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Encyclopedic Magic. A Synergetic Approach to Rabbi Moses Zacuto’s Sources of Practical and Theoretical Kabbalah

Enzyklopädisches Wissen über Magie: Die Korrelation von praktischer und theoretischer Kabbala in den Schriften des Rabbi Mose Zacuto (1610- 1697)

DFG-Projekt, apl. Prof. Dr. Gerold Necker, Nahostkooperation (mit Prof. Dr. Yuval Harari, Ben-Gurion-University, Israel)


The vicissitudes of Jewish culture history in the 17th century have been studied during the last two decades with renewed impetus from mystical, messianic, halakhic, and aesthetic perspectives, while addressing the life and work of Moses Zacuto (1610-1697), one of the most important and influential Kabbalists in Italy. He played a central role in the dissemination of kabbalistic texts and rituals, which originated in the circle of Isaac Luria (d. 1572). Zacuto participated in the messianic movement of Sabbatai Zevi, and combined a mystical worldview with the cultural atmosphere in baroque Italy, apparent in multi-faceted achievements: poetry and plays, halakhic literature, and kabbalistic activities, including commentaries on the Zohar and liturgical guidelines (tiqqunim).

The project assorts these various fields by viewing them under Zacuto’s messianic perspective, but focuses at the same time on a hitherto neglected subject: Zacuto’s interest in magical traditions and writings, most prominent in his widely circulating compendium “The Roots of the Holy Names” (Shorshei ha-Shemot). The first part of this research is dedicated to an annotated edition of Zacuto’s early autograph “The Book of Secrets” (Sefer ha- Sodot), an assemblage of magical recipes, found in a single manuscript, featuring also magical formulae Zacuto collected in Poland. The objective of the second part is the analysis of Zacuto’s decidedly encyclopedic approach of categorizing theoretical and practical Kabbalah. In this context also the impact on Zacuto’s halakhic writings shall be examined, including the evidence of manuscripts that remain unconsidered up to now.


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