Baruch (ben Abraham) of Kosov

views updated


BARUCH (BEN ABRAHAM) OF KOSOV (c. 1725/30–1795), kabbalist. He was a disciple of *Menahem Mendel of Vitebsk and also studied with *Menahem Mendel of Przemyslany for a short while. Baruch became Maggid in Kosov. In his sermons he tried to make the kabbalist doctrine, as taught mainly by Isaac *Luria and Ḥayyim *Vital, easily comprehensible by the use of explanatory metaphors. According to Baruch, Luria was the highest authority on Kabbalah. Therefore, he advised all who wished to study the *Zohar, first to read Luria and Vital. Baruch interpreted (as did Joseph *Ergas) Luria's doctrine of "ẓimẓum" (i.e., God's self-willed withdrawal), as a metaphor and not as an actual fact. On this point he argued against the realistic interpretation of Immanuel Ḥai *Ricchi. Baruch taught that the true life of every material entity was conditioned by its spiritual aspect. He therefore contended that full surrender and complete attachment to God was possible because this was an intellectual discipline originating in a love which knows no limits. He maintained that it was possible to attain a concept of things, first through the senses, then on a higher level, through the imagination, and finally, at the highest stage, through wisdom. It was only through wisdom that one could perceive the spiritual quality inherent in every material being. Only wisdom had the capacity to feel the pain which the soul inevitably felt when man committed a sin. Baruch conceded that the questions of predestination and free will were so difficult as to be unanswerable. Nevertheless he believed in both, and counseled unconditional belief in them (Ammud ha-Avodah, 54–55, 107; Yesod ha-Emmunah, 76–99). Baruch was totally and aggressively against the followers of *Shabbetai Ẓevi and Jacob *Frank. In 1760 his antagonism to the latter apparently motivated him to begin writing the above books with the aim of refuting the anthropomorphism applied by Frankists to the basic concepts of Kabbalah. From 1761 he had started to collect from learned authorities their written commentaries on the manuscripts of his books. However, it was only in 1854 that they were actually printed in Czernowitz: (1) Yesod ha-Emunah, on the Pentateuch and miscellanies; (2) Ammud ha-Avodah, on the basic questions of Kabbalah, including "a lengthy introduction to explain the essence of the spiritual entities."


A. Yaari, Meḥkerei Sefer (1958), 453–4; I. Tishby, in: Zion, 32 (1967), 24–29.

[Samuel Abba Horodezky]