KABBALAH


KABBALAH
KABBALAH (Heb. קַבָּלָה; "received (doctrine)," "tradition"). Today the term Kabbalah is used for the mystic and esoteric doctrine of Judaism (see following entry). The mystical connotation is unknown in the Talmud. In the Talmud the word occurs, however, in two other and entirely different senses. The first refers to the prophets and the Hagiographa as distinct from, and in contrast to, the Pentateuch. The other, especially in its verbal form mekubbelani ("I have received a kabbalah"), is used to indicate oral traditions handed down either from teacher to disciple, or as part of a family tradition. The Talmud points out that the proof that Nisan is the first month of the year in the civil calendar (see new year ) is derived from "the words of kabbalah," the reference being to Zechariah 1:7 (RH 7a), and that the Fast of Gedaliah was instituted in the kabbalah (ibid. 19a). Similarly, it points out that "the words of the Torah cannot be derived from words of kabbalah," the "words of kabbalah" being respectively from the Books of Kings and Amos (BK 2b., Ḥag. 10b), and in a passage of the Midrash a man protests that he is being sentenced to flogging on the strength of a verse from the kabbalah (Ezra 10:3), which has not the same force as a law in the Pentateuch (Gen. R. 7:2). Mishnah Ta'anit 2:1, however, quotes a verse from the Book of Jonah (3:10) and continues "and in the words of kabbalah it says," quoting Joel 2:13. It has been suggested that in this passage the word should here be read as "kevalah" ("protest") instead of "kabbalah." In the sense of "oral tradition," the verbal form of the word is frequently found for a tradition going back to the earliest times: "I have a kabbalah from R. Me'asha, who received it from his father, who received it from the zugot , who received it from the prophets" (Pe'ah 2:6); "So I have a kabbalah from Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai, who heard it from his teacher, who   heard it from his teacher" (Ḥag. 3b). It is also used for traditions from the outstanding early authorities Shemaiah and Avtalyon (Pes. 66a) or from Shammai the Elder (Git. 57a). Family traditions are quoted as a kabbalah "from my father's house" (Ber. 10a, 34b), "from my ancestors" (Shab. 119b), and to emphasize a continuous tradition "from the house of my father's father" (BM 59b; BB 110a; Sanh. 89a). From the Middle Ages the word kabbalah has been used for the certificate of competence issued by a rabbi for a shoḥet. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: W. Bacher, Die exegetische Terminologie der juedischen Traditionsliteratur, 1 (1905), 165f.; C. Tchernowitz, Toledot ha-Halakhah, 1 pts. 1–2 (1934–36), index S.V. Kabbalah, Torah shebe-al Peh.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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