Abraham ibn Ezra
Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra was one of the most distinguished Jewish biblical commentators and philosophers of the Middle Ages. He was born in Tudela, Navarre, in northern Spain, one of the oldest and most important Jewish communities in Navarre, but the location of his death is uncertain: and for long it had been assumed that he died at Calahorra. Abraham Ibn Ezra was born in Tudela, in the present-day Spanish province of Navarre, when the town was under the Muslim rule of the emirs of Zaragoza, he lived in Córdoba. In Granada, it is said, he met his future friend Yehuda Halevi, he left Spain before 1140 to escape persecution of the Jews by the new fanatical regime of the Almohads. He led a life of restless wandering, which took him to North Africa, Palestine, Southern France, Northern France and back again to Narbonne in 1161, until his death on January 23 or 28, 1164, the exact location unknown: maybe at Calahorra at the border of Navarre and Aragon, or maybe in Rome or in Palestine. There is a legend that he died in England from a fever and a sickness that came upon him after an encounter with a pack of wild black dogs.
This legend is attached to the belief. At several of the above-named places, Ibn Ezra remained for some time and developed a rich literary activity. In his native land, he had gained the reputation of a distinguished poet and thinker but apart from his poems, his works, which were all in the Hebrew language, were written in the second period of his life. With these works, covering the first instance the field of Hebrew philology and Biblical exegesis, he fulfilled the great mission of making accessible to the Jews of Christian Europe the treasures of knowledge enshrined in the works written in Arabic that he had brought with him from Spain, his grammatical writings, among which Moznayim and Zahot are the most valuable, were the first expositions of Hebrew grammar in the Hebrew language, in which the system of Judah Hayyuj and his school prevailed. He translated into Hebrew the two writings of Hayyuj in which the foundations of the system were laid down. Of greater original value than the grammatical works of Ibn Ezra are his commentaries on most of the books of the Bible, of which, the Books of Chronicles have been lost.
His reputation as an intelligent and acute expounder of the Bible was founded on his commentary on the Torah, of which the great popularity is evidenced by the numerous commentaries that were written upon it. In the editions of this commentary, the commentary on the Book of Exodus is replaced by a second, more complete commentary of Ibn Ezra, while the first and shorter commentary on Exodus was not printed until 1840; the great editions of the Hebrew Bible with rabbinical commentaries contained commentaries of Ibn Ezra's on the following books of the Bible: Isaiah, Minor Prophets, Job, Daniel. Ibn Ezra wrote a second commentary on Genesis as he had done on Exodus. There are second commentaries by him on the Song of Songs and Daniel. Ibn Ezra wrote a commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes. Uncharacteristically of either Ibn Ezra's other commentaries on biblical works, or of Jewish exegesis of the time, the commentary on Ecclesiastes begins with an autobiographical poem relating his life experience to the material in Ecclesiastes.
Although the poem states that he fled "from home in Spain/Going down to Rome with heavy spirit", this does not resolve the question of what intermediate journeys Ibn Ezra may have made before settling in Rome in the company of R' Yehudah HaLevi. The importance of the exegesis of Ibn Ezra consists in the fact that it aims at arriving at the simple sense of the text, the Peshat, on grammatical principles, it is in this that, although he takes a great part of his exegetical material from his predecessors, the originality of his mind is everywhere apparent, an originality that displays itself in the witty and lively language of his commentaries. Ibn Ezra occupies a unique role among medieval commentators in that, on the one hand, his commentary has been cited by mainstream Orthodoxy, but on the other hand, his reluctance to reconcile problematic Biblical passages through midrashic exegesis at the expense of traditional dogma, put him in opposition to his contemporaries such as Rashi and provided early support for the type of textual criticism, now accepted by Reform and Conservative Judaism.
