HEKHALOT ZUTARTIElior's critical edition of the Hekhalot Zutarti was published before Schäfer's Synopse zur Hekhalot-Literatur and it remains an important resource, albeit one that had become hard to find. It is good news that Magnes Press is making it available again, and at a very reasonable price.
Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought supplement A (1982)
By Rachel Elior
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Publisher: The Hebrew University Magnes Press
Jerusalem Studies In Jewish Thought
Publish date: January 1982
Hekhalot Zutarti or 'Lesser Hekhalot' is one of the fragmentary mystical documents of the various texts comprising the Hekhalot literature and indeed has long been considered one of the earlier examples. The first reference to this text which until now has never been completely published, is found in the tenth century 'Responsum' of Rav Hai Gaon, the head of a Babylonian academy, citing the well known Talmudic fragment of the Treatise Hagigah relating to the dangers of mystical practice . Hai Gaon has written:
"There are two myshnayot that the Tanaim are teaching in that matter and they are called Hekhalot Rabbati and Hekhalot Zutarti and that is well known. About these contemplations said the Tana, "four entered the orchard" it is also explained in that Baraita, Rabbi Akiva spoke to them "When you come to the place of the pure marble plates then do not say: Water, Water'. In Hekhalot Zutarti it is said: the entrance of the sixth palace looks like thousands and ten thousands of waves of water but there is not one drop of water only an air of splendor from the pure marble paving stones with an appearance like unto water".
Except for this quote relating to the gate of the sixth palace which gives us our only textual touchpoint as to the indentity of the text, we possess no further positive evidence as to its contents, its beginning or its end, its character or its form.
In the principal manuscripts of the Hekhalot Literature we do not find a text entitled Hekhalot Zutarti. The true identity of the text should be questioned since its existance is based on such slender evidence.
A. Jellinek was the first to suggest that certain fragments of Oxford manuscript 1531 is Hekhalot Zutarti. This identification together with its parallels in other manuscripts, has been accepted in a l l subsequent research. The survey of the manuscripts containing the Hekhalot tracts does not verify this arbitrary assumption since the passages containing Hekhalot Zutarti, according to Jellinekfs suggestion , do not present a continuous composition or a textual unit but rather a conglomeration of somewhat related bits and pieces .
In the Hekhalot Zutarti as identified by Jellinek there are several different strata of Merkaba tradition unrelated as to author, chronological date of writting , and of form. We find about ten non successive passages a l l beginning with the words ״Rabbi Akiva spoke:" There is no continuous plot to bind these fragments as a whole and further in the Hekhalot literature we find many other and similar paragraphs which are also attributed to Rabbi Akiva.
There are other portions of Hekhaloth Zutarti which can be found in some texts comprising the Hekhalot literature such as: "Shiur Quoma", Sar Torah", "Metatron", "Ezekiel's Chariot" and the long lists of secret names of the Deity and his wardens. The editorial considerations, therefore , for including each particular passage in Hekhalot Zutarti are not readily appearent and the compilation of these fragments in to a structural whole must seriously be questioned.
This author sees them as most probably representing various mystical traditions from different circles of Yordi Merkava, copied in a haphazard manner with no attempt to attain textual unity .
Hekhalot Zutarti should not be considered as an unfolding narrative or book but rather different forms of literature which grew from a nucleus of idea , situation , or perhaps a true mystical experience and to which has been grafted, with the passing o f time, other similiar traditions and new material.
If these passages must be seen- as a unit, then their nucleus must be the well known archtypical mystical experience of Rabbi Akiva - the four who entered the orchard - since their uniqueness is obviously founded on the visionary experience.
However, it is doubtful that at any time these parts were truly compiled together in a more coherent manner than we now possess.
It has been accepted in previous research that Hekhalot Zutarti is the oldest text of this literature , however, no philological analysis has ever been attempted to prove this the thesis.Taking into consideration the nonhomogeneous character o f the text as described above, no generalization as to the antiquity of the text as a whole should be made.
Several negative generalizations can be infered , to wit: Hekhalot Zutarti does not reflect a specific time or historical occurance; it is lacking any eschatological orientation or apocalyptical characterizations as found in other texts of Hekhalot literature; and, it is lacking any literary framework binding its various parts. Perhaps the only true connecting link , excepting the central position of Rabbi Akiva, is the importance stressed on the mystical meaning inherent in the secret and sacred names of the Deity.
This critical edition of Hekhalot Zutarti is based on the Jewish Theological Seminary manuscript 8128 and the different variations as found in the other major manuscripts, it also contains the abridged contents and detailed notes, and includes an introduction dealing with the various aspects and problems as outlined in this summary.
Other newly re-released Hebrew Magnes eBooks include:
Shulamit Elizur, Rabbi Eleazar be-rabbi Qilar Liturgical Poems
Ephraim E. Urbach From the World of the Sages
Israel Knohl, THE SANCTUARY OF SILENCE. A study of the priestly strata in the Pentateuch