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Reviewed by:
  • As Light Before Dawn:The Inner World of a Medieval Kabbalist
  • Dov Schwartz
As Light Before Dawn: The Inner World of a Medieval Kabbalist, by Eitan P. Fishbane. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009. 336 pp. $45.00.

Fishbane's book discusses a complex kabbalistic doctrine. He analyzes the extensive and intricate writings of R. Yitzhak deMin Acco. As the present book shows, Fishbein has the skills to contend with R. Yitzhak's style and and with his legacy, and he offers a broad and penetrating study of R. Yitzhak's various approaches.

But Fishbein goes beyond the analysis of R. Yitzhak's endeavor and insists on discussing it in the broader perspective of the comparative study of religions. Although this choice may have come at the expense of a more detailed analysis of R. Yitzhak's philosophy, its advantage is to expand his target readership. Following this line, Fishbein attempts to present R. Yitzhak as an encounter of diverse mystical cultures and traditions but also as a typical fourteenth-century Spanish kabbalist.

The book opens with an introduction that reviews the research and locates R. Yitzhak within the Spanish theosophical and ecstatic kabbalistic traditions. The second part deals with esoteric traditions and writing styles. R. Yitzhak wrote Meirat Einayim, a large treatise that is a commentary on Nahmanides' esoteric work, and Fishbein examines the various techniques of exposing the mystery. The third part deals with R. Yitzhak's theurgic and magical approaches. In this section, it would have been helpful to expand on the model of astral [End Page 171] magic in R. Yitzhak's writings, that is, on the technique of drawing spirituality down to the terrestrial world. In this part of the book, Fishbein continues to deal with other mystical techniques of conjunctio.

Fishbein contends successfully with this complex material, and the study of fourteenth-century Spanish Kabbalah will henceforth not be complete without relating to this useful volume.

Dov Schwartz
Bar Ilan University


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