For example, in his commentary, Ibn Ezra adheres to the literal sense of the texts, avoiding Rabbinic allegories and Cabbalistic interpretations, though he remains faithful to the Jewish traditions. This does not prevent him from exercising an independent criticism that, according to some writers, exhibits a marked tendency toward rationalism, to the extent that he judged other biblical commentary "against his twin standards of accuracy, grammatical precision and reliability", in that regard "Ibn Ezra determined that, aim notwithstanding, Rashi had grasped and imparted the contextual sense'but one time in a thousand'."Indeed, Ibn Ezra is claimed by the proponents of the higher biblical criticism of the Torah as one of its earliest pioneers. Baruch Spinoza, in concluding that Moses did not author the Torah, that the T
Astronomy is a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena. It applies mathematics and chemistry in an effort to explain the origin of those objects and phenomena and their evolution. Objects of interest include planets, stars, nebulae and comets. More all phenomena that originate outside Earth's atmosphere are within the purview of astronomy. A related but distinct subject is physical cosmology, the study of the Universe as a whole. Astronomy is one of the oldest of the natural sciences; the early civilizations in recorded history, such as the Babylonians, Indians, Nubians, Chinese and many ancient indigenous peoples of the Americas, performed methodical observations of the night sky. Astronomy has included disciplines as diverse as astrometry, celestial navigation, observational astronomy, the making of calendars, but professional astronomy is now considered to be synonymous with astrophysics. Professional astronomy is split into theoretical branches. Observational astronomy is focused on acquiring data from observations of astronomical objects, analyzed using basic principles of physics.
Theoretical astronomy is oriented toward the development of computer or analytical models to describe astronomical objects and phenomena. The two fields complement each other, with theoretical astronomy seeking to explain observational results and observations being used to confirm theoretical results. Astronomy is one of the few sciences in which amateurs still play an active role in the discovery and observation of transient events. Amateur astronomers have made and contributed to many important astronomical discoveries, such as finding new comets. Astronomy means "law of the stars". Astronomy should not be confused with astrology, the belief system which claims that human affairs are correlated with the positions of celestial objects. Although the two fields share a common origin, they are now distinct. Both of the terms "astronomy" and "astrophysics" may be used to refer to the same subject. Based on strict dictionary definitions, "astronomy" refers to "the study of objects and matter outside the Earth's atmosphere and of their physical and chemical properties," while "astrophysics" refers to the branch of astronomy dealing with "the behavior, physical properties, dynamic processes of celestial objects and phenomena."
In some cases, as in the introduction of the introductory textbook The Physical Universe by Frank Shu, "astronomy" may be used to describe the qualitative study of the subject, whereas "astrophysics" is used to describe the physics-oriented version of the subject. However, since most modern astronomical research deals with subjects related to physics, modern astronomy could be called astrophysics; some fields, such as astrometry, are purely astronomy rather than astrophysics. Various departments in which scientists carry out research on this subject may use "astronomy" and "astrophysics" depending on whether the department is affiliated with a physics department, many professional astronomers have physics rather than astronomy degrees; some titles of the leading scientific journals in this field include The Astronomical Journal, The Astrophysical Journal, Astronomy and Astrophysics. In early historic times, astronomy only consisted of the observation and predictions of the motions of objects visible to the naked eye.
In some locations, early cultures assembled massive artifacts that had some astronomical purpose. In addition to their ceremonial uses, these observatories could be employed to determine the seasons, an important factor in knowing when to plant crops and in understanding the length of the year. Before tools such as the telescope were invented, early study of the stars was conducted using the naked eye; as civilizations developed, most notably in Mesopotamia, Persia, China and Central America, astronomical observatories were assembled and ideas on the nature of the Universe began to develop. Most early astronomy consisted of mapping the positions of the stars and planets, a science now referred to as astrometry. From these observations, early ideas about the motions of the planets were formed, the nature of the Sun and the Earth in the Universe were explored philosophically; the Earth was believed to be the center of the Universe with the Sun, the Moon and the stars rotating around it. This is known as the geocentric model of the Ptolemaic system, named after Ptolemy.
