The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

The Secret of the Faith of Cordovero and Cardozo: A Reminiscence of the Chalcedonian Formula

Dr. Mark Gondelman

In my presentation, I will explore Moshe Cordovero’s ideas about the unity of the First Cause and sefirot and the impact of his ideas on the leading theologian of the Sabbatian movement — Abraham Miguel Cardozo (1626 – 1706). In Pardes Rimmonim, Cordovero develops his ideas on the unity of the First Cause (ha-sibbah ha-riʾshonah), or the Simple One (ha-ʾeḥad ha-pashuṭ), and states that to know the secret of the unity between the Simple One and the Sefirot is to know Razaʾ de-Mehemanutaʾ or the secret of the faith. In Pardes Rimmonim, this terminus technicus is probably not as important as it is for its source — the Zohar and as it is vital for his heretical reader, Cardozo.

In my presentation, I will examine Cordovero’s take on the Secret of the Faith, its Zoharic sources, a possible influence of the Chalcedonian formula, and Cardozo’s reappropriation of this term. Cordovero writes that the Secret of the Faith is the understanding of the unity between the Simple One and the Sefirot, using Shem Tov Ibn Shem Tov’s formula that they are “without composition, without division.” (Sefer ha-ʾEmunot, 4 1; See Pardes Rimmonim, 6 6 and 4 1).

This specific wording might be taken from the Chalcedonian formula that describes the relation of the Persons within the Trinity. Cordovero probably was not exposed to the Christian material and not aware of it. As I will argue, his follower, Cardozo, could know it very well from his youth, and probably that its reminiscence led him to stress this wording in his early philosophical work, Boqer de-ʾAvraham and in his later religious creed, Yiḥud le-ha-Raʾmaq.