Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction

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Oxford University Press, Aug 30, 2007 - Religion - 130 pages
In Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, Joseph Dan, one of the world's leading authorities on Jewish mysticism, offers a concise and highly accurate look at the history and character of the various systems developed by the adherents of the Kabbalah. Dan sheds light on the many misconceptions about what Kabbalah is and isn't—including its connections to magic, astronomy, alchemy, and numerology—and he illuminates the relationship between Kaballah and Christianity on the one hand and New Age religion on the other. The book provides fascinating historical background, ranging from the mystical groups that flourished in ancient Judaism in the East, and the medieval schools of Kabbalah in Northern Spain and Southern France, to the widening growth of Kabbalah through the school of Isaac Luria of Safed in the sixteenth century, to the most potent and influential modern Jewish religious movement, Hasidism, and its use of kabbalistic language in its preaching. The book examines the key ancient texts of this tradition, including the Sefer Yezira or "Book of Creation," The Book of Bahir, and the Zohar. Dan explains Midrash, the classical Jewish exegesis of scriptures, which assumes an infinity of meanings for every biblical verse, and he concludes with a brief survey of scholarship in the field and a list of books for further reading. Embraced by celebrities and integrated in many contemporary spiritual phenomena, Kabbalah has reaped a wealth of attention in the press. But many critics argue that the form of Kabbalah practiced in Hollywood is more New Age pabulum than authentic tradition. Can there be a positive role for the Kabbalah in the contemporary quest for spirituality? In Kabbalah, Joseph Dan debunks the myths surrounding modern Kabbalistic practice, offering an engaging and dependable account of this traditional Jewish religious phenomenon and its impact outside of Judaism. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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User Review  - vpfluke - LibraryThing

This is a very nice and succinct introduction to the subject of the kabbalah. Joseph Dan takes a very fair-minded approach to his subject, and offers much information without opinion. This is ... Read full review

Kabbalah: a very short introduction

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

If Hollywood serves as a spiritual thermometer of our culture, then Kabbalah is hot. Celebrities from Madonna to Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore tout the benefits of this form of Jewish mysticism. The ... Read full review


The Term and Its Meanings
2 Ancient Jewish Mysticism and the Emergence of the Kabbalah
3 The Kabbalah in the Middle Ages
4 Main Ideas of the Medieval Kabbalah
The Christian Kabbalah
Safed and the Lurianic Kabbalah
The Sabbatian Messianic Movement
8 Modern and Contemporary Hasidism
9 Some Aspects of Contemporary Kabbalah
Further Reading

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About the author (2007)

Joseph Dan is the Gershom Scholem Professor of Kabbalah in the Department of Jewish Thought, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His many books include The Heart and the Fountain: Jewish Mystical Experiences, The Early Kabbalah, and The Teachings of Hasidism. He resides in Jerusalem and in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is a visiting professor at the Harvard Divinity School.

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