Best of "93: Jewish Books

Article excerpt

According to Jewish legend, Lilith was Adam's first wife, before Eve. She and Adam fought and she flew out of the garden of Eden and took up residence in a cave by the Red Sea. When angels sent by God failed to make her return to Adam, God created Eve out of Adam's rib. In this fascinating study, "Lilith: The First Eve" (262 pages, Daimon Verlag, $17.95) Siegmund Hurwitz, a Jungian, studies "the dark feminine," the mythic role portrayed by Lilith in Jewish lore.

In the early phases of Jewish mysticism, one sect wrote texts describing heavenly journeys that were intended to serve as guidebooks for ascent through the palaces of heaven. Recently these texts have become the focus of intensive study. Peter Schafer is widely regarded as the living expert on this subject. His book "The Hidden and Manifest God: Some Major Themes in Early Jewish Mysticism" (198 pages, State University of New York, $20 paper), which summarizes his findings to date, offers a doorway to the mystical longings current in the early phases of Judaism.

Rivka Schatz Uffenheimer is the author of "Hasidism As Mysticism: Quietistic Elements in Eighteenth Century Hasidic Thought" (398 pages, Princeton University, $39.50). It is one of the best books written to date about the Hasidic movement that at one time included half of the Jews of Eastern Europe.

For those seeking an entrance into the realm of Jewish spiritual and mystical teachings, there is no better guide than Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. Nor is there a better introduction to Rabbi Nachman's teachings than "The Chambers of the Palace: Teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav" edited by Y. David Shulman (275 pages, Jason Aronson, $30). In this beautifully translated work, Shulman has selected the essential teachings from a vast library of writings and organized them into 42 primary categories. …

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