Author: Ansgar Martins
Ansgar Martins’s The Migration of Metaphysics into the Realm of the Profane is the first book-length study focusing on Adorno’s idiosyncratic appropriation of Jewish mysticism in the light of his relationship to Gershom Scholem and their shared intellectual contexts.

Rather than merely posit vague associative connections, as previous authors have often done, Martins’s close reading of specific references in published and private texts alike allows him to highlight both commonalities and differences between Adorno’s and Scholem’s understanding of Kabbalistic tropes and the issue of metaphysics in the modern world, and to demonstrate the extent to which similarities resulted from mutual and/or third-party influences (especially Benjamin). Martins throws the specifics of their respective idiosyncratic appropriations of (Jewish) tradition into sharp relief.
Editor: Brian Ogren
Kabbalah in America includes chapters from leading experts in a variety of fields and is the first-ever comprehensive treatment of the title subject from colonial times until the present. Until recently, Kabbalah studies have not extensively covered America, despite America’s centrality in modern and contemporary formations. There exist scattered treatments, but no inclusive expositions. This volume most certainly fills the gap.

It is comprised of 21 articles in eight sections, including Kabbalah in Colonial America; Nineteenth-Century Western Esotericism; The Nineteenth-Century Jewish Interface; Early Twentieth-Century Rational Scholars; The Post-War Counterculture; Liberal American Denominationalism; Ultra-Orthodoxy, American Hasidism and the ‘Other’; and Contemporary American Ritual and Thought. This volume will be sure to set the tone for all future scholarship on American Kabbalah.

Abstract

Through an examination of specific motifs in the Emersonian corpus, namely the abyss and the Oversoul, this study focuses on the Kabbalah-inflected tropes and their impact on Emerson’s representations of the unconscious by way of German philosophy (more specifically through Jakob Boehme and GWF Schelling). Instead of interpreting these tropes as mysticism, of which he was critical, Emerson viewed them as a link between ontology and psychology (influenced by Victor Cousin’s ecclectism), and as an articulation of the collective and the individual, thus defining the American religion, which Allan Bloom has famously held to be Emerson’s “highest achievement.”

In: Kabbalah in America
Author: Daniel Horwitz

Abstract

Long considered a staunch opponent of any form of mysticism, American Conservative Judaism has seen significant change on this field during the past twenty-five years. Students of Kabbalah and Hasidism, once outliers in Conservative institutions, shared their interest through social media and in congregational as well as academic life. Some were inspired to pursue this interest during their years in rabbinical school, but for all students today, such studies are not only legitimate but encouraged and supported. Conservative liturgical texts of the past generation also reflect this development. This direction is likely to continue under current rabbinical teachers and leaders.

In: Kabbalah in America

Abstract

Early generations of Reform thinkers have been portrayed as divided by many religious and theological issues, but virtually all of them were united in their commitment to a rejection of mysticism in all forms, including and perhaps in particular a rejection of Kabbalah. The trend towards pluralistic approaches to Reform spirituality accelerated in the 1960’s, and it was in this context that the popular book 9½ Mystics: The Kabbala Today was published. Reform Rabbi Herbert Weiner’s book was seen as a revolutionary work, exploring previously taboo subjects and legitimizing what had previously been regarded by nearly all within the movement as prohibited. This paper examines and analyzes the contents of the book in this cultural context.

In: Kabbalah in America
Author: Alan Brill

Abstract

This paper explores Aryeh Kaplan’s approach to Kabbalah, specifically the topics of mystical consciousness, meditation, God, and prophecy as presented in his Sefer Yetzirah commentary. For him, Kabbalah was operational as a path of higher consciousness; therefore, he gives scant attention to theosophic Kabbalah. Kaplan’s approach was to recreate a Kabbalah of consciousness with what he calls the practice of “verbal archaeology.” Kaplan presents a broad view of altered states of consciousness by incorporating discussions of 4-D space, hallucinogens, and learning to form steady mental images. Kaplan portrays God as a computer system and as an abstract principle similar to math and to Buddhist Nothingness.

In: Kabbalah in America

Abstract

This chapter examines the teachings of Yoel Teitelbaum of Satmar and Menachem Mendel Schneerson, two of the most important and influential Hasidic leaders in post-Holocaust America. In exploring Teitelbaum’s and Schneerson’s subtle but unmistakable attempt to refashion the legacy of Hasidism for an American audience, my work rests upon their treatment of two interrelated issues. The first is their understanding of Revelation and the rabbinic tradition that the Torah was translated into the languages of the world. The second is the incident of the Golden Calf, the paradigmatic sin of idolatry that came to stand for modern heresy. Close reading of their sermonic exegesis—and counter-exegesis—will demonstrate that Teitelbaum and Schneerson offered a very different perspective on religious life in post-War America that was grounded in the legacy of Hasidism.

In: Kabbalah in America
In: Kabbalah in America
In: Kabbalah in America
Author: Marla Segol

Abstract

Sexuality is at the center of the kabbalistic cosmos, structuring interactions between the sefirot human and divine. Thus medieval kabbalists innovated rituals of sacred sexuality to act on that cosmos. This essay first describes these earlier rituals, and then examines their changing functions in two 21st Century American self-help books, The Kabbalah Book of Sex and Other Mysteries of the Universe by Yehuda Berg, and The Kosher Sutra: Eight Sacred Secrets for Reigniting Desire and Restoring Passion for Life, by Shmuley Boteach. These American Jewish writers adapt older models to engage American discourses of individualism, capitalism, gender, and pleasure.

In: Kabbalah in America