On divine justice, metempsychosis, and purgatory: Ruminations of a sixteenth-century Italian Jew

  • David B. Ruderman


Divine Justice 
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  1. 1.
    On Barukh Abraham da Spoleto b. R. Petahiah, consult M. Mortara,Mazkeret Hokhmei Italia, Indice Alfabetico dei Rabbini e scrittori Israeliti (Padua, 1886), who mentions his presence in Ferrara in 1579 and in Modena in 1584. He also is mentioned in other sixteenth-century rabbinic responsa.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The summary of Barukh Abraham's sermon is found in Ms. Moscow Günzburg 129, fol. 112b, item no. 69. The items which follow, nos. 69–73, fols., 112b–116b, all penned by Abraham b. Hananiyah Yagel, include Yagel's response, his account of his visit to Judah Sommo, the rabbi's reply, and a short letter of R. Mordecai Dato.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    On Yagel, see the bibliography in my article, “Three Contemporary Perceptions of a Polish Wunderkind of the Seventeenth Century,”Association for Jewish Studies Review 4(1979):147, n. 14;idem, “Unicorns, Great Beasts, and ‘The Marvelous Variety of Things in Nature’ in the Writing of Abraham ben Hananiyah Yagel,”Jewish Thought in the Seventeenth Century ed, I. Twersky (Cambridge, Mass, forthcoming); andidem, “The Receptivity of Jewish Thought to the New Astronomy of the Seventeenth Century: The Case of Abraham ben Hananiyah Yagel,”Umberto Cassuto Festschrift (Jerusalem, forthcoming).Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Namely Judah Sommo Portaleone and Mordecai Dato. See below.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    The relations between Jewish law(halakha) and kabbala have recently engaged the attention of a number of historians. See, for example, M. Benayahu, “Kabbala and Halakha — A Confrontation” (Hebrew)Da'at 5(1980): 61–116; J. Katz, “Post-Zoharic Relations between Halakha and Kabbala” (Hebrew)Da'at 4(1980):57–74 (English version in B. Cooperman, ed.,Jewish Thought in the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, Mass., 1983), pp. 283–307);idem, Halakha ve-Kabbala (Jerusalem, 1984). On one halakhic context, that of the commandment of levirate marriage, related to the kabbalist notion ofgilgul see E. Gottlieb, “A Debate on Gilgul in Crete in the Fifteenth Century” (Hebrew)Sefunot 11(1969):43–66 (republished in Gottlieb'sMehkarim be-Sifrut ha-Kabbala, ed. J. Hacker (Tel Aviv, 1976), pp. 370–96); E. Kupfer, “On the Cultural Image of Ashkenazic Jewry and Its Sages in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries” (Hebrew)Tarbiz 42(1973):125–30.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    On Judah Sommo Portaleone, see S. Simonsohn,History of the Jews in the Duchy of Mantua (Jerusalem, 1977), index, especially pp. 658–64; see also edition of Sommo's Hebrew play,Zahut Bedihuta de-kiddushin (Jerusalem, 1964) edited by H. Schirmann. I hope to discuss Sommo's model of the Temple (not an actual synagogue) elsewhere.Cf. D. Kaufmann, “Leone De Mantua,”Jewish Quarterly Review o.s. 10(1898):445–55.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    For a discussion of tikkun 70, see below.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Ms. Moscow Günzburg 129, fols. 113b–114a.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    fol. 114a.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    fol. 114a.Google Scholar
  11. 18.
    fols. 114b–115b. For a discussion of this point of Yagel, see below.Google Scholar
  12. 22.
    I was unable to identify the source of that tradition. On Cordovero's view ofgilgul see hisShi'ur Komah (Warsaw, 1843), chapters 3 and 4; S.A. Horodetsky,Torat ha-Kabbala shel R. Moshe Cordovero (Jerusalem, 1951), pp. 191–93; M.Cordovero, “A Rumor on the Matter of Gilgul” (Hebrew), published in Y. Ashkenazi,Sefer Heikhal ha-Shem (Venice, 1605).Google Scholar
  13. 23.
