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Kabbalah in Print: Literary Strategies of Popular Mysticism in Early Modernity

Title:

Kabbalah in Print: Literary Strategies of Popular Mysticism in Early Modernity

Gondos, Andrea (2013) Kabbalah in Print: Literary Strategies of Popular Mysticism in Early Modernity. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

This dissertation examines the ways in which an early seventeenth century author, Yissachar Baer ben Petahyah Moshe, reorganized and represented Jewish mystical knowledge for popular consumption. Drawing on David Ruderman’s recent work on Early Modern Jewry, the central argument of my dissertation is that Yissachar Baer’s literary strategies of representing Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) were informed by three interconnected factors that defined the early modern Jewish experience: 1) the technological invention of the printing press and its subsequent impact on the social, cultural, and intellectual development of the period; 2) the rise of a secondary elite for whom printing opened up opportunities to access new areas of intellectual inquiry and who became important cultural agents in reorganizing and representing knowledge to new readers; 3) enhanced mobility which resulted in the emergence of intellectual networks that facilitated the exchange of ideas and at times effaced while at other times enforced social and cultural boundaries.
Each of Yissachar Baer’s four extant works, printed in Prague between 1609-1611, constitute a deliberate strategy to promote a new cultural paradigm for the transmission of knowledge. First, in Pithei Yah (Portals of God) the abridgment form enabled him to condense Moses Cordovero’s kabbalisic encyclopedia, the Pardes Rimonim, into a concise guide to the main principles of Kabbalah. Second, in Yesh Sakhar (There is Reward), the fusion of the halakhic statements of the Zohar with the literary framework of the Shulkhan Arukh served to harmonize the legal and mystical dimensions of Judaism and to empower ordinary Jews to enhance their daily performance of the commandments by comprehending the attendant kabbalistic overtones. Third, in composing a lexicon to the Zohar, in Imrei Binah (Words of Understanding) he aimed to ease the user’s access to the Aramaic original, which presented a considerable cognitive barrier to the non-elite reader. Finally, elucidation of the peshat or literal meaning of zoharic words and expressions in his Mekor Hokhmah (The Source of Wisdom) provided a tool for a non-specialist reader to augment one’s weekly reading of the Torah with insights into its deeper, mystical registers.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Religions and Cultures
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Gondos, Andrea
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Religion
Date:12 September 2013
Thesis Supervisor(s):Robinson, Ira
ID Code:977951
Deposited By: ANDREA GONDOS
Deposited On:13 Jan 2014 16:15
Last Modified:22 Mar 2019 19:29
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