The History and Origin of the Shem haMephorash

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The History and Origin of the Shem haMephorash

Post by Stella_de_Assiah » Fri Sep 04, 2015 1:37 pm

When did the concept of the Shem ha Mephorash surface in written documents?

What are some old qabalistic texts that discuss them?

What are some contemporary sources that are the most thorough in discussing the Shem ha Mephorash?


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Re: The History and Origin of the Shem haMephorash

Post by DCHindley » Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:19 pm

Stella_de_Assiah wrote:When did the concept of the Shem ha Mephorash surface in written documents?

What are some old qabalistic texts that discuss them?

What are some contemporary sources that are the most thorough in discussing the Shem ha Mephorash?


Concepts developed in medieval times probably won't be discussed here, although there are some quite good articles in Wikipedia and the Jewish Encyclopedia. Good luck with that!

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Re: The History and Origin of the Shem haMephorash

Post by semiopen » Mon Sep 07, 2015 8:39 am

As DC implies, there is a tendency to make everything in Judaism more ancient that it actually is, and Kabbalah is the worst in this regard. The Kabbalah rap is that the stuff was so dangerous on many levels that it was kept secret etc.

Aryeh_Kaplan repeats the absurd claim that the Bahir came from Abraham, in his book (he does mention it is a legend). I found it amusing that Gershom_Scholem took the time to basically call Kaplan's book a piece of crap while virtually on his deathbed.

Even the slightly more reasonable claims are quite dubious -
Kabbalists ascribed authorship of the Bahir to R. Nehunya, a rabbi of the Mishnaic era, who lived around 100 CE. Medieval Kabbalists write that the Bahir did not come down to them as a unified book, but rather in pieces found in scattered scrolls and booklets. The scattered and fragmentary nature of the Bahir'‍ '​s text, which sometimes ends discussion in mid-sentence, and which often jumps randomly from topic to topic, supports this claim.

The historical critical study of this book points to a later date of composition. For some time scholars believed that it was written in the 13th century by Isaac the Blind, or by those in his school.
It is undoubtedly better to read academic works rather than any actual magical texts.

Moshe Idel is probably a good author to look at.

Abraham_Abulafia is a key guy.
Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia (Hebrew: אברהם בן שמואל אבולעפיה‎), the founder of the school of "Prophetic Kabbalah", was born in Zaragoza, Spain, in 1240, and is assumed to have died sometime after 1291, following a stay on the small and windswept island of Comino, the smallest of the three inhabited islands that make up the Maltese archipelago.[1]
Granted, the story of how he attempted to convert the pope to Judaism is very cool...
In obedience to an inner voice, he went in 1280 to Rome, in order to effect the conversion of Pope Nicholas III on the day before the Jewish New Year, 5041. The pope, then in nearby Suriano, heard of it, and issued orders to "burn the fanatic" as soon as he reached that place. Close to the inner gate the stake was erected in preparation; but not in the least disturbed, Abulafia set out for Suriano and reached there August 22. While passing through the outer gate, he heard that the pope had died from an apoplectic stroke during the preceding night. Returning to Rome, he was thrown into prison by the Minorites, but was liberated after four weeks' detention. He was next heard of in Sicily, where he supposedly appeared as a prophet and Jewish Messiah.
Idel has a book - The Mystical Experience in Abraham Abulafia ... bc?ie=UTF8

Just to conclude with a few references -

The 42 letter name of God was made famous in [wiki]The_Hitchhiker%27s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy_(film)[/wiki].

The biblical reference is 42 Journeys of the Soul - from Numbers 33
These were the marches of the Israelites who started out from the land of Egypt, troop by troop, in the charge of Moses and Aaron.
(Num 33:1 TNK)
etc. ... e-Soul.htm

How that morphed into the name of God is anyone's guess.

Ana Bekoach is a Hebrew prayer that is recited several times daily.
The Kabbalists reveal that this sequence of Hebrew letters encompasses the actual power of creation. The Ana B'Koach is built from 42 letters and is also known as the 42 Letter Name of God. Whenever we make a connection the 42 Letter Name, we are tapping into the primordial force of creation."
The prayer is seven lines with six words in each line.

Here is Chabad's take - ... eKoach.htm

This is also attributed to Rabbi Nehunia in the first century CE- amazingly none of the Kabbalistic sites mention that this is a legend and not actually a fact. I think Maimonides mentions the prayer in the Guide - a Maimonides scholar probably could give the chapter and verse immediately but I've never actually seen it. That would indicate that the prayer was known in the 12th century CE, so it is pretty old.

