Gikatilla, Rabbi Joseph
Sha'are Orah (The Gates of Light)
tr. Avi Weinstein. Harper Collins, © 1994.Written in the 13th century,
this is a treatise on the esoteric Kabbalah which explains the ten sefirot,
their attributes, their relation to the Torah, and the Jew's relationship
He-Chasid, Rabbi Judah ben Samuel
Sefer Chasidim (The Book
of the Pious)
tr. Avraham Yaakov Finkel. Jason Aaronson, © 1997.
ISBN 1-56821-920-2Written circa 1190-1200 by a German pietist, this
very human guide to life, related in close to 1200 short examples, deals
with such topics as a Jew's relation to God, prayer, the Divine Name,
angels and demons, holidays, scribes and holy books, immorality, social
situations, and so on. Though the work is not a Kabbalistic treatice,
it does contain a healthy number of references to the esoteric and to
folklore. Finkel's translation is plainly done and very well-organized,
indexed by paragraph and topic. Rabbi Judah's massages are clear, concise,
occasionally humorous, and a pleasure to read. (Note: you might also find
the author and title listed under alternate spellings, such as "He-Hasid",
"Ha-Hasid", "Sefer Hasidim", etc.)
ibn Pakuda, Bachya
Chovos Halevovos (The Duties of the
tr. Yaakov Feldman. Jason Aronson, Inc., © 1996Written
in the 11th century. This is not a Kabbalistic work, but a treatise on
mystical piety which concerns itself with understanding God's realtionship
to His creation and how one can attain a higher level of faith.
Jacobs, Louis, ed.
(The Shocken Book of) Jewish Mystical Testimonies
Shocken Books, New York, 1996. (Or, 1976, Keter Publishing
House Jerusalem Ltd.) ISBN 0-08052-4143-4.
Possibly out of print. A very useful collection of translations of original
sources for anyone interested in the mystical experience, in particular
firsthand accounts. Selections include the writings of Maimonides, Abraham
Abulafia, Eleazar of Worms, Joseph Karo, Hayyim Vital, the Gaon of Vilna,
and modern authors, plus accounts of the "chariot" mystics. Issues of
piety, meditation, angelic instruction, and other ecstatic experiences
are discussed. This book is somewhat complementary to Epstein's (see the
Sefer Yetzirah (The Book of Creation)
KaplanVery esoteric, lots of stuff on the secrets of the alphabet,
"paths", letter permutations, correspondences between the Spheres, angels,
months, etc. Kaplan is great: he gives the original Hebrew, the literal
translation, and (fortunately) a pile of explanation/interpretation. He
also includes some historical commentary. Kaplan's written a number of
books on the Kabbalah.
Stern, David and Mirsky, Mark, eds.
Rabbinic Fantasies: Imaginative Narratives From Classical Hebrew Literature
Society, © 1990Out of print. This very interesting compilation
contans numerous translations of original texts, covering many countries
and a span of about 1000 years. The title is a little misleading, because
most of the tests are not folktales, but parables, sermons, interprestations
on the Torah, and other serious writings which have a mystical or "fantastic"
slant. Of partiular note is the translation of The Alphabet of Ben
Sira, which contains a well-known version of the story of Lilith;
Sefer Zerubabel, a really interesting but obscure apocalypse; and
numerous examples of the mystical significance of the Hebrew alphabet
"The Testament of Solomon," Duling, D.C., translator.
Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 1.
ISBN 0-385-09630-5 (v. 1).A translation of the Greek text dating fist
to third century CE, which tells the story of Solomon's building of the
Temple by forcing a variety of demons to do the work. Includes a good
introduction covering religious and literary themes, the lore of Solomon,
and the origins of the manuscript. The story itself is quite colorful
and includes a parade of fantastic creatures, though it ends on a sort
of forced evengelical note. Duling considers the work a Christian text
(or at least one edited by a Christian), though one based heavily on Semitic
folklore and mythology, possibly on an original Hebrew text.
The Sword of Moses
Anonymous, 1st-4th century CE, tr.
Moses Gaster, PhD.
The "Sword" is a long list of divine and angelic Names, which the author
states was transmitted to Moses, "...by which every wish is fulfilled
and every secret revealed, and every miracle, marvel, and prodigy are
performed..." Part 1 is an introduction, part 2 is the Sword, and part
3 details how to use segments of the Sword to acheive certain effects
(healing, divination, defeat of enemies, etc.). Gaster's translation contains
an informative introduction about the text and its context. You can obtain
"The Sword of Moses" in two ways: One is to purchase the essay in reprint
from Near Eastern Press. The other is to locate Gaster's Studies
and Texts in Folklore, Magic, Mediaval Romance, Hebrew Apocrypha and Samaritan
Archaeology, vol. 1 and 3. IMPORTANT NOTE: In the English translation
Gaster does not transcribe most of the vast list of Names which make up
the Sword (he uses "N" and "X"); one must refer to the actual Hebrew text
in "Studies..." vol. 3. The Near Estern reprint does not include the Hebrew.
If one actually intended to study the Sword, having a copy of the Hebrew
text is neccessary. (See also Gaster, in the Overviews
See also "The Zohar" and "The Bahir"Both of these key texts
concerning esoteric (theoretical) Kabblah are available in various translations,
with and without commentary.