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"Kissur Pardes rimonim"
12017-06-19T20:55:38+00:00Newberry Library09980eb76a145ec4f3814f3b9fb45f381b3d1f0237Cordovero was of Spanish origin, and studied Kabbalah under the renowned rabbi Joseph Caro. He dedicated his life and work to formulating a speculative kabbalistic system, and the Orchard, first written in 1548, was his chief systematic work. The text circulated in manuscript until its first printing in 1592; the Newberry’s manuscript is an abridged version of Cordovero’s text by Mordecai Dato that was copied by Abraham Joseph Graziani.plain2017-09-15T18:25:33+00:00Religious Change124541The Newberry LibraryVAULT Hebrew MS 3Moses ben Jacob Cordovero, 1522–1570.“Orchard of Pomegranates.”20170504231715YesManuscript with watercolor and rotating dials, produced in the 17th century.Kissur Pardes rimonim by Moses ben Jacob Cordovero. 1600.Henry Probasco CollectionNewberry Library09980eb76a145ec4f3814f3b9fb45f381b3d1f02
Although most early modern Christians were antagonistic towards Jews, some urged more restraint and respect. Among these were Christian Hebraists, intellectuals who were intrigued with Jewish theology, rituals, and language and saw them as valuable tools for understanding their own Christian faith. These scholars recognized that the Christian Old Testament had been written in Hebrew and served as the Hebrew Bible.
Early modern Jews showed a growing interest in Kabbalah, a Jewish form of esoteric mysticism. Kabbalists sought an understanding of God and Creation that transcended reason and the intellect, mainly through illumination and contemplation. Christian Hebraists saw Hebrew as a divine language that could unveil more of the divine mysteries hidden in God’s Word. For them, Kabbalah was an ancient philosophical tradition that could lead to a deeper knowledge (and perhaps experience of) the divine. Christian Kabbalists frequently studied under Jewish intellectuals, learning of important Kabbalistic texts such as Moses Cordovero’s “Orchard of Pomegranates,” an exhaustive and systematic compilation of Kabbalistic teachings that emphasized meditation, truthfulness, prayer, and limited asceticism, among other things.
Though many were suspicious of Jews, Christian Hebraists sometimes took the initiative to defend Jewish books and approaches from those who wished to destroy them. During the 15th century, for instance a Jewish convert named Johannes Pfefferkorn initiated a strong push to ban any and all Hebrew books, owing to the presumed danger they posed to Christianity. Pfefferkorn and his allies found a formidable opponent in the famous humanist Johannes Reuchlin, who defended such texts as being important for Christian interpretation of the Bible in works like the Defense of Doctor Johannes Reuchlin of Pforzheim against his Caluminators from Cologne. In the opening shown here, Reuchlin emphasized the value of Judaism by listing famous Christian writers who spoke positively of Judaism, facts that the owner of this copy further highlighted by jotting the names of these writers in the margin.