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Gerondi, Jacob ben Sheshet


GERONDI, JACOB BEN SHESHET (mid-13th century), kabbalist in Gerona, Catalonia. His works include Meshiv Devarim Nekhoḥim (ed. G. Vajda, 1969), directed against Samuel ibn Tibbon's Ma'amar Yikkavu ha-Mayim; Sha'ar ha-Shamayim (published in Oẓar Neḥmad (1860), 153–65, and previously in Likkutim me-Rav Hai Ga'on (Warsaw, 1798), 15–25) – a treatise also known as Moshe Kibbel from its opening words; and Ha-Emunah ve-ha-Bittaḥon (first published in Arzei Levanon (Venice, 1601)) and in Kitvei ha-Ramban (ed. Chavel, 1964). Inearly manuscripts Ha-Emunah ve-ha-Bittaḥon was attributed to *Naḥmanides. Jacob Reifmann suggested that it was written by *Baḥya b. Asher, and other scholars accepted his conjecture. After this had been disproved by A. Tauber, G. Scholem was the first to assign the composition to Jacob b. Sheshet on the basis of comparing Ha-Emunah ve-ha-Bittaḥon with Meshiv Devarim Nekḥohim. Recently it has become apparent that in several places in Meshiv Devarim Nekhoḥim, Jacob b. Sheshet makes reference to some items, stating "as I have written"; in these cases the subject under discussion is not found in Meshiv Devarim Nekhoḥim but in Ha-Emunah ve-ha-Bittaḥon. The work has been published in several editions; that by C.B. Chavel retains the errors of previous printings.

Although Jacob b. Sheshet and his works are not widely mentioned in the kabbalistic literature of the late 13th and early 14th century, they had a marked influence on this literature. Large sections of Ha-Emunah ve-ha-Bittaḥon were included in the works of Bahya b. Asher, and Menahem b. Benjamin *Recanati also used the work in several places. Meshiv Devarim Nekhoḥim, too, had great influence. Entire homilies were copied by important kabbalists such as Baḥya b. Asher, Recanati, the anonymous author of *Ma'arekhet ha-Elohut, and Todros *Abulafia. Traces of Sha'ar ha-Shamayim have been discovered in the works of Baḥya b. Asher, and *Isaac b. Samuel of Acre copied an important section of it. Jacob b. Sheshet was an outstanding opponent of what he believed to be the heretical tendencies of philosophy, which, he believed, deny: (1) the true essence of the Torah, considering it merely as a sociopolitical theory designed only to regulate the physical needs of the man and society; (2) the creation of the world; (3) divine providence; (4) retribution. Such heresy results in the denial of the value of prayer and of the possibility of man's asking his needs of God.

In Meshiv Devarim Nekhoḥim he formulates the kabbalistic meaning of these basic conceptions. A great part of the work is devoted to the question of the creation of the world. Like other kabbalists he is far from holding the traditional conception of creation out of nothing; however, his commentary to Genesis differs from that of his contemporary kabbalists whose works he knew well. Jacob b. Sheshet posits a continuous emanation from the divine realm, i.e., the world of the Sefirot, to the physical world. To construct this continuity two main elements, heavenly matter and earthly matter, are found in the world of the Sefirot; they evolved until the heavenly and the earthly hylic substances were formed. Thus, according to Jacob b. Sheshet, Genesis is not an expression of a paradigm, i.e., a description of the creation of the physical world which repeats the formation of the world of the Sefirot. It is rather a continuous description, beginning with the creation within the world of the Sefirot and ending with the physical stage of the primal divine element.


G. Scholem, Reshit ha-Kabbalah (1948), 132; idem, Ursprung und Anfaenge der Kabbala (1962), 334–9; G. Vajda, Recherches sur la philosophie et la Kabbale (1962), 8–113; idem (ed.), in: J.B.S. Gerondi, Meshiv Devarim Nekhoḥim (1969), 11–17, 67–215; E. Gottlieb, ibid., 18–63; idem, Ha-Kabbalah be-Khitvei R. Baḥya b. Asher (1970), 10–13, 96–143; idem, in: Tarbiz, 37 (1968), 294–317.

[Efraim Gottlieb]

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