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Book of Raziel

The Book of Raziel is a collection of mystical, cosmological, and magical Hebrew works and portions of works. First printed in Amsterdam in 1701, it was reprinted many times because of the popular belief that the book protected its owner’s home from fire and other dangers. There are some manuscripts of, at least, parts of this work that date back to the 16th century. However, in its printed form, it was not compiled much earlier than the 17th century. Many manuscript collections of material of the same sort are extant, and Raziel is not unique among them in any way. The material included in the collection can be divided into three distinct categories or strata:

(1) Works, or parts of works, which belong to Heikhalot and Merkabah mysticism, the mystical and cosmological literature of the Talmudic and geonic periods. Of these, Raziel contains a version of the Sefer ha-Malbush, a magical work; baraita of Ma’aseh Bereshit, a cosmological and astrological description of the Creation, which has some mystical overtones; and a major part of the Sefer ha-Razim ("Book of Magical Secrets"), which is a collection of magical formulas and angelological material from Talmudic times. The introduction to Sefer ha-*Razim probably gave the whole collection its name. In this introduction, the angel Raziel is claimed to have revealed the secrets described to Adam. In this category, there is some importance to a long version of the early anthropomorphic work, the Shi’ur Komah, describing the members and secret names of the Creator.

(2) Material that belongs to the literature of the 13th-century Hasidei Ashkenaz. To this category belong the introduction and the first half of Eleazar of Worms’ work, Sod Ma’aseh Bereshit (The Secret of the Creation), which formed the first part of his Sodei Rezaya. Some exegetical works on the Holy Names of God, and some magical formulas that conclude the collection, also belong to the literary heritage of the Ḥasidei Ashkenaz.

(3) A few portions of kabbalistic literature, descriptions of the Sefirot and exegeses of Holy Names, mostly reflecting kabbalistic theology of pre-Lurianic periods. A critical analysis of the work by Elyakim Melsack (Milzahagi) is preserved in a manuscript at Jews’ College, London.


M. Margalioth, Sefer ha-Razim (1966), introduction; J. Dan, Torat ha-Sod shel Ḥasidei Ashkenaz (1968), 83, 208.

[Joseph Dan]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.