    Ms. Moscow Günzburg 129, fol. 116a.Google Scholar
  14. 24.
    fol. 116b. On Dato, see Y. Yakobson, “Torat ha-Geulah shel R. Mordecai Dato,” unpublished doctoral dissertation, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1982. On his relationship with Yagel, see pp. 6, 8, 10–12, 43, 50, 66, 85–86.Google Scholar
  15. 25.
    The first part of the work was printed in Alexandria, Egypt in 1880 by Abraham Mani. The second part is extant in two manuscripts. On the book, see J. Dan,Ha-Sippur ha-Ivri bi-Mei ha-Beinayim (Jerusalem, 1974), pp. 202–21; C. Roth,The Jews in the Renaissance (Philadelphia, 1959), pp. 330–31. I presently am preparing a critical edition, English translation, and study the work.Google Scholar
  16. 26.
    All quotations are from the Mani edition ofGei Hizzayon, pp. 18a–b.Google Scholar
  17. 27.
    Gei Hizzayon, pp. 18b–19a.Google Scholar
  18. 28.
    Ibid., p. 41a.Google Scholar
  19. 29.
  20. 30.
    Ibid. Cf. Mani's note on the same page for the correct reading of this line.Google Scholar
  21. 31.
    Ibid., pp. 41a–41b.Google Scholar
  22. 32.
    Ibid., p. 41b.Google Scholar
  23. 33.
    Diogenes Laertius,Lives of Eminent Philosophers trans. by R.D. Hicks (Cambridge, Mass-London, 1958) VIII, 36, pp. 352–53. Moshe Idel has recently identified Rabbi Lappidot with Rabbi Lappidot Ashkenazi, a figure with occult powers living in Safed who maintained relations with R. Moses Cordovero and R. Hayyim Vital. He also offers a number of parallel versions of this story current in sixteenth-century Safed, especially the version of R. Judah Hallewa, the kabbalist from Fez, Morocco. See M. Idel, “R. Judah Hallewa and his Zafenat Pa'ane'ah” (Hebrew)Shalem 4(1984): 126–7; 146–48.Google Scholar
  24. 34.
    Beit Ya'ar ha-Levanon, Ms. Oxford Bodl. 1304(Reggio 9), book 3, chapter 12, fols. 131a–131b. In the following chapter (chapter 13), Yagel presents the view of a rabbinic scholar who believed in the kabbala but who “was close to the sect of the Karaites, following a literal interpretation of the text according to their own reason.” This anonymous scholar rejectedgilgul altogether, offering in his defense the rational views against the concept of Saadia Gaon and Jedaiah Bedersi (c. 1270–1340), the author of theIggeret ha-Hitnazelut (Warsaw, 1882). (Saadia's views are found in hisSefer Emunot ve-De'ot (Jerusalem, 1970), VI, 8.) It is interesting to note that the same two authorities similarly are quoted by Leone Modena in his own critique of the concept of metempsychosis, entitledSefer Ben David, published by E. Ashkenazi inTa'am Zekenim, ed. R. Kirchheim (Frankfort a/M, 1854), p. 63. For an illuminating discussion of Modena's view ofgilgul in comparison with that of Elijah Gennazano (fifteenth century) and Joseph Delmedigo (seventeenth century), see M. Idel, “Differing Conceptions of Kabbalah in the Early Seventeenth Century,” inJewish Thought in the Seventeenth Century, ed. I. Twersky (Cambridge, Mass., forthcoming). For other critics of the concept ofgilgul, see Joseph Albo,Sefer ha-Ikkarim (Philadelphia, 1946), ed. I. Husik, IV, chapter 29; Judah Hayyat,Minhat Yehuda inMa'arekhet ha-Elohut (Ferrara, 1558), p. 204b; Isaac Cardoza,Philosophia libera (Venice, 1679), VI, quaest. lxxviii (Cf. Y. Yerushalmi,From Spanish Court to Italian Ghetto (New York-London, 1971), pp. 256–59); and Uriel da Costa in C. Gebhardt,Die Schriften des Uriel da Costa (Amsterdam, 1922), p. 61.Google Scholar
  25. 39.
