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The Beginning of the World in Renaissance Jewish Thought

Ma’aseh Bereshit in Italian Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah, 1492-1535

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Brian Ogren

In The Beginning of the World in Renaissance Jewish Thought, Brian Ogren offers a deep analysis of late fifteenth century Italian Jewish thought concerning the creation of the world and the beginning of time. Ogren’s book is the very first to seriously juxtapose the thought of the great Jewish thinker Yohanan Alemanno, Alemanno’s famed Christian interlocutor, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, the important Iberian exegete active in Italy, Isaac Abravanel, and Abravanel’s renowned philosopher son Judah, known as Leone Ebreo. By bringing these thinkers together, this book presents a new understanding of early modern uses of Jewish texts and hermeneutics. Ogren successfully demonstrates that the syntheses of philosophy and Kabbalah carried out by these four intellectuals in their quests to understand the beginning itself marked a new beginning in
Western thought, characterized by simultaneous continuity and rupture.

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Adam Afterman

In “And They Shall Be One Flesh”: On the Language of Mystical Union in Judaism, Adam Afterman offers an extensive study of mystical union and embodiment in Judaism. Afterman argues that Philo was the first to articulate the notion of unio mystica in Judaism and is the source of the henōsis mysticism in the later Neoplatonic tradition. The study provides a detailed analysis of the Jewish medieval trends that developed different forms of mystical union and mystical embodiment through the divine name and spirit. The book argues that the development of unitive mysticism in Judaism is the fruit of the creative synthesis of rabbinic Judaism and Hellenistic and Arab philosophy, and a natural outcome of the theological articulation of the idea of monotheism itself.

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Jonatan Meir

This book endeavors to fill a lacuna in the literature on early twentieth-century kabbalah, namely the lack of a comprehensive account of the traditional kabbalah seminaries (Yeshivot) in Jerusalem from 1896 to 1948 as well as the various manifestations of kabbalah within traditional Jewish society. The foundations that were laid in the early twentieth century also paved the way for the contemporary blossoming of kabbalah in many and manifold circles. In this sense, retracing the pertinent developments in Palestine at the outset of the twentieth century is imperative not only for repairing the distorted picture of the past, but for understanding the ongoing surge in kabbalah study.

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Miquel Beltran

In this book the author seeks to find historiographical and textual evidence that Abraham Cohen de Herrera ‘s main kabbalistic work, Puerta del Cielo, influenced Spinoza’s metaphysics as it is expounded in his later work, the Ethica. Many of the most important ontological topics maintained by the philosopher, like the concept of the first cause as substance, the procession of the infinite modes, the subjective or metaphorical reality of the attributes, and the two different understandings of God, were anticipated in Herrera’s mystical treatise. Both shared a particular consideration of panentheism that entails acosmism. This influence is proven through a comparative examination of the writings of both authors, as well as a detailed research on previous Jewish philosophical thought.