Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

This book is the fruit of many years labor, and I have had the good fortune to work with teachers and colleagues from whom I have benefitted immensely. This project began in the form of my doctoral dissertation, written under the guidance of Elliot Wolfson at New York University. Since completing my degree...

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Introduction: Kabbalistic Writing in Late Thirteenth-Century Castile

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pp. 1-14

The Jewish esoteric discourse that developed between the late twelfth and late thirteenth centuries known as Kabbalah had a profound influence on the history of Judaism, as well as on the intellectual history of the West. The kabbalistic worldview, which claims a secret oral tradition stemming from the revelation...

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1. Masters of Secrets: Claiming Power With concealed Knowledge

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pp. 15-44

Late thirteenth-to early fourteenth-century Castile saw the development of a very open ethos with regard to disseminating esoteric discourse. Moshe Idel has referred to this creative moment as a “window of opportunities”¹ during which highly creative kabbalistic literature was composed and circulated, which he...

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2. Secrets of the Cosmos: Creating a Kabbalistic Universe

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pp. 45-68

Medieval kabbalistic texts expend considerable energy describing the process of creation and the nature of the connection of the physical cosmos to God. As noted above, creation is identified in rabbinic literature, along with the descriptions of Ezekiel’s chariot vision, as one of the esoteric topics that can only be...

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3. Secrets of the Self: Kabbalistic Anthropology and Divine Mystery

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pp. 69-99

According to a passage in Avot de R. Natan, “one man is equal to the entire work of creation.”¹ A prominent position taken by Jewish thinkers and writers since the Bible is that humanity occupies a central place in the universe and is the reason for the creation and continued existence of the cosmos. In this chapter...

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4. Jewish Bodies and Divine Power: Theurgy and Jewish Law

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pp. 100-129

As we have seen, medieval Kabbalah embraces a dynamic conception of the divine. Classical kabbalistic theosophy consists of a complex interweaving of symbolic associations between the ten sefirot and Hebrew words, biblical names and terminology, letters, colors, directions, heavenly bodies, and the human anatomy...

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5. Prayer Above and Below: Kabbalistic Constructions Of the Power of Jewish Worship

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pp. 130-158

Of the many facets of Jewish law, the requirements of prayer are among the most prominent in terms of their impact on daily experience. Halakha requires that men pray three times per day. Where possible, men are to conduct their prayers in a minyan, or quorum of ten males at least thirteen years of age. As a communal...

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Conclusion

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pp. 159-162

The development of kabbalistic discourse at the end of the thirteenth century can be regarded as a revolution in some important respects, though, perhaps in keeping with what one might expect from a kabbalistic phenomenon, ironies and qualifications are certainly in order. As we have seen, the kabbalists were...

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Postscript: Cultural Logics: Kabbalah, Then and Now

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pp. 163-166

One of the greatest ironies in the history of Jewish mysticism is that the esoteric tradition of Kabbalah has in the early twenty-first century become one of the most widely known aspects of Judaism. Many people in the Unites States and elsewhere are more familiar with the term Kabbalah than other, arguably more exoteric features of the...

Notes

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pp. 167-214

Bibliography

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pp. 215-240

Index

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pp. 241-244

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About the Author

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pp. 245-246

Hartley Lachter is the Philip and Muriel Berman Professor of Jewish Studies and director of the Berman Center for Jewish Studies at Lehigh University. He holds a PhD in medieval Kabbalah from New York University. Some of his previous publications include “Kabbalah, Philosophy, and the Jewish-Christian...