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Temunah, The Book of


TEMUNAH, THE BOOK OF (Heb. סֵפֶר הַתְּמוּנָה), a kabbalistic book whose method represents a particular trend in the *Kabbalah. Written round about the 1270s, when printed it was attributed to Ishmael, a high priest, but in the numerous early manuscripts of the book this attribution is not found. It is clearly recognizable that the author had no pseudepigraphic intentions. Temunah is one of the most difficult works in kabbalistic literature, despite the fact that it is written in very good Hebrew. The author concealed his daring opinions behind obscure and solemn phraseology. Some small degree of penetration in understanding the central ideas in the book is made possible by the excellent commentary, written apparently soon after its appearance. One should not exclude the possibility that the anonymous interpreter of the book knew of an oral tradition which enabled him to penetrate its secrets.

There are two editions of the book, published at Korets in 1784 and Lemberg in 1892. But there is evidence from the year 1743 that it had already been printed in Cracow in 1549. In fact, one version was also printed in Casablanca in 1930 without the editors realizing what it was. In a book erroneously entitled Sefer ha-Malkhut there are three or four early kabbalistic works, and from page 4b to page 20d one finds a text of the Temunah, identical to that printed in the above-mentioned Lemberg edition, under the heading Nosaḥ shel ha-Ketav Yad.

The author of Temunah is apparently the author of Sod Shem ha-Meforash (The Secret of the Tetragrammaton; see *God, Names of), which appears from page 72a to page 75b. Another work following the same trend, and perhaps even by the author of Temunah, is the commentary on the 72-lettered Name of God. Like Temunah, which contains three interpretations of the forms of the Hebrew alphabet, this work contains three commentaries on the 72-lettered Name. In many MSS these three commentaries appear in synoptic form, each with a different name: Ha-Gemara, Ha-Pe'ullot, Perush Shelishi. To the same group belongs the esoteric commentary on the Passover *Haggadah which can be found in several MSS (such as Bodleian, Cat. Neubauer no. 1557; Parma, Cat. Perreau no. 87, etc.). This work was certainly not written by the author of Temunah. Another book of the same trend was Sod Ilan ha-Aẓilut of the middle of the 14th century. This text appeared in an abbreviated version entitled Sefer Sod ha-Shem at the end of Zohar Ḥadash, printed in Constantinople in 1740. The influence of Temunah persisted until the spread of the Kabbalah of Moses *Cordovero and Isaac *Luria. In his book Magen David, *David b. Solomon Abi Zimra (Radbaz) made extensive use of the Temunah. Its renewed influence could be discerned in Shabbatean literature (see *Shabbetai Ẓevi).

The main importance of Temunah is in the theory of Shemittot (cosmic cycles; see *Kabbalah). This pivotal point of the book takes the form of the commentary on the forms of the alphabet, which is an expression of the manifestation of God in His *Sefirot and His creative power.


G. Scholem, Ursprung und Anfaenge der Kabbala (1962), 407–19; idem, in: Koveẓ al Yad, 5 (1950), 65–102; idem, Ha-Kabbalah shel Sefer ha-Temunah (1965); I. Weinstock, Be-Ma'gelei ha-Nigleh ve-ha-Nistar (1970), index.

[Efraim Gottlieb]

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