Rabbi of Safed and cabalist; born in 1522; died June 25, 1570. He belonged to a Spanish family, probably of Cordova, whence his name "Cordovero." After having studied rabbinical literature under the guidance of Joseph Caro, Cordovero at the age of twenty was initiated by his brother-in-law Solomon Alḳabiẓ into the mysteries of the Cabala, in which he soon became a recognized authority. A profound thinker, and well versed in Judæo-Arabic philosophy, Cordovero devoted his activity to speculative, strictly metaphysical Cabala ( ), and kept aloof from the wonder-working or practical Cabala () which was just then being propagated at Safed by Isaac Luria, in whose, circle of followers he moved.

His System.

In a series of works (see below), the most important of which is that entitled "Pardes Rimmonim," Cordovero endeavored to elucidate all the tenets of the Cabala, such as the doctrines of the sefirot, emanation, the divine names, the import and significance of the alphabet, etc. Quite original is Cordovero's conception of the Deity set forth by him in his "Shi'ur Ḳomah." It is surprisingly identical with that taught later by Spinoza and there can be no doubt that the Dutch philosopher alluded to Cordovero when, in answer to the question addressed to him by his friend Oldenburg on the origin of his theory, he referred to an old Jewish philosopher ("Epistola," pp. 21, 22). In describing the relation of God to His creatures Cordovero expresses himself in the following terms:

("Shi'ur Ḳomah," ch. xxii.)

"And the Holy One—blessed be He !-shines in the ten sefirot of the world of emanation, in the ten sefirot of the world of creation, and in the ten heavenly spheres. In investigating this subject the reader will find: that we all proceed from Him, and are comprised in Him; that our life is interwoven with His; that He is the existence of all beings; that the inferior beings, such as vegetables and animals, which serve us as nourishment, are not outside of Him; in short, he will discover that all is one revolving wheel, which ascends and descends—all is one, and nothing is separated from Him".

Relation of Finite and Infinite.

But what relation can there be between the infinite, eternal, and necessary being and the corporeal, compounded world? Then, again, if nothing exists outside of God, how is the existence of the universe to be explained? Its creation at a certain definite time presupposes a change of mind on the part of God; and this is inadmissible, for it is not possible to ascribe to Him any change or alteration. These problems Cordovero endeavors to solve in the "Pardes Rimmonim." The question how could the finite and corporeal proceed from God, who is infinite and incorporeal, is explained by him by the doctrine of concentration of the divine light, through which the finite, which has no real existence of itself, appeared as existent. From the concentration of the divine light proceeded by a successive emanation the ten sefirot or the dynamic tools, through which all change takes place ("Sha'ar 'Aẓamot we-Kelim," iv.). Great development is given in the "Pardes" to the question of the divine attributes. Cordovero not only adopts the Aristotelian principle that in God thinker, thinking, and the object thought of are absolutely united, but he posits an essential difference between God's mode of thinking and that of man.

("Pardes Rimmonim," 55a)

"God's knowledge," says Cordovero, "is different from that of the creature, since in the case of the latter knowledge and the thing known are distinct, thus leading to subjects which are again separate from him. This is described by the three expressions—cogitation, the cogitator, and the subject of cogitation. Now, the Creator is Himself Knowledge, the Knower, and the object known. His knowledge does not consist in the fact that He directs His thoughts to things without Him, since in comprehending and knowing Himself He comprehends and knows everything that exists. There is nothing which is notunited to Him, and which He does not find in His own substance. He is the archetype of all existing things, and all things are in Him in their purest and most perfect form; so that the perfection of the creatures consists in the support whereby they are united to the primary source of His existence, and they sink down and fall from that perfect and lofty position in proportion to their separation from Him".

The "Pardes Rimmonim" consists of thirteen gates or sections, subdivided into chapters. It was first published at Cracow in 1591. A résumé of it was published, under the title '"Asis Rimmonim," by Samuel Gallico; and commentaries on some parts of it were written by Menahem Azariah da Fano, Mordecai Prszybram, and Isaiah Horowitz. The original work was partly translated into Latin by Bartolocci ("Biblia Rabbinica," iv. 231 et seq.), by Joseph Ciantes (in "De Sanctissima Trinitate Contra Judæos," Rome, 1664), by Athanasius Kircher (Rome, 1652-54), and by Knorr von Rosenroth (in "Kabbala Denudata," Sulzbach, 1677).

Other works of Cordovero are: "Or Ne'erab" (Venice, 1587; Cracow, 1647; Fürth, 1710), an introduction to the Cabala; "Sefer Gerushin" (Venice, 1543), cabalistic reflections and comments on ninety-nine passages of the Bible; "Tomer Deborah" (Venice, 1588), an ethical treatise; "Zibḥe Shelamim" (Lublin; 1613), cabalistic commentary on the prayers for Rosh ha-Shanah and the '"Abodah" of the Day of Atonement; "Tiḳḳun Ḳeri'at Shema'" (Prague, 1615), on the Shema'; "Tiḳḳun Lel Shebu'ot we-Hosha'na Rabbah" (n.d.), prayers for the nights of Pentecost and Hosha'na Rabbah; "Perush ha-Tefillah" (n.d., n.p.), cabalistic commentary on the prayers.

The unpublished works of Cordovero are: "Elimah Rabba"; "Shi'ur Ḳomah" (MS. Benzion, No. 18); "Sefer Or Yaḳar"; "Perush Sefer Yeẓirah"; "Perush 'al Megillat Ekah"; "Perush 'al ha-Torah"; "Perush 'al Shir ha-Shirim"; "Be-Saba Ta'ama"; "Heneẓu ha-Rimmonim"; "Mebaḳḳesh Adonai"; and "Tefillah le-Mosheh."

  • De Rossi, Dizionario (German transl.), p. 87;
  • Fürst, Bibl. Jud. i. 187;
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. col. 1793;
  • Ginsburg, The Kabbalah, p. 132;
  • Finn, Sephardim, p. 307;
  • Lindo, The Jews in Spain, p. 359;
  • Jost, Gesch. des Judenthums und Seiner Sekten, iii. 137 et seq.;
  • Grätz, Gesch. ix. 444;
  • Zunz, Z. G. p. 294;
  • idem, Die Monatstage, p. 35;
  • David Kahana, in Ha-Shiloaḥ, 1897, p. 90.
J. I. Br.
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