ISBN : 9780195327052
In Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, Joseph Dan, one of the world's leading authorities on Jewish mysticism, offers a concise and highly accurate look at the history and character of the various systems developed by the adherents of the Kabbalah.
Dan sheds light on the many misconceptions about what Kabbalah is and isn't—including its connections to magic, astronomy, alchemy, and numerology—and he illuminates the relationship between Kaballah and Christianity on the one hand and New Age religion on the other. The book provides fascinating historical background, ranging from the mystical groups that flourished in ancient Judaism in the East, and the medieval schools of Kabbalah in Northern Spain and Southern France, to the widening growth of Kabbalah through the school of Isaac Luria of Safed in the sixteenth century, to the most potent and influential modern Jewish religious movement, Hasidism, and its use of kabbalistic language in its preaching. The book examines the key ancient texts of this tradition, including the Sefer Yezira or "Book of Creation," The Book of Bahir, and the Zohar. Dan explains Midrash, the classical Jewish exegesis of scriptures, which assumes an infinity of meanings for every biblical verse, and he concludes with a brief survey of scholarship in the field and a list of books for further reading.
Embraced by celebrities and integrated in many contemporary spiritual phenomena, Kabbalah has reaped a wealth of attention in the press. But many critics argue that the form of Kabbalah practiced in Hollywood is more New Age pabulum than authentic tradition. Can there be a positive role for the Kabbalah in the contemporary quest for spirituality?
In Kabbalah, Joseph Dan debunks the myths surrounding modern Kabbalistic practice, offering an engaging and dependable account of this traditional Jewish religious phenomenon and its impact outside of Judaism.
1. Kabbalah: The Term and Its Meanings
2. Ancient Jewish Mysticism and the Emergence of the Kabbalah
3. The Kabbalah in the Middle Ages
4. Main Ideas of the Medieval Kabbalah
5. Modern Times I: The Christian Kabbalah
6. Modern Times II: Safed and the Lurianic Kabbalah
7. Modern Times III: The Sabbatian Messianic Movement
8. Modern and Contemporary Hasidism
9. Some Aspects of Contemporary Kabbalah
"Dan has given us the best concise history of Jewish mysticism.... As a 'very short introduction' to this sublime treasure house, Joseph Dan's book is warmly recommended."—Benjamin Balint, Commentary
"In a little more than a hundred pages, Dan races through more than a thousand years of Jewish religious texts, explaining a vast, amorphous body of beliefs and practices that have influenced Freemasons, Hasidim, Carl Jung, New Age gurus and, more recently, Hollywood celebrities. It's quite a performance, carried off with only a few stumbles."—William Grimes, The New York Times
"Professor Dan is one of the leading scholars of Jewish mysticism in the world today. He combines deep erudition with methodological sophistication and clarity of exposition. He is the ideal person to write a short introduction to the study of the Kabbalah."—Shaye J. D. Cohen, Harvard University
"This survey of Kabbalah offers deep history in succinct fashion, resulting in a fascinating and highly readable effort."—Publishers Weekly
"A lucid history and explanation of Kabbalah, covering its key periods, texts, figures, and theories. Dan knowledgeably and expertly untangles the complexity of the tradition, specifically addressing misconceptions by discussing what Kabbalah is and what it is not.... This primer is scholarly yet accessible to the lay reader; it's 'Kabbalah for Dummies' sans the cheeky humor."—Library Journal
"Even someone who knows nothing more than the celebrity connection will come away with a nuanced understanding."—Dallas Morning News
"Culling over fifty years of Kabbalah research, Joseph Dan presents a schematic introduction to Kabbalah, its major periods, personalities, and ideas. This slim volume is a window into the intriguing history of this esoteric wisdom - its Christian and Islamic influences, the proliferation of Christian Kabbalah, its influence on modern philosophy, and the important periods of Jewish heresy. From the ancient world to New Age spirituality, Dan lucidly covers the key ideas of Kabbalah as they developed over the centuries. Accessible, readable, and informative."—Shaul Magid, Indiana University