The 72 letter name probably has something to do with 18x4 where 18 is gematria for life. The first reference is - Shemhamphorasch
The "72-fold name" is highly important to Sefer Raziel,[5][7] and a key (but often missing) component to the magical practices in The Lesser Key of Solomon.[8] It is derived from Exodus 14:19-21,[2][4][5][6] read boustrophedonically[3][8] to produce 72 names of three letters. This method was expounded with no difficulty by Rashi, apparently widely known throughout the Geonic period.[5] Kabbalist and occultist legends state that the 72-fold name was used by Moses to cross the Red Sea, and that it can grant later holymen the power to control demons, heal the sick, prevent natural disasters, and even kill enemies.[6]
14-19 The angel of God, who had been going ahead of the Israelite army, now moved and followed behind them; and the pillar of cloud shifted from in front of them and took up a place behind them,
20 and it came between the army of the Egyptians and the army of Israel. Thus there was the cloud with the darkness, and it cast a spell upon the night, so that the one could not come near the other all through the night.
21 Then Moses held out his arm over the sea and the LORD drove back the sea with a strong east wind all that night, and turned the sea into dry ground. The waters were split,
וַיִּסַּ֞ע מַלְאַ֣ךְ הָאֱלֹהִ֗ים הַהֹלֵךְ֙ לִפְנֵי֙ מַחֲנֵ֣ה יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ מֵאַחֲרֵיהֶ֑ם וַיִּסַּ֞ע עַמּ֤וּד הֶֽעָנָן֙ מִפְּנֵיהֶ֔ם וַיַּֽעֲמֹ֖ד מֵאַחֲרֵיהֶֽם׃

(Exo 14:19 WTT)`

וַיָּבֹ֞א בֵּ֣ין׀ מַחֲנֵ֣ה מִצְרַ֗יִם וּבֵין֙ מַחֲנֵ֣ה יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַיְהִ֤י הֶֽעָנָן֙ וְהַחֹ֔שֶׁךְ וַיָּ֖אֶר אֶת־הַלָּ֑יְלָה וְלֹא־קָרַ֥ב זֶ֛ה אֶל־זֶ֖ה כָּל־הַלָּֽיְלָה׃

(Exo 14:20 WTT)
וַיֵּ֙ט מֹשֶׁ֣ה אֶת־יָדוֹ֮ עַל־הַיָּם֒ וַיּ֣וֹלֶךְ יְהוָ֣ה׀ אֶת־הַ֠יָּם בְּר֙וּחַ קָדִ֤ים עַזָּה֙ כָּל־הַלַּ֔יְלָה וַיָּ֥שֶׂם אֶת־הַיָּ֖ם לֶחָרָבָ֑ה וַיִּבָּקְע֖וּ הַמָּֽיִם׃

(Exo 14:21 WTT)

Since Rashi knew this it points to an origin before the 11th century CE. The Geonic era is given as 589-1038CE. My personal guess is that the latter part of this period is the most likely origin.

However, there is a big step between the significant numbers appearing and any magical (Practical_Kabbalah) discussions.
According to Gershom Scholem, many of the teachings of practical Kabbalah predate and are independent of the theoretical Kabbalah which is usually associated with the term:

Historically speaking, a large part of the contents of practical Kabbalah predate those of the speculative Kabbalah and are not dependent on them. In effect, what came to be considered practical Kabbalah constituted an agglomeration of all the magical practices that developed in Judaism from the Talmudic period down through the Middle Ages. The doctrine of the Sefirot hardly ever played a decisive role in these practices..."[4]
It seems to me that a major issue was that the stuff doesn't actually work.

Isaac_Luria 1534-1572, who was immortalized by Madonna, might have been the inventor of the practice of Yechidus. This is communing with the dead. For Luria, this was sort of a sexual act; the adept would go to the grave of a Tzaddik at night, lie down on it like you're embracing the corpse, and hump it (for want of a better term). This practice was made G rated by the Baal_Shem_Tov who made it sort of like visiting the extremely sick and continues in Chabad to this day.

Anyway, I prefer the term "grave humping." My Rabbi took some of us to see the Rebbe on the anniversary of his death and when we got back and I was driving home, I got pulled over for a questionable stop at a stop sign. The cop wanted to know where I had been, and I really wanted to say "grave humping" but wisely changed that to a "religious observance" and got off with a warning.

