Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic

By Moshe Idel | Go to book overview
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Models in Jewish Mysticism


As mentioned above, the prevailing attitude toward the conceptual infrastructure of Hasidism assumes that the basic mystical system by which it is informed is Lurianic Kabbalah. This main form of classical Kabbalah was indeed well known and influential in the great majority of Hasidic writings. Witness to this are the numerous key concepts that the Hasidic masters borrowed from Lurianic texts, concepts such as Yiudim, kavvanot, imum, shevirah, ha ʿalaʾat niẓẓoot, mittuq ha-dinim, gadelut and qatenut, or tiqqun. These are only a few of the many examples of the deep influence of this form of Kabbalah. Though some of these concepts were well known long before the emergence of Lurianism, it seems that their acceptance—and the depth of their impact—in this classical mystical literature since the sixteenth century contributed greatly to their later dissemination in Hasidic literature. However, while explicitly acknowledging the contribution of Lurianism to Hasidism, there are two questions of concern in any attempt to trace the genesis of Hasidic mystical religiosity.

The first is the ostensible centrality in Hasidism of numerous mystical concepts that are absent in the Lurianic corpus, or are at most marginal to its mystical physiognomy: the ideals of devequt and hitkallelut; the mystical states of hishtawwut, hitbodedut, and hitpashshetut ha-gashmiut and the concepts of ruaniyyut, keli, 1behirut, and iyyut cannot be derived easily, if at all, from the Lurianic corpus. There can be no doubt that they did not emerge as the result of a hermeneutical effort; neither are they synonyms for Lurianic concepts that were rendered in a different key. The assumption that Hasidism is a psychologization or neutralization of Lurianic concepts does not apply to these crucial terms. One may rightfully claim that they serve the processes of neutralization and psychologization, but even this instrumental role cannot explain their emergence. On the contrary, their presence may explain why these processes took place—why, that is, Lurianism could not be accepted by the Hasidim according to its classical interpretations.


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Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic


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