Gikatilla (Chiquatilla), Joseph ben Abraham

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GIKATILLA (Chiquatilla ), JOSEPH BEN ABRAHAM (1248–c. 1325), Spanish kabbalist whose works exerted a profound and permanent influence on kabbalism. Gikatilla, who was born in Medinaceli, Castile, lived for many years in Segovia. Between 1272 and 1274 he studied under Abraham *Abulafia, who praises him as his most successful pupil. Gikatilla, who was at first greatly influenced by Abulafia's ecstatic, prophetic system of kabbalism, soon showed a greater affinity for philosophy.

His first extant work, Ginnat Egoz (1615), written in 1274, is an introduction to the mystic symbolism of the alphabet, vowel points, and the Divine Names. The title derives from the initial letters of the kabbalistic elements gematria ("numerology"), notarikon ("acrostics"), temurah ("permutation"). In common with his mentor, Gikatilla also links this mystic lore with the system practiced by *Maimonides. This work makes no suggestion of the theosophical doctrine of Sefirot or "spheres" (see *Kabbalah), later adopted by Gikatilla. The Sefirot here are identified with the philosophical term "intelligences." On the other hand, the author shows himself familiar with the revelatory mysticism of *Jacob b. Jacob ha-Kohen, although the latter is not mentioned by name. Several of Gikatilla's other writings also deal with the theory of letter combinations and alphabetical mysticism. However, in the 1280s, Gikatilla evidently made contact with *Moses b. Shem Tov de Leon, and thereafter the two exerted a mutual influence on each other's kabbalistic development.

Before writing Ginnat Egoz, Gikatilla had written a commentary on the Song of Songs (but not the one in the Paris manuscript 790 which bears indications that Gikatilla wrote it in 1300 in Segovia). The later work endorses the doctrine of Shemitot, a theory of cosmic development based on the sabbatical year, as expounded in the Sefer ha-*Temunah. Gikatilla also compiled Kelalei ha-Mitzvot, explaining mitzvot by a literal interpretation of halakhah (Ms. Paris 713); a number of piyyutim (Habermann, in Mizraḥ u-Ma'arav, 5 (1932), 351; Gruenwald, in Tarbiz, 36 (1966/67), 73–89), some devoted to kabbalistic themes; and Sefer ha-Meshalim, a book of proverbs to which he added his own commentary, whose ethical precepts were close to kabbalistic principles. (The proverbs alone published by I. Davidson, in Sefer ha-Yovel shel "Hadoar" (1927), 116–22; the book with commentary, in Ms. Oxford 1267). While Gikatilla wrote numerous works on Kabbalah, many others have been attributed to him erroneously. A. Altmann, for instance, has shown that Gikatilla was not the author of the lengthy Sefer Ta'amei ha-Mitzvot. Written by an unknown kabbalist about 1300 (Cambridge Ms.) and also attributed to Isaac ibn Farḥi, it had a wide circulation. A number of treatises await clarification as to authorship.

Gikatilla's most influential kabbalistic work, written before 1293, is his Sha'arei Orah (1559), a detailed explanation of kabbalistic symbolism and the designations of the ten Sefirot. He adopted a system intermediate between that of the Geronese school of kabbalists and the *Zohar. This is one of the first writings to disclose knowledge of portions of the Zohar, although it departs from its approach in several fundamental respects.

Sefer Sha'arei Ẓedek (1559) provides another explanation of the theory of Sefirot, reversing their normal succession. Other published works by Gikatilla are Sha'ar ha-Nikkud (1601), a mystical treatise on vocalization; Perush Haggadahshel Pesaḥ, a kabbalistic commentary on the Passover Haggadah (1602); a number of essays on various subjects (publ. in Sefer Ereẓ ba-Levanon, ed. by Isaac Perlov, Vilna, 1899); kabbalistic works remaining in manuscript are: mystical treatises on certain mitzvot; a commentary on the Vision of the Chariot of Ezekiel (numerous manuscripts); and considerable portions of a biblical commentary continuing the system followed in Ginnat Egoz (manuscript in jts, New York, Deinard 451). A work on disciplines ("pe'ulot") in practical Kabbalah was extant in the 17th century (Joseph Delmedigo, Sefer Novellot Ḥokhmah (1631), 195a). A collection of kabbalistic responsa on points of halakhah from the second half of the 14th century has been erroneously ascribed to Gikatilla. Joseph *Caro made use of them in his Beit Yosef. Problems of Kabbalah put to Joshua b. Meir ha-Levi by Gikatilla are in manuscript, Oxford, 1565. Also extant are a number of prayers, such as Tefillat ha-Yiḥud, Me'ah Pesukim ("100 Verses," on the Sefirot), and Pesukim al-Shem ben Arba'im u-Shetayim Otiyyot ("Verses on the 42-Lettered Divine Name"). Commentaries were written on Sha'arei Orah by an anonymous 15th-century kabbalist (publ. by G. Scholem, in his Kitvei Yad be-Kabbalah (1930), 80–83) and by Mattathias *Delacrut (mainly included with the work). A summary was translated into Latin by the apostate Paul Riccius (1516).

Gikatilla made an original attempt to provide a detailed yet lucid and systematic exposition of kabbalism. He was also the originator of the doctrine equating the infinite, *Ein Sof, with the first of the ten Sefirot. The conception was rejected by the majority of kabbalists from the 16th century onward, but his works continued to be highly esteemed and were published in many editions.

[Gershom Scholem]

Since 1970 a series of books by Gikatilla has been printed from manuscripts. The outstanding among them is the Commentary on the Merkavah (eds. D. Abrams and A. Farber Ginnat, Cherub Press, Los Angeles, 2005). The possible contribution of Gikatilla to the book of the Zohar has been discussed by Y. Liebes, Studies in the Zohar (suny Press, Albany, 1993), 98–105.

[Moshe Idel (2nd ed.)]


S. Sachs, Ha-Yonah (1850), 80–81; G. Scholem, Kitvei Yad ba-Kabbalah (1930), 218–25; idem, in: Sefer ha-Yovel le-Ya'akov Freimann (1937), 163–70 (Heb. section); Altmann, in: ks, 40 (1965), 256–76, 405–12; idem, in: Sefer ha-Yovel le-Israel Brodie (1967), 57–65; Weiler, in: huca, 37 (1966), 13–44 (Heb. section); Steinschneider, Cat Bod, 1461–70; A. Jellinek, Beitraege zur Geschichte der Kabbala, 2 (1852), 57–64; Scholem, Mysticism, 194–5, 405–6; Werblowsky, in: Zeitschrift fuer Religion und Geistgeschichte, 8 (1956), 164–9.