Saturday, November 24, 2007

Women Jewish Mystics

A reader writes:
Stumbled across your blog while doing some digging into what little history I could find regarding mystic Jewish women (the middle ages seems replete with Christian women mystics, so I wondered where the Jewish women were...) Anyway, kick-a** d'var torah! [she is referring to my entry entitled

[Cover illustration of Judaism personified as a woman by E. M. Lilien]

Occult Bible III] Thanks for sharing this! Would like your thoughts on if there's any value to this simple, kinesthetic deeper dive: why did the book [she means the Torah] begin with beit and not aleph? The unspoken breath had to be sealed and thus given form by Divine lips for creation to begin.

Intriguing insight on God's breath. I have partially addressed something along these lines in an article I wrote on the role of silence in Jewish metaphysics and prayer entitled "The Sanctuary of the Heart." It just got republished this summer in an anthology entitled The Inner Journey: The Jewish View.

But rather than go there (maybe I'll develop what I've found more toward the theme of "God's lips/unspoken breath" in a future entry), let me tell you that one place to start on questions of medieval Jewish women mystics would be Jeffrey Chajes' outstanding article, "Women Leading Women [and Attentive Men]: Pietistic Models of Jewish Women." Chajes gives us accounts of Jewish women sorcerers (Sonadora), mediums (the daughter of Raphael Anav) and visionaries (Rachel Amberlin ha-Ashkenazit). Also look at the female authors of "women's prayers" known as thkines.

You can also find entries and primary source citations concerning women and mysticism in my book, the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism: http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050

Anyway, I'm on a tear in the field of Hebrew magic for the moment, so I will likely post one or two more entries on that before I return to alef-bet/silence-speech.

Thanks for the interest!


Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Oh, thanks so very much for the reference material! Will play treasure-hunt through some of these in the coming week, and I look forward to more posts on the lips-and-breath topic.


8:07 PM  
Blogger zahara solomon said...

If you are interested in reading more about Jewish women mystics from Jeffrey H. Chajes, I encourage everyone to check out his website at the University of Haifa, Israel. You can find this by Googling Yossi Chajes, his Israeli name. He has some wonderful writings posted there, along with fun pictures and his own personal blog too. He is a wonderful teacher whose knowledge is refreshingly deep, and a fun person in general!

1:40 PM  

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