Major Trends In Jewish Mysticism Free Download
Scholem is convinced that Kabbala is a medieval phenomenon. That is,while there are important works of Jewish mysticism composed before theMiddle Ages, the metaphysics and cosmology we know as Kabbala emergesas a reaction against the rationalism of medieval Jewish philosophythat posits a distant and unapproachable God in line with theAristotelian and Platonic (and Neoplatonic) schools. These kabbalists,while protesting such rationalism, were themselves very influenced bytwo dominant trends: Gnosticism and Neo-Platonism. In hisOrigins, Scholem traces both Gnostic and Neoplatonicinfluences on these early kabbalistic thinkers, viewing them as deeplyembedded in their medieval context. Kabbala in this period emerged inthree locales: Provence, Castile, and Gerona and included prominentrabbinic figures, most importantly Moses Nahmanides. Origins of theKabbala begins with an analysis of the Book Bahir (takenlargely from his doctoral thesis) a work Scholem claims emerges from acircle of mystics led by the enigmatic Isaac the Blind in Provencealthough he suggests some strata of this enigmatic work may originatein some unknown Jewish Gnostic groups. For Scholem, the Bahiris the first book of Kabbala. When we move to Castile and Gerona,Kabbala becomes more actively engaged in posing an alternative theologyto rationalist philosophy. Scholem maintains that the Gerona school wasnot an independent entity but more of an extension of the earlierProvencal circle that produced the Bahir. This polemic (betweenphilosophers and kabbalists and between Talmudists and kabbalists)continued until the end of the sixteenth century when Kabbala won thehearts and minds of many Jews after the Spanish expulsion in 1492 andthe forced conversions and expulsions in Portugal in 1496. Scholemargued this was in large part due to two factors: First, thatphilosophy too easily justified bogus Jewish conversion, that is, thechoice to internalize Judaism and abandon outward ritual; and moreimportantly, that philosophy could not offer solace for the historicalcrisis of the expulsion. After the expulsion Kabbala moves from theperiphery to become the default theology of Judaism. It is in thesepolemical centuries, however, that Kabbala develops its most importantfeatures that become the foundation of all subsequent Kabbala. One isits emanationist theory of creation and the descent of divine effluenceinto the world. Another is its elaborate version of ta'ameiha-mitzvot or reasons for the commandments (a discipline initiatedin its medieval form by the most famous Jewish rationalist MosesMaimonides). Unlike many earlier pre-kabbalistic mysticisms, thisinextricably connects mystical doctrine to Jewish law and ritual. Aclassic example of this is Ezra of Gerona's Ta'ameiha-Mitzvot printed erroneously in the name of Nahmanides. Anotheris the beginning of kabbalistic exegesis of Scripture. Bahya ben Asherof Saragossa's kabbalistic commentary is a classical example ofthis phenomenon in the pre-zoharic period that is expanded and deepenedlater in the Zohar and its commentaries. Yet another is theproliferation of mystical commentaries on prayer that first emerge inthe Provencal fraternities of Isaac the Blind. Finally in this periodwe see the first systematic cosmologies that become templates for laterkabbalistic doctrine. One example would be Azriel of Gerona'sSefer Esser Sephirot. I will discuss the historiographicissues implicit in these two works in another section. Suffice it tosay that given the many publications of Scholem in this middle periodof his career, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism andOrigins of the Kabbala stand out as the most important andinfluential.
Major Trends In Jewish Mysticism Free Download
Jeremy Zwelling,Wesleyan University:This carefully edited collection of essays on Jewish mysticism effectively delivers on its promise to be accessible to broad audiences. The volume amounts to a thoughtful and lucid conversation among leading scholars . . . It provides a sense of overall coherence as themes set forth in one essay regularly intersect with themes developed in other essays, the sum nicely ending up greater than the parts. The literate lay reader as well as faculty and students in a wide range of university courses will find this to be a most useful gateway to Jewish mysticism as well as an illumining account of current trends in scholarship.Lawrence Kushner,author of I'm God; You're Not: Observations on Organized Religion & Other Disguises of the Ego:Greenspahn has assembled many of the & usual suspects along with some welcome teachers from a newer generation of scholars. The buffet he sets before us refreshingly summarizes much of the current thinking about mysticism in general and Kabbalah in particular. The essays are thoughtful, provocative, and frequently even inspiring.S.T. Katz:Libraries serving religion and Judaic programs will want to add this volume.Daniel Scheide:If you have an interest in Kabbalah, but are not aware of recent trends in the field, this is the book to pick up.An excellent summary of the history of Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah and the notes here, as in all of the essays, will provide readers with much additional reading material and resources... This is an excellent book for general readers who wish to learn about this fascinating area of Jewish life and literature, as the jargon of scholar-speak is kept to a minimum