Herrera, Abraham Kohen de

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HERRERA, ABRAHAM KOHEN DE (Alonso Nunez De ; Abraham Irira ; c. 1570?–1635 or 1639), philosopher of religion and kabbalist. Herrera, whose place of birth is unknown, was descended from a noble Marrano family. The biographical accounts of *Graetz and others should be corrected in accordance with Herrera's letter to Lord Essex, published in Sources inédites de l'histoire du Maroc (1st series, Angleterre, vol. 2). According to this letter, Herrera and his family were the subjects of the duke of Tuscany and lived at Florence (later at Venice). According to Barbosa Machado, Rodriguez de Castro, and Antonio Ribeiro dos Santos, Herrera (who was also called Ferreira) was born in Lisbon. From Daniel Levi de *Barrios' account, which claims that the Spanish general Gonzalvo de Cordova, conqueror of Naples, was among Herrera's ancestors, it is to be understood that his family immigrated to Portugal or (later perhaps) to Italy. Herrera went from Florence to Morocco where his uncle, Judah de Marchena, acted as trading agent of Sultan Moulay Aḥmad al-Manṣur of Morocco. During the English conquest of Cadiz, where Herrera was staying on the sultan's orders, he was captured and taken to London. He was freed before 1600, after a diplomatic exchange between the Moroccan sultan and Queen Elizabeth of England. At the end of the 1590s it seems that Herrera was living as a Jew at Ragusa. There, according to his testimony, he studied Isaac *Luria's Kabbalah under the guidance of Israel *Sarug. It appears that he went to Holland after this period and was converted to Judaism. Little is known about Herrera's life in Amsterdam. *Morteira and Isaac *Aboab studied his opinions and teachings and it is certain that these strongly influenced the spiritual life of the Amsterdam community. The esteem in which he was held is shown, among other things, by his "Approbation" to *Manasseh Ben Israel's Conciliador (of Sept. 6, 1632). According to J.N. Jacobsen Jensen (Reizigers te Amsterdam (1919), p. 25), Herrera took part in the disputation with the Christian theologian and Hebrew scholar Hugh *Broughton, but this is unlikely (cf. L. Hirschel, in: De Vrijdag-Avond 6 (1929), p. 119).

The following works by Herrera, in Spanish, are known: (1) Puerta del Cielo, expounding kabbalistic doctrine about God and the cosmos. (2) Casa de Dios, which deals mainly with theories about angels and pneumatology. Both works remained unpublished in the original (manuscripts are to be found in the library Eẓ Ḥayyim at Amsterdam and in the Royal Library of Holland), but were translated into Hebrew by Isaac *Aboab da Fonseca and published under the title Sha'ar ha-Shamayim (Amsterdam, 1655) and Beit Elohim (Amsterdam, 1655). The first appeared also with an introduction by Israel *Jaffe (Warsaw, 1864; the translation differs considerably from the original). The works were translated, in an abridged form, from Hebrew into Latin and included in the famous anthology Cabbala Denudata (Sulzbach, 1677). (3) A Spanish treatise on logic, Epitome y compendio dela logica o dialectica, together with a glossary of philosophic and theological terms (Libro de Diffinitiones); the work was published in the original (probably in Amsterdam, when Herrera was converted to Judaism).

Herrera was the first to undertake a systematic philosophical interpretation of kabbalistic doctrines. He constantly attempted to prove that the theories of the Kabbalah were in accord with the ideas of the neoplatonist school, particularly in the form which these were given by the Florentine Academy, by Marsilio Ficino, and later Francisco Patricius. This interpretation draws on comprehensive knowledge of the whole of philosophical literature. Herrera develops his conception of God by depending on the doctrine of contingency (God as the only Necessary Being) which prevailed among the Jewish philosophers of the Middle Ages. At the same time, he accepts the utter indefinability of God's Being, which he understands at times in the manner of the doctrine of the "negative" attributes, but at times in the manner of the "coincidentia oppositorum" (the presence in God of opposite qualities at one time). The oneness and individuality (ishiyyut) of the Divine Being are reasoned by Herrera, particularly with reference to the potentiality of a concrete, individualized being (Sha'ar ha-Shamayim fol. 5). Herrera links his conception with the kabbalistic conceptions of God by using the concept of the infinite expansion (hitpashetut) of the Divine Being and through the use of the metaphor of light. Herrera diminishes the pantheistic character of these conceptions to the point that the comprehension of the Universe of God, Who enfolds in Himself, in an infinitely superior manner, all creation, does not mean its identification with the empiric totality of the world. God is thus conceived as the infinitely perfect and the absolute good. His explanation of the kabbalistic doctrine of *Adam Kadmon ("Primordial Man") is particularly interesting. Herrera adopted the neoplatonic thesis that only a simple being can emerge out of the absolute simplicity of God, and rejected the modifications (the doctrine of the spheres and their spirits) brought by the Arab and Jewish Peripatetics. He set up a specific correlation between God (*Ein Sof) and the realm of Adam Kadmon, as the correlation between principium and primum principium ("First Cause" and "First Effect"). This relationship is to be understood in the sense of a particular Logos doctrine. Thus, Adam Kadmon is defined as the "highest thought," "the simple intelligence," and so on. This perfect being, the prototype of all creation, serves as the means of God's activity and has great similarity with the splendor of God. However, unlike God, it is finite (fol. 17a). The kabbalistic theory of God's willed "withdrawal" (ẓimẓum) is developed by Herrera in connection with the explanation of the theory of the "temporal" creation of the world, out of a free decision of God. Herrera's writings (in Latin translation) were considered by many to be the philosophical exposition of the Jewish Kabbalah. Because Johann Georg Wachter's Der Spinozismus in Judentum (1699) defended the theory of *Spinoza's pantheism and its dependence on Herrera, the latter's teachings were constantly referred to during the recurring controversies concerning pantheism in the 18th century. Herrera is quoted by Leibniz (cf. Réfutation inédite de Spinoza par Leibniz, ed. Foucher de Carell (1854), 17). Herrera's doctrines were also often discussed and exercised a certain influence at the beginning of the 19th century on works dealing with the history of philosophy.


M. Freystadt, Philosophia Cabbalistica et Pantheismus (1832), viii, 54ff.; S.A. Horodezky, in: Ha-Goren, 10 (1928), 120ff.; H.A. Wolfson, The Philosophy of Spinoza, (1934), index; M.A. Anath (Perlmutter), in: Tarbiz, 27 (1958), 322–33.

[Jacob Gordin]

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Herrera, Abraham Kohen de

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