    G. Scholem,Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, pp. 280–84.Google Scholar
  26. 40.
    This was pointed out by Scholem, p. 283.Google Scholar
  27. 42.
    See especially, M. Idel, “The Magical and Neoplatonic Interpretations of the Kabbalah in the Renaissance,” in B. Cooperman, ed.,Jewish Thought in the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, Mass., 1983), pp. 186–242, especially pp. 224–27.Google Scholar
  28. 43.
    In addition to the works of Scholem, Werblowsky, Elior, Gottleib, and Idel mentioned above, see also Menassah ben Israel,Nishmat Hayyim (Amsterdam, 1651), IV, chapters 6–23; L. Nemoy, “Biblical Quasi-Evidence for the Transmigration of Souls”,Journal of Biblical Literature 59(1940); 163ff.Google Scholar
  29. 44.
    On this, see especially Scholem's essay ongilgul, pp. 334ff. and Elior's essay onGallei Razzaya, pp. 228–29, who provides references to the writings of Joseph of Hamadan, the author ofSefer ha-Temunah, Menahem Recanati, and the author ofSefer ha-Peliah on the belief in transmigration into animals. Joseph of Hamadan even identifiedgilgul into animal bodies with the punishment of hell, a view which parallels Yagel's identifying it with purgatory. See Scholem,gilgul, p. 335 and selections from Joseph's work printed in Elior and Oren, pp. 69–107.Google Scholar
  30. 45.
    Yagel actually uses Boethius' Lady Philosophy as a character in the second part ofGei Hizzayon. See the introduction to my forthcoming edition of this work where I discuss Boethius' influence on Yagel's writing.Google Scholar
  31. 46.
    Gei Hizzayon, Ms.Cincinnati-Hebrew Union College 743, Sections 61–62, fol. 66b.Google Scholar
  32. 47.
    Gei Hizzayon, section 67, fol. 67b.Google Scholar
  33. 48.
    Beit Ya'ar ha-Levanon, Ms. Oxford Bodl., Reggio 9, book 2, chapter 3, fols. 47b–48a. Part of this passage appeared in English translation in W.W. Hallo, D. Ruderman, and M. Stanislawski,Heritage: Civilization and the Jews Source Reader (New York, 1984), pp. 163–65.Google Scholar
  34. 49.
    The passages in Plato (especiallyPhaedrus 249b;Phaedo 81e;Timaeus 42c; andRepublic 10. 618a–620d) have been cited and discussed in a number of scholarly works. See H.S. Long,A Study of the Doctrine of Metempsychosis in Greece from Pythagoras to Plato (Princeton, 1948); E. Ehnmark, “Transmigration in Plato,”Harvard Theological Review 50(1957): 1–20; R.S. Bluck, “ThePhaedrus and Reincarnation,”American Journal of Philology 79(1958):156–64;idem, “Plato, Pindar and Metempsychosis,”AJP 79(1958):405–14.Google Scholar
  35. 50.
    Phaedo 81e.Google Scholar
  36. 51.
    See note 33 above.Google Scholar
  37. 52.
    See H.S. Long (cited in note 49) and W. Burkert,Lore and Sciences in Ancient Pythagoreanism, translated by E.L. Minar, Jr. (Cambridge, Mass, 1972), pp.120ff. See also A.V. Williams Jackson, “The Doctrine of Metempsychosis in Manicheism,”Journal of the American Oriental Society 45(1925):246–68.Google Scholar
  38. 53.
    See especially, J. Dillon,The Middle Platonists 80 B.C. to A.D. 220 (Ithaca, New York, 1977), p. 377; R.T. Wallis,Neoplatonism (New York, 1972), pp. 92, 113Google Scholar
  39. 54.
    City of God (Cambridge, Mass-London, 1957), ed. D.S. Wiesen, vol. 3, book 10, 30, pp. 394–95.Google Scholar
  40. 55.
    See especially, Wallis, p. 113, where precise references are given; H. Dorrie, “Kontroversen um die Seelenwanderung im Kaiserzeitlichen Platonismus,”Hermes 85(1957):414–35; Dillon, p. 377; E.R. Dodds,Select Passages Illustrating Neoplatonism (London, 1923), pp. 90–92.Google Scholar
  41. 56.
