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The Earliest Commentaries on Sefer Yeṣirah

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Chapter Summary

The first known commentary on SY was written in Arabic by Sa'adiah Gaon, probably around the year 930 under the title Tafsir Kitab al-Mabadi (Book of Primary Principles). Sa'adiah's main exegetical endeavour consisted in the reinterpretation of the creative processes described in SY so as to harmonise them with the biblical assumption that everything came into existence through the will of the Creator and all at once. Dunash ibn Tamim composed his commentary on SY in Arabic, between the years 950-955, someten years after the death of Sa'adiah. Dunash's principal criticism of Sa'adiah concerns the meaning of be limah, which Sa'adiah had interpreted as "closed," deriving it from b-l-m (literally, "to stop," "to curb"). Dunash maintains a twofold conception of the letters, which he conceives as either elements of language or symbols of material substances.

Keywords: Dunash ibn Tamim; Sa'adiah Gaon; SY



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