A important early development was the beginning of mathematical and scientific astronomy, which began among the Babylonians, who laid the foundations for the astronomical traditions that developed in many other civilizations. The Babylonians discovered. Following the Babylonians, significant advances in astronomy were made in ancient Greece and the Hellenistic world. Greek astronomy is characterized from the start by seeking a rational, physical explanation for celestial phenomena. In the 3rd century BC, Aristarchus of Samos estimated the size and distance of the Moon and Sun, he proposed a model of the Solar System where the Earth and planets rotated around the Sun, now called the heliocentric model. In the 2nd century BC, Hipparchus discovered precession, calculated the size and distance of the Moon and inven
Jewish history is the history of the Jews, their religion and culture, as it developed and interacted with other peoples and cultures. Although Judaism as a religion first appears in Greek records during the Hellenistic period and the earliest mention of Israel is inscribed on the Merneptah Stele dated 1213–1203 BCE, religious literature tells the story of Israelites going back at least as far as c. 1500 BCE. The Jewish diaspora began with the Assyrian captivity and continued on a much larger scale with the Babylonian captivity. Jews were widespread throughout the Roman Empire, this carried on to a lesser extent in the period of Byzantine rule in the central and eastern Mediterranean. In 638 CE the Byzantine Empire lost control of the Levant; the Arab Islamic Empire under Caliph Omar conquered Jerusalem and the lands of Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt. The Golden Age of Jewish culture in Spain coincided with the Middle Ages in Europe, a period of Muslim rule throughout much of the Iberian Peninsula.
During that time, Jews were accepted in society and Jewish religious and economic life blossomed. During the Classical Ottoman period, the Jews, together with most other communities of the empire, enjoyed a certain level of prosperity. In the 17th century, there were many significant Jewish populations in Western Europe. During the period of the European Renaissance and Enlightenment, significant changes occurred within the Jewish community. Jews began in the 18th century to campaign for emancipation from restrictive laws and integration into the wider European society. During the 1870s and 1880s the Jewish population in Europe began to more discuss emigration back to Israel and the re-establishment of the Jewish Nation in its national homeland; the Zionist movement was founded in 1897. Meanwhile, the Jews of Europe and the United States gained success in the fields of science and the economy. Among those considered the most famous were scientist Albert Einstein and philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.
A large number of Nobel Prize winners at this time were Jewish. In 1933, with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in Germany, the Jewish situation became more severe. Economic crises, racial anti-Semitic laws, a fear of an upcoming war led many Jews to flee from Europe to Palestine, to the United States and to the Soviet Union. In 1939 World War II began and until 1941 Hitler occupied all of Europe, including Poland—where millions of Jews were living at that time—and France. In 1941, following the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Final Solution began, an extensive organized operation on an unprecedented scale, aimed at the annihilation of the Jewish people, resulting in the persecution and murder of Jews in political Europe, inclusive of European North Africa; this genocide, in which six million Jews were methodically exterminated, is known as The Holocaust or Shoah. In Poland, three million Jews were killed in gas chambers in all concentration camps combined, with one million at the Auschwitz concentration camp alone.
In 1945 the Jewish resistance organizations in Palestine unified and established the Jewish Resistance Movement, which attacked the British authorities. David Ben-Gurion proclaimed on May 14, 1948, the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel to be known as the State of Israel. Afterwards all neighbouring Arab states attacked, yet the newly formed IDF resisted. In 1949 the war ended and the state of Israel started building the state and absorbing massive waves of hundreds of thousands of Jews from all over the world. Today, Israel is a parliamentary democracy with a population of over 8 million people, of whom about 6 million are Jewish; the largest Jewish communities are in Israel and the United States, with major communities in France, Russia, United Kingdom, Australia and Germany. For statistics related to modern Jewish demographics see Jewish population; the history of the Jews and Judaism can be divided into five periods: ancient Israel before Judaism, from the beginnings to 586 BCE.
The history of the early Jews, their neighbors, centers on the Fertile Crescent and east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It begins among those people who occupied the area lying between Mesopotamia. Surrounded by ancient seats of culture in Egypt and Babylonia, by the deserts of Arabia, by the highlands of Asia Minor, the land of Canaan was a meeting place of civilizations. According to the Hebrew Bible, Jews descend from the ancient people of Israel who settled in the land of Canaan between the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River; the Hebrew Bible refers to the "Children of Israel" as Israelite descendants of a common ancestor Jacob. It suggests that the nomadic travels of the Hebrews centered on Hebron in the first centuries of the second millennium BCE, leading to the establishment of the Cave of the Patriarchs as their burial site in Hebron; the Children of Israel, in this account, consisted of twelve tribes, each descended from one of Jacob's twelve sons, Shimon, Yehuda, Zevulun, Dan
A hazzan or chazzan is a Jewish musician or precentor trained in the vocal arts who helps lead the congregation in songful prayer. In English, this prayer leader is referred to as cantor, a term used in Christianity; the person leading the congregation in public prayers is called the sh'liaḥ tzibbur. Jewish law restricts this role to adult male Jews. In theory, any lay person can be a sh'liaḥ tzibbur. Someone with good Hebrew pronunciation is preferred. In practice, in synagogues without an official Hazzan, those with the best voice and the most knowledge of the prayers serve most often; as public worship was developed in the Geonic period and as the knowledge of the Hebrew language declined, singing superseded the didactic and hortatory element in the worship in the synagogue. Thus, while the idea of a cantor as a paid professional does not exist in classical rabbinic sources, the office of the hazzan increased in importance with the centuries, evolving a specialized skill set and becoming a career in itself.
