Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hekhalot Literature / Merkavah Mysticism

[Sculpture entitled "Sefer Hechalot" by Anselm Kiefer, found at www.kainos.it/.../18-kiefer-seferhechaloth.jpg]
In a recent comment, Zeke asks -

Shalom Rabbi Dennis,Any book about Hekhalot literature would you recommend?

Well Zeke, for the beginner, I've always loved:

The Ancient Jewish Mysticism by Joseph Dan, which is a collection of his radio lectures on the topic. Unfortunately, it's out-of-print.

So unless you can find a copy, the next good starting place is Hidden and Manifest God by Peter Schafer.

Then of course, there is the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism. The EJMMM is available at amazon.com. Click here - http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050/sr=1-1/qid=1159997117/ref=sr_1_1/002-7116669-7231211?ie=UTF8&s=books

Follow those with Ithamar Greunwald's Apocalyptic and Merkavah Mysticism. Greunwald offers his grand theories of this literature, which are disputed, but he is very thoughtful.

Once you've got that under your belt and understand the basic themes of the Hekhalot Literature, then there are some excellent more technical works:

Poetics of Ascent by Naomi Janowitz analyzes a single text using linguistic theory.

Rituals to Gain Power by Rachel Lesses takes an detailed look at adjurations/angel summoning rituals of the H.L. It's a reworked dissertation, so it can be a schlep in places, but it is packed with interesting insights.

Faces of the Chariot is David Halperin's tour-de-force reading of the literature. He has a very specific social-context theory to account for the H.L., which I don't ascribe to, but many of his readings are insightful and he assembles certain themes into comprehensive and compelling chapters.

Be aware that all these people write under the shadow of Gershom Scholem, who offered many opinions on this literature. Read the early chapters of Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism to get a taste of his perspective.

There are also many, many informative academic articles, but make it through these books and you will be well-informed.


Blogger Zeke said...

Todah Rabah Rabbi!

1:58 AM  

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