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Sefer Ets ha-Hayyim (Book of the Tree of Life), Rabbi Hayyim Vital, with Autograph Notes of Rabbi Jonathan Eibeschuetz, [Ashkenaz]: 1741
Estimate
250,000350,000
LOT SOLD. 325,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
219
Sefer Ets ha-Hayyim (Book of the Tree of Life), Rabbi Hayyim Vital, with Autograph Notes of Rabbi Jonathan Eibeschuetz, [Ashkenaz]: 1741
Estimate
250,000350,000
LOT SOLD. 325,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Judaica, including a Distinguished Private Collection

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New York

Sefer Ets ha-Hayyim (Book of the Tree of Life), Rabbi Hayyim Vital, with Autograph Notes of Rabbi Jonathan Eibeschuetz, [Ashkenaz]: 1741

Catalogue Note

The only known kabbalistic manuscript with autograph comments by Rabbi Eibeschuetz, one of the preeminent kabbalists of his generation.

Recognized in his youth as a prodigy, Rabbi Jonathan Eibeschuetz (ca. 1694-1764) would go on to become a leader of eighteenth-century European Jewry. After an extended tenure as a successful preacher, yeshivah dean, and rabbinic court judge in Prague (ca. 1711-1741), he accepted the position of communal rabbi first in Metz (1741) and later in the “triple community” of Altona-Hamburg-Wandsbek (1750), where he remained until his death.

Over the course of his distinguished career, Eibeschuetz composed numerous homiletical works and halakhic commentaries, some of which have become staples of traditional Torah study. His many students, too, transcribed the Talmud lectures they heard from their master, preserving them for future generations. Less well known, but no less important, is Eibeschuetz’s kabbalistic output. Considered an extraordinary kabbalist by his contemporaries and by subsequent scholars, he likely wrote well over one hundred amulets and authored at least two full-length kabbalistic tracts (and possibly more; see Eibeschuetz [1838] and Leiman [2011]).

Despite his prodigious literary activity, precious few autograph manuscripts of Eibeschuetz’s survive. It may be that the controversies that erupted in 1724 and 1751 over his suspected Sabbatian beliefs prompted Eibeschuetz to prevent anything in his own hand (excepting personal letters) from circulating in public. Whatever the reason, there are today probably no more than fifteen extant autograph Eibeschuetz letters and ordination certificates. Based on comparisons with specimens of his handwriting that have come down to us (see, e.g., Christie’s [1984], Eibeschuetz [1984], and Eibeschuetz [1985]), one of the hands in the present lot has been identified as that of Eibeschuetz. Indeed, a note by a student of his inscribed in the margin of f. 217v above a comment by Eibeschuetz testifies as much: “This is the handwriting and opinion of my teacher, the genius, Rabbi Jonathan Eibeschuetz, may God keep and redeem him.” This volume is thus remarkable as perhaps the only surviving rabbinic work with autograph marginalia by Eibeschuetz.

Moreover, the text on which Eibeschuetz commented is itself significant. Sefer ets ha-hayyim (editio princeps: Korets, 1782), compiled in the mid-seventeenth century by Rabbi Meir Poppers (ca. 1624-1662) based on various sources ultimately deriving from Rabbi Hayyim Vital (1542-1620), was a foundational work of Lurianic Kabbalah. With time, it would become extremely popular throughout the Land of Israel, the Maghreb, and Europe, especially in Germany and Poland, and is still considered the most important reference book on the subject. The fact that Eibeschuetz studied Lurianic kabbalistic doctrine from this codex, adding more than one hundred fifty corrections and marginalia along the way, makes it an invaluable resource for accessing the thought of one of the leading rabbinic scholars and kabbalists of the eighteenth century.

An expert’s letter authenticating the hand as that of Eibeschuetz is available upon request from the department.

Sotheby’s is grateful to Dr. S.Z. Leiman for providing information that aided in the cataloging of this manuscript.

Contents

ff. ii-2v: introductions by Rabbis Meir Poppers and Hayyim Vital;

f. 3r: table of contents; f. 3v: blank;

ff. 4r-6r: further introductions by Poppers and Vital, as well as a special Lurianic prayer to be recited before study; f. 6v: blank;

ff. 7r-17v: Sha‘ar ha-kelalim in thirteen chapters;

ff. 18r-20v: a special Lurianic discourse with commentary;

ff. 21r-326v: fifty she‘arim (gates) of Sefer ets ha-hayyim: 1 (ff. 21r-28v); 2 (ff. 29r-31r); 3 (ff. 31r-33v); 4 (ff. 33v-38r); 5 (ff. 38r-44r); 6 (ff. 44r-52r); 7 (ff. 52r-57v); 8 (ff. 57v-65r); 9 (ff. 65r-73r); 10 (ff. 73r-76v); 11 (ff. 76v-85r); 12 (ff. 85r-90r); 13 (ff. 90r-104r); 14 (ff. 104r-111v); 15 (ff. 111v-116v); 16 (ff. 116v-121v); 17 (ff. 121v-124r); 18 (ff. 124r-130r); 19 (ff. 130r-135v); 20 (ff. 135v-144v); 21 (ff. 144v-147r); 22 (ff. 147r-151r); 23 (ff. 151v-157r); 24 (ff. 157v-161v); 25 (ff. 161v-181v); 26 (ff. 181v-184v); 27 (ff. 184v-188r); 28 (ff. 188r-191v); 29 (ff. 191v-199v); 30 (ff. 200r-204v); 31 (ff. 204v-208r); 32 (ff. 208r-216v); 33a (ff. 216v-225r); 33b (ff. 225r-228v); 34 (ff. 229r-232r); 35 (ff. 232r-239v); 36 (ff. 239v-247r); 37 (ff. 247v-251r); 38 (ff. 251r-266v); 39 (ff. 267r-278v); 40 (ff. 278v-281r); 41 (ff. 281r- 286v); 42 (ff. 286v-292r); 43 (ff. 292r-293v); 44 (ff. 293v-295r); 45 (ff. 295r-299v); 46 (ff. 300r-303r); 47 (ff. 303r-309v); 48 (ff. 310r-319r); 49 (ff. 319r-326v);

f. 327r-v: addenda of missing material;

ff. 328r-333r: Sha‘ar ha-nevu’ah ve-ruah ha-kodesh (also known as Sha‘ar ha-yihudim), the fourth section of Vital’s Peri ets hayyim, in six chapters; f. 333v: blank;

f. 334r: chart of different levels of prophecy; f. 334v: blank;

f. 335r: a Lurianic amulet against plague; f. 335v: blank;

ff. 336r-343r: detailed indices of the book’s contents and sources (biblical, rabbinic, zoharic); f. 343v: blank;

ff. 344r-345r: Derush abbia be-kitsur, added in an Italian hand; ff. 345v-367v: blank.

Physical Description

[ii], 366 = 368 folios (13 1/8 x 8 in.; 333 x 205 mm) (collation: i2, ii6, iii8, iv6, v-xli8, xlii10, xliii8, xliv6, xlv10, xlvi-xlvii6, xlviii6 [-2]) on paper (final 22 ff. blank); contemporary foliation (with errors: 1-48, 48, 50-85, 85-97, 97-98, 101-186, 188-327) in pen in Hebrew characters in upper-outer corner of recto; modern foliation in pencil in Hebrew characters filling in the gaps in foliation on ff. ii, 2-6, 131, 172, 328-367; written in Ashkenazic square (titles, incipits, and other special texts) and semi-cursive (text body) scripts in brown ink (ff. 344r, 345r written in a later hand); ruled in blind in outer margins (ff. ii-2v, 344r ruled in pencil), generally thirty-three to thirty-seven long lines to a page; justification of lines via use of anticipatory letters and abbreviation; episodic vocalization; headers virtually throughout; new paragraphs usually indented; catchwords on almost every page of text; glosses inset within the text; marginalia, strikethroughs, and corrections in hands of primary and subsequent scribes throughout, more than one hundred fifty in that of Rabbi Jonathan Eibeschuetz (see, e.g., ff. 79r, 120v-121r, 124r, 137v, 144v, 166v-167r, 168r, 200v, 205v, 206r, 208v, 212r, 213v, 215r, 217v, 220v, 227r-v, 229r, 236v, 237r, 254r, 262v, 270r, 271r, 272v, 274r, 285v, 287r-289r, 290v). Manuscript title inlaid into an ornately engraved architectural frame; title featuring an arboreal ilan of the sefirot surmounted by a crown (an enlarged version of this ilan is reproduced on f. 19v); enlarged titles and incipits; tapering text on ff. 1v, 6r, 17v, 28v, 266v, and especially 326v (two inverted cone shapes); partial table of contents on f. 3r; decorative devices on ff. 3r, 229r; table laying out the ik bekher cipher in the form of two hands on f. 20v; marginal diagram of iggulei adam kadmon on f. 24r; diagram of concentric circles on f. 25v; unique letter forms on ff. 40v, 41r, 58r; non-arboreal miniature ilan on f. 68r; lamed-shaped diagrams on ff. 153v, 174r, 176r, 181r; alef-shaped diagram on f. 266r; table laying out the levels of prophecy on f. 334r; periodic pen flourishes. Slight scattered staining, dampstaining, and smudging (see, e.g., ff. 70v, 76r-77v, 281v); small tears episodically in outer edges; opaque ink stain in upper edges through f. 21r and periodically thereafter, at times obscuring text; slight thumbing toward front of volume; front flyleaves loose; small losses in upper edges on front flyleaves, title, and f. ii; ff. 61, 64, 214, 219 reinforced along gutter; f. 74 loose; small hole in the center of f. 113 without loss of text and in the outer margin near foot of f. 125. Contemporary, elaborately blind-tooled calf with central panels of diced russia, somewhat scuffed and worn; some quires beginning to separate from binding but maintaining their integrity; spine in six compartments with raised bands; title lettered in blind in second compartment, paper ticket with inked title in fourth; joints splitting at head and foot; remnants of two brass clasps on fore-edge; contemporary paper flyleaves and pastedowns.

Literature

Christie’s, Important Hebrew Printed Books and Manuscripts (New York: Christie’s, 1984), 34 (lot 62).

Jonathan Eibeschuetz, Letter 2, Sefer kerem hemed 3 (1838): 32-38; reprinted in David Leib Cinc, Sefer gedullat yehonatan, pt. 2 (Warsaw: David Alter, 1930), 129-135.

Jonathan Eibeschuetz, Certificate, Kovets kerem shelomoh 7,10 (1984): 46-47.

Jonathan Eibeschuetz, Letter, Kovets kerem shelomoh 8,8 (1985): 26.

S.Z. Leiman, “Iggeret shelomim le-rabbi yehezkel landa,” in Joseph Hacker and Yaron Harel (eds.), Lo yasur shevet mi-yehudah: hanhagah, rabbanut u-kehillah be-toledot yisraʼel: mehkarim muggashim li-prof. shimʻon schwarzfuchs (Jerusalem: Mossad Bialik, 2011), 317-331, at pp. 329-330.

Important Judaica, including a Distinguished Private Collection

|
New York