Devastated and demoralized after the violence of the Khmelnytsky rebellion, the Jews of Europe were astounded to hear that a young Kabbalist named Shabbetai Tsvi had proclaimed himself the long-awaited Messiah.
In the summer of 1858, 6-year old Edgardo Mortara, a Jewish boy living in Bologna, Italy, was forcibly taken from his home by Italian police acting at the behest of the Inquisition. It had come to the attention of the Church that a teenage non-Jewish servant girl had performed an “emergency baptism” on Edgardo several years earlier, fearing that he would die of a childhood illness and not be allowed entry into Heaven. Despite strenuous efforts by Jewish communities around the world, Pope Pius IX refused to release Edgardo, who ultimately became a priest in the Augustinian order and devoted his life to converting Jews to Catholicism.
The Palm Tree of Devorah first appeared in 1588 and became and instant classic. The author, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, was the most celebrated Kabbalist of his day, a student of Rabbi Yosef Karo (the author of the Code of Jewish Law) and the teacher of Rabbi Isaac Luria (the Arizal) among others.
The topic of this phenomenal work is imitatio Dei, or the “imitation of God,” through emulation of the 10 Kabbalistic sefirot. The first chapter is certainly the most well known, dealing with the sefirah of Keter in the form of the 13 Attributes of Mercy. Rabbi Cordovero uses this to describe 13 distinct levels of forgiveness. As human beings learn to forgive each other, this will elicit further Divine influence through the sefirah of Keter, expanding forgiveness in the world, perfecting it through tikun olam, and hastening the Messianic redemption.
The Kabbalah of Forgiveness provides the Hebrew original, a new English translation, and commentary by Dr. Abramson, including a description of practical applications of Rabbi Cordovero’s teachings.