Who was Rabbi Avraham Abulafia?
Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia was the founder of the school of “Prophetic Kabbalah”. He was born in Zaragoza, Spain in 1240 and is assumed to have died sometime after 1291, following a stay on the small and windswept island of Comino, the smallest of the three inhabited islands that make up the Maltese archipelago.
Abulafia’s literary activity spans the years 1271–91 and consists of several books, treatises on grammar, and poems, but amongst which only thirty survive. He wrote many commentaries: three on the Guide of the Perplexed – Sefer ha-Ge’ulah (1273), Sefer Chayei ha-Nefesh, and Sefer Sitrei Torah (1280); on Sefer Yetzirah: – Otzar Eden Ganuz (1285/6), Gan Na’ul, and a third untitled; and a commentary on the Pentateuch – Sefer-Maftechot ha-Torah (1289).
In his later books, Abulafia repeatedly elaborated upon a system of seven paths of interpretation, which he used sometimes in his commentary on the Pentateuch, which starts with the plain sense, includes also an allegorical interpretation, and culminates in interpretations of the discrete letters, the latter conceived of as the path to prophecy. Abulafia developed a sophisticated theory of language, which assumes that Hebrew represents not so much the language as written or spoken as the principles of all languages, namely the ideal sounds and the combinations between them. Thus, Hebrew as an ideal language encompasses all the other languages. In his writings, Abulafia uses Greek, Latin, Italian, Arabic, Tatar, and Basque words for purpose of numerology.