In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Hebrew Studies 36 (1995) 235 Reviews seeing it through to a successful completion. Bible scholars and students of medieval exegesis the world over should be eternally in their debt. Barry Walfish University of Toronto Library Toronto, Ontario CANADA M5S 1A5 GATES OF LIGHT: SHAcARE ORAH. By Joseph Gikatilla. Avi Weinstein. trans. Pp. xxxiv + 401. San Francisco: Harper Collins. 1994. Cloth. $30.00. The most important contribution of the Kabbalists, both to the literature of mysticism in general and to the religious culture of Judaism, lies in the realm of language. The network of ten sefirot as they conceived them. each symbolized by a dazzlingly varied array of terms evoking the natural world, the Biblical narrative, and the realm of Jewish religious praxis, served to create a new language. Each of the sefirot is in effect a cluster of associations, and mention of any symbol-term from that group calls forth. by implication, the entire cluster. A highly enriched religious language is thus created. brimming with powerful associations. It is this new sort of symbolic speech that the Kabbalist uses to describe a reality otherwise beyond the reach of human language. Every language needs a lexicon. and that is precisely the role filled by Joseph Gikatilla's Shatarey Orah. written in Castille between 1280 and 1293, one of the most popular and readable books of the classical Spanish Kabbalah. Following the order of the ten sefirot from below, Gikatilla takes his reader up the ladder by providing a list of the symbol-terms, each accompanied by a sentence or paragraph explaining its usage and the reason why it is associated with that particular sefirotic cluster. Because language is so central to an understanding of Kabbalah altogether. it may be said that Shatarey Orah. itself written in the limpid Hebrew prose of thirteenth century Spain, serves as an important introductory text to the study of Kabbalah, and it certainly has been used that way by many a modem student . It is thus a joy to see the work translated into English. joining the growing list of Jewish mystical classics now available in translation. The book is published by none less than "The Sacred Literature Series of the Hebrew Studies 36 (1995) 236 Reviews International Sacred Literature Trust," complete with an approbation from the Duke of Edinburgh. The volume, presented with the support of the Bronfman Foundation, has been handsomely produced. The book was translated by Avi Weinstein, a rabbi and educator who is not an academically trained student of Kabbalah. Thanks are due to Weinstein for undertaking this arduous task. He has produced a readable and essentially accurate translation and has made this important work accessible to the English reader. That is not to say that the translation is without its rough points. Offering nothing by way of notes or commentary, Weinstein leaves the reader to fend for himself in understanding the material, while the fact of translation into English has already rendered it opaque in comparison with the Hebrew. For one who does not already understand the secrets, I fear that this English version of Gikatilla will not convey very much. In quite a few places the translation is marred by significant clumsiness and inconsistency. Let us take a rather standard bit of Kabbalistic exegesis, that of lob 28:12, as an example. R~cn l'RC iTC~nin is taken by the Kabbalists to be declarative rather than interrogative, meaning that "Hokhmah [the second sefirah) is derived from 'ayin [the first sefirah)." This reading is found at least four times in the book. Once (p. 158) the translator ignores its Kabbalistic meaning (and even its Biblical origins), simply translating: "But where can wisdom be found." Three pages later we are given the secret meaning, the verse rendered as: "CHoCHMaH will be found in AYN (nothing)," but with no explanation. Later (p. 330) this verse becomes, with no change of meaning in the Hebrew, "VHaCHoCHMaH you will find from AYN," and yet again (p. 360) as "You will find wisdom in AYN." In the latter two versions it seems that the nif'al has been misread as a qal; hence the improper insertion of the second person. A brief note at...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 235-237
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.