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Moses ben Solomon ben Simeon of Burgos


MOSES BEN SOLOMON BEN SIMEON OF BURGOS (1230/1235–c. 1300), kabbalist in Spain; he was rabbi in Burgos from about 1260. Moses – also known as Moses Cinfa, evidently after his mother – came from a distinguished family. The pupil and spiritual heir of the kabbalists *Isaac and *Jacob b. Jacob ha-Kohen (who were brothers), and a leading kabbalist in Castile, he began to impart a knowledge of Kabbalah as soon as he assumed office in Burgos; his pupils included Isaac b. Solomon ibn *Sahula and Todros *Abulafia. Isaac *Albalag regarded him as the foremost kabbalist of his generation. Abraham *Abulafia met him and his pupil Shem Tov (b. Maor; "Major") between 1271 and 1274 and endeavored to attract him to his doctrine of prophetic kabbalism. Toward the end of his life Moses met *Isaac b. Samuel of Acre, who recounts the event in his Me'irat Einayim. Isaac heard Moses utter the harsh epigram expressing the relationship of philosophy to Kabbalah: "The position attained by their heads reaches only the position of our feet" – a motto of a gnostic-type statement indicating that the kabbalist has access to realms where the philosopher is unable to tread. Moses was a strict traditionalist and the value of his kabbalistic writings lies not so much in their original thought, as in the service they render as a treasury and repository of many traditions rarely mentioned by his contemporaries, but those which were generally not absorbed into the *Zohar.

Moses' works consist of the following:

(1) a commentary on Song of Songs in extenso, no longer extant but available to Isaac ibn Sahula;

(2) a commentary on the ten "left" sefirot (Eser ha-Sefirot ha-Semaliyyot; i.e., the impure Sefirot), also called Ammud ha-Semali ("The Left Pillar"; published by G. Scholem);

(3) commentaries on the three haftarot – Merkevet Yeshayahu ("Throne and Chariot Vision of Isaiah"), Merkevet Yeḥezkel ("Throne and Chariot Vision of Ezekiel"), and Mareh ha-Menorah shel Zekharyah ("Zechariah's Vision of the Candelabrum"; fragments in Scholem);

(4) a commentary on the 42-lettered Divine Name, the bulk of which was published anonymously in the collection Likkutim me-Rav Hai Gaon (1798), the introduction and important concluding remarks are published by Scholem;

(5) an amplification of the treatise by his teacher Isaac ha-Kohen on "Emanation" (fragments published by Scholem);

(6) Sod Shelosh Esreh Middot u-Ferushan ("The Mystery of the 13 Divine Attributes and Their Interpretation"), which is, in fact, a kabbalistic explanation of the early tract *Shi'ur Komah ("Measure of the Body"; published by Scholem);

(7) diverse mystical compositions on various subjects. Moses had access to a variety of sources, including works affiliated to the circle centering on Sefer ha-Iyyun, as well as a number of pseudepigraphica. All the traditions upon which he relied in his Ammud ha-Semali are in this category. The crystallization of a definitely gnostic trend in kabbalism can be clearly traced in his writings. He also enlarges on kabbalistic traditions relating to the efficacy of pronouncing the Divine Names as incantations, but emphasizes that he never attempted to translate theory into practice.


Scholem, in: Tarbiz, 3 (1931/32), 258–86; 4 (1932/33), 54–77, 207–25; 5 (1933/34), 50–60, 180–98,305–23.

[Gershom Scholem]

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