The answer to the question "who is God?" is one which every belief system attempts to give a satisfactory explanation for adherents. The Spanish Kabbalists were no exception. They had a well developed conception of who they believed was the God of Israel. Spanish Kabbalists agreed with earlier conceptions of God as impersonal and unknowable. However, to them the God of Israel was far more than this conception could convey. God was hidden and revealed, masculine and feminine, dynamic, and by religious practice one could engage in a relationship with the essentially unknowable God.
Maimonides put forth a conception of God as unique and unknowable. Kabbalists agreed with this conception of God. It was Eyn Sof, the infinite and hidden God (Ariel 59). Eyn Sof was the impersonal God and by necessity knowledge of It could only be apophatic in nature. Eyn Sof was described as the infinite, inconceivable, pure mind thinking infinite thoughts related entirely to Itself with no relation whatsoever to the finite world (Ariel 66). Kabbalists believed it was possible to have theurgical relation with Eyn Sof despite the belief that Eyn Sof had no relation to the world.
The Zohar discussed two worlds of God. The first was the world of Eyn Sof. The second world connected to the first while making it possible for the mystic to know God (Scholem, Major Trends 208). This second world was considered to be the personal nature of Eyn Sof. It was the emanated world of the sefirot, the ten aspects of God revealed by Its self-limitation. The sefirot provided the bridge between the finite and infinite worlds (Ariel 67).
Kabbalists believed descriptions of God found in the Bible referred to the sefirot (Ariel 82). It was also the sefirot which were the object of prayers and religious practices since Eyn Sof Itself had no relation to the finite world. Yet these religious actions could effect the dynamic sefirot which were connected to Eyn Sof which allowed the Kabbalist to have a theurgical impact on Eyn Sof, thereby establising a relationship with the infinite (ariel 61). The most important effect one could bring about was the unification of Tifeeret and the Shekhinah, the masculine and feminine aspects of God who Kabbalists conceived as an androgynous being (Ariel 98).
Another important belief the Kabbalists carried regarding the sefirot was that they were the linguistic expression of God. The final stage in the expression of God's wisdom was by means of divine language (Ariel 113). This divine language was to take concrete form in the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. More specifically, however, the ultimate expression of God's wisdom was to be found in the Torah (Ariel 114). The Torah was infused with the essence of God via its ten aspects, the sefirot (Ariel 116).
The Torah was believed by Kabbalists to be permeated with the essence of God. By studying the Torah one could reach understanding of the hidden aspects of God (Matt 23). Through the pusuit of knowledge of the sefirot by study of the Torah, one could bridge the gap between the finite world and the infinite world of Eyn Sof to develop relationship. The Torah was a container of divine names which referred to the sefirot and it was up to the Kabbalist to decipher these secrets to trace their meaning back to the original source, God (Ariel 118).
However, it was not so simple to say that the Torah was full of divine names in its contents. The Kabbalists thought the Torah was more than the names of God. They were the first to introduce the notion that the Torah as a whole was the one great Name of God (Scholem, On Kabbalah 39). A Spanish Kabbalist, Joseph Gikatila, created a beautiful analogy of the Torah as the Name of God. The Torah was like a fabric. Through warp and weft the fabric was created and woven directly from the Name of God (Scholem, On Kabbalah 42-3). Gikatila also explained the letters of the Torah as the mystical body of God while God Itself was the soul of those letters, giving the Torah status as a living organism (Scholem, On Kabbalah 44).
Spanish Kabbalists had a well developed conception of who they believed God was. God was Eyn Sof, the infinite, impersonal being with whom they could have no relationship although it was possible to find a route to a relationship with Eyn Sof. The ten emanated aspects of God, the sefirot, provided a means for the mystic to span the worlds of the finite and infinite. The sefirot were the God of the Bible. Religious practices were directed to the sefirot which in turn had a theurgical impact on Eyn Sof. The secrets of God were not far to be found either. The mystic only needed to study the Torah, the one great Name of God, to find the highest form of knowledge and step up to a relationship with God.
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