A Woman and Poet against the Stream: Rachel Morpurgo, Advocate of the Kabbalah in an Anti-Kabbalistic Age
- Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues
- Indiana University Press
- Number 29, Spring 5776/2015
- pp. 8-20
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- Additional Information
This essay deals with the defense of the Kabbalah by Triestine poet Rachel Morpurgo (1790–1871), in the context of the mid-nineteenth century controversy concerning the place of Jewish mysticism in modernity. Prominent Italian maskilic leaders in the Habsburg Empire rejected the validity of the Kabbalah and prioritized Jewish emancipation, for the sake of countering the challenge posed to Judaism by the “philosophical cast of modernity.” By defending the Kabbalah, Morpurgo struggled for her différance as a Jewish woman and poet.
In Sefer haberit by Pinḥas Hurwitz and in the popularization of the Lurianic Kabbala as presented in Ḥayim Vital Calabrese’s Sha‘arei kedushah, Morpurgo found the key to legitimating her atypical gendered path and overcoming its marginalization in patriarchal culture. In defending the Kabbalah, she conceived a direction for renewing traditional patterns of Jewish thinking.