Absorbing Perfections


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Kabbalah and Interpretation

Moshe Idel; Foreword by Harold Bloom

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In this wide-ranging discussion of Kabbalah—from the mystical trends of medieval Judaism to modern Hasidism—one of the world’s foremost scholars considers different visions of the nature of the sacred text and of the methods to interpret it. Moshe Idel takes as a starting point the fact that the postbiblical Jewish world lost its geographical center with the destruction of the temple and so was left with a textual center, the Holy Book. Idel argues that a text-oriented religion produced language-centered forms of mysticism.

Against this background, the author demonstrates how various Jewish mystics amplified the content of the Scriptures so as to include everything: the world, or God, for example. Thus the text becomes a major realm for contemplation, and the interpretation of the text frequently becomes an encounter with the deepest realms of reality. Idel delineates the particular hermeneutics belonging to Jewish mysticism, investigates the progressive filling of the text with secrets and hidden levels of meaning, and considers in detail the various interpretive strategies needed to decodify the arcane dimensions of the text.

Moshe Idel is Max Cooper Professor of Jewish Thought, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and senior researcher at the Shalom Hartman Institute.

Absorbing Perfections: Kabbalah and Interpretation is certainly [Idel’s] most important volume so far. . . . He has made Kabbalah his life’s enterprise, and like [Gershom] Scholem his work has become essential for anyone who desires to confront Kabbalah.”—Harold Bloom, from the Foreword

"Organizing his work topically and thematically rather than chronologically, Idel illumines this entire massive body of arcane, very difficult, and in many ways nearly inaccessible material with great facility and exceptional erudition. His book reveals his remarkable control of the original kabbalistic sources and of contemporary hermeneutical theory. Essential for academic libraries. Upper-level undergraduates and above."—Choice

"A landmark study in the terrain of Kabbalah research. . . . It is a book of encyclopedic scope and learning. . . . Idel offer his readers a feast of erudition. . . . A highly important contribution to a growing scholarly literature on kabbalistic exegesis. . . . There can be no doubt as to the immense intellectual importance of the work Moshe Idel has given us in Absorbing Perfections. It is a book that reveals a master scholar at the height of his craft; a piece of erudition that will certainly have a powerful impact not only on those researching the history and phenomenology of Jewish mysticism but also upon scholars and general readers interested in the complex and nuanced character of religious hermeneutics. This contribution promises to stimulate productive and new interdisciplinary conversation."—Eitan P. Fishbane, Journal of Religion

“Idel displays his grasp of a wide-ranging and deep body of material. Highly recommended for academic libraries, especially those serving Judaic studies programs, this book may also be of interest to advanced students in literature and philosophy.”—Library Journal

“[This book] is rich in insights and will amply reward the reader who makes the effort to work through it. It is an indispensable work for scholars of mysticism, hermeneutics, and religious studies.”—Morris M. Faierstein, Religious Studies Review

Winner of the 2003 Koret Jewish Book Award in Philosophy and Thought

Selected by Choice Magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2003
ISBN: 9780300191479
Publication Date: April 1, 2002
688 pages, 6 x 9

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