Research Query: Source of Doctrine in Menasseh

Jacob Adler's picture
  In Menasseh ben Israel's Nishmat Hayyim, Book 2, chapter 10, near the end, there occurs the following passage:
And thus, according to the Zohar, the Biblical passage, and Sarah died in Kiriath Arba [—the same is Hebron; Gen. 23:2], should be interpreted allegorically:  the Soul [neshamah] is Sarah, i.e., princess and mistress; its death is its descent into the body, which is the city of the four elements (kiriath ’arba‘ ha-yesodot);  and Hebron is their union which lasts till the end of the person’s life.
I have not been able to find any such passage in the Zoharic literature, and in any case it seems unlikely.  The Zohar identifies Abraham with the soul and Sarah with the body.  If anyone can direct me to a source for this teaching, I will appreciate it.
Jacob Adler
University of Arkansas

For the question of Jacob Adler, regarding the passage in Menasseh ben Israel's Nishmat Hayyim, Book 2, chapter 10, relying on the idea that in the Zohar there is an allegorically interpretation which says that Sarah is the Soul [neshamah] –
The question is then, were in the Zohar one can find this idea? –

1. It is in Zohar vol. 1 daf 79b: ‘Neshama – da hi Sarah’
It appears in the text of Sitrei Tora – which, according to Ronit Meroz was written mainly by Yaakov Shaz, the student of Ramdal, see: R. Meroz, Yaakov Shaz veShutafav Li-Yezirzt Zohar Sitrei Torah, in Kabbala 22, pp. 253-285.

2. In addition: Prof. Adler is basically right in his note that usually Sarah is the Body and Avraham is the soul – but see what is written there in Sitrei Torah: Sara is the Soul [neshamah] - while Avraham is ‘Nishmata LeNishmata’!

3. What Menasseh ben Israel have done in the passage you have referred to is extremely interesting – as he ‘mixed’ (consciously or unconsciously) this text of Sitrei Torah with another text in the Zohar – in Midrash HaNeelam – Zohar vol. 1 daf 122b, saying that Kiryat Arba means four Yesodot – and by that he has created a new (beautiful!) Derasha.

4. and see Yalkut Reuveni, daf 104a s.v. Vatamot Sarah – who seems to follow exactly the line of Menasseh ben Israel – although he writes that his source is Midrash HaNeelam in the Zohar (!).

Shana Tova!

Admiel Kosman
Potsdam University