A discussion of magic has to include the Golem.
In Jewish folklore, a golem (/ˈɡoʊləm/ goh-ləm; Hebrew: גולם‎) is an animated anthropomorphic being, magically created entirely from inanimate matter. The word was used to mean an amorphous, unformed material (usually out of stone and clay) in Psalms and medieval writing.[1]

The most famous golem narrative involves Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the late-16th-century rabbi of Prague. There are many tales differing on how the golem was brought to life and afterwards controlled.
It totally amazed me that Chabad believes that Rabbi Judah actually created this thing. The wiki doesn't mention that.

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Re: The History and Origin of the Shem haMephorash

Post by semiopen » Sat Sep 12, 2015 7:42 am

I probably made many errors in my previous post, but the one I noticed was attributing the legend of Abraham as the author of the Bahir instead of to the Sefer_Yetzirah. I often get these books confused.
Sefer Yetzirah (Hebrew, Sēpher Yəṣîrâh, 'Book of Formation, or Book of Creation, ספר יצירה) is the title of the earliest extant book on Jewish esotericism, although some early commentators treated it as a treatise on mathematical and linguistic theory as opposed to Kabbalah. "Yetzirah" is more literally translated as "Formation"; the word "Briah" is used for "Creation".[1] The book is traditionally ascribed to the patriarch Abraham, while modern scholars haven't reached consensus on the question of its origins.
I guess "traditionally" pi = 3. Maybe the word is shorthand for "outrageously false religious assertion."

Authorship by Abraham actually appears quite liberal compared to some claims that it goes back to Adam.
Sefer Yetzirah's appendix (vi. 15) declares that Abraham was the recipient of the divine revelation of mystic lore; so that the rabbis of the classical rabbinic era (see Hai Gaon in the responsum cited in "Kerem Ḥemed," viii. 57), and philosophers as Saadia, Donnolo, and Judah HaLevi ("Cuzari," iv. 25[4]) never doubted that Abraham was the author of the book.[5] In Pardes Rimonim, Moses ben Jacob Cordovero (Ramak) mentions a minority opinion that Rabbi Akiva authored it, and takes it to mean Abraham wrote it and Akiva redacted it to its current form.[6] Jewish Lore attributes it to Adam, and that "[f]rom Adam it passed over to Noah, and then to Abraham, the friend of God."[7]
The Talk section of the wiki is interesting.

YEẒIRAH, SEFER ( = "Book of Creation"): ... irah-sefer is the Jewish Encyclopedia article which is old. The talk wiki mentions -
This page suffers from 1906 syndrome. Could we discuss the possibility of moving all 1906 stuff to a subpage and rewrite a page, rather than attempting to improve the 1906 text?
The Jewish Encyclopedia article is very good; early 20th century Jewish studies scholars are impressive.

Sefer Yetsira is mentioned in the Talmud - Sanhedrin 65b
A cryptic story in the Babylonian Talmud states that "On the eve of every Shabbat, Judah HaNasi's pupils, Rab Hanina and Rab Hoshaiah, who devoted themselves especially to cosmogony, used to create a delicious calf by means of the Sefer Yetzirah, and ate it on the Sabbath."[2]
The above looks like a poor (or at least slanted) translation - ... in_65.html
R. Hanina and R. Oshaia spent every Sabbath eve in studying the 'Book of Creation',24 by means of which they created a third-grown calf25 and ate it.
24. The Book of Creation, Heb. Sefer Yezirah, is the title of two esoteric books. The older, referred to here, was a thaumaturgical work popular in the Talmudic period. It was also known as Hilkoth Yezirah (Laws of Creation), and is so called in the same story quoted on 67b. Rashi there states that the creation was performed by means of mystic combinations of the Divine Name, which does not come under the ban of witchcraft. Its basic idea is that the Creation was accomplished by means of the power inherent in those letters (Cf. Rab's saying: 'Bezalel knew how to combine the letters by which heaven and earth were created'. Ber. 55a. Cf. also Enoch LXI, 3 et seq.; Prayer of Manasseh: Ecc. R. III, 11 on the magic power of the letters of the Divine Name), and that this same power could be utilised in further creation. The work was ascribed to Abraham, which fact indicates an old tradition, and the possible antiquity of the book itself. It has affinities with Babylonian, Egyptian, and Hellenic mysticism and its origin has been placed in the second century B.C.E., when such a combination of influences might be expected. It is noteworthy that Raba's statement above, though not mentioning the Sefer Yezirah, insists on freedom from sin as a prerequisite of creation by man, v. J.E., XII, 602.

25. (I.e., a calf that has reached one third of its full growth; others interpret: (i) in its third year; (ii) third born, fat].
Assuming that Saddia_Gaon wrote a commentary on it and he died in 942, we know that a book existed in the 10th century CE. I imagine a few hundred years can safely be subtracted off of that. I have my doubts that Sanhedrin 65b refers to an actual book.

