Alef, Mem, Tau
Kabbalistic Musings on Time, Truth, and Death
Publication Year: 2006
The framework for Wolfson’s examination is the rabbinic teaching that the word emet, "truth," comprises the first, middle, and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, alef, mem, and tau, which serve, in turn, as semiotic signposts for the three tenses of time—past, present, and future. By heeding the letters of emet we discern the truth of time manifestly concealed in the time of truth, the beginning that cannot begin if it is to be the beginning, the middle that re/marks the place of origin and destiny, and the end that is the figuration of the impossible disclosing the impossibility of figuration, the finitude of death that facilitates the possibility of rebirth. The time of death does not mark the death of time, but time immortal, the moment of truth that bestows on the truth of the moment an endless beginning of a beginningless end, the truth of death encountered incessantly in retracing steps of time yet to be taken—between, before, beyond.
Published by: University of California Press
Download PDF (249.6 KB)
Title Page, About the Series, Other Works in the Series, Copyright, Dedication
Download PDF (58.0 KB)
Download PDF (40.5 KB)
Download PDF (56.4 KB)
This book is based on the Taubman Lectures that I delivered at the University ofCalifornia, Berkeley, February–March 2001. I wish to express my gratitude toProfessor David Biale, who first approached me about preparing these lectures,and to Professor Daniel Boyarin, who followed up by extending an o‹cial invi-tation on behalf of the Program in Jewish Studies at Berkeley. The time I spent...
1. Thinking Time / Hermeneutic Suppositions
Download PDF (225.9 KB)
In my time, many a time, I have heard myself and others speak of a lifetime. Thiscompound dis/plays the juxtaposition of life and time so elemental to our wayof being in the world: what most impresses our thinking about the life-that-is-passing is the passing-that-is-life, a passing that lies at the root of our rootless-ness. We are perpetually cast in the mold of temporal beings, always, it seems,...
2. Linear Circularity / (A)temporal Poetics
Download PDF (269.3 KB)
Time, like other facets of phenomenal experience, has played a critical role inthe history of world religions.1 In Judaism specifically, numerous opinions,spanning many centuries, geographical localities, intellectual influences, and lit-erary genres, have been expressed about time. Accordingly, I make no attempthere to provide a comprehensive overview of the understanding of time in the...
3. Before Alef / Where Beginnings End
Download PDF (109.7 KB)
Before alef comes beit—here in a nutshell lies the wisdom of kabbalah. This par-abolic utterance finds expression in what is presumably an older mytholo-goumenon preserved in Sefer ha-Bahir, long considered one of the earliest sourcesthat contains, albeit in rudimentary form, the panoply of theosophic symbolsA translation of the passage that has served as the basis for my reflections is fol-...
4. Within Mem / Returning Forward
Download PDF (107.8 KB)
Concerning the beginning, we have learned that it cannot begin if it has notalready begun. To speak of the beginning, therefore, is to begin always in themiddle, to begin at the beginning that is not beginning. But how do we speakof the middle? Surely from the middle. But what can be spoken from the mid-dle? By what sign do we mark the spot in the middle where beginnings end and...
5. After Tau / Where Endings Begin
Download PDF (106.0 KB)
In the end, we come to where one cannot come except by not-coming, the man-ner in which many have come before and others will come after. We arrive at theterminus delimited as the limit always yet to be delimited, the limit beyondwhich there is no limit, and hence the limit of what cannot be delimited. Death,Jean-Luc Marion perceptively remarked, is “a phenomenon that can be phenom-...
Download PDF (46.8 KB)
The precise turn of thought charted in this book opens the possibility of a tem-poral triumph of temporality, the conquering of time through time.1 In an effortto pave the way to this possibility, I have explored the nexus of time, truth, anddeath as it emerges hermeneutically from the symbolic world of medieval kab-balah. I have not adhered to the familiar methodology adopted by scholars of...
Download PDF (361.0 KB)
Download PDF (205.1 KB)
Download PDF (99.9 KB)
Page Count: 342
Publication Year: 2006
Series Title: Taubman Lectures in Jewish Studies