On Bereishis 27:27, Rashi makes the following comment:

כריח שדה אשר ברכו ה'. שֶׁנָּתַן בּוֹ רֵיחַ טוֹב וְזֶהוּ שְׂדֵה תַּפּוּחִים, כָּךְ דָּרְשׁוּ רַזִ"לִ:

The Artscroll Chumash Rashi set comments in a footnote (don't have the exact text in front of me) that this could be a reference to a Kabbalistic notion.

This got me thinking: Is there any information/indication about whether Rashi engaged in the study of Kabbalah?

  • I assume you're not looking for answers that say "of course he did[n't]" – Double AA Dec 3 '19 at 0:25
  • 1
    As with judaism.stackexchange.com/q/40669/759 proving a negative is always difficult. You may want to consider judaism.stackexchange.com/a/44617/759 – Double AA Dec 3 '19 at 0:52
  • Certainly at least he didn't call it Kabbala. If he learned Maaseh Merkava or the like would be the question... – user6591 Dec 3 '19 at 0:55
  • 1
    parsha.blogspot.com/2008/06/… – Alex Dec 3 '19 at 3:04
  • THis is a tricky question. At that times Kabbalah wasn't separate teaching as it became some 300-400 years later when Zohar appeared. So Rashi was familiar with many books of that type but seemingly he didn't study "Kabbalah" separately. – Al Berko Dec 3 '19 at 14:24

In his commentary on the Gemara, Rashi refers to Sefer Yetzirah several times. One example, on Menachos 29b:

אחת בה"י ואחת ביו"ד - חלק את שמו והטיף מכל אות ג' טיפין ומאותן טיפין נעשו מים ואש ואויר וכל העולם כולו וכן כתוב בספר יצירה:

The last phrase, וכן כתוב בספר יצירה ("and so it is written in Sefer Yetzirah") suggests that he actually studied the work, not just saw a reference to it elsewhere.

|improve this answer|||||
  • 2
    +1 this is a good source, but it begs the question of what the OP meant by Kabbala. There's still no evidence from this that Rashi would have meant by שְׂדֵה תַּפּוּחִים anything a modern Chasid might identify as the Kabbalistic meaning of that phrase. Sefer Yetzira itself need not imply Zohar/Lurianic Kabbalah. (For example R' Saadya Gaon wrote a commentary to Sefer Yetzira but also completely dismissed the concept of Gilgul as non-Jewish nonsense.) – Double AA Dec 3 '19 at 2:26
  • 1
    @DoubleAA I assume that by 'Kabbala' the OP means Jewish mysticism in any of its forms, not necesarily Lurianic Kabbala. It's pretty clear from the quoted Rashi that he did consider Sefer Yetzira a legitimate mystical text. – simyou Dec 3 '19 at 9:27
  • @DoubleAA "R' Saadya Gaon wrote a commentary to Sefer Yetzira but also completely dismissed the concept of Gilgul as non-Jewish nonsense." Specific source citation please... – Yaacov Deane Dec 5 '19 at 16:04
  • @YaacovDeane It's in his Emunos V'Deos, Maamar Mehus Hanefesh, here. – Meir Dec 5 '19 at 16:43
  • @Meir If you are referencing Maamar 6, Chapter 8, Saadya Gaon is not saying there that he dismisses Gilgul (reincarnation) as nonsense. He is saying that those types of belief he outlines there are incorrect. I am assuming you are pointing to the idea of "uprooting" the soul of Reuven returning into Shimon, and then into Levi and then into Yehuda. But that isn't how Gilgul works and isn't what Jewish tradition teaches about the concept. (To see why that belief is wrong, look at Sefer HaGilgulim of the Ari z"l in the beginning.) Do you have another example to support DoubleAA's contention? – Yaacov Deane Dec 5 '19 at 20:25

Rashi on Succa 45a explains how to extract 72 names (of G-d) from the pesukim in parshas Beshalach. If that's not kabbalah, what is?

|improve this answer|||||
  • ברוך אתה לשמים שהחזרת לי אבדתי! I thought I remembered some Rashi in Sukkah related to this, but I couldn't place it. – Meir Dec 5 '19 at 0:05
  • I can think of lots of things that would be reasonably construed as Kabbalah even if the term is taken to exclude this. This isn't even study per se but definition of concepts (various length names of God) alluded to already in the Talmud and [non-kabbalistic] Midrash. But for broad enough construals this would certainly seem relevant to the OP. – Double AA Dec 5 '19 at 1:10

No. Rashi did not engage in the study of Kabbalah simply because the mystical work did not yet exist. The same applies to Maimonides as can be seen in the works of Menachem Kellner.

The statement that Rashi was unaware of kabbalistic mysticism should not be mistaken for saying that an authentic Kabbalah did not exist. Authentic Kabbalah existed. We know it must have because Ibn Ezra spoke of Kabbala. But it is not the same Kabbala as promoted today. Kabbala is a body of transmission. Nothing more.

Nachmanides, a mystic also spoke of Kabbala. Although he was very intelligent and a brilliant rabbi, he seemed to have suggested that G-d has "parts," as suggested in the works of the Zohar and Tayna. However, we should note that Nachmanides, being as brilliant as he was, would reject this idea today. He believed it then because he was a product of his time. This argument is supported in an essay by Rabbi Natan Slifkin where he explains that Rashi was a corporealist, but ends his essay with a paradox, "Rashi said it, but we cannot.

|improve this answer|||||
  • 2
    This doesn’t seem very useful. You make an unsupported assertion that Kabbalah didn’t exist. In order to gain anything from this answer I would now have to do my own research as to whether it existed, which is exactly what I would have done if I was seeking an answer prior to your post. The point about Maimonides seems irrelevant, and it too is unsupported except for a vague reference to “works”, of which that author has quite a lot. And the accusations in the last paragraph don’t help. – Alex Dec 3 '19 at 13:37
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Turk Hill Dec 4 '19 at 16:11

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .