The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Love, Eat, Pray: Supplements to Iggeret ha-Kodesh in Context

Part of the late medieval and early modern tradition of Iggeret ha-Kodesh, an anonymous kabbalistic treatise on the sexual union once attributed to Moshe Nahmanides (1194-1270), and ascribed by G. Scholem to Joseph ben Abraham Gikatilla (1248-c. 1325), includes two supplements. The first one transmits a set of dietary prescriptions intended to improve the quality of blood and semen in order to enhance conception (e.g. mss Parma, Biblioteca Palatina 3532, fols. 3r-11r; Firenze, Biblioteca Laurenziana, Plut. II 41, fols. 186r-195r). The second supplement is, alternatively, a prayer meant to attract special moral and spiritual virtues on the future offspring, or a concoction for petiḥat lev, for improving memory and learning (e.g. ms Firenze Biblioteca Laurenziana, Plut. 44.13, ff. 62r-69r). My intention is to give an account of these texts, by analyzing them in connection with Iggeret’s chapters fourth (on the importance of food) and fifth (on the power of imagination). Moreover, they will be compared with parallel therapeutic recipes to be found in medical treatises of the time such as Sod ha-‘ibbur, the secret of procreation (ms. Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud. 113, fols. 248v-250v edited by R. Barkai, 1998).