The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Studying with Moses Cordovero’s Pardes Rimonim: Creating a Kabbalistic Reference Work

Scholarship concerning Moses Cordovero’s Pardes Rimonim has primarily been interested in the various kabbalistic conceptualizations found in its thirty-two gates, especially its presentation of the relationship between the Infinite (Ein Sof) and the sefirot. However, in the middle of this monumental work lies a gate that neither contains any novel interpretations of kabbalistic knowledge nor does it present a rigorous scholastic debate concerning a meticulously researched kabbalistic topic: “The Gate of Appellative Entries” (Sha’ar Arkhei ha-Kinuyim). Due to its lack of original ideas, it has gone relatively unnoticed by scholars of kabbalah. However, this was not the case for the many early readers of Pardes Rimonim. As the many manuscripts and printed editions of Pardes Rimonim—as well as its abridgment Asis Rimonim—show that it was this section that was of most use to early modern kabbalists and learned individuals. This paper will argue that although kabbalistic appellative literature existed prior to Cordovero, it is only through Pardes Rimonim that a kabbalistic glossary was truly created. Following, this paper will present how early modern kabbalists, especially Italian kabbalists, used Pardes Rimonim and Asis Rimonim as reference works for their study of kabbalah at large, and specifically the Zohar. Shifting the focus from how kabbalists studied Cordovero’s Pardes Rimonim, to how kabbalists studied with Cordovero’s Pardes Rimonim emphasizes the role of Pardes Rimonim as a material book that contained more than just theoretical ideas.