Since the Maharal (born 1512) lived around the same time as the Arizal (born 1534), and it doesn't seem like they had any acquaintances.

  • Which sources did the Maharal utilize when learning Kabala?

  • What is the difference between his and the Arizal's Kabala?

  • What was the general philosophy of the Maharal's study of Kabala?

I am no expert in the Maharal's book. Even though I have studied them, I don't seem to understand any of his philosophies from them.

  • 2
    I know I didn't phrase this question too well. If anyone has any suggestions please comment. Jan 22, 2012 at 5:26
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    +1, but Chassidus isn't simplified Kabbalah!! Jan 22, 2012 at 7:03
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    @avi I don't know who would disparage the Arizal? Jan 22, 2012 at 17:18
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    @avi I don't think any sources that we consider to be authoritative disparage the Ari. Jan 22, 2012 at 18:54
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    @HachamGabriel You are correct, they just ignore him completely.
    – avi
    Jan 22, 2012 at 18:59

1 Answer 1


In Be'er Hagoleh, Be'er Revii, the Maharal writes:

והדברים אשר נבאר הם דברים אשר נמצא בספרי חכמה גנוזים וטמונים, על אותן הדברים לא נוסיף ולא נחסיר

This seems to tell us on what he is basing his Sefer. He often leaves subtle Kabbalistic hints as to what he is referring to. An example can be found in Tiferes Yisroel 55:

והבן הדברים האלו אשר אמרנו כי אין לבאר יותר מזה, אך כאשר תעמיק תמצא כל הדברים מבוארים נמשכים מן החכמה ומגיעין עד הבינה ואל הדעת, ובדרך זה נמשכים אל יסוד אמונה

As to which sources the Maharal utilized, see his introduction to Be'er Chamishi of his Be'er Hagoleh

ותחלה נאמר שהיה להם לתת לב, שנמצא בדבריה׳ איזה ענינים שיראה לאדם רחוק מן הדעת וסתומים הם במקומם, וסודם נגלה מבואר במקום אחר כמו במדרש הס׳ הזוהר ובמדרש הבהיר לר׳ נחוניא בן הקנה ושאר ספרי חכמה, אשר הם גנוזים וכמוסים באוצרות חכמים

We also have him quoting R' Meir ibn Gabbai' Avodas Hakodesh and Maarachos Elokus in Derech Chayim, fifth chapter on the Mishna of the ten things created Erev Shabbos.

Now, the Arizal is not the originator of Kabbalah. The Arizal himself had a Rebbe, the Ramaq, although at some point he surpassed him. The Ramban was famous as a Mekubal and wrote much, although not very explicit. This is even before the Zohar Hakadosh was found. The Ramban had a Rebbe, Reb Ezriel, who learned from the great Ri Sagi Nahar. There are also writings in Kabbalah from Rav Hai Gaon, who mentions the Mesora of the Roshei Yeshiva.

Since the Maharal doesn't discuss Kabbalah openly it is hard to speak of his particular Shita in esoteric topics. But being that he was before the Arizalwe'd naturally assume that his Kabbalah would have been in line with pre-Arizal Kabbalah.

However, in the מגילת יוחסין printed in the first volume of חידושי אגדות מהר"ל, he mentions that the Maharal met the Ri Sarug, who was a much celebrated Talmid of the Arizal and left before Reb Chaim Vittal came. He is the mentor of the Rama MiFano in Toras Ari.

Interestingly, there is one parallel which I found. The Maharal, in discussing the Aggadata in Nidda 24b, about when Abba Shaul describes the depth of Avshalom's eye, explains that before the creation was possible the void for it had to first be created. This very much parallels the concept of צמצום.

  • The Arizal's primary "Rebbe" if you could call him that was during his time in Egypt. At some point he stopped learning with him and began learning with Eliyahu HaNavi. Please note that while the Arizal was in Tzfat with The Ramak for around a year or something like that, his teachings are a radical departure from the teachings of the Ramak.
    – warz3
    May 28, 2015 at 22:27
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    His Rebbe in Egypt was not his Rebbe in Kabbalah. He does refer to the Ramaq as מורי. His new and expanded teachings were taught after the Petira of the Ramaq IIRC.
    – HaLeiVi
    May 28, 2015 at 22:37
  • "the Ari discoverd the Zohar when he was seventeen, obtaining his own manuscript copy. But even more important were the fifteen years that he spent in mediation, first with Rabbi Betzalel..." - pg.202 Meditation and Kabbalah, R. Aryeh Kaplan. Those 15 years ended with him being informed by Eliyahu to go to Tzfat, where he was for 2.5 years. So he had the Zohar before the 15 years of mediation that began with Rabbi Betzalel. I don't know exactly what meditation means here, but it is known that he would meditatively go over various parts of the Zohar, that might be what is going on here.
    – warz3
    May 28, 2015 at 22:45
  • Rabbi Betzalel Ashkenazi, the author of the famous שיטה מקובצת is known to have studied with him Nigleh. I don't recall him being his Rebbe in Nistar. But, אם קבלה נקבל.
    – HaLeiVi
    May 28, 2015 at 22:52
  • my point though is that the main Torah he gave over to Reb Chaim was not received from the Ramak, but rather is claimed to have been received from Eliyah the Prophet as explained by Reb Chaim. Therefore, it would likely make connections to the Maharal more difficult to make.
    – warz3
    May 28, 2015 at 22:52

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