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The Gerona School of Kabbalah

The largest body of Kabbalistic works predating the "discovery" of the Zohar by Rabbi Moshe DeLeon in the 13th century, originated from a circle of Kabbalists writing in Gerona, Spain.  These adepts were disciples of Rabbi Isaac the Blind, two of whom were especially prolific: R. Ezra ben Solomon and his younger colleague, R. Azriel. Dan and others claim that these two mystics, and their disciples, laid the foundation for all future Kabbalistic speculation; for example, much of the terminology and basic ideas that prevailed in the Kabbalah for the next seven hundred years were formulated in Gerona.

The Writings of Rabbi Azriel

Rabbis Solomon and Azriel were among the first to commit the formerly oral Kabbalistic teachings to writing. However, this was not universally accepted as a positive development by other Kabbalists. Their teacher, Rabbi Isaac the Blind, for example, wrote them an angry letter demanding that Kabbalistic teachings be kept secret and protected from the public forum. (It should be noted that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, in his introduction to the Book Tanya, removed this ancient ban against public dissemination of the mystical Kabbalah.)

Many scholars, such as Dan and Idle, believe that the most important works coming from the Gerona Circle were written by Rabbi Azriel. These include the "Explanation of the Ten Sefirot" and "Commentary to Talmudic Legends." The text we are using for the former was published as a preface to Meir Ibn Gabbai's "Sefer Derekh Emunah" in Warsaw (1850) as translated by Ronald C. Kiener in Joseph Dan's anthology, The Early Kabbalah, Preface by Moshe Idel, Paulist Press, 1987.

Chapter 1
R. Azriel on the Ten Sefirot

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page uploaded 5 June 1999