A Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism Reader

A Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism Reader

A Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism Reader

A Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism Reader

Synopsis

An unprecedented annotated anthology of the most important Jewish mystical works, A Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism Reader is designed to facilitate teaching these works to all levels of learners in adult education and college classroom settings. Daniel M. Horwitz's insightful introductions and commentary accompany readings in the Talmud and Zohar and writings by Ba'al Shem Tov, Rav Kook, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and others.

Horwitz's introduction describes five major types of Jewish mysticism and includes a brief chronology of their development, with a timeline. He begins with biblical prophecy and proceeds through the early mystical movements up through current beliefs. Chapters on key subjects characterize mystical expression through the ages, such as Creation and deveikut ("cleaving to God"); the role of Torah; the erotic; inclinations toward good and evil; magic; prayer and ritual; and more. Later chapters deal with Hasidism, the great mystical revival, and twentieth-century mystics, including Abraham Isaac Kook, Kalonymous Kalman Shapira, and Abraham Joshua Heschel. A final chapter addresses today's controversies concerning mysticism's place within Judaism and its potential for enriching the Jewish religion.

Excerpt

What drew me into the study of Jewish mysticism? in the middle of my life, after about fifteen years as a rabbi and thirty years into my serious involvement with Judaism, rather than simply continuing what I was doing I asked myself: what has made Judaism work for me? Why has it provided the level of intensity that elicited my commitment to the God of Israel as I came to understand Him, and to the traditional pattern of Jewish life?

It was about this time that I first took a serious look at a book called Shnei Luhot ha-Brit, [The two tablets of the covenant], authored in 1625 by my ancestor Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz. It is a vast collection of teachings on all things Jewish, all of them understood through a kabbalistic lens, expressing a passionate desire for intimacy with God. Through this and other mystical texts, I began to consider issues I had never studied or understood.

At about the same time, as part of a doctoral program I had recently entered, I participated in a seminar with Moshe Idel, generally considered to be the leading scholar on Jewish mysticism. Idel introduced me to the theme of deveikut, “cleaving” to God, through a variety of texts, most entirely new to me.

In the same period, I reread some of the work of the great twentiethcentury Jewish mystical teacher Abraham Joshua Heschel, including newly republished essays, and began to understand how he had integrated many Jewish mystical concepts into his writings.

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