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3 Cosmological Bases for Meshullam Feihush's Concept of Devequt Tensions associated with Meshullam Feibush's conception of devequt reflect a trend that developed during the eighteenth century. Over the course of the two preceding centuries, Lurianic Kabbalah was established as the dominant kabbalistic school in eastern Europe1 So pervasive was the influence of this school, that its basic concepts, terminology, and religious outlook became normative elements in most contemporary approaches to Jewish theology) However, in the second half of the eighteenth century, religious figures of various types began to express reservations concerning Lurianic Kabbalah) Issues that troubled critics of the Lurianic approach included concern over its excessively anthropomorphic language, its lack of rationality, and the unreliability of the manuscripts in which its teachings were presented. As the influence of Lurianic Kabbalah waned, the earlier Kabbalah of Moses Cordovero, was in a position to capitalize.4 The Cordoverian writings were less anthropomorphic in character and composed along generally rationalistic , scholastic lines. In addition, many kabbalists felt that knowledge of the Cordoverian sources was, at least, a prerequisite for understanding the Lurianic approach. Cordoverian Kabbalah was particularly accessible. Some of Cordovero's own principal works were readily available in printed editions. Moreover, several influential works, written by his disciples, served to popularize the Cordoverian approach. Elijah De Vidas's Reishit Hakhmah, Isaiah Horowitz's Shelley Luhat ha-Berit, and Abraham Azulai's Hesed /eAvraham , all written in a predominantly Cordoverian vein, were among the most important disseminators of Safedian Kabbalah in eastern Europe.5 All three works served as important kabbalistic sources for early Hasidism. All were prominently quoted by Meshullam Feibush in Yashcr Divrey Emet. The influence of Cordoverian Kabbalah had especially important implications for Meshullam Feibush's theory of dcvequt.6 While it is clear that Cordoverian Kabbalah had a decisive influence on Meshullam Feibush's thought, Lurianic Kabbalah remained a major element in Meshullam Feibush's thought. Although he frequently argued that its 82 Uniter of Heaven and Earth methods were too sublime for use by men of his generation, he continued to acknowledge the value of studying Lurianic writings as a source of inspiration / Moreover, Meshullam Feibush's thought relied on key concepts in Lurianic Kabbalah. However, as we shall see, while he never explicitly called into question the basis of Lurianic Kabbalah, Meshullam Feibush's use of Lurianic concepts sometimes suggested the influence of the Cordoverian outlook. Among the major points of divergence of the two Safedian systems was the cosmological model used to account for the process of creation. According to the Lurianic account, creation required a prior withdrawal of the Eyn Soj, or unmanifest God, from the space which creation would subsequently occupy. This initial act of divine withdrawal was called"zimzum." Lurianic writings concede that a certain divine residue, or rcshimll, remained in the vacated space. Nevertheless, the theory of zimzum tended to emphasize the remoteness of the transcendental God and mitigated pantheistic tendencies that were already present in the classical kabbalistic writings of thirteenthcentury Spain.R Divine elements were only present in the lower worlds to the extent that they had fallen below as a result of a cosmic catastrophe, the shcvimh, which had occurred during the process of creation. In contrast, the Cordoverian Kabbalah presented a predominantly emanationist model of creation9 The divine essence was not withdrawn in order to make room for creation. lO Rather, it was progressively concealed in a series of vessels that became increasingly dense as the process continued through the four worlds that composed the kabbalistic cosmos. This approach gave greater emphasis to divine immanence, which was present at all levels of creation, despite its increasing concealment. The major differences in the cosmological outlooks of the two systems had important implications for the concept of dcvcqut and the nature of mystical experience. While devcqut as contemplation of the divine does play a role in Lurianic Kabbalah, it does not constitute its principal method. Far greater emphasis is placed on theosophical and theurgic interests. The Lurianic kabbalist is primarily concerned with bringing about unions between various parzu{im in the supernal worlds and in refining out and elevating the divine sparks that had become entrapped within the lower levels of creation . These goals are achieved through the contemplative combination of divine names (yihudim) and, more generally, through having in mind the intention of producing the specific theurgic effect that is accomplished by performing mizvot. The Lurianic Kabbalist participates in a gradual messianic process that depends essentially on...


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