Spira (Spiro), Nathan Nata ben Solomon

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SPIRA (Spiro ), NATHAN NATA BEN SOLOMON (c. 1585–1633), Polish kabbalist. Spira, who was born in Cracow, maintained a well-known yeshivah. During the last years of his life he apparently served as head of the rabbinic court. One of the first protagonists in Poland of pseudo-Lurianic Kabbalah, particularly in the version disseminated by Israel *Sarug, he was interested mainly in the mysticism of numbers rather than in systematic speculation. His Megalleh Amukkot, published by his son after his early death (Cracow, 1637), became one of the classics of Ashkenazi Kabbalah and was reprinted several times. It offered 252 interpretations of one single passage, Moses' prayer in Deuteronomy 3:23ff. The author was "intoxicated" with numbers; he was concerned less with using the qualities of numbers in order to elucidate matters of Kabbalah and halakhah than in employing the Kabbalah as material for showing his great power with different numerical combinations, and there is no doubt that he had an extraordinary mathematical mind. Where other people think in words, he thought in numbers. His way of thinking and interpreting was frequently imitated by kindred spirits in the next 200 years. Spira mentions a similar book of his in which he had interpreted the letter alef in the word Va-Yikra in Leviticus 1:1 (which is written in a particularly small form) in 1,000 different ways. His commentary on the whole Pentateuch was not published until much later (Lvov, 1785), under the same title. The rabbinical approbations of an elaborate commentary on Spira's classic by David b. Moses from Zuelz were published in Dyhernfurth in 1707, but the work itself never appeared.


S.A. Horodezky, in: Iyyim, 1, section 4 (1928), 54–61; J. Ginzburg, in: Ha-Tekufah, 25 (1929), 488–97; S.A. Horodezky, Shelosh Me'ot Shanah shel Yahadut Polin (1946), 127–32; G. Scholem, in: rhr, 143 (1953), 34–36.

[Gershom Scholem]