In the earliest times the chief qualifications demanded of the hazzan, in addition to knowledge of Biblical and liturgical literature as well as the prayer motifs, were a pleasant voice and an artistic delivery. The hazzan was required to possess a pleasing appearance, to be married, to have a flowing beard. Sometimes, according to Isaac of Vienna, a young hazzan having only a slight growth of beard was tolerated. Maimonides decided that the hazzan who recited the prayers on an ordinary Sabbath and on weekdays need not possess an appearance pleasing to everybody, but all these moderations of the rule disappeared on holidays. A person who had litigated in a non-Jewish court, instead of a Jewish court, could not act as hazzan on those days, unless he had done penance; however many authorities were lenient in this regard, as long as a cantor was "merutzeh l'kehal," desired by the congregation, he was permitted to lead the prayers on the holiest of days. Today, a hazzan in more formal synagogues, is to have academic credentials—most a degree in music or in sacred music, sometimes a degree in music education or in Jewish religious education or a related discipline.
The doctor of music degree is sometimes awarded to honour a hazzan. The role of hazzanim as a respected full-time profession has become a reality in recent centuries. In the last two centuries Jews in a number of European communities, notably Germany and Britain, came to view professionally trained hazzanim as clergy and the hazzan as the deputy rabbi. After the enlightenment, when European nations gave full citizenship and civil rights to Jews, professionally trained hazzanim were accepted by the secular governments as clergy in the same way as rabbis. In a paradoxical turn of events, the United States government recognized cantors as the first Jewish clergy before rabbis were recognized: as a congregation could be organized and led by a committee of Jewish laypersons, who would not have the expertise in liturgy a hazzan would have, newly forming congregations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries sometimes hired a hazzan for a synagogue for some time before setting about hiring a rabbi, seeing the hazzan as a more immediate need.
The hazzan therefore solemnized marriages and otherwise represented the congregation in the eyes of civil authorities. In the United States, many hazzanim supplement their ministry by earning certification as and working as mohels, for bris ceremonies. In the United States there are three main organizations for professionally trained hazzanim, one from each of the major Jewish denominations: American Conference of Cantors—Reform Judaism Cantors Assembly—Conservative Judaism Cantorial Council of America—Orthodox Judaism Many members of the Cantors Assembly are trained at the H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Many members of the American Conference of Cantors are trained at the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion, School of Sacred Music Reform. Both of these programs offer a five-year training program. Members of the Cantorial Council can train at the Philip and Sarah Belz School of Jewish Music at Yeshiva University in New York City.
ALEPH, the movement for Jewish Renewal, includes a cantorial training program as part of its ordination program. Full cantorial training is offered by the Cantorial School of the Academy for Jewish Religion in Los Angeles, the Cantorial Program at the named Academy for Jewish Religion in New York, the School of Jewish Music at Hebrew College; these institutions are unaffiliated with any particular Jewish denomination. The curricula for students in these programs include, but are not limited to: Until 2012, neither the Reform nor Conservative streams used the term "ordained" for trained cantors. Conservative has stayed with that distinction. Traditionally a h
The Hussite Wars called the Bohemian Wars or the Hussite Revolution, were fought between the Christian Hussites and the combined Christian Catholic forces of Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, the Papacy and various European monarchs loyal to the Catholic Church, as well as among various Hussite factions themselves. After initial clashes, the Utraquists changed sides in 1423 to fight alongside Roman Catholics and opposed the Taborites and other Hussite spinoffs; these wars lasted from 1419 to 1434. The Hussite community included most of the Czech population of the Kingdom of Bohemia and formed a major spontaneous military power, they defeated five consecutive crusades proclaimed against them by the Pope, intervened in the wars of neighboring countries. The Hussite Wars were notable for the extensive use of early hand-held firearms such as hand cannons; the fighting ended after 1434, when the moderate Utraquist faction of the Hussites defeated the radical Taborite faction. The Hussites agreed to submit to the authority of the King of Bohemia and the Roman Catholic Church, were allowed to practice their somewhat variant rite.
