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Dr. Oded Porat

The Writings of R. Azriel from Girona

Oded’s PhD dissertation was carried out at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem under the supervision of Prof. Emeritus Yehuda Liebes and Prof. Haviva Pedaya. It dealt with Sefer Ma’ayan haHokhmah (‘Book of the Fountain of Wisdom’). This anonymous and condensed treatise of six pages is a unique mystical guidebook in which the acts of mystical study and inquiry, as well as the discussions in the nature of metaphysical elements, the divine lights and phonetic creativity, and the image of the circle as a source and its establishment by the act of ‘Tikkun’, are schemed into complete theosophical creative structures, as introspection processes and linguistic creativeness. This book was printed by him along with the rest of the Iyyun literature, some 26 anonymous writings from the first kabbalists in Languedoc after the turn of the middle third of the 13th century.

Oded spent one year prior to his MA studies researching Hebrew manuscripts at the National Library dealing with the various versions of Sefer Brit haMnuha (‘Book of Covenant of Serenity’), an anonymous kabbalistic treatise from the end of the 13th century or the beginning of the 14th. His introspections in this book are to be printed soon in a critical annotated edition with prefaces. This rich book describes the journeys of divine lights by the patterns of the journeys of Israel in the desert and by the dynamic images of vowels of the Name of God.

The research project funded by the Da’at-hamakom Center is focused on critical editions of the writings of R. Azriel from Girona, prepared from dozens of manuscripts. R. Azriel’s writings gained a great influence on the history of the Kabbalah movement, but most of them were not read properly. As a student of R. Issac Sagi Nahor in Languedoc, with his older friend R. Ezra, R. Azriel marks the transition of Kabbalah from the study and academic centers of Lunel and Narbonne to the open expanse of Catalonia. His epistle to Burgos marks the beginning of the transition of Kabbalah to Castile, where the creativeness of kabbalists created the Zoharic literature.

The emergence of Languedocian-Provençal Kabbalah is centered within the limited circle of R. Abraham ben David of Posquires and his son, R. Isaac. The latter’s teaching were accepted in Iyyun literature by the same generation of his few known students, among them R. Azriel, who formed the basic ideas of theosophical-theurgical Kabbalah. The transition between the two geographical expanses includes the conservation of esoteric oral and written traditions, and on the other hand it shows a fundamental shift of the character of Kabbalah, by the expansion of kabbalistic fields and sources of interpretation and by its new areas of religious performance as theurgical tools. These shifts are influenced and shaped by the geographical conditions of the two expanses: from the kabbalistic center in southern France to an open and more remote expanse of northern Spain. The character of these shifts, as determined by the geographical changes, would be one of the main issues in the research of R. Azriel’s writings.