Early Hebrew Mysticism
by Mark Filipas

While it is only lexical sources which have direct relavence to this theory of Trump origin, Hebrew bibliographies identify other important sources as well. Listed below are works dealing specifically with letter mysticism and kabbalism since these may be of interest to other Tarotists and researchers. These lists focus mainly on early writings; in most cases, multiple copies of each are known to have circulated. When known, each work’s location/date of origin appears in parenthesis.

Letter Mysticism:


Otiot (Samaria, c.200 A.D.), kabbalistic treatise on the Hebrew letters. Numerous copies of this work were circulated throughout Europe. A Latin translation of this work appeared in Kircher’s Oedipus Egyptiacus.


The Alphabet of Ben Sirah (11th-century), twenty-two stories based on the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Norman Bronznick wrote: “The Alphabet may be one of the earliest literary parodies in Hebrew literature, a kind of academic burlesque – perhaps even entertainment for rabbinic scholars themselves – that included vulgarities, absurdities, and the irreverent treatment of acknowledged sancta.”

Da Viterbo,
Cardinal Egidio

On the Hebrew Letters (Italy). Da Viterbo’s (1465-1532) writings were heavily influenced by kabbalism, and especially by the Zohar and the Sefer ha-Temunah.

Eleazar ben
Judah of Worms

Sepher Raziel (late 12th-century), a kabbalistic work which cites Merkavah literature and describes the power of the Hebrew alphabet, the orders of angels, the Divine Throne, the Chariot, the Divine Voice, the Divine names, and a practical guide for the creation of a golem.

Ezra, Ibn

Sepher Zachut (Mantua, 1145), concerning the Hebrew letters as well as principles of grammar.

Sod (1100s), on the mysteries in the forms of the Hebrew letters. Manuscript copies of it are in the Vatican library.

Ormat ha-Mezima (also known as Arugat ha-Mezima, 1100s), a small philosophical book using the alphabet and poetry.

Gikatilla, Joseph
ben Abraham

Ginnat Egoz (late 1400s), an introduction to the mystic symbolism of the alphabet, vowel points, and the Divine Names.




Abraham, ben David

Commentary on the Sepher Yetzirah (Castile, 1100s). Several manuscript copies of this work were circulated over the centuries. De Rossi describes Abraham as a celebrated writer whose “advice and instruction was sought from afar.”

Abulafia, Abraham

Sitre Torah, a kabbalistic treatise.

Moreh ha-Moreh, a kabbalistic commentary.

Hayei ha‘Olam Ha-Ba (Italy, 1286), an anyonmous fragment attributed to Abulafia, explaining the formation of a golem.

Commentary on the Sepher Yetzirah (Camino, Italy, 1289).

Born in Toledo in 1240, Abulafia spent much of his adult life in Italy. In 1279, he wrote a prophetic work in Urbino; in 1280, he taught at Capua; in 1281, he went to Rome in order to convert the Pope; in 1285, he lived in Sicily; in 1288, he lived on the island of Camino, near Malta, where he wrote several works including his commentary on the Sepher Yetzirah.

Abulafia, Todros
ben Joseph HaLevi

Various kabbalistic works (1200s). Todros ben Joseph was a rabbi and kabbalist.


Habdalah (Samaria, c.200 A.D.), a kabbalistic treatise on the Sabbath ritual. Akiba’s many other kabbalistic works include Otiot, listed under Letter Mysticism. Manuscript copies of his work were often cited and frequently duplicated.

Alkabez, Solomon
ben Moses HaLevi

Various kabbalistic works (1500s). A prolific author, Alkabez wrote some works on the Bible, and others of a kabbalistic nature. Many of his manuscripts were stolen when he died. It is not clear whether this was done during persecutions, or by other authors. None of his purely kabbalistic works was printed or preserved in manuscript.

Allemano, Jochanan

Va’ad la-Chachamim (Italy, 1400s), a kabbalistic work. Allemano taught Hebrew to Pico della Mirandolla.


Sefer Bahir (late 12th century). Elaborations on the Talmud and Hebrew alphabetic mysticism.


Sefer Raziel (circa 1100 CE), anonymous collection of cosmological and magical works.


Sefer Yetzirah (Palestine, between the 3rd and 6th centuries). Parma De Rossi authored one Italian copy of Sepher Yetzirah in 1316.

Asher ben Hlava, Bahya ben

Be'ur al ha-Torah (1291), a commentary on the Torah using 4 different interpretations: literal, homiletical, rational, and kabbalistical. An exegete, preacher and kabbalist, Asher ben Hlava’s clear writing style brought this work popularity.

