Aramaic Incantation Bowls in Museum Collections

Volume One: The Frau Professor Hilprecht Collection of Babylonian Antiquities, Jena

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James Nathan Ford and Matthew Morgenstern

The Frau Professor Hilprecht Collection of Babylonian Antiquities at Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena houses one of the major European collections of incantation bowls. Forty bowls bear texts written in the Jewish, Manichaean Syriac or Mandaic scripts, and most of the rest (some twenty-five objects) in the Pahlavi script or in various pseudoscripts. The present volume comprises new editions of the Aramaic (and Hebrew) bowl texts based on high-resolution photographs taken by the authors, together with brief descriptions and photographs of the remaining material. New readings are often supported with close-up photographs. The volume is intended to serve as a basis for further study of magic in late Antiquity and of the Late Eastern Aramaic dialects in which the texts were composed.

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Nathaniel Berman

Nathaniel Berman’s Divine and Demonic in the Poetic Mythology of the Zohar: The “Other Side” of Kabbalah offers a new approach to the central work of Jewish mysticism, the Sefer Ha-Zohar (“Book of Radiance”). Berman explicates the literary techniques through which the Zohar constructs a mythology of intricately related divine and demonic personae. Drawing on classical and modern rhetorical paradigms, as well as psychoanalytical theories of the formation of subjectivity, Berman reinterprets the meaning of the Zohar’s divine and demonic personae, exploring their shared origins and their ongoing antagonisms and intimacies. Finally, he shows how the Zoharic portrayal of the demonic, the “Other Side,” contributes to reflecting on alterity of all kinds.

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Edited by Mirjam Zadoff and Noam Zadoff

The articles collected in Scholar and Kabbalist: The Life and Work of Gershom Scholem present diverse biographical aspects and the scholarly oeuvre of arguably the most influential Jewish-Israeli intellectual of the 20th century. Immigrating to Palestine in 1923, Gershom Scholem became one of the founders of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and was the first to establish Jewish Mysticism as a scholarly discipline. The articles collected here reflect the diversity of Scholem’s intellectual scope including his contribution to Jewish Studies as a scholar of Kabbalah, religion and history, as a bibliophile, and an expert librarian of Judaica. Central aspects of Scholem’s impact on Jewish historiography, literature and art in Israel, Europe and the US, are presented to the reader for the first time.

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Patrick Benjamin Koch

Abstract

In his kabbalistic studies, Gershom Scholem arguably showed special interest in biographies of individuals who personify the so-called “anarchic potential” of what he termed “heretical kabbalah.” This tendency is also reflected in his research on Ephraim Joseph Hirschfeld (ca. 1755–1820), one of the first Jews admitted to a Masonic order in a German-speaking country. The present article reconstructs Gershom Scholem’s investigations of E.J. Hirschfeld based on the collection of materials that he acquired over a period of two decades. A careful analysis of Scholem’s copies of Masonic manuscripts and handwritten notes reveals that in the course of his work he eventually qualified his premature evaluation of Hirschfeld as a kabbalist and “forgotten Jewish mystic.” In a wider context, the analysis shows how Scholem’s dialectical understanding of the history of Jewish mysticism profoundly influenced his understanding of Hirschfeld’s life.

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Zvi Leshem

Abstract

While Gershom Scholem is well known as the founder and foremost researcher in the field of Jewish mysticism, less well known are his important activities as a book collector and a librarian. In this article, I will focus on this aspect of his career, pinpointing key moments and demonstrating how his bibliographic activities intersected with and influenced his research. Via the medium of numerous images and documents, I will follow Scholem on his book-collecting journey, which began when he was a student in Germany and which continued in Israel, where he worked as a librarian at the Jewish National Library before beginning his teaching career at the Hebrew University. Finally, I will discuss the afterlife of his personal library, which now forms the nucleus of the Gershom Scholem Collection at the National Library of Israel.

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Edited by Mirjam Zadoff and Noam Zadoff

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Shaul Magid

Abstract

While Gershom Scholem published a large body of essays on Hasidism, Hasidism is not known to be a central focus of his research. His work on Hasidism includes a book-length manuscript written in English in 1948 titled “Lectures in Hasidism” that was never published. Based on an extensive use of those unpublished lectures, I argue that Hasidism for Scholem was as much as, or even more, about Scholem’s stature as a contributor to contemporary Jewish life and, more specifically, his personal and professional relationship with Martin Buber than it was about Hasidism’s roots in the Jewish mystical tradition. I argue that much of Scholem’s reading of Hasidism is influenced by his complicated relationship with Walter Benjamin. Buber and Benjamin may have been the two major intellectual influences in Scholem’s life. I suggest that Scholem’s famous critique of Buber, “Martin Buber’s Interpretation of Hasidism,” first published in English in Commentary Magazine in 1961, is not marginal to his other work on Hasidism but is its very center. And in addition, I argue that one cannot adequately decipher Scholem’s critique of Buber in that essay without exploring his many essays on Hasidism that do not mention Buber at all.

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Lars Fischer

Abstract

Drawing on Scholem’s published correspondences, I argue in this essay that Scholem’s thoughts and sentiments about postwar Germany were truly consistent only in the sense that they were consistently marked by deep-seated tensions between the principled and the pragmatic, between pessimism and optimism, between disillusionment and yearning, between attraction and repulsion. Scholem expressed them not only, depending on the addressee, with varying emphases and nuances in registers ranging from sensitive to extremely blunt, but also with an intense awareness of his own limitations in terms of what might, in principle, be desirable.

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Amir Engel

Abstract

The objective of this essay is to explore Gershom Scholem’s intellectual appropriation of certain key elements of the German Romantic tradition in his conceptualization of the history of Jewish mysticism. I will show that Scholem is especially indebted to the Romantic concept of the “symbol” and to its powerful impulse to create “a new mythology.” I will also show that Scholem developed his principle of historical interpretation about the role of the kabbalah in Jewish history within a matrix of ideas that were typical among Romantic thinkers. In conclusion, I will argue that these intellectual debts made Scholem a fascinating example of a postwar and post-Holocaust German–Jewish thinker.

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Daniel Abrams

Abstract

This article offers a diachronic assessment of the various studies of Gershom Scholem on the Zohar. Shifts in his positions and different choices in methodologies are uncovered to offer a more complex picture of how Scholem worked and the choices he made at each point in his scholarly career. This overview presents the many strategies that Scholem considered but did not necessarily adopt in his published research and that anticipated the many moves taken in recent scholarship.