The enduring female: differentiating Moses de León's early androgynology

Jeremy Brown, Avishai Bar-Asher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This study establishes Moses de León's unpublished »Unnamed Composition« as the kabbalist's first experimental explanation of the sefirot in terms of their androgyny. A text-critical analysis and comparison with subsequent Hebrew writings by de León and passages from the canonical Zohar reveal the distinctive features of the speculation on gender preserved in this early text. Here de Leon (a) repurposes an older three-worlds framework for articulating the structures of divine androgyny; (b) uses Solomon's Sea as a speculative topos that favors female superordination; (c) refrains from any absolutism in determining gender on the basis of differentiated economic function; and (d) affirms the female eternity of Malkhut, which emphatically does not become male. These factors, and the last in particular, indicate a more heterogenous discourse on gender at the earliest phase of the theosophical speculation that gave rise to the Zohar.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-53
Number of pages33
JournalJewish Studies Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

RAMBI Publications

  • Rambi Publications
  • Moses ben Shem Tov -- de Leon -- 1250-1305
  • Mysticism -- Judaism
  • Sefirot (Cabala)
  • Zohar -- Criticism, interpretation, etc


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