Shalom Abraham

Neve Shalom (Italy, 1400s), described by De Rossi as dealing with “the divine law, free will, salvation, cabalistic doctrines, prophets and prophecies, sacrifices and offerings, the soul and its condition after death, the resurrection.”

Chasid, Samuel

Commentary on Exodus (Spire, 1100s), a kabbalistic analysis of Exodus.

Colorni, Abraham

Clavicula Salomonis (Mantua, 1500s), translated into Italian at the request of the Duke of Mantua.

Scotographia (Mantua, 1593) or universal steganography (the art of hiding the existence of a message rather than its meaning), commisioned by the Duke of Ferrara for the Emperor Rudolph II.

Cordovero, Moses

Pardes Rimonim (Safet, 1500s), a key to the kabbalah in 32 chapters.

Tomer Deborah (Safet, 1500s), an introduction to the Sefiroth.

Commentary on the Song of Solomon (Safet, 1500s), treating of the names of the angels.

Kabbalistical Commentary on the Pentateuch (Safet, 1500s).

Commentary on the Sephir Yetzirah (Safet, 1500s).

Or Yakir (Safet, 1500s), containing commentaries on the Zohar and other kabbalistic books.

Da Viterbo,
Cardinal Egidio

Scechina (Italy). Da Viterbo’s (1465-1532) writings were heavily influenced by kabbalism, and especially by the Zohar and the Sefer ha-Temunah.

De Leon, Moses
ben Shem-Tov

Sepher Zohar (13th century), first attributed to Rabbi Simon Bar Yochai of the 2nd century, and later to Rabbi Moses, the renowned Spanish kabbalist.

Dior, Abraham ben

Sefer ha-Kabbalah (1161), a history of kabbalism in three parts. De Rossi says of it that “This work, which is the source from whence all historians of Jewish literature have drawn their information concerning the celebrated scholars who lived prior to the twelfth century, has passed through several editions.”

Donnolo, R.

Commentary on the Sepher Yetzirah (Italy, 11th-century). According to Cecil Roth (World History of the Jewish People), Donnolo was “the first Jewish scholar in Italy known to have engaged in theological speculation and mysticism.”

Duran, Simon
ben Zemach

Zohar ha-Rakia (Algiers, 1417), a commentary on the Azharot. Duran was born in Spain but fled to Algiers in 1391 because of Jewish persecution.

ben Yerucham

Pelia (mid-1300s), a celebrated kabbalistic work dealing with Elijah, the angles, and the first chapter of Genesis.

Eleazar ben
Judah of Worms

Sepher Raziel (late 12th-century), a kabbalistic work which cites Merkavah literature and describes the power of the Hebrew alphabet, the orders of angels, the Divine Throne, the Chariot, the Divine Voice, the Divine names, and a practical guide for the creation of a golem.

ben Simson

Pelia (early 1200s), a kabbalistic commentary on the Pentateuch.

Ezra, Ibn

Sodot Hatorah (Rome, 1167), kabbalistic and theosophic explanations of the Pentateuch. Various manuscript copies of it have been housed in the Bodleian, Vatican, and Paris Oratoire libraries.

Sepher Hashem (1100s), concerning the unpronouncable name of God.

Sepher ha-Echad (1100s), treating of the properties of the numerals 1 through 10. Manuscript copies are in the Vatican, Bodleian, and Oppenheimer libraries.

Ezra, ben Solomon

Commentary on the Earlier Prophets (1395), kabbalistical commentary.

Ezra, ben Solomon

Commentary on the Song of Songs (Gerona, 1200s), kabbalistical commentary.

Sa’Adyah Gaon

Eben ha-Philosophim (late-800s or early 900s), a kabbalistical work. Fajumi was born in Egypt in 892 and traveled to Sora in 927. He was later compelled by a quarrel with David ben Zakkai to conceal himself for seven years, during which time he wrote his many works. More than one source reports that he was buried on Mount Sinai in 941 or 942.

Ibn Solomon

Keter Malchut (Spain, 11th-century), a kabbalistic treatise.

Mekor Chayim (Spain, 11th-century), a philosophical work treating of form and matter.

Gabirol wrote several works incorporating Neoplatonism and kabbalism. He wrote in Choice of Pearls that “Man is only wise during the time that he searches for wisdom, when he imagines he has completely attained it, he is a fool.”

Garmiza, Eliezer

Kabbalistic Commentary on the Pentateuch (1300s).

