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Hebrew Grammar

Gabbai,Meir ben Ezekiel ibn. Avodat ha-ḳodesh leha-rav.

Krakow : Yitsḥaḳ ben Aharon mi-Praisṭits, 1577.

Meir ben Ezekiel ibn Gabbai, 1480- ca.1540.

Avodat ha-Kodesh (“The Sacred Service” or “Work of Holiness”), completed between 1522 and 1530, was its era’s most comprehensive, well-organized summary of early Kabbalah (Jewish mystical) doctrines, and one of the most popular Kabbalah works at the time.

The Spanish-born Gabbai scorned Maimonidean “Greek wisdom”, sciences, and philosophy as failing Jews after the cataclysmic inquisitions in Spain and Portugal. Instead, his mixture of Kabbalah with tradition enormously influenced Jews looking to revitalize Judaism.

Avodat marks Gabbai as a precursor to Moses Cordovero and Isaac Luria, leaders of Kabbalah’s renaissance in 16th-century Safed.

This edition, first published in Venice in 1566-68 as part of a larger work, was printed at the Cracow press of Isaac ben Aaron of Prossnitz, Poland’s dominant press at the time. The printer’s device (logo) shown here refers to an often-used Kabbalah quote adapted from the Mishnah :“Be…strong like a lion and swift as a deer to do the will of your the land of the Deer “[i.e. the Holy Land].