    See Idel's article cited above, note 42.Google Scholar
  42. 57.
    City of God, pp. 394–95Google Scholar
  43. 58.
    M. Kuntz,Guillaume Postel, Prophet of the Restitution of All Things: His Life and Thought (The Hague-Boston-London, 1981), pp. 104–05.Google Scholar
  44. 59.
    F. Yates,Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (Chicago, 1964), p. 294.Google Scholar
  45. 60.
    Marsilius Ficinus,Opera Omnia, 2 vols., (Basel, 1565), p. 395; P.O. Kristeller, ed.,Supplementum Ficinianum, 2 vols., (Florence, 1937), p. 420; P.O. Kristeller,The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino (Gloucester, Mass., 1964), pp. 118, 361.Google Scholar
  46. 61.
    Kristeller,The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino, p. 408.Google Scholar
  47. 62.
    Cornelius Agrippa,Three Books of Occult Philosophy (London, 1657), III, chapter 41, pp. 474, 480–81.Google Scholar
  48. 63.
    Johann Reuchlin,De Arte Cabalistica (New York, 1983), translated by M. and S. Goodman, book 2, p. 169.Google Scholar
  49. 64.
    J. D. Spense,The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci (New York, 1984), pp. 251–52.Google Scholar
  50. 65.
    SeeBeit Ya'ar ha-Levanon, Ms. Oxford Bodl. 1305, book 4, chapter 51. I hope to discuss this chapter in a future study.Google Scholar
  51. 66.
    Sefer Tikkunei ha-Zohar ed. R.M. Margaliot (Jerusalem-Tel Aviv, 1948), tikkun 70, especially 121b ff.Google Scholar
  52. 67.
    Much material on earlier works on physiognomy is found in the volumes of L. Thorndike,A History of Magic and Experimental Science (New York-London, 1941), 8 vols.; on the sixteenth century, see especially, vols. 5 and 6. On Jewish interest in the field, there is little recent scholarly work. See G. Scholem's brief summary of chiromancy inEJ, 5(Jerusalem, 1971):477–79 (republished in hisKabbalah (Jerusalem, 1974), pp. 317–19);idem, “Recognition of the Face and the Orders of the Lines” (Hebrew), inSefer Assaf (Jerusalem, 1953), pp. 459–95; P. Schäfer, “Ein Neues Fragment zur Metoposkopie and Chiromantik,” Frankfürter Judaistische Beiträge 13(1985): 61–82; I. Gruenwald, “New Selections from the Literature of Metoposcopy and Chiromancy” (Hebrew), Tarbiz 40(1970–71): 301–19.Google Scholar
  53. 68.
    Thorndike, vol. 5, chap. 14, pp. 50–68; 6, pp. 160–61. Yagel quoted Cocles in reference to his discussion of the different kinds of magic. I disuss this in a future study.Google Scholar
  54. 69.
    I have used an Italian edition of the work entitled,Della fisonomia dell'huomo (Venice, 1652), p. 101: “E dunque una scienza, che impara da segni, che sono fissi nel corpo, et accidente che transmettino i segni, investigari i costumi naturali dell'animo.”Google Scholar
  55. 70.
    Della Porta, p. 102: “⋯legge, o regola di natura, che con certa regola, norma et ordine di natura si conosce, che de tal forma di corpo, si conosce tal passione dell'anima.”Google Scholar
  56. 71.
    I elaborate on this agenda (with appropriate bibliography) in my essay, “Unicorns,” referred to in note 3 above.Google Scholar
  57. 73.
    On this, see Scholem, “Chiromancy,” p. 479.Google Scholar
  58. 74.
    Tobias Cohen,Ma'aseh Tuviyyah (Venice, 1707), p. 74ff., which is based on Elijah Gallena's work, as he indicates. The chapter is reprinted in the anthology of Backal, pp. 7–24, with illustrations which seem to be based on Della Porta's book.Google Scholar
  59. 75.
    Beit Ya'ar ha-Levanon, book 4, chapters 4–44.Google Scholar
  60. 77.
