The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Rabbi Menahem Azaria da Fano’s Me’ah Qeshitah: Between Cordoverean and Lurianic Kabbalah

Rabbi Menahem Azaria da Fano was one of the most influential disseminators of Safedian Kabbalah in Early Modern Italy. He studied both the teachings of Moses Cordovero and Isaac Luria and wrote books and adaptations according to both. The nature of Fano’s relationship to these two systems is a complex topic which has yet to be fully explored in scholarship. Fano continued to show interest in Cordoverean works long after he had immersed himself in Lurianic texts and teachings and may have even combined the teachings of the two systems in certain contexts. In my lecture, I will treat Fano’s complicated navigation between the two Safedian systems through a discussion of his Cordoverean works, chief among them the treatise Me’ah Qeshitah. A convoluted series of kabbalistic homilies, with a pronounced numerological component, Me’ah Qeshitah has been touted in scholarship as an example of Fano’s late, post-Lurianic Cordovereanism. That being said, Fano includes some explicit references to Isaac Luria in this work and also occasionally utilizes Lurianic ideas and terminology. By discussing the evolution of this work and the complex circumstances that led to its composition – and by comparing the work to other Cordoveroan texts written of Fano – I hope to use Me’ah Qeshitah as a case study of both how Fano wrote kabbalistic works and also how he associated and combined Lurianic and Cordoverean teachings. More generally, I hope a discussion of this work will shed more light on the categories of Lurianic and Cordoverean Kabbalah, testing their applicability to examples that do not conform to existing paradigms in scholarship.