Starting around 1402, priest and scholar Jan Hus denounced what he judged as the corruption of the Church and the Papacy, he promoted some of the reformist ideas of English theologian John Wycliffe. His preaching was heeded in Bohemia, provoked suppression by the Church, which had declared many of Wycliffe's ideas heretical. In 1411, in the course of the Western Schism, "Antipope" John XXIII proclaimed a "crusade" against King Ladislaus of Naples, the protector of rival Pope Gregory XII. To raise money for this, he proclaimed indulgences in Bohemia. Hus bitterly denounced this and explicitly quoted Wycliffe against it, provoking further complaints of heresy but winning much support in Bohemia. In 1414, Sigismund of Hungary convened the Council of Constance to end the Schism and resolve other religious controversies. Hus went to the Council, under a safe-conduct from Sigismund, but was imprisoned and executed on 6 July 1415; the knights and nobles of Bohemia and Moravia, who were in favour of church reform, sent the protestatio Bohemorum to the Council of Constance on 2 September 1415, which condemned the execution of Hus in the strongest language.
This angered Sigismund, "King of the Romans", brother of King Wenceslaus of Bohemia. He had been persuaded by the Council, he sent threatening letters to Bohemia declaring that he would shortly drown all Wycliffites and Hussites incensing the people. Disorder broke out in various parts of Bohemia, drove many Catholic priests from their parishes. From the beginning the Hussites divided into two main groups, though many minor divisions arose among them. Shortly before his death Hus had accepted the doctrine of Utraquism preached during his absence by his adherents at Prague: the obligation of the faithful to receive communion in both kinds and wine; this doctrine became the watchword of the moderate Hussites known as the Utraquists or Calixtines, from the Latin calix, in Czech kališníci. The more extreme Hussites became known as Taborites, after the city of Tábor that became their center. Under the influence of Sigismund, Wenceslaus endeavoured to stem the Hussite movement. A number of Hussites led by Mikuláš of Hus — no relation of Jan Hus — left Prague.
They held meetings in various parts of Bohemia at Sezimovo Ústí, near the spot where the town of Tábor was founded soon afterwards. At these meetings they violently denounced Sigismund, the people everywhere prepared for war. In spite of the departure of many prominent Hussites, the troubles at Prague continued. On 30 July 1419 Hussite procession headed by the priest Jan Želivský attacked New Town Hall in Prague and threw the king's representatives, the burgomaster, some town councillors from the windows into the street, where several were killed by the fall, after a rock was thrown from the town hall and hit Želivský, it has been suggested that Wenceslaus was so stunned by the defenestration that it caused his death on 16 August 1419. The death of Wenceslaus resulted in renewed troubles in Prague and in all parts of Bohemia. Many Catholics Germans — still faithful to the Pope — were expelled from the Bohemian cities. Wenceslaus' widow Sophia of Bavaria, acting as regent in Bohemia, hurriedly collected a force of mercenaries and tried to gain control of Prague, which led to severe fighting.
