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The "NiSAN" Hermeneutics of R. Isaac of Acre: Part 2

Professor Boaz Huss

Ben Gurion University

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As I have mentioned in my previous correspondence the NiSAN [Nistar, Sod, Emet, Emet Nechona] interpretative scheme is arranged according to ascending realms in the chain of being. The correlation between the NiSAN method and the ascending ontic levels is stated explicitly by R. Isaac of Acre, who uses the term "the chain of NiSAN," and equates NiSAN  with the chain of being, from the human realm to the uppermost Sefirah: "The secret of the chain of NiSAN (is) from the discursive soul to the Crown (K=Keter), which is the primordial air."   R. Isaac identifies NiSAN with the realm of emanated being - the worlds of 'ABIA [Azilut, Beria'ah Yetzirah and Asiya]. If you will excuse an historical observation - R. Isaac has made an identification between the four hermeneutic methods and the four worlds of ABIA long before such an identification (which was mentioned by one of the chaverim) was made between the PaRDeS and ABIA [as far as I know, such an identification appears first in Lurianic Kabbalah in the 16th century, I will be happy to be corrected].  R. Isaac by the way, played a very important role in the formulation of the Kabbalistic theory of  the four worlds of `ABIA and he is the first Kabbalist to use the acronym "ABIA".  Not only does R. Isaac of Acre equate NiSAN and `ABIA, i.e  - reality and interpretation, he also personifies his interpretative method and perceives it [her] as the wife of the Infinite! As you all know, the concept of God's spouse in very important in Kabbalah, yet, usually the feminine Sefira is Malkhut, the wife of Tif'eret. R. Isaac of Acre is the only Kabbalist I know of who speaks about the wife of the infinite!  I will cite the relevant passage:

I, the young Isaac of Acre, was contemplating the secret of the two words which are in my opinion great principles in the wisdom of the entire reality and in the secrets of the written and oral Torah: NiSAN (and) 'ABIA. NiSAN means a miracle (NeS), a sign, a marvel and a wonder of 'AN, that is of the unique Master and the fifty gates of wisdom that He created. Further, the secret of NiSAN is "my wife" ('Itati), because the secret of the final N is seven hundred. That is what the first without beginning, the last without end (RaB R. ABA) says concerning NiSAN: My wife ('Itati). This is my wife who receives the influx from me
(Otzar Hayyim 92b)

R. Isaac explains the word NiSAN as composed of two words = NeS, in Hebrew miracle, and AN. The Aleph of AN equals 1, and thus refers to the "Unique" master. Nun  equals 50, and refers to the fifty gates of wisdom. Possibly R. Isaac also has in mind the Catalan title "en"= master, written in Hebrew  AN.

R. Isaac  counts the final Nun of NiSAN  as 700. Thus the numerical value of NISAN is 811, as that of the  word 'Itati = my wife. R. Isaac was probably also thinking of the word "Niswan", "women" in Arabic.  Hence he arrives at the notion that NiSAN is the wife of the infinite [whom he calles   the Rabbi RaB AaBA  =  the acronym of Rishon Bli Reshit, Aharon bli Aharit (the first without beginning, the last without end)].

posted on Donmeh forum
Sun, 11 Jul 1999

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