Shi'ur Qomah

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Shi’ur Qomah (Hebrew: שיעור קומה, lit. Dimensions of the Body) is a midrashic text that is part of the Hekhalot literature. It purports to record, in anthropomorphic terms, the secret names and precise measurements of God's corporeal limbs and parts. The majority of the text is recorded in the form of sayings or teachings that the angel Metatron revealed to the tanna Rabbi Ishmael, who transmitted it to his students and his contemporary Rabbi Akiva. It is also an exegetical analysis of Song of Songs 5:11-16 and proclaims that anyone who studies it is guaranteed a portion in the World to Come.[1]

Provenance and interpretation[edit]

Currently the text exists only in fragmentary form, and scholars have debated how to appropriately date it. Modern academic scholars of Jewish mysticism, such as Gershom Scholem are of the opinion that it is from “either the Tannaitic or the early Amoraic period.”[2] However, in the 12th century, the rationalist Jewish philosopher Maimonides declared the text to be a Byzantine forgery.[3] Maimonides also believed that the text was so heretical and contrary to proper Jewish belief that it should be burned.[4][5]

Rabbi Saadia Gaon also expressed doubts about the origin of the text, and stated that “since it is not found in either Mishna or Talmud, and since we have no way of establishing whether or not it represents the words of Rabbi Yishmael; perhaps someone else pretended to speak in his name.” [6] Nonetheless, in the case that the text were somehow proven to be genuine, Saadia wrote that it would have to be understood in line with his “theory of 'created glory,'" which explains the prophetic theophanies as visions not of God Himself but of a luminous [created] substance.”[7] Rabbi Moses Narboni also wrote a philosophic work about the text entitled Iggeret Al-Shi'ur Qomah (Heb: אגרת על שיעור קומה lit. Epistle on Shi’ur Qomah), wherein he dismisses the blatant anthropomorphisms of Shi'ur Qomah as speaking strictly metaphorically. Rabbi Narboni’s work in the Iggeret is a “meditation on God, Measure of all existing things. It is based on Abraham Ibn Ezra's commentary on Exodus, and, with the aid of biblical and rabbinical passages, studies two kinds of knowledge: God's knowledge of his creatures, called knowledge of the Face; and His creatures’ knowledge of God, called knowledge of the Back (an allusion to Exodus 33:23).” [8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Everyone who knows the measure of the Creator is sure to be a son of the World to Come, and will be saved from the punishment of Gehinnom, and from all kind of punishments and evil decrees about to befall the world, and will be saved from all kind of witchcraft, for He saves us, protects us, redeems us, and rescues me from all evil things, from all harsh decrees, and from all kinds of punishments for the sake of His Great Name.” Shiur Qomah 1:2[citation needed]
  2. ^ Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition: Based on the Israel Goldstein lectures, delivered at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York. Gershom Gerhard Scholem. Edition: 2. Published by Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1965. Pg. 40.
  3. ^ Maimonides and Philosophy: Papers Presented at the Sixth Jerusalem Philosophical Encounter, May, 1985. Shlomo Pines, Yirmiahu Yovel. Published by Springer, 1985. Pg. 85, footnote 11, relying on J. Blau, R. Moses B. Maimon — Responsa (Jerusalem, 1958), 1:201.
  4. ^ The Secret Garden: An Anthology in the Kabbalah. David Meltzer. Published by Seabury Press, 1976. Pg, 3.
  5. ^ Maimonides' responsa siman (117 (Blau) / 373 (Freimann)); translated by Rabbi Yosef Qafih and reprinted in his Collected Papers, Volume 1, footnote 1 on pages 475-476 (Hebrew: שאלה, יורנו הדרתו מה לומר למי ששאל שאלה בענין שעור קומה האם הוא כדברי מי שאמר שהוא חבור אחד הקראים ושמע את זאת מהדרתכם, או שהוא סוד מסודות החכמים ז"ל וכמוסים בו ענינים גדולים טבעיים או אלהיים כמו שאמר רבנו האיי ז"ל באחד הקונדרסים בעניני חגיגה. ושכרו כפול מן השמים. תשובה, איני סבור כלל שהוא לחכמים ז"ל ואינו אלא חיבור אחד הדרשנים בערי אדום ולא יותר. כללו של דבר השמדת אותו הספר והכרתת זכר ענינו מצוה רבה, ושם אלהים אחרים לא תזכירו וכו' כי אשר לו קומה הוא אלהים אחרים בלי ספק.). See also ibid. p. 477-478 where a booklet found in Maimonides' Genizah with the text of Shi'ur Qomah appears with an annotation, possibly by Maimonides, cursing believers of Shi'ur Qomah (Hebrew: "ארור המאמינו") and praying that God be elevated exceedingly beyond that which the heretics say (Judeo-Arabic: "תע' ת'ם תע' עמא יקולון אלכאפרון"; Hebrew: "יתעלה לעילא לעילא ממה שאומרים הכופרים").
  6. ^ Judah b. Barzilai, Peirush Sefer Yetzira, ed. Solomon Zalman, Hayyim Halberstam, Berlin 1885. Pg. 21
  7. ^ Von der mittelalterlichen zur modernen Aufklärung: Studien zur jüdischen Geistesgeschichte. Alexander Altmann. Published by Mohr Siebeck, 1987. Pg. 132
  8. ^ A History of Jewish Philosophy in the Middle Ages. Colette Sirat. Published by Cambridge University Press, 1990. Pg, 334.

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