After a considerable part of the city had been damaged or destroyed, the parties declared a truce on 13 November. The nobles, sympathetic to the Hussite cause, but supporting the regent, promised to act as mediators with Sigismund, while the citizens of Prague consented to restore to the royal forces the castle of Vyšehrad, which had fallen into their hands. Žižka, who disapproved of this compromise, left Prague and retired to Plzeň. Unable to maintain himself there he marched to southern Bohemia, he defeated the Catholics at the Battle of the first pitched battle of the Hussite wars. After Sudoměř, he moved to one of the earliest meeting-places of the Hussites. Not considering its situation sufficiently strong, he moved to the neighboring new settlement of the Hussites, called by the biblical name of Tábor. Tábor soon became the center of the most militant Hussites, who differed from the Utraquists
The Shulchan Aruch, sometimes dubbed in English as the Code of Jewish Law, is the most consulted of the various legal codes in Judaism. It was published in Venice two years later. Together with its commentaries, it is the most accepted compilation of Jewish law written; the halachic rulings in the Shulchan Aruch follow Sephardic law and customs, whereas Ashkenazi Jews will follow the halachic rulings of Moses Isserles, whose glosses to the Shulchan Aruch note where the Sephardic and Ashkenazi customs differ. These glosses are referred to as the mappah to the Shulchan Aruch's "Set Table". All published editions of the Shulchan Aruch include this gloss, the term "Shulchan Aruch" has come to denote both Karo's work as well as Isserles', with Karo referred to as "the mechaber" and Isserles as "the Rema"; the Shulchan Aruch follow the same structure as Arba'ah Turim by Rabbi Jacob ben Asher. There are four sections, each subdivided into many chapters and paragraphs: Orach Chayim – laws of prayer and synagogue, holidays.
References are given in two ways. There is disagreement on the authorship of the references to Isserles' remarks, as they are incorrect. Since the 17th century, the Shulchan Aruch has been printed with Isserles' annotations in small Rashi print interspersed with Karo's text; as commentaries on the work proliferated, more sophisticated printing styles became required, similar to those of the Talmud. The Shulchan Aruch is based on an earlier work by Karo, titled Beth Yosef. Although the Shulchan Aruch is a codification of the rulings of the Beth Yosef, it includes various rulings that are not mentioned at all in the Beth Yosef, because after completing the Beth Yosef, Karo read opinions in books he hadn't seen before, which he included in the Shulchan Aruch. In his famous methodological work Yad Malachi, Malachi ben Jacob ha-Kohen cites a halachic authority who reports rumors that the Shulchan Aruch was a summary of Karo's earlier rulings in Beth Yosef which he gave to certain of his students to edit and compile.
He concludes that this would account for those self-contradictory instances in the Shulchan Aruch. Karo intended to rely on his own judgment relating to differences of opinion between the various authorities where he could support his own view based on the Talmud, but he abandoned this idea because, as he wrote: "Who has the courage to rear his head aloft among mountains, the heights of God?" and because he may have thought, though he does not mention his conclusion, that he could gain no following if he set up his authority against that of the ancient scholars. Hence Karo adopted the Halakhot of Rabbi Isaac Alfasi and Asher ben Jehiel as his standards, accepting as authoritative the opinion of two of the three, except in cases where most of the ancient authorities were against them or in cases where there was an accepted custom contrary to his ruling; the net result of these last exceptions is that in a number of cases Karo rules in favour of the Catalan school of Nahmanides and Rashba, thus indirectly reflecting Ashkenazi opinions against the consensus of Alfasi and Maimonides.
Karo often decides disputed cases without considering the age and importance of the authority in question, expressing his own views. He follows Maimonides' example, as seen in Mishneh Torah, rather than that of Jacob ben Asher, who decides between ancient authorities. Several reasons induced Karo to connect his work with the "Tur", instead of Maimonides' code; the "Tur", although not considered as great an authority as Maimonides' code, was much more known. Karo intended to give not the results of his investigations, but the investigations themselves, he wished not only to aid the officiating rabbi in the performance of his duties, but to trace for the student the development of particular laws from the Talmud through rabbinical literature. Unlike the Tur, Maimonides' code includes all fields of Jewish law, of both present-day relevance and those dealing with prior and future times. For Karo, whose interest lay in ruling on the practical issues, the Tur seemed a better choice; the "Rema" started writing his commentary on the Arba'ah Turim, Darkhei Moshe, at about the same time as Yosef Karo.
