Zürich, Zentralbibliothek, Ms. Heidenheim 96
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Dr. Justine Isserles, Associate Researcher, EPHE-SAPRAT, Paris, 2020.

Manuscript title: Sefer ha-Orah by Joseph b. Abraham Gikatilla
Place of origin: Italy
Date of origin: 14th-15th century‎
Support: Paper and parchment. The first and centre bifolio are made of parchment, surrounding and protecting the paper bifolios. Use of unidentified watermarked paper (e.g. ff. 150, 205) and fine quality parchment.‎
Extent: I + 236 + I‎
Format: 220-222 x 145 mm‎
Foliation: Foliation from right to left in Arabic numerals in the left top corner of each folio stamped in black ink. The recto side of the first and last folios are also numbered by hand in black ink, respectively 1 and 232.‎
Collation: 17 quires of 14 folios. ‎Each quire is numbered in Hebrew in the right-hand corner of the top margin on the recto side of the first folio of each quire and repeated in the left-hand corner of the bottom margin on the verso side of the last folio of each quire.‎ The last quire of the manuscript is missing the last 2 folios (one paper and one parchment folio).
Catchwords in the bottom margin of every verso of every folio, except on folios 7v, 21v, 35v, 49v, 63v, 91v, 105v, 133v, 147v, 161v, 203v, 217v, 231v (cut bottom margin).‎
Condition: Well preserved manuscript on the whole. End of manuscript missing. There are a few humidity stains on the edges of the pages and one large stain in the middle of folio f. 87r. Folios 1r/v and 231r/v are cut on their bottom margin. The first and last folios of the manuscript are heavily stained and some text is partially erased e.g. ff. 36v, 99v, 190v. From folios 221-232, there are some tiny holes made by insects.‎
Page layout: Outer pricking visible and hardpoint ruling.
‎2+1 columns of text. 24 ruled lines for 24 written lines. Letter elongation and compression at the end of lines. Words sometimes overlap into the left lateral margins on several pages throughout the manuscript, e.g. ff. 150, 205, 218.‎
Full page layout. Inner and outer indentations of the text around the initial words.‎
Writing and hands: Square script for the titles and initial words and bookhand script for the main text. The script is of Italo-Sephardic type. One scribe copied this manuscript, who identifies himself on folio 26r as mi-Ḥayim (‎מחיים‎), translated as ‘by Ḥayim’.‎
f. 86r: added note by the scribe in the lateral left margin and several omitted words in the text, also added in the lateral margins.‎
Decoration: No decoration, except for framed text in three tears on folio 136r and geometrically styled layout on folio 145r.
Additions: Very few later additions.‎
  • Random words and letters which are partially erased are added in the lateral and bottom margins in a square script: ff. 99v, 140r, 142r‎
  • omitted words by scribe added in the lateral margin by 2 later hands: ff. 110v, 133v‎
Binding: New cream coloured cardboard binding (2020) measuring 229 x 158 mm, with a spine made of brown material and a paper sticker bearing the shelfmark ‘Ms Heid 96’ at the bottom of it (the sticker is not present in the image of the digitized manuscript but has since been added) and new flyleaves. In his 1921 manuscript catalogue of the Heidenheim collection, Abraham Schechter mentions the old binding which was composed of wooden boards, with the second board missing (?) (Holzband. Zweiter Bandeckel fehlt) (Schechter, p. 90).‎
Joseph ben Abraham Gikatilla was a Spanish Kabbalist from Castile (1248-c.1325) and was for some time (1272-74) a pupil of the famed Kabbalist Abraham Abulafia (1240-d. after 1291), considering him his most successful pupil and continuator of his school of ‘Prophetic Kabbalah’. Like his master, Gikatilla tried to reconcile philosophy with the Kabbalah, but particularly strove after the higher science of mysticism. His works in general represent a progressive development of philosophical insight into mysticism.
The kabbalistic work entitled Sha'are Orah or Sefer ha-Orah (Ed. Princeps, Mantua, 1561) or Gates of Light is one of the major texts of Jewish mysticism written in thirteenth-century Spain, where Kabbalah flourished. It is considered to be the most articulate work on kabbalistic symbolism, and its content is inspired by the Geronese school of kabbalists, as well as the Zohar, and provides a comprehensive explanation of the Names of God and their designation within the ten Sephirot or attributes/emanations, through which Eyn Sof (the Infinite) reveals Itself and continuously creates both the physical and metaphysical realms. The work is organized into ten chapters entitled as ‘names’, one for each sephirah (some names are associated with more than one sephirah).
‎This very influential work is quoted by other Spanish kabbalists, such as Shem-Ṭov ibn Shem-Ṭov (c.1390-1440), Moses al-Ashḳar, and Judah ben Jacob Ḥayyat (15th-16th c.), and long extracts from it are inserted by the later Prague kabbalist Reuben b. Hoshke (d. 1673) in his Yalḳuṭ Reubeni. Commentaries were also written on the Sha’are Orah by an anonymous Kabbalist of the 15th century (Scholem, 1930) and the work was translated into Latin as De Porta Lucis R. Josephi Gecatilia (Augsburg, 1516) by Paul Ricius (1480-1541), a German Jewish convert to Christianity. Moreover, the work was also used by the Catholic Humanist Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522), as a defence against his adversaries.‎
  • ff.2r-6r : Introduction
  • ff. 6r-8v : Introduction to chapter 1 on the ‘first name’.‎
  • ff. 8v-32r : the first Name (‎השם הראשון‎)
  • ff. 32r-67r : the Second Name (‎השם השני‎)‎
  • ff. 67r-87v : the Third and Fourth Names‏ ‏‎(‎השם השלישי והרביעי‎)‎
  • ff. 87v-157r : the Fifth Name (‎השם החמישי‏‎)‎
  • ff. 157r-175r : the Sixth Name (‎השם השישי‎)‎
  • ff. 175r-183v : the Seventh Name (‎השם השביעי‎)‎
  • ff. 184r-206r : the Eighth Name (‎השם השמיני‎)‎
  • ff. 206r-225r  : the Ninth Name (‎השם התשיעי‎)‎
  • ff. 225v-236v : the Tenth Name (‎השם העשירי‎) (end missing)
Provenance of the manuscript:
  • Hebrew Owner’s notes in the manuscript:
    • Folio 1r:‎ Numerous Hebrew owner’s notes, several are illegible or are just doodles, calculations, random letters, words or partial sentences. Here below are the most noteworthy owner’s notes. Middle of page in square script in black ink:‎
      Transcription:‎ זה הספר הוא של כ[מ]' אברהם סג[ר]י יצ''ו בכ''מהרר נתנ[אל] זלה''ה ‏
      Translation:‎ This book belongs to Avraham Segre may His rock keep him and grant him life son of our honoured master the rabbi R. Netanel may his life be remembered in the world to come.‎ The name of Avraham Segre is repeated twice in an Italian cursive script in black ink below. Avraham Segre was also the owner of Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ms 644.‎
    • Folio 1v: Title of work in square and bookhand script:‎
      שערי אורה
      להרב הגדול כמוהרר' יוסף גיקאטיליא זל'‏
      והוא מפתח כל כללי חכמת
      וכן כנוי שמות הקדושים‏
      Sha’arei Orah
      By the Great our master the rabbi R. Joseph Giqatilla may his memory be blessed
      And he ist he key of all the rules of wisdom of the Kabbalah
      As well as the expressions of the Holy Names.
    • Folio 2r  : top margin, in an Italian cursive script:‎
      Transcription :‎ על פי הגורל לחלקי זרח סגרי יום ויו' חשון שצג
      Translation :‎ According to the fate for the parts Zeraḥ Segre 16th Ḥeshvan (5)393 (31st October 1632).‎
  • This manuscript was part of the collection of Moritz Heidenheim (1824-1898), a German Jewish scholar from Worms, who converted to Anglicanism. After several years studying in London, Heidenheim came to Zurich in 1864 and became an Anglican chaplain, where stayed until his death in 1898.
Acquisition of the manuscript: In 1899, the collection of 211 Hebrew manuscripts (189 paper and 22 parchment manuscripts) and 2587 printed books entered the Zentralbibliothek in Zurich. This collection encompasses a wide variety of subjects, including biblical, exegetical, halakhic, liturgical, grammatical, lexicographical, kabbalistic, astronomical and apologetical literature, and conveys above all, Moritz Heidenheim’s scholarly and scientific interests as a 19th century bibliophile (O. Franz-Klauser, 2006, pp. 116, 241, 246).
Manuscript catalogues:
  • J. Prijs, Die hebraïschen Handschriften der Zentralbibliothek Zürich. Im Auftrag der Verwaltung der Zentralbibliothek beschrieben von Joseph Prijs (7 vols.), vol. 2, Nr. 75, pp. 146-147.‎
  • A. Schechter, Die hebraïschen Manuscripte der Zentralbibliothek zu Zürich (Abt. Heidenheim) von Abraham Schechter. Abgeschlossen am 15. September 1921, (Hebrew), pp. 53-54.
Printed catalogues and secondary literature:
  • F. Dal Bo, Emanation and Philosophy of Language. An Introduction to Joseph ben Abraham Giqatilla (Los Angeles: Cherub Press, 2019).‎
  • Encyclopedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, 1973), vol. 7, pp.654-565, s.v.  « Gikatilla (Chiquatilla), Joseph Ben Abraham » (by Gershom Sholem).‎
  • O. Franz-Klauser, Ein Leben zwischen Judentum und Christentum. Moritz Heidenheim (1824-1898) (Zurich: Chronos Verlag, 2008).‎
  • J. Gikatilla, Gates of Light: Shaare Orah. Translated with an Introduction by Avi Weinstein (London: Yale University Press, 20102).
  • E. Morlok, Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla’s Hermenutics (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010).‎
  • J. Prijs, Die hebräischen Handschriften in der Schweiz: Katalog der hebräischen Handschriften in den Schweizer öffentlichen Bibliotheken … redigiert auf Grund der Beschreibungen von Joseph Prijs (Basel, Benei Beraq: Sefer Verlag, 2018), p. 223.
  • Sha’are Orah, Edited, with Introduction and Notes by Joseph Ben Shlomo, 2 vols. (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1970).‎
  • The Jewish Encyclopedia, I. Singer, et al., (eds), s.v. « Gikatilla, Joseph b. Abraham », (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1901-1906).‎