Thursday, June 30, 2011

Daily Hekhalot: Hekhalot Zutarti §421b (Defending the Mystic Against Slander)

Last time in our daily Hekhalot we learned a little about adjuring an angel named Anafiel to do one's bidding--and a very interesting part of the adjuration is that the instructions for it are given by Anafiel himself. This leads to a question: why would an angel willingly bind himself to a human's will? Really that is two questions: why would an ANGEL bind himself willingly to a HUMAN's will? Usually angels and humans are rivals in the Hekhalot literature--at least to some extent--although sometimes they are cooperative. And why would an angel WILLINGLY bind himself to a human's will? Why would an angel--or any being--willingly instruct another how to bind them to the other's will?

Today's text, which will be unusually short, continues the trend of cooperation, of the angelic assistance when called.


וכל מי שהוא מספר עליו לשון הרע מיד אני מכה אותו ומשחיתו חוץ ממלאך שהוא שליח מלך הכבוד


And everyone who speaks slander upon him immediately I (will) strike him and destroy him except for the angel who is the messenger of the king of glory.


N8128 omits מי.

M22 adds שיאמר after מי.

M22 has אינו rather than אני.

M40 and D346 omit לשון הרע.

N8128 uses מכהו and has ואפי instead of אותו.

N8128 and M22 have חוץ מן מלאך.

M22 is corrupt between שליח and הכבוד.


I think this part is fairly straightforward. Once adjured, the angel defends the mystic against slander ("an evil tongue"). (It is odd that two mss. omit "evil tongue," since this loses the entire point of the passage.) This likely indicates that reputation is important for the mystic. Jeff Rubenstein has argued in a couple books (Talmudic Stories, The Culture of the Babylonian Talmud) that in the latest levels of redaction of the Babylonian Talmud, the issues of slander and reputation receive heightened attention to the point that slandering someone and being slandered both could lead to death. It was definitely an issue of concern in late antique and early medieval Babylon. This mystic receives angelic assistance against such slander, heightening the stakes. While it seems the angel will defend the mystic--and strike and destroy anyone who slanders him--there is one limitation: the "messenger of the king of glory." Evidently if this figure slanders, Anafiel will not or cannot defend the mystic. I am guessing this angelic messenger is either too powerful or, if one treats a messenger the way one treats the sender of the message, it might be tantamount to an attack on the "king of glory."

I have yet to decide whether I want to work through the rest of §421; much of what is to come appears at first glance to be magical formulae that are likely untranslatable. But we'll see.

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