Karo finished his work "Bet Yosef" first, it was first presented to the Rema as a gift from one of his students. Upon receiving the gift, the Rema could not understand how he had spent so many years unaware of Karo's efforts. After looking through the Bet Yosef
The Book of Abramelin
The Book of Abramelin tells the story of an Egyptian mage named Abraham, or Abra-Melin, who taught a system of magic to Abraham of Worms, a Jew in Worms, presumed to have lived from c.1362–c.1458. The system of magic from this book regained popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries due to Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers' translation, The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. Mathers used the least-reliable manuscript copy as the basis for his translation, it contains many errors and omissions; the English translation by Georg Dehn and Steven Guth, based on the earliest and most complete sources, is more scholarly and comprehensive. Dehn attributed authorship of The Book of Abramelin to Rabbi Yaakov Moelin, a German Jewish Talmudist; this identification has since been disputed. The grimoire is framed as a sort of epistolary novel or autobiography in which Abraham of Worms describes his journey from Germany to Egypt and reveals Abramelin's magical and Kabbalistic secrets to his son Lamech.
Internally the text dates itself to the year 1458. The story involves Abraham of Worms passing his magical and Kabbalistic secrets on to his son and tells how he acquired his knowledge. Abraham recounts how he found Abramelin the Mage living in the desert outside an Egyptian town, Arachi or Araki, which borders the Nile. Abramelin's home sat atop a small hill surrounded by trees, he taught a powerful form of Kabbalistic magic to Abraham. He was a "venerable aged man", courteous and kind, he discussed nothing but "the Fear of God", the importance of leading a well-regulated life, the evils of the "acquisition of riches and goods". Abramelin extracted a promise from Abraham that he would give up his "false dogmas" and live "in the Way and Law of the Lord." He gave Abraham two manuscript books to copy for himself, asking for ten gold florins, which he took with the intention of distributing to seventy-two poor persons in Arachi. Upon his return fifteen days after having disposed of the payment money, Abramelin extracted an oath from Abraham to "serve and fear" the Lord, to "live and die in His most Holy Law."
After this, Abramelin gave Abraham the "Divine Science" and "True Magic" embedded within the two manuscripts, which he was to follow and give to only those whom he knew well. The book exists in the form of an early printed edition; the provenance of the text has not been definitively identified. The earliest manuscripts are two versions that date from about 1608, are written in German and are now found in Wolfenbüttel. Another two manuscripts are in Dresden, date from about 1700 and 1750 respectively; the first printed version in German, dates to 1725 and was printed in Cologne by Peter Hammer. A partial copy in Hebrew is found in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, dates from around 1740. A manuscript copy existed in French in the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal in Paris, an institution founded in 1797; the French copy is available on microfilm. Another 17th-century manuscript in Italian exists in the'Legato Martinengo' of the Queriniana Library in Brescia, Italy, it was part of the collection of the Count and Qabbalist Leopardo Martinengo of Barco and Torre Pallavicina.
The manuscript, unknown for centuries to international researchers until 2009, has been found by academic researcher Maria Elena Loda in the esoteric section. At the moment, it is the only known manuscript translation in the Italian language of the Abramelin grimoire. All German copies of the text consist of four books: an autobiographical account of the travels of Abraham of Worms to Egypt, a book of assorted materials from the corpus of the practical Kabbalah and the two books of magic given by Abramelin to Abraham; the well-known English translation by S. L. MacGregor Mathers from the French Manuscript in Paris contains only three of the four books; the Hebrew version in Oxford is limited to Book One, without reference to the further books. Of all the extant sources, the German manuscripts in Wolfenbüttel and Dresden are taken by scholars to be the authoritative texts. According to respected Kabbalah scholar Gershom Scholem, the Hebrew version in Oxford was translated into Hebrew from German.
An analysis of the spelling and language usage in the French manuscript indicates that it dates to the 18th century and that it was likely copied from a German original. Although the author quotes from the Jewish Book of Psalms, the version given is not from the Hebrew; the German esoteric scholar Georg Dehn has argued that the author of The Book of Abramelin was Rabbi Yaakov Moelin, a German Jewish Talmudist and posek. The text describes an elaborate ritual whose purpose is to obtain the "knowledge and conversation" of the magician's "guardian angel." The preparations are elaborate and long. All of the German texts describe a duration for the operation of 18 months before any divine contact is known. In the Mathers translation, the initial phase of working the system lasts only six months. During the period of the work, the magician must daily again at sunset. During this preparatory phase, there are many restrictions: chastity must be observed, alc