Nevertheless, parts of the book are very old, although the assertion that some strata might be second temple makes one stifle a laugh.

Maybe this is closer to what the OP had in mind, as the book gives some mumbo jumbo relating to creating Golems using God's name.

Creation of a Golem is alluded to in the story of Joseph -
...And Joseph brought bad reports of them to their father. (Gen 37:2 TNK)
The brothers were all righteous (albeit heterosexual as opposed to Joseph) so what things could they have been into that would have caused Joseph to report them?

The only possible answer is that they were doing acts with Golems that are forbidden with natural born creatures. Joseph, not knowing that they were messing with Golems, misunderstood what was happening.

Nicola Morris suggests that they were fooling around with female golems, although the claim that it was incestuous puzzles me. ... em&f=false

I've also heard the story that they tore a limb off a living golem animal and ate it. I'm sure the brothers were much more righteous than me, but that seems pretty bad.

Dr. Morris references Moshe Idel in the book,so I'm hoping that my previous recommendation of him is a good one.

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Re: The History and Origin of the Shem haMephorash

Post by DCHindley » Sat Sep 12, 2015 8:49 pm

There is a reference to the letters of a sacred name for G-d in an early Jewish magical text, Sepher Ha Razim, which is dated no earlier than 297 CE (per Mordecai Margalioth) to as late as 6th or 7th century CE (per Ithamar Gruenwald):
I adjure you by the One who measured the waters
in the palm of His hand and rebuked the waters so that
they fled from Him, and made winds flying in the air
his personal servants, as a fiery flame, who rebuked
the sea and dried it up, and made rivers a desert,*
by His name and by its letters, I adjure you, and by
the names of the angels of the seventh encampment
who serve BW'L, that you make known to me what is in
the heart of N son of N and what is his desire, and
what is the interpretation of his dream and what is
his thought. [SEPHER HA-RAZIM: The Book of the Mysteries, Translated by Michael A. Morgan, SBL 1983, pg 42]
This is, as far as I know, the earliest surviving example of a Jewish magical book, but Jewish magic is often suggested as the source for much of medieval magic, and medieval Jewish mystical lore.

G-d's name as a mystical tool is also prominent in Hekalot literature, particularly 3rd Enoch, usually believed to have been composed in 5th-6th century CE. For a very nice overview, see the introduction to P. Alexander's translation of this work in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha**, ed James H Charlesworth, vol. 1, 1983, pp 223ff.

There is a connection between Jewish magic, pagan magic, and Jewish mysticism, but the relationships are murky.

To put into perspective the relationships between SHR and works mentioned by semiopen above, let me further quote Morgan above:
Margalioth [who published the first reconstructed eclectic text of SHR in 1966] drew heavily upon many medieval collections of magical spells and formulas which he felt were descended from his postulated original. The most important of these are:
1. Sepher Raziel, Amsterdam 1701. ...
2. Sepher Raziel, manuscripts and fragments, cf. Margalioth, Sepher, 44f.
3. Sepher Kamay cot, JTSL 2272. ...
4. Sepher Kamay cot, fragments, cf. Margalioth, Sepher, 51.
5. Mafteach Shlomo, Facsimile Oxford 1914. ...
6. Sepher Ha-Malbush, Kaufman 245. ...

* The adjuration is a combination of Isa 40:12; Ps 104:4; 107:33; and Nah 1:4.
** My apology for the name of this book, which unfortunately uses the stilted Christian term "Old Testament Pseudepigrapha" for the more correct "Jewish Pseudepigrapha". The editor, Charlesworth, is a Christian scholar holding Reform theology who in some issues related to Judaism is an old fuddy duddy. The term derives from R. H. Charles, a Christian scholar who wrote in the late 19th and early decades of the 20th centuries CE, who called anonymous Jewish books written between those books considered sacred by Jews (called "Old Testament" by Christians) and those later considered sacred by Christians (the Christian "New Testament"), "Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament", which was also the name of a book he published around 1913. By 1983, though, Charlesworth should have known better than to cavalierly use Christian terminology to describe books that were almost exclusively written by Jews.

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Re: The History and Origin of the Shem haMephorash

Post by Secret Alias » Sun Sep 13, 2015 10:48 am

FWIW I think the name was established in the text by the original author of the Pentateuch. The Samaritans also know this so - as it is unlikely that the two traditions discovered the same thing independently of one another.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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