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From Metaphysics to Midrash

Myth, History, and the Interpretation of Scripture in Lurianic Kabbala

Shaul Magid

Publication Year: 2008

In From Metaphysics to Midrash, Shaul Magid explores the exegetical tradition of Isaac Luria and his followers within the historical context in 16th-century Safed, a unique community that brought practitioners of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam into close contact with one another. Luria's scripture became a theater in which kabbalists redrew boundaries of difference in areas of ethnicity, gender, and the human relation to the divine. Magid investigates how cultural influences altered scriptural exegesis of Lurianic Kabbala in its philosophical, hermeneutical, and historical perspectives. He suggests that Luria and his followers were far from cloistered. They used their considerable skills to weigh in on important matters of the day, offering, at times, some surprising solutions to perennial theological problems.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Indiana Series in Biblical Literature


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

The prehistory of this book began in 1982 in the Mekor Barukh neighbborhood of Jerusalem. It was there, at Yeshivat ha-Hayyim ve ha-Shallom, that I began attending the afternoon seminars or shiurim in Luriaanic Kabbala (kitvei ARI) by the renowned Jerusalem kabbalist Ha-Rav Mordechai Attia. ...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xi-xii

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Introduction Kabbala, New Historicism, and the Question of Boundaries

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pp. 1-15

This is a book about the nexus between Kabbala (in particular Lurianic Kabbala) and the interpretation of Scripture. More than that, it is a book that views scriptural interpretation as literature, a series of texts that emerge from the reading of other texts but that also stand alone as a testament to how a particular community understands itself, ...

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The Lurianic Myth A Playbill

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pp. 16-33

Is the Bible myth or “history”? Is Kabbala myth or symbol? More generally, is Judaism founded on myth and, if so, what does a Jewish myth look like? These questions lie at the root of any serious engagement with classical Jewish texts and more so with kabbalistic sources that are wed to a notion of understanding this world ...

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1. Genesis “And Adam’s Sin Was (Very) Great”: Original Sin in Lurianic Exegesis

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pp. 34-74

In the history of Jewish interpretation of Scripture, the utility of the book of Genesis is an ongoing question. The telos of Genesis is arguably the covenant with Abraham (Gen. 12:2–3), descent of the tribe of Jacob into Egypt (Gen. 42, 43) culminating in the birth of Moses and the Israelite people in the opening chapters of Exodus. ...

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2. Exodus The “Other” Israel: The 'Erev Rav (Mixed Multitude) as Conversos

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pp. 75-110

This chapter focuses on the depiction of the biblical 'erev rav (“mixed multitude,” Exod. 12:38) in Hayyim Vital’s 'Etz ha-Da'at Tov (EDT) an early commentary to the Torah written before his discipleship with Luria. I argue that Vital’s idiosyncratic depiction of the 'erev rav in this early work ...

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3. Leviticus The Sin of Becoming a Woman: Male Homosexuality and the Castration Complex

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pp. 111-142

Any attempt to delineate, explore, or analyze transgressive sexual practices in the kabbalistic tradition is fraught with seemingly insurmountable difficulties.1 As a pietistic tradition deeply invested in the normative legal tradition, kabbalists will never (or, at least rarely) disregard prohibitions or erase transgressions. ...

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4. Numbers Balaam, Moses, and the Prophecy of the “Other”: A Lurianic Vision for the Erasure of Difference

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pp. 143-195

Especially since the rise of Christianity and Islam, Jews have concerned themselves with defining the nature and fabric of the Jewish claim of particularism1 in relation to, and as distinct from, the non-Jewish other.2 But not only the non-Jewish other. ...

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5. Deuteronomy The Human and/as God: Divine Incarnation and the “Image of God”

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pp. 196-221

Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic circle constitute perhaps the most influential component of the Hebrew Bible. Deuteronomy is a book scholars have determined represents a reformist trend in Ancient Israel taking shape roughly around the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah (640–609 BCE) ...

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pp. 222-228

The initial phases of the scholarly study of Kabbala placed great emphasis on kabbalistic myth and metaphysics and its relationship to normative (i.e., rabbinic) Judaism. To a lesser extent, Kabbala was examined in comparative perspective, viewed as a Jewish engagement with cosmology ...


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pp. 229-320


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pp. 321-346


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pp. 347-349

E-ISBN-13: 9780253000378
E-ISBN-10: 0253000378
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253350886

Page Count: 368
Illustrations: 2 figures
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Indiana Series in Biblical Literature