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Circle in the Square

Studies in the Use of Gender in Kabbalistic Symbolism

Elliot R. Wolfson

Publication Year: 1995

This book deals with the issue of gender in Jewish mysticism showing the thematic correlation of eroticism and esotericism that is central to the kabbalah. This book deals with aspects of the gender imaging of God in a variety of medieval kabbalistic sources. It provides the key to understanding the phenomenological structures of mystical experience as well as the thematic correlation of esotericism and eroticism that is central to the kabbalah. The author examines the role of gender utilizing current feminist studies and cultural anthropology. He explores the themes of the feminization of the Torah, the correlation of circumcision and vision of God, the phallocentric understanding of divine creation as a process of inscription mythologized as an act of sexual self-gratification, and the phenomenon of gender-crossing in kabbalistic myth and ritual. Collectively, the studies explore in great depth the androcentric phallocentrism that is characteristic of medieval Jewish mysticism.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Table of Contents

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PREFACE

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pp. xi-xiii

One of the most engaging issues in the rich body of Jewish mystical literature, especially medieval kabbalistic texts, is the use of gender images to characterize the divine-human encounter as well as the nature of the Godhead itself. To be sure, gender imagery, particularly the erotic interplay of the lover and the beloved, is central to the texture of religious experience as it has been expressed both in the Occident and in the Orient. ...

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1. FEMALE IMAGING OF THE TORAH: FROM LITERARY METAPHOR TO RELIGIOUS SYMBOL

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pp. 1-28

It is widely acknowledged that one of the more overtly innovative features of kabbalistic symbolism is its ready utilization of masculine and feminine images to depict aspects of the divine reality. It is the purpose of this study to trace the trajectory of one of the central motifs, the feminine personification of the Torah, from classical midrashic sources to kabbalistic texts. We are dealing not with one image but ...

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2. CIRCUMCISION, VISION OF GOD, AND TEXTUAL INTERPRETATION: FROM MIDRASHIC TROPETO MYSTICAL SYMBOL

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pp. 29-48

The use of sexual imagery to depict religious experience is a well-attested fact in the history of world religions. It should come as no surprise, therefore, to find that the seeing of God, or a God-like presence, is described in religious texts especially by means of language derived from human sexuality. Such formulation, of course, is not ...

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3. ERASING THE ERASURE/GENDER AND THE WRITING OF GOD'S BODY IN KABBALISTIC SYMBOLISM

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pp. 49-78

This chapter attempts to bring together several essential aspects of the theosophic kabbalistic tradition that hitherto have either never been discussed or have been treated separately in the scholarly literature. More specifically, I am concerned with the motif of divine writing as it relates to the attribution of body and gender to God. ...

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4. CROSSING GENDER BOUNDARIES IN KABBALISTIC RITUAL AND MYTH

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pp. 79-122

Despite the acknowledged fact that the trend of medieval Jewish mysticism known as theosophic kabbalah is distinguished in the religious history of Judaism by the explicit and repeated use of gender symbolism to characterize the nature of the divine, the state of research in this area is still somewhat rudimentary. Indeed, the majority of previous ...

Notes

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pp. 123-232

BIBLIOGRAPHY OF SECONDARY SOURCES

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pp. 233-252

INDEX

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pp. 253-268


E-ISBN-13: 9781438424378
E-ISBN-10: 143842437X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791424056
Print-ISBN-10: 0791424057

Page Count: 268
Publication Year: 1995