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First published in 1587, Moses Cordovero's now classic introduction to Kabbalah, Or Ne'erav, was intended to serve several purposes; it was meant both to provide a justification for the study of Kabbalah and to encourage that study by providing detailed instructions for interested laymen on how to go about that study; indeed, it was intended as a precis of Cordovero's much larger Pardes Rimmonim.
In many ways, Cordovero was ideally suited to compose such a work. His teacher of rabbinics was no other than R. Joseph Caro, author of the Shulhan Arukh, which rapidly became the halakhic code par excellence. His master in Kabbalah was Solomon ha-Levi Alkabetz, whose sister he subsequently married. The result of his studies with both was no less than a kabbalistic "code", a systematic kabbalistic theology of the Zohar, the basic text of Jewish mysticism. But this work was too large, and too complex to be easily mastered. Moreover, it assumed too much previous knowledge to serve as an introduction to the subject; hence the need for Or Ne'erav.
Or Ne'erav succeeded in fulfilling all these purposes, and has remained a classic introduction to the study of Kabbalah - and is used as such to this day. Dr. Robinson's accurate but readable translation is the first English rendition of this essential work.
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