  61. 81.
    Beit Ya'ar ha-Levanon, book 4, chapter 27, fol. 60a.Google Scholar
  62. 83.
    See above, note 21.Google Scholar
  63. 84.
    For other contexts in which the doctrine of metempsychosis could be related to a medical-scientific theory of this period, see W. Pagel,Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance (Basel-New York, 1958), p. 216; A.G. Debus,The Chemical Philosophy: Paracelsian Science and Medicine in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, vol. I (New York, 1977), pp. 100–03; F. Secret, “Palingenesis, Alchemy, and Metempsychosis in Renaissance Medicine,”Ambix 26(1979):81–92.Google Scholar
  64. 85.
    See above, note 40.Google Scholar
  65. 86.
    See especially J. Le Goff,La Naissance du Purgatoire (Paris, 1981) (English translation,The Birth of Purgatory (Chicago, 1984); A. Michel, “Purgatoire,”Dictionnaire de Théologie catholique (Paris, 1936) vol. 13, col. 1163–1326;Sacramentum Mundi, ed. K. Rahner (Basel-Montreal, 1969) vol. 5, pp.167ff.Google Scholar
  66. 87.
    See especially Michel's exhaustive summary; also the essay in theNew Catholic Encyclopedia (New York, 1967) vol. II, pp. 1034–39.Google Scholar
  67. 88.
    Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F.L. Cross (London, 1974), p.1144.Google Scholar
  68. 89.
    J. Pelikan,The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, vol. 4,Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300–1700) (Chicago-London, 1984), p. 137. On the Protestant critique of purgatory, see also Michel; P. Althaus. “Luthers Gedanken über die letzen Dinge,”Luther Jahrbuch 23(1941):22–28; P. Chaunu,Èglise, culture et société: Essais sur Réforme et contreRéforme 1517–1620 (Paris, 1981), pp. 378–80.Google Scholar
  69. 91.
    See P. Ariés,Western Attitudes Toward Death: From the Middle Ages to the Present (Baltimore-London, 1974), pp. 56ff;idem, The Hour of Our Death, translated from the French by H. Weaver (New York, 1981), especially pp. 462–65; G. and M. Vovelle,Vision de la mort e de l'aû delá en Provence d'apres les autels des âmes du purgatoire (XVe-XXe siecles) (Paris, 1970).Google Scholar
  70. 92.
    Without trying to cite the extensive literature on Dante's purgatory, see, for example, D.L. Sayers,Introductory Papers on Dante (New York, 1954), pp. 73–89.Google Scholar
  71. 94.
    Sefer Be'er Sheva, Ms. Oxford Bodl. 1306, chapter 7, fol. 30a.Google Scholar
  72. 96.
    See Le Goff, p. 63.Google Scholar
  73. 97.
    Yet Yagel's equation ofgilgul into animals and purgatory is flawed in one respect. Purgatory, as D.P. Walker recently pointed out, is a morally static concept. The soul can neither acquire merit nor demerit after death.Gilgul, especially as it was understood by Yagel, was hardly morally static. It provided the sinner additional opportunities for moral improvement even after his earthly existence was over. See D.P. Walker's review of J. le Goff'sThe Birth of Purgatory (Chicago, 1984) inThe New York Times Book Review January 20, 1985.Google Scholar
  74. 98.
    This aspect of his life he relates in detail in the autobiographical sections ofGei Hizzayon and in his correspondence.Google Scholar
  75. 99.
    His periods in prison are described inGei Hizzayon. He also was kidnapped and held for ransom with his employer some years later. See M. Stern, “Zum Berichte des Rafael aud Sassuolo”,Festschrift zum siebzigsten Geburtstage D. Hoffmann's (Berlin, 1944), p. 460ff.Google Scholar
  76. 100.
    This is discussed in the introduction to my forthcoming edition ofGei Hizzayon. Google Scholar
  77. 101.
    Yagel's letters to patients and their queries are found in Ms. Moscow Günzburg 129, which I discuss in a future study.Google Scholar

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© Haifa University Press 1986

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  • David B. Ruderman

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