Gikatilla, Joseph Ben Abraham

views updated

GIKATILLA, JOSEPH BEN ABRAHAM

Eminent Spanish mystic; b. Medinacelli, Old Castile, Spain, 1248; d. Peñafiel, Spain, after 1305. As a youth he had studied Talmud and philosophy, but later, under the influence of Abraham Abulafia (1241after 1291), he began his literary activity as a zealous follower of the school of prophetic cabalism (see cabala). Throughout his life Gikatilla remained a prolific writer, and although he considered cabalism a science superior to, and the basis of, philosophy, his writings generally sought to reconcile the two and indicate that he tried to further the mystic science by philosophic speculation.

As did Abulafia, Gikatilla believed that religious doctrines and prophetic concepts can best be explained through the mystic symbolisms of the Hebrew letters, vowels, and numbers; his development of this phase of the cabala and the profundity of his cabalistic knowledge soon earned for him the reputation of being a miracle worker, and he was accordingly referred to by many as Joseph Baal ha-Nissim (the master of miracles).

His first work, Ginnath Egoz (Garden of Nuts, from Ct 6.11), in three parts (the various names of God, the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and the vowels and accents are discussed and given special interpretation in parts one, two, and three, respectively), was completed at the age of 26 and deals with the three elements of cabala: Gematria, Notarikon, and Themurah; the initials of these terms form the word Ginnath, and Egoz symbolizes the study of mysticism.

His second important work, Shaare Orah (Gates of Light), which attempts to correlate the names of God with the ten Sefiroth of Divine manifestation, was translated into Latin by Paulo Riccio under the title Porta Lucis and quoted by Johann reuchlin in support of his thesis against his adversaries that the cabala was in agreement with the tenets of Christianity.

Gikatilla's other writings include: Sefer ha-Nikkud (Book of Vocalization), a cabalistic interpretation of the vowels; Sod ha-Hashmal (Secret of the Electrum), a mystic commentary of Ezechiel's vision; Sodoth ha-Mitzvoth (Secrets of the Commandments), a cabalistic explanation of various commandments; Tsofnath Paaneah (Revealer of Hidden Things; Gn 41.45), a commentary on the Passover haggadah; and Hassagoth (Criticisms; unpublished), which consists of strictures on Maimonides's Moreh Nevuhim (Guide of the Perplexed).

Bibliography: g. g. scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (3d ed. New York 1954; repr. pa. New York 1961) 194195. h. h. graetz, History of the Jews, ed. and tr. b. lÖwy, 6 v. (Philadelphia 1945) 4:10, 466. m. steinschneider, "Catalogus Librorum Hebraeorum," in Bibliotheca Bodleiana codicum manuscriptorum orientalium, 2 v. (Oxford 17871833) 146170. g. jellinek, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Kabbala (Leipzig 1852) 2:5764. s. a. horodezky, in Encyclopaedia Judacia: Das Judentum in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 10 v. (Berlin 192834; incomplete) 7:408411. k. schubert, in Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d new ed. Freiburg 195765) 4:889.

[n. j. cohen]

About this article

Gikatilla, Joseph Ben Abraham

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article