Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic

By Moshe Idel | Go to book overview

the return to society in order to impart the influx and abundance, would correspond to prophetic religiosity.

Closely related to this transformation of prayer is the study of the Torah. An eminently intellectual undertaking. Torah study also gave rise, through the ages, to deeper emotional and even ecstatic moments. In Hasidism there was a deepending of this emotional element, and in many cases the study of the very complex texts was conceived as a mystical path, and as a way, like prayer, to draw down the influx from above. In practice, this meant, again as in the case of prayer, an atomization of the studied text and a magical belief in the canonical text as a sacrosanct talisman.

Last but not least, one of the ideals of Jewish religion, the scholar, who studies the Torah and prays in a perfect way, was fused with the ideal of the mystical and magical addiq. Like prayer and study, the addiq, too, was conceived as efficacious when he was able to ensure the descent of the supernal influx. In other words, it is the concept of power, which means in this context the capacity to bring down the divine energy, that moves to the center of the mystical preoccupation in Hasidism.

These three transformations—which affected major issues in Judaism—are characteristic of and congenial to Hasidism, but they did not emerge with it. In all three cases important antecedents will be presented and analyzed, attempting to put these metamorphoses into a large perspective, namely, the broader history of Jewish mysticism; we are especially interested in the repercussions of the magical model through either the mediation of Cordoverian writings or other channels. In the following discussion an emphasis on the magical will become evident, especially in the chapter on prayer. This does not mean that the phenomenon of the addiq, or the study of the Torah did not involve more mystical elements. This will become evident in Chapter five, as well as in the two appendices. However, I will not take up the issue of mystical prayer in Hasidism here, since it is an issue upon which those scholars who have studied it separately agree.

-148-

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Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Hasidism - Between Ecstasy and Magic *
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I Models in Kabbalah and Hasidism *
  • 1 - The Weakening of the Lurianic Kabbalah in the Eighteenth Century *
  • 2 - Models in Jewish Mysticism 45
  • 3 - The Mystico-Magical Model 103
  • Part II - Drawing Down *
  • 4 - Mystical and Magical Prayer in Hasidism 148
  • 5 - Mystical and Magical Study in Hasidism 171
  • 6 - Zaddiq as "Vessel" and "Channel" in Hasidism 189
  • Concluding Remarks *
  • Appendix A - Psychologization of Theosophy in Kabbalah and Hasidism 227
  • Appendix B - Rabbi Yisrael of Ryzhin Who Cries 239
  • Appendix C - On Intentional Transmission of Power 245
  • Abbreviations 249
  • Notes 251
  • Bibliography 393
  • Appendix of Hebrew Quotes 403
  • Subject Index 425
  • Index of Works Cited 429
  • Author Index 435
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