Query: Seth an Ibbur in Moses

Jacob Adler's picture

Dear Colleagues,

In Book 4, Chapter 12 of Nishmat Hayyim, Menasseh ben Israel says that some people believe that the soul of Seth came as an ibbur into Moses.  Can anyone provide a source from which Menasseh could have drawn this view?  Louis Ginzberg mentions this idea in Legends of the Jews, but provides no citation.

Any clues will be appreciated.

Jacob Adler
University of Arkansas
Philosophy Department
Fayetteville, Arkansas


Categories: Query
Keywords: Seth, Moses, Ibbur

Dear Jacob,

Concerning your query:

1. See Isaac of Acre (13th-14th century), Sefer Me'irat 'enayim, ed. Hayyim Aryeh Erlanger (Jerusalem, 1975), pp. 43, 49, who interprets Mosheh as the acronym for Moses, Seth, and Hevel (Abel), thus pointing to a transmigration. See further Brian Ogren, Renaissance and Rebirth: Reincarnation in Early Modern Italian Kabbalah (Leiden, 2009), pp. 76, 188-189.

2. See also Bahya ben Asher (d. 1340), commentary on Genesis 4:25; Hayyim Vital (d. 1620), Sha'ar ha-gilgulim, ch. 29; Isaiah ben Abraham ha-Levi Horowitz (ha-Shelah ha-kadosh; d. 1630), Shenei luhot ha-berit, commentary on Parashat Noah. These three texts are available on https://www.sefaria.org.

3. Yohanan Alemanno (d. 1504) writes: "And the soul of Abel was in Seth, and from Seth in Moses, who was a shepherd at the beginning of his days and returned to be a shepherd of the flock of his people" (Alemanno’s commentary on the first five chapters of Genesis, cited in Ogren, Renaissance and Rebirth, p. 209).


Liran Yadgar (Monterey, CA)

For the question of Prof. Jacob Adler in regard to the discussion of Menasseh ben Israel in book 4, Chapter 12, of Nishmat Hayyim, about the belief that the soul of Seth came as an ibbur into Moses.

In additon to the excellent answer of Prof. Liran Yadger: The reason why it is refered as Ibbur especially and not Gilgul is not clearly answered yet (and see Ogren, who is mentioned by Liran: pp. 15-16, and 147-152 on this subject in general). It seems, however that Ben Israel differentiates clearly in his discussion there between Gilgul and Ibbur.
Therefore, as a supplement to the answer of Liran I would add this note of Libes to the list of sources:
See Yehuda Libes, Kietzad Nithaber Sefer haZoher, in Yoseph Dan (ed.), Sefer HaZohar veDoro (Jeruslaem 1989) p. 6, n. 20.
This note can explain, I believe, better why it is here a case of Ibbur and not of Gilgul.

Admiel Kosman
Potsdam University