Delacrut, Mattathias ben Solomon

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DELACRUT, MATTATHIAS BEN SOLOMON

DELACRUT, MATTATHIAS BEN SOLOMON (mid-16th century), kabbalist and astronomer, born in Poland. In 1550 he went to Italy where he studied mathematics, natural sciences, astronomy, and Kabbalah in Bologna.

His works are (1) A commentary on Solomon b. Avigdor's Hebrew translation of Sacrobosco's Tractatus de sphaera, or Aspectus circulorum (Marei Ofannim or Asfira ha-Gadol, Offenbach, 1720), in which he made use of the Latin text and corrected the translation in several places. (2) Ẓel ha-Olam (Amsterdam, 1733), a translation of Gossouin's Le Livre de Clergie or L'Image du Monde, a treatise on astronomy and the natural sciences. On the title page Delacrut is named as the author; in his introduction he writes that this is the work of a gentile scholar which he has translated into Hebrew because of his zeal for Judaism. Some scholars believe that the work should be attributed to Ḥayyim Delacrut, a London rabbi, whose name was altered by the publisher to the better-known one of Mattathias Delacrut; others hold that Mattathias was either translator or editor. (3) A commentary on Joseph *Gikitilla's kabbalistic work Sha'arei Orah published posthumously by Delacrut's son Joseph (Cracow, 1600); Delacrut describes this work as eclectic but rather it is a popular exposition of kabbalist doctrines according to his individual interpretation. (4) A commentary on *Ma'arekhet ha-Elohut (in Ms.). (5) A commentary on *Recanati (in Ms.), which Mordecai *Jaffe used in his commentary on Recanati, Levushei Or Yekarot (Lublin, 1595).

Delacrut was mainly absorbed in theoretical Kabbalah; at the core of his thinking lies the customary kabbalistic complex of questions concerning God, the Creation, and the relation of man to God. Man was created to serve the Creator, but not the contrary. Before the world was created, everything that was existed in the keeping of divine darkness. God accomplished the Creation by the agency of the Sefirot, which had always been a part of his essence and thus, in the act of creation, simply passed from the latent to the manifest plane. God created man in his own image; the soul of man acts in his body in the same way that God's qualities act in the world. The dualism of soul and body does not exist in man only but is present in the whole material world. Man stands at the median between the upper and lower world; he possesses free will and the power to decide between good or evil. Through purity of body and soul, man tries to approach nearer to God.

bibliography:

Renan, Rabbins, 508; Guedemann, Gesch Erz, 1 (1880), 86; Steinschneider, Uebersetzungen, 590, 644; idem, Sifrut Yisrael (1897), 285; Ḥ.N. Dembitzer, Kelilat Yofi, 1 (1888), 27b, notes; Horodezky, Ḥasidut, 1 (19534), xxv–xxvii (introd.).

[Samuel Abba Horodezky]