Commentary on Sepher Yetzirah (1300s).

Kabbalistic Commentary on the Megillot (1300s).

Various Kabbalistic Works (1300s) in manuscript form. Garmiza also taught Kabbalah to the celebrated Nachamani.

Gikatilla, Joseph
ben Abraham

Sha’are Ora (late 1400s), kabbalistic work on the names and attributes of God.

Sha’ar Meshalim (late 1400s), on Jewish gnosis and philosophy.

Giogio, Francesco

De Harmonia Mundi (Venice, 1525), and

Problemata (Venice, 1536), two large volumes on the kabbalah which were read extensively at their time. In both works the kabbalah was central to the themes developed, and the Zohar, for the first time, was used en masse in a work of Christian origin. Giogio was a Franciscan monk.

ben Solomon

Commentary on Sepher Yetzirah (9th–10th centuries). Israeli wrote many popular works, many of them on philosophy and medicine.

Jachia, Gedalyah

Shalshelet ha-Kabbalah (Northern Italy, mid–1500s), an extensive three-part work treating of history, astronomy, the soul, witchcraft and Spirits, creation, angels, devils, Paradise, Hell, and the original language.

Latef, Isaac

Sha’ar ha-Shamayim (Spain, 1244), on God, prophecy, the Urim and Thummim, and other subjects.

Tzurat ha-Olam (Spain, 1200s), on the structure of the World.

Leoni, Moses
ben Shem Tov

Nefesh ha-Chockmah (Spain, 1200s), a kabbalistic treatise of the soul, its condition after death, and its resurrection.

Ha-Shem (Spain, 1200s), on the ten Sephiroth and other kabbalistic subjects.

Mishkan ha-Edut (Spain, 1200s), on Hell, Paradise, and repentance.

Maimonides, Moses

Moreh Nebuchim (12th-century), a three-part work dealing with Biblical homonyms and metaphors, the names of God, the Shen ha-Mephorash, the essence of the angels, the heavenly bodies, prophecy and providence.

Maimonides authored numerous works on a variety of interesting topics, such as On the Resurrection of the Dead, Igeret le-Chachmé Massilia, an astronomical treatise written for the learned at Marseilles, A Compendium of Logic, and A Compendium of Medicine.

Nechonia, ben Kana


Sefer ha-Yichud.



Nechonia was a cabalist of the 1st century. Some have ascribed the Sefer Bahir to him as well.

Nissim, Jacob ben

Commentary on Sefer Yezirah (10th-century).

Shem Tov ben

Sefer ha-Ma’alot (late 1200s), a work later incorporate by Pico della Mirandola into his kabbalistic manuscripts.

Perez, ben
Isaac Cohen

Maarachet ha-Elahut (Gerona, mid 1200s), a kabbalistic work.

Postel, Guillaume

Latin translations of the Zohar and Sefer Yetzirah (France, 1500s).

Ramban (Moses

Commentary on Sepher Yetzirah (Gerona, 1200s). A physician, philosopher, and Kabbalist, Ramban authored numerous kabbalistic works during the 13th-century, including the following:

Otzar ha-Chayim.

Sitré Torah.

Eden Gan Elohim.

Sefer ha-Rimmon.

Shulchan Sodot.


Kabbalistic Commentary on the Pentateuch (Italy, late 1200s). Pico della Mirandola later translated this work into Latin.

Reuchlin, Johannes

Arte Cabalistica (1517).

De Verbo Mirifico (On the Miraclous Name, 1494), by the famed Christian Hebrew scholar.

Sahula, Meir b.
Solomon ibn

Commentary on Sefer Yezirah (Rome, 1331).

Samsoni, Ephraim

Kabbalistic Commentary on the Pentateuch (early 1200s).

Samuel, Simeon ben

Adam Sikhli (14–15th centuries), a philosophical treatise on the decalogue, the attributes of God, and kabbalistic meditation. Simeon ben Samuel was a philosopher and kabbalist.

Shem Tov
ben Abraham

Kabbalistic treatise on the Sephiroth (Safet, early 1300s).




Continue to The Marseilles Lexicon
the alphabetic sequence of the Marseilles iconography


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· De Rossi, Bernardo Giovanni, Dizionario Storico degli Autoi Ebrei d delle Loro Opere, Parma, 1802.

· Roth, Cecil, The World History of the Jewish People, Israel, 1966.

· Amram, David, The Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy, London, 1962.

Copyright © 2002 Mark Filipas – 3/17/02