Cover image for The heart and the fountain : an anthology of Jewish mystical experiences
The heart and the fountain : an anthology of Jewish mystical experiences
Dan, Joseph, 1935-
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
viii, 326 pages ; 25 cm
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BM723 .H36 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Author of more than fifty books, winner of the 1997 Israel Prize, Joseph Dan is one of the world's leading authorities on Jewish mysticism. In this superb anthology, Dan not only presents illuminating excerpts from the most important mystical texts, but also delves into the very meaning ofmysticism itself. Dan takes readers through the historical development of Jewish mysticism, from late antiquity to the modern period. He explores the Kabbalah, the esoteric tradition that delves into the secrets delivered by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, and the emergence of Hasidism, and much more. He presentsthe great texts, from Hekhalot Rabbati, "The Greater Book of Divine Palaces," set in the temple in Jerusalem; to the apocalyptic vision of Abraham Abulafia in the thirteenth century; to the Zohar, perhaps the best-known volume of all. For each piece, he offers an extended introduction that deftlyplaces the work in the context of its time and its antecedents. Equally important, in his opening essay, he addresses the paradoxes inherent in Jewish mysticism, noting for instance that "mystical" is a Christian concept, one that poorly describes the relevant strains of Judaism, and that a mysticalapproach to religious truth springs from a deep doubt that language can communicate divine truth. "Mysticism is that which cannot be expressed in words, period," Dan writes. In this remarkable volume, he guides us through that seemingly impenetrable barrier to show how the inexpressible has been expressed in some of the most profound and challenging writing in existence.

Author Notes

Joseph Dan is the Gershom Scholem Professor of Kabbalah at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. A winner of the Israel Prize in 1997, he is recognized as one of the most influential scholars of Jewish mysticism in the world today.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Dan, author of 50 books, winner of the 1997 Israel Prize, and a professor of kabbalah at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is the foremost scholar of Jewish mysticism, which refers to the inner, more intense, and spiritual dimension of religious life on the intellectual or experiential level. Dan discusses such topics as kabbalah, the major form of Jewish mysticism originating in the late twelfth century; the Zohar ("Book of Splendor"), the central work on the subject; and midrash, rabbinical interpretation of the Bible in a nonliteral sense. Other works and major figures discussed include the baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism; the Hebrew poet Hayyim Bialik; "The Duties of the Heart," a manifest of Jewish spirituality; and the writings of Rabbi Eleazar ben Judah of Worms, Abraham Abulafia, and Rabbi Hayyim Vital. Dan also explores the historical development of mysticism from late antiquity to the modern period. The subject is difficult to comprehend, but this is an indispensable work for students, scholars, and general readers. --George Cohen

Publisher's Weekly Review

From its very first page, it's obvious that this lucid, authentically Jewish and scholarly work is different from the numerous recent titles that have jumped on the kabbalistic bandwagon. Dan, an expert on Jewish mysticism and winner of the 1997 Israel Prize, carefully explodes several misconceptions. He begins by separating religion from mysticism. In current usage, he says, "someone who prays is religious; someone who really means it is a mystic." But the basic attitudes of mysticism often contradict those of established religion: the mystic distrusts language, logic and thought, certain that those vehicles cannot lead to the revelation of God's nature. "Mysticism is that which cannot be expressed in words, period," states Dan succinctly. He further distinguishes between mysticism and Kabbalah, noting that though many mystics were Kabbalists, Jewish mysticism began a thousand years before Kabbalah. Mysticism, he stresses, is a Christian term that has no parallel in Judaism; Jewish mysticism is the "invention of contemporary scholars dealing with comparative study of religion." A comprehensive introduction explains the historical development of mysticism from antiquity to modern times, and delineates its leaders, texts and theology. Over 25 selections reflect the remarkable scope of Jewish mysticism, from the visions of Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Ishmael to the secrets of the Zohar; from apocalyptic, messianic and magical texts to the vibrant writing of four contemporary Israeli poets an unconventional inclusion. This volume will appeal to any serious reader of mysticism. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Dan is the Gershom Scholem Professor of Kabbalah at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, winner of the Israel Prize in 1997, a leading authority on Jewish mysticism, and the author of more than 50 books. With such credentials, he makes a fitting editor of a collection intended as an introduction to Kabbalah, an esoteric tradition in Judaism concerning the divine that was given to Moses on Mount Sinai and transmitted secretly through the generations. After an excellent introduction that discusses Jewish mysticism as a whole and then contrasts it with Christian mysticism, Dan presents 25 meaningful excerpts, some from classic texts like the Palm Tree of Devorah, the Zohar, and the mystical prayer of Rabbi Israel Ba'al Shem Tov, others from contemporary poetry. Each entry is prefaced with a helpful introduction that puts it in historical context. The book is annotated, but it lacks a bibliography a major flaw in a work meant as an entre. Still, Dan's writing is lucid and engaging, bringing an expert's view to a subject that has, unfortunately, been subsumed into popular culture. Highly recommended for large public libraries or where there is an interest in spirituality. Idelle Rudman, Touro Coll. Lib., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
I. Religion, Mysticism, and Languagep. 1
II. Jewish Mysticismp. 7
III. Jewish Concept of Language: The Midrashp. 9
IV. Historical Outlines: Late Antiquityp. 15
V. Historical Outlines: The Middle Agesp. 23
VI. Historical Outlines: The Modern Periodp. 36
VII. The Christian Kabbalahp. 44
1. The Revelation of the Secret of the Worldp. 49
2. Visions of Rabbi Akibah and Rabbi Ishmaelp. 55
3. The Deification of Enochp. 61
4. Rabbi Bahya Ibn Paquda: To See Without Eyes, To Hear Without Earsp. 75
5. Gabirol: God and the Universep. 81
6. Addressing an Emanated Godheadp. 95
7. The Voice of God Over the Water: The Worship of the Holy Namep. 101
8. The Rokeah: The Devotion in Prayerp. 107
9. Divine Will Clothed in Human Will: The Intention of Prayer in Early Kabbalahp. 115
10. Abraham Abulafia: An Apocalyptic Visionp. 121
11. The Mystical Immersion in Names and Letters: Shaarey Zedekp. 129
12. Zohar: The Beginningp. 139
13. Rabbi Simeon Bar Yohai and His Society of Mysticsp. 149
14. The Zohar: The Wondrous Childp. 161
15. To Write Without Pen and Inkp. 175
16. Joseph Della Reina: From Experience to Legendp. 181
17. Walking with the Shekhinah: The Palm Tree of Devorahp. 195
18. The Messianic Dreams of Rabbi Hayyim Vitalp. 203
19. A Prophetic Vision by Nathan of Gazap. 213
20. Nathan of Gaza Facing the Monsters of Evil: The Myth of the Doenmehp. 217
21. Luzzatto: Messianism and Sanctityp. 223
22. The Mystical Prayer of Rabbi Israel Ba'al Shem Tovp. 231
23. Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav: A Vision and a Dreamp. 239
24. Bialik: Mystical Poetry and Mystical Languagep. 251
25. The Sweet Voice of the Lord: Four Contemporary Israeli Poetsp. 263
Notesp. 277
Permissionsp. 311
Indexp. 312