143
143

PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF SHLOMO MOUSSAIEFF

An Exceedingly Important Compendium of Practical Kabbalah, [Eastern Europe,  18th century] Manuscript on paper
Estimate
25,00040,000
LOT SOLD. 81,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT
143

PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF SHLOMO MOUSSAIEFF

An Exceedingly Important Compendium of Practical Kabbalah, [Eastern Europe,  18th century] Manuscript on paper
Estimate
25,00040,000
LOT SOLD. 81,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Judaica Including Property from the Estate of Shlomo Moussaieff

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An Exceedingly Important Compendium of Practical Kabbalah, [Eastern Europe,  18th century] Manuscript on paper
267 leaves (7 1/2 x 6 in.; 190 x 155 mm). foliation: [18], 1-33, 33-41, 43, 46-184 [1], 185-188 [1], 189-200 [1], 201-247 [1]= 267 leaves.  (lacking three leaves: ff. 42, 44-45; three additional unfoliated leaves: between ff. 184-5, 188-9, 200-1; f. 33 appears twice; ff. 188 and following unnumbered folio unbound). Original foliation in ink; written in brown ink on paper (mostly blue) in eastern European Ashkenazic square and semi-cursive scripts, some text in eye-letters (angelic script).  Soiled and stained. Rebound in earlier calf, bearing gilt supralibros; rebacked. Worn.
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Catalogue Note

This truly exceptional kabbalistic manuscript comprises a broad collection of practical Kabbalah stemming primarily from a wide variety of medieval Jewish sources. In both its rich textual content and its inclusion of some extraordinarily rare kabbalistic drawings and diagrams (see, for example, ff. 2, 185r, 242r, 214v-215r), this is an outstanding collection of Jewish mystical magic and by far the most important manuscript of its kind throughout the Eastern- and Central-European Ashkenazic territory.

The collection includes nearly three thousand kabbalistic formulae or recipes, a veritable wealth of practical kabbalistic praxis.  Most of the material found in the manuscript has been arranged alphabetically, especially between folios 1r-184v.  The balance of the volume is composed of numerous prescriptions for the preparation of amulets (see for example, fol. 201r), instructions for fashioning magical rings (fol. 189v), goralot (fol. 190v-192v), and the mysteries of the Menorah (folio 224r-v).

Among the unique elements found in this manuscript is a recipe for creating an “Adam Golem." While there is an extensive Ashkenazic mystical tradition dealing with the creation of artificial man, most of the details found here (fol. 237r) are unknown from any other source.  Similarly, on folios 38r-39r, there is a formula dealing with memory, related to the angel Metatron, which is unparalleled in other texts.  The same is true for several of the recipes for exorcizing the "bad spirit" or “dybbuk.” Likewise, the techniques found on folios 225v- 236r, under the title "Hanhagat ha-Ruah" represent a substantial contribution to the understanding of the questions of possession and exorcism in Judaism. Despite the burgeoning scholarship on the topic, most of these methods remain unknown to scholars and they deserve further study and analysis in the hope they will be published.

Many of the formulae consist of kabbalistic and magic folk-medicine, often invoking a variety of divine names.  Only rarely is astrological magic represented (see fol. 190r).  Nevertheless, some of the material has roots in Spanish or perhaps North African kabbalistic traditions as can be evidenced by the clear traces of Arabic magic (see for example, at folios 174v-177v, and 236r) and less frequently, from Italian sources (see fol. 71r-v).  There are also apparent influences of the concepts found in Lurianic Kabbalah (see for example fols. 72r-74r).  Although written mainly in Hebrew, from time to time one can find words, and even brief passages in Yiddish (see for example, folios 29r-v-30r, folios 160v-161r, 164r). The manuscript also makes fairly extensive use of angelic script (see for example fol. 193r-196v).

This volume contains an extremely early (perhaps the earliest) reference to Israel Ba‘al Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism (also known by the acronym, Besht).  The Besht is mentioned, in connection with a specific kabbalistic formula, which deals with the safeguarding of one’s home.  Near the end of the eighteenth century, the manuscript was in the possession of the Radvil family (see folio 200[a] recto), who were prominent participants in what has been called by scholars, the third generation of Hasidism (c. 1773–1815). Accordingly, scholars of mysticism have surmised that this may very well be an authentic transmittal of a kabbalistic technique used by the Besht himself. 

In addition to the mid-18th century hand which compiled the majority of the volume, there are several additions by later hands, (late 18th and early 19th century) in Ashkenazic script.  Beyond the paleographic evidence, the date of the manuscript may be established with a fair degree of certainty to the middle third of the eighteenth century.  The latest dated source quoted in the manuscript is Rabbi Benjamin ben Yehudah Leib ha-Kohen's Amtahat Binyamin, printed in 1716 (f. 41r).

A detailed description of the vast quantity of kabbalistic formulae in this collection must await a complete and comprehensive scholarly analysis of the present volume.  As much of the included material may not be found elsewhere, the particulars of each entry shed light on early Hasidic Kabbalah, while as a whole, the manuscript is an extremely important example of the variety of mystical traditions practiced during the period of nascent Hasidism in the Ukraine.  No other manuscript of this genre so significantly bears witness to the breadth of Ashkenazic familiarity with this form of mystical magic as does the present work. It should be considered as one of a very few, select manuscripts of its kind.  While others in this small exclusive group, such as Sassoon MS 290, or Shorshei ha-Shemot by Moshe Zacuto, (MS. Laniado), represent distinct forms of magic more characteristic of the Spanish Jewry patrimony, this work remains unparalleled in the Ashkenazic context.

We would like to thank Professor Moshe Idel and Yosef Avivi for providing information that assisted in the cataloging of this lot.

Important Judaica Including Property from the Estate of Shlomo Moussaieff

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New York