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Obj. ID: 45422
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts
  Ilan Aroch, Ottoman Empire, circa 1700

© Gross Family Collection, Photographer: Bar Hama, Ardon, -

The following description was prepared by William Gross:


Kabbalistic diagrams resembling Porphyrian trees have been known at least since the sixteenth century as “Ilanot” [Heb. pl. Arborae; sing. "Ilan"]. [First such reference known to me is in the work of Guillaume Postel, who refers to "Ilanoth" as a genre of rabbinic literature.] Ilanot constitute visual representations of kabbalistic cosmologies from the relatively simpler forms of the thirteenth century to the far more complex and ramified systems in Lurianic Kabbalah from the sixteenth century onward. The increasing complexity of cosmic trees between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries directly reflects the exponential ramification of kabbalistic theosophy that took place over those centuries. Given the overwhelmingly visio-spacial conceptions of the divine in its evolutionary “becoming” in these mystical traditions, Ilanot could serve as cosmic maps. This divine cartography aspired to capture the syncronic interrelations between the various facets of the godhead and creation as well as their diachronic, evolving emergence.


                                          What’s an Ilan? Any synoptic diagrammatic presentation of kabbalistic cosmology. The basic graphical forms could range from the arboreal to the boldly anthropomorphic. Lurianic Ilanot, in their lengthy and complex presentations, often feature both, as well as spreadsheet-like tables. The iconic decadal tree is an Ilan, as is the intricately Baroque Hammerschlag Ilan. Diagrams expressing particular concepts within a larger framework, such as the illustrations that frequently accompany certain cosmogonic discussions in the Lurianic corpus, would doubtfully have been called ilanot by anyone. However simple or complex the pictorial-diagrammatic features of an Ilan, extensive textual material is frequently embedded in and around the geometrical forms. The texts may be paraphrastic chapter headings, original compositions, or the study notes of a student. Their connection to the pictorial features alongside which they appear is usually clear, with the text providing a verbal key to the quality or process depicted graphically. That said, in complex Ilanot, simple keying gives way to more complex and even inscrutable connections. Indeed, these manuscripts demand to be treated as “integrated systems of communication” that raise “questions about how verbal and visual patterns of meaning were constructed, combined, and modified.”



                                          The Ilan Aroch is a scroll that was prepared by some scholars of the kabbalah, apparently as a sort of guide to their studies of the discipline.  These scrolls are exceedingly rare and many of them differ from the others in their details, according the particular interpretation and understanding of the individual. This particular scroll is according the school of Ha’ari and the writings of Rabbi Chaim Vital and Rabbi Israel Saruk. This scroll uses an Ashkenazi script, and such Ashkenazi scrolls are less common than the Sephardi scrolls. This is an early 18th century example. The scroll is written on cow skin on three sections.



                                          Scroll # 4 - 4 frames (028.012.003); [prt.4]: fascinating graphics all accompanied by a lot of text  [esp. frame 1] East Europe 1750ca ? parchment ink written decorated sewn 20X185cm; Perhaps from Circle of Besht, or from a generation earlier [there are 11 extant mss.of the root-text with commentaries-of which this is a precis(urtext?)-see 1] - or perhaps from post-1795 (and a precis of both, anon-1699 and Besht-1795) : carbon dat. Results, indeterminate!


                                          1.         En-Sof [Infinite Primordial State] and Its [three-plus dimensional] Primordial Limiting Point as the 10 Essence-Sefirot [surrounded by three transfinite aspect-forms that enable the sustained being of both finite and infinite]; all prior to Zimzum [Divine Self-contraction]. Followed by [the maniFeztation of this Point as] the form of the Tetragramaton, constructed as  72, in 24x3 pathways mediated by points [as discussed in the surrounding text - available in 4pp printout]; followed by Gelifu [whereby the letters are produced out of points], Reshimu [imprint of all potential narrative], Malbush [Divine Garment woven by ibid.] and Avir Kadmon [Primordial Space - all of the above (as well as the letter-patterns that produce the surrounded illustrations, described in text]. Then, folding of Malbush; followed by 10 concentric Sefirot of A"K [like Sc. 2 fr. 5], Aqudim [as concentric acronym-letters of the Sefirot]. Then, form of 10 Sefir. at time of Shevirah [all above, in separate boxes or circles and 155 line text. It also has 'Lower half of Tehiru', but is not Kelippah]. Lines 9-19 contain a precis of Keter Shem Tov II # 348 [Zolkova, 1795] providing a solution to primordiality-time-knowledge-freedom conundrum. All else, parallels the theology of R Azriel of Gerona [via Sarug Kabbalah, according to the transmission recorded by R. Yissachar Ber Eilenburg [ca. 1590] in his Hakdamat Perush Sifra deTzne'uta, published together with Limudei Atzilut in Munkacs 1897, as a] remarkably integrated precis of the anon. Maamar Adam d'Azilut; its anon. commentary [with one parallel to R. Moshe Graf inVaYakhel Moshe Dessau 1699 (which seems not to be intrinsically tied to that text)  - if dated to before 1720, could be by the fabled R. Adam Baal-Shem  [some evidence it used Zolkova 1741 ed. of ibid]. No resemblance to "58 Principles" commentary on Adam d'Azilut  by R. Y. of Koznitz (Hasidic, early 19th cen. Jerusalem, 2005); likely date of composition - either Besht contemporary [& see below, 4:4], or after 1795]; carbon 14 dating yields inconclusive results.

                                          2.         Smiling Atika, engarmented by A"K, Names, TNT"A, lower Seven Sefirot engarmenting the 7 higher Sefirot of Arikh [regarding the text; see scroll # 5, frame 2: there, the same technical-engarmentation question is asked but not answered; here we find quite a profound symbolic answer, applying EH 9:3 klalim (CHECK)]!

                                          3.         'Fierce' [or, Long Suffering] Arikh [!] [with 3 aspects of each sefir, and roots and lower maniFeztation extensions] engarmenting all the 8 lower  Partzufim

                                          4.         Levels of engarmenting Zelem of Z"A, followed by the Tree of  Sefirot in the form of the 32 paths, containing the letters, bodily limbs, tribes, months, Sefirotic pathways, various Tetragrammaton vocalizations, Sefira Divine Names,  color designations and Archangelic patterns corresponding to vocalization  [incomplete - and see   Ateret Tiferet Yisrael of RY Satnov [ca 1750, coll. Of Besht -Tishby], P. Ki Tavo]; followed by hands and fingers engarmenting letters in AY"Q BC"R letter-transposition form corresponding to   Yesod and Malkhut; followed by Olam haBeriah and Yetzirah, both in Partzuf designative form with Archangelic names [not all of them]; a list of angelic categories in Yetzirah; followed by Assiah in aforementioned form, surrounded by Kelipot, and geographical, elemental, and Ezekiel-chariot designations, as well as the 32 types of Sechel [13th cen. Iyun]

Summary and Remarks

9 image(s)

sub-set tree:

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Object Detail
Monument Setting
circa 1700
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| ?
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Type of grave
Parchment, Ink, Written, Illustrated, Sewn
Material Stucture
Material Decoration
Material Bonding
Material Inscription
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Material Cloth
Material Lining
Tesserae Arrangement
Construction material
Length: 185 cm, Width: 20 cm
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Historical significance: Collective Memory/Folklore
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Architectural Significance: Artistic Decoration
Urban significance
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Number of Lines
Hebrew Numeration
Blank Leaves
Façade (main)
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Author of description
William Gross |
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Computer Reconstruction
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The following information on this monument will be completed:
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