Suffering Time: Philosophical, Kabbalistic, and Ḥasidic Reflections on Temporality


No one theory of time is pursued in these essays, but a major theme that threads them together is Wolfson’s signature idea of the timeswerve as a linear circularity