Absorbing Perfections. Kabbalah and Interpretation by Moshe Idel

By Moshe Idel

In this wide-ranging dialogue of Kabbalah -- from the paranormal tendencies of medieval Judaism to trendy Hasidism -- one of many world's top-rated students considers diversified visions of the character of the sacred textual content and of the how to interpret it.

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Medieval Jewish esoteric topics should be examined from the point of view of the continuation of earlier traditions and of their changes, adoptions and adaptations of alien material, and, oftentimes, the proposal of audacious innovations. 23 To a great degree, they added or projected the secrets, namely what they conceived of to be the most sublime aspects of the Torah, and then extracted them, as two fundamental phases of their interpretive activity. On the other hand, by portraying the Torah as God-absorbing and man-absorbing, as we shall see in Chapter 2 and Appendix 2, the perusal and interpretation of the Torah become much more than a process of fathoming the secret meanings of the most important texts: possibilities of much more emotional and extreme forms of mystical experiences emerged.

One of the most important was the transition from a nomad religiosity, centered around the mobile Tabernacle, as described in the Pentateuch, to a more stable one, focused on the stationary Temple, as described elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, and finally to a religion focusing on canonical writings: the Bible and the rabbinic texts. The renomadization of postbiblical Judaism is characterized by its novel gravitation toward books and their study,2 together with rituals that could be performed anywhere, no longer relying on a sacred building and the rituals connected to it.

Concluding Remarks Appendix 1 Pardes: The Fourfold Method of Interpretation Appendix 2 Abraham Abulafia’s Torah of Blood and Ink Appendix 3 R. Isaac of Acre’s Exegetical Quandary Appendix 4 The Exile of the Torah and the Imprisonment of Secrets Appendix 5 On Oral Torah and Multiple Interpretations in Hasidism Appendix 6 “Book of God”/“Book of Law” in Late-Fifteenth-Century Florence Notes Bibliography Index FOREWORD HAROLD BLOOM Moshe Idel, born in 1947, submitted his doctoral dissertation on the Kabbalah of Abraham Abulafia to the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, in 1976.

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