IGGERET HA-KODESH (Heb. אִגֶּרֶת הַקֹּדֶשׁ; "Holy Epistle"), an anonymous 13th-century kabbalistic work, since the 14thcentury usually but wrongly attributed to *Nahmanides. It has been suggested that the author might be R. Joseph b. Abraham *Gikatilla, the friend and associate of R. *Moses b. Shem Tov de Leon, author of the *Zohar, but this has yet to be proven. In the selection and treatment of the subject the work is unusual among the writings of the early kabbalists. Whereas the early kabbalists wrote their popular ethical books in a manner which attempted to conceal their kabbalistic ideology, Iggeret ha-Kodesh is primarily an ethical work written with its kabbalistic ideas in full view. It may be said that this is the first popular work in which kabbalistic teachings are applied to everyday behavior. It was not until three centuries later, in 16th-century *Safed, that such applications were made on a large scale (see *Ethical Literature). The book's six chapters deal with the problems of leading a moral family life, giving particular emphasis to the way in which a pious Jew should conduct sexual intercourse with his wife. The hygiene and sanctity of sexual life are discussed in great detail. To a large degree the work is an anthology of quotations and interpretations of talmudic and midrashic sayings about sexual relations. The work may be regarded, moreover, as a polemical answer to both Aristotle and Maimonides who regarded sexual activity as being a lower, because less spiritual, level of life. The author of Iggeret ha-Kodesh upholds the sanctity of sexual relations provided, of course, that it is conducted strictly in accordance with rabbinic laws and instructions. The author's major thesis is that human sexual intercourse is a reflection of the mystical union in kabbalistic writings between two of the divine Sefirot (see *Kabbalah): Tiferet, the symbol for the husband in the heavenly world, and the *Shekhinah, the symbol for the wife. Thus, there is a mystical significance to human sexual behavior whereby proper sexual relations between man and wife in this world contribute to the achievement of unity in the divine world.
Iggeret ha-Kodesh was often quoted in late 13th- and early 14th-century kabbalistic literature, and many ethical writers included it either whole or in part in their own books. Among those who thus borrowed from the work were R. Meir b. Isaac *Aldabi in Shevilei Emunah (Riva, 1558), R. Elijah b. Moses de *Vidas in Reshit Hokhmah, and Israel b. Joseph *Al-Nakawa, who included the whole treatise in his ethical anthology Menorat ha-Ma'or, 4 vols. (1929–32). Many manuscripts of the work, some quite old, and many printings (the first, Rome, 1546), are extant.
C.B. Chavel, Kitvei Rabbenu Moshe ben Naḥhman, 2 (1963), 315–37.
"Iggeret Ha-Kodesh." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 15, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/iggeret-ha-kodesh
"Iggeret Ha-Kodesh." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved July 15, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/iggeret-ha-kodesh
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.