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Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism [Paperback]

Gershom Gerhard Scholem
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 13.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

30 April 1996
A collection of lectures on the features of the movement of mysticism that began in antiquity and continues in Hasidism today.

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Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism + On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism (Mysticism & Kabbalah) + Zohar, Book of Splendor: Basic Readings from the Kabbalah
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Product details

  • Paperback: 460 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken Books; Revised edition edition (30 April 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805210423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805210422
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 426,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
It is the purpose of these lectures to describe and to analyse some of the major trends of Jewish mysticism. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The seminal work in Kabbalah scholarship 27 July 1997
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This text is simply indispensible for anyone interested in Kabbalah's history and development. It covers Jewish mysticism from its early beginnings to recent times. Scholem's scholarship is excellent, and his writing is lucid, informed, and interesting--a welcome cry from the tranquilizer effect much scholarly writing can induce. A bias against Kabbalah's development in non-Jewish directions does influence sections of the text, but does not detract from the overall quality.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of 'Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism' 7 April 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Gershom Scholem was President of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and a Professor of Jewish mysticism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem until his death in 1982. He wrote the standard collage textbook on Jewish mysticism ('Major Trends...'). He is also the author of 'Origins of the Kabbalah', 'Kabbalah', 'On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism', 'On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead', 'The Messianic Idea in Judaism', and 'Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah'. Every book is a treasure in and of itself. Mr. Scholem put the Kabbalah back on the 20th century map. His studies on the 'Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation)', The Bahir (Bright)', and 'The Zohar (Splendor)' show the brillance of this unique individual.
'Major Trends...' is broken down into nine lectures. He covers everything from the beginings of Jewish mysticism up to modern times. He traces its origen from the Second Temple era, through the apocalyptic/pseudepigrapha period, and right into Jewish gnosticism with the Thrown (merkabah) mysticism. The 'Hekhaloth Books' (hekhaloth: the heavenly halls or palaces the visionary passes through on his way to the seventh heaven where there rises the thrown of divine glory) are well known for the their similarity to standerd gnostic works. The caves around Khirbet Qumran are another (Dead Sea Scrolls). He covers all aspects of this; the 'Song of Songs' and its mystical meaning (it was banned until a man reached 40 years old), the Shi'ur Komah (Measure of the Body of God), and all the magical elements that encompassed this, also theurgy, and so on.
All of this, of course, was several hundred years before the epoch 'Sefer Yezirah' was conceived of.
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8 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The book is written by the former President of the Israeli Academy of Sciences. It reflects traditional Orthodox view on the greatest pages in the Jewish history - Qabbalah, Shabtay Zvi and Hasidism, with a slight covering of scientific speculations. Qabbalah is described without any connection or association with the Egyptian or Chaldean mysticism. No word is said about the great Jewish gnostics. The only question is if the author consciously lies or subconsciously avoids problems, which still remain out of the Israeli national concensus.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of 'Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism' 7 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Gershom Scholem was President of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and a Professor of Jewish mysticism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem until his death in 1982. He wrote the standard collage textbook on Jewish mysticism ('Major Trends...'). He is also the author of 'Origins of the Kabbalah', 'Kabbalah', 'On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism', 'On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead', 'The Messianic Idea in Judaism', and 'Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah'. Every book is a treasure in and of itself. Mr. Scholem put the Kabbalah back on the 20th century map. His studies on the 'Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation)', The Bahir (Bright)', and 'The Zohar (Splendor)' show the brillance of this unique individual.
'Major Trends...' is broken down into nine lectures. He covers everything from the beginings of Jewish mysticism up to modern times. He traces its origen from the Second Temple era, through the apocalyptic/pseudepigrapha period, and right into Jewish gnosticism with the Thrown (merkabah) mysticism. The 'Hekhaloth Books' (hekhaloth: the heavenly halls or palaces the visionary passes through on his way to the seventh heaven where there rises the thrown of divine glory) are well known for the their similarity to standerd gnostic works. The caves around Khirbet Qumran are another (Dead Sea Scrolls). He covers all aspects of this; the 'Song of Songs' and its mystical meaning (it was banned until a man reached 40 years old), the Shi'ur Komah (Measure of the Body of God), and all the magical elements that encompassed this, also theurgy, and so on.
All of this, of course, was several hundred years before the epoch 'Sefer Yezirah' was conceived of. The Jewish nation had to suffer through the loss of their Second Temple, the messianic revival of the infamous Bar Kokhba (the Star of Jacob) and Rebbe Akiva's endorsment of him, the loss of their country to the Romans, the loss of their 'restablished' country under Mar Zutra (in their 'new' capital of Mahoza, near Bagdad) in 502, and so on.
He covers the mystic Abraham Abulafia and his prophetic Kabbalism (and how it broke Kabbalism in two), the Zohar and Moses de Leon, En-Sof (the hidden God), the ten Sefiroth (numbers) and Sefirotic development through the years (from Sefer Yetzirah to the Zohar), also the Shekhinah (the female side of God), Isaac Luria (the Lion) and his students (his Cubs), and the stunning impact the exile from Spain had on the Kabbalah in general.
The last two lectures cover Sabbatai Sevi and the disaster he brought on the Jewish people. He very nearly destroyed Judaism itself for 250 years afterwards. The impact is still felt to this day. He also shows the modern Hasid's (the Ultra-Orthadox Jews) and how the Kabbalah and the Zohar influance their teachings and beliefs. He also shows why regular Orthadox Jews avoid the Kabbalah (calling it Jewish witchcraft) and why they considear the Hasid's to be cultists of a sort (even though the Kabbalah WAS Orthadox Judaism for 300 years before the advent of Sabbatai Sevi - which Mr. Scholem painfully points out).
I have only scrached the surface of the things this book contains. If you can buy one book on Jewish mysticism, this is it. It is well worth the purchase.
Sincerly, Shawn W. Ooten
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Scholarly Look at Mysticism 8 Dec 2002
By A. J. Valasek - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
For those of you who want to understand where and how the major trends in Kabbalism developed, look no further. This book covers all of the major ideas in their proper historical context, from Gnosticism to Hasidism.
The author's concept or purpose is to dispel many of the misleading, and speculative notions on the nature of Jewish mysticism. In the process, taking the mystical/magical portions for the most part out of the equation.
What I like best about Scholem's work is that he is not so concerned with what the meaning of each Kabbalistic notion but is primarily concerned with where it originated and what circumstances allowed for the development of an idea. This allows for an objective and unbiased consideration of the concept being studied.
What you won't get in this book that you will find in most others about this subject is the promotion thereof. No evangelical tendencies exist which make for a more throrough reading.
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Screwball Kabbalah 27 Mar 2001
By Arch Llewellyn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
With these nine snapshots of Great Moments in Jewish Mysticism, Scholem gives an amazing crash course in an immense & complex spiritual tradition. His chapter on the Zohar is especially helpful, with concise explanations of tricky concepts like Sefiroth and the Shekinah, God's female aspect (I had no idea! Though since reading this I've heard Leonard Nimoy say that he copped Spock's split-finger greeting from synagogue, where it signaled the Shekinah's presence).
Scholem's affection for the Kabbalists stems from his belief that they kept alive a mythic, almost pantheistic, vision of God against the more rationalizing tendencies of mainstream Judaism. The mystics as he describes them, despite their arcane systems, were closer to popular beliefs and aspirations than the 'official' rabbinical tradition. In 1938, when Scholem gave these lectures, he hoped for a spiritual revival from within Jewish mysticism at a moment of crisis. I don't know if the New Age hipness of the Kabbalah was what he had in mind, but for all the measured, scholarly prose his heart is clearly with the weirdos.
I knew almost nothing about Jewish mysticism going into this book. I put it down with a new respect for one of the human mind's more intricate and neglected creations.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly Enjoyable and Enlightening 5 Feb 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Although the print is kind of small and the notes are inconveniently at the end, this book is an excellent resource! I'm a Christian, and not a mystic. I bought this book to better understand some odd Christian teachings floating around in several modern church movements that I suspected, from other reading I'd done, are kabbalistic. The contents of this authorative book clearly delineate the relationship of Jewish mysticism and magic to the main features of these new Christian movements. (For instance, the current emphasis on holy spirit "anointings", visitations of the shekinah, and "the bride of Christ" clearly come from Judaica.) Christians interested in embracing their Hebrew roots need to read this, order to properly discern and divide what is scripture from what is tradition. (A copy of Abraham Cohen's "Everyman's Talmud" is very helpful too!)
Despite the esoteric topics, Gershom Scholem is fairly easy to understand, and the book is organized into logical topics. It also has a good index and tons of bibliographical references. A must for your reference shelf.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE Modern Classic of Kabbalah 22 Nov 2004
By Neal J. Pollock - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Gershom Scholem transformed Kabbalah into an acceptable academic discipline. Today many writers/scholars/professors follow in his footsteps (e.g. Wolfson and Idel). He, no doubt, did us a great service. It should be noted, however, that he was an historian--neither scientist nor Kabbalist. He appears to have faithfully presented Kabbalistic doctrines, teachings, etc. Nonetheless, the reader should be sensitive to a certain lack of scientific viewpoint on the one hand and mystical/experiential knowledge and orientation on the other--in all of his works. That said, this is a wonderful book, probably his best (certainly his most famous) and one of the best available today on Kabbalah per se. If you like this book, I'd recommend you also read, "Jewish Gnosticism-Merkabah Mysticism-and Talmudic Tradition," "On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead," and his voluminous entry in a Jewish Encyclopedia on Kabbalah published as a stand-alone volume entitled, "Kabbalah." Both this last work and "Major Trends" illuminate most of the main Kabbalistic concepts (e.g. the Shekinah, the female Presence or Immanence of God). Any serious student of Kabbalah will find the present work a necessary addition to his/her repertoire. It's probably the best known contemporary work on the subject. The historical data has great breadth and considerable depth. However, it does suffer from Scholem's lack of mystical or scientific background. For example, near the very front of the book, he asserts that no on would consider the prophets to be mystics. This is untrue. Since I consider it so (and he's broken the non-all ness principle), he is simply wrong. Since a mystic has direct knowledge or contact with God, and prophets have such, they are most definitely mystics. In set theory they would be a subset of mystics (a circle within a circle on a Venn Diagram). This does not, of course, imply that all mystics are prophets. My favorite quotation from this book is on page 229:

"It says something for its [the conception of the Shekhinah as the feminine element in God] vitality that, despite the opposition of such powerful forces [the philosophers and the strict Talmudists as well], this idea became part and parcel of the creed of wide circles among the Jewish communities of Europe and the East." Thus, Scholem points out the innovative content of Kabbalah vs. normative, Rabbinical Judaism with its emphasis on the transcendence of a male God. This book is a close as you get to required reading in Kabbalah for both the scholar and the practitioner. After all, a mystic needs the balance of having his/her feet on the ground (of good scholarship=good theory) as well as his/her head in the clouds (of meditation and mystical attunement).
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