Name, creating when combined a concise yet full map of the divine world of Sefirot. The fourth trend equates YHWH with the entire Torah, thus promoting a horizon of hermeneutical meanings to the Name. For the cabalists as well then, understanding YHWH involved an intricate combination of descriptive and indicative moves. In contrast to Scholem’s symbolic position, the chapter contends that when combined all four trends understand the relationship between the Name and its divine bearer as a special pictorial relation.

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hillel Ben-Sasson
    • 1
  1. 1.Jewish Theological SeminaryNew YorkUSA

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