Friday, June 17, 2011

Daily Hekhalot: Hekhalot Zutarti §420a

For today's--and for days' to come--reading Rebecca Lesses of Mystical Politics has suggested a difficult passage in Hekhalot Zutarti (the "lesser palaces") §§420-421 because it is baffling. And so, while I started off with a passage that was relatively straightforward, we are delving into one that has left many baffled. It has a great deal of textual difficulties, so we will spread this over several posts.

Hekhalot Zutarti is perhaps even more literarily disorganized than Hekhalot Rabbati. Its disparate materials, however, are indispensable because much of it is highly unique in the Hekhalot texts. For example, it has the lone reference in the Hekhalot literature to the so-called "posture of Elijah," which after Gershom Scholem's reading of Hai Gaon that placed it at the center of merkavah mystical practice received a great deal of attention. I think most now find Scholem's emphasis rather extreme since it does only occur in this one passage with many other practices discussed throughout the different "macroforms."

Lesses's selection, as we will see, also is fairly interesting. Peter Schäfer has, in fact, called it unique not only for Hekhalot Zutarti, but for all of the Hekhalot (Origins of Jewish Mysticism, 301). It appears in all the major mss. and in the Geniza fragments (the text of which I do not have in front of me).

Text and (Preliminary) Translation:

אמר רבי ישמאל על מי שתק השר שהוא קורא אותו מגיהשה שאין בריה בכל משרתים שיקרא אותו בשם הזה ואת קורא אותו מגיהשה מפני שהוא שני להדרירון הדר תוב הדר טהור הדר זיו אוריה יה יה אלהי ישראל

Rabbi Ishmael said concerning one who is silent: The prince who is called MGYHShH--there is no creature among all the ministers who will call him by this name and you call him MGYHShH--because he is distinguished (?) to crown (?) a good crown, a pure crown, a splendorous crown of the light of Yah Yah Yah God of Israel.

Textual variants:
M22 adds אמרו עליו after ישמאל. N8128 uses קוראו instead of קורא אותו. M40 has כשר rather than השר.
A couple mss. have מניהשה (D436) or מניחשה (N8128). M22 has בדוק rather than בריה; O1531 has ביריא; and N8128 has בירייה editorially inserted.
Both O1531 and N8128 add כל after שאין.
M22 and O1531 have משרתיו; N8128 has המשרתים
D436 has שיקראנו rather than שיקרש אותו; M40 has שיקראנו בזה השם; M22 omits הזה.
N8128 uses ואת קוראו rather than ואת קורא אותו.
Same variations as before with angel's name.
O1531 and D436 has שיני; N8128 omits שני.
N8128 has להדריון, which looks smoother, but all of the other readings agree on להדרירון.
M40 and D436 read טוהר; O1531 doubles הדר תוב and omits טהור.
There is a great deal of variation on the divine name. Some add another "Yah," some include YY, an abbreviation of the tetragrammaton. M40 misspells the word "God" as אלדי. N8128 adds גיהוי פנהודי.

This is quite a difficult passage, indeed. The rest of §420 improves, but I thought I should stop before I was overwhelmed by textual variations. For translation and interpretation, the abundance of pronouns can be quite dizzying and I make no claim to have sorted it out quite yet. The use of punctuation is solely my own--and provisional--to help clarify the passage. It may obscure the meaning as well. I welcome any and all amendments to translation and punctuation. For example, is "concerning one who is silent" to be part of what R. Ishmael says or not? I have started to opt for not, but I probably can be easily convinced otherwise. Should it be better rendered as "still"? I have chosen to render "the prince who is called" rather than the more literal "the prince who he calls him." There are other problems as well--am I right with "distinguished" and I find what I have rendered as "to crown" quite baffling. I am pretty sure I have not captured all that is going on in that word. And if I am missing something--whether it should be obvious or obscure--please let me know.

Moving along, as Schäfer notes, this is a fairly unique passage. I am not quite sure what is going on with the silence/stillness part--perhaps Rebecca Lesses has some insight here?--but so far we are meeting an angelic figure, whose name varies by mss. and who appears to be quite important in the divine throne room. This importance is easy to see already--one of the few easier things to see--because this angel appears to be in charge of taking care of the divine crown, which is good, pure, and splendorous (words that are often bandied about in Hekhalot texts). Indeed, the divine realm is one of intense goodness, purity, and splendor to much a higher degree than any place on earth.

It seems, though, that not everyone does--or can?--call the angel by name or by "this" name, which might suggest that the angel has several names. The angel's name is a privileged disclosure.


Ayin said...

Having recently worked through Idel's Ben, I noticed that he argues for ZHWBDYH as a theophorism combining the tetragrammaton with the letters ZBD. It strikes me that MGYHShH is very similar to theophorisms such as this (and possibly SQDHWZYH (§562)). Schafer in Hidden&Manifest God translates part of the passage in question as "my name and His are one", which adds further to this kind of interpretation. Of course MGYHShH doesn't contain all the letters of the tetragrammaton, as it is lacking a vav. Given the variations in the manuscripts, do you think the original could have been "MWYHShH", it then being a combination of YHWH and ShM?

Thanks for the very interesting posts, btw.

Jared said...

Having worked through Ben is quite an accomplishment! It is quite a thick book. I have yet to read it for myself.

I think that nearly all of the angelic names have a theophoric element--that is why they tend to end in Yah or have Yah somewhere within.

You suggest, however, that the theophoric aspect involves a process of rearranging the letters of the name into different permutations--such as found in the mystical practice of Abraham Abulafia. That is certainly possible--these names are quite jumbled and perhaps could be unjumbled--but I fear that for us looking back it would be too speculative to reconstruct most of them.

I don't know why the gimel would derive from a vav, however... In the current variations on the name, the differences can be accounted for by visual error: het vs. he, etc.

Finally, I am away from my books, so I don't have Hidden and Manifest God in front of me. This passage is paralleled in fragments from the Cairo Geniza and the readings there are more expansive--is his translation coming from the Geniza fragments? Or the mss. from his Synopse? And I have not fully translated the entire pericope, so it could be towards the end.

Thanks for your comment.

Ayin said...

Ah yes, you're correct - that piece is actually from the Geniza text. Regarding vav and gimel however, they seem to be visually very close to me - gimel is basically vav with one extra dash, a dash which may have been misread from an accidental mark on the manuscript.

Nir said...

Given the syntax you transcribed, I would render as "R. Y. said: Concerning whom was the prince silent? [Concerning] he who calls Him MGYHShH..."

Which may not be any less obscure...

Jared said...

Thanks Nir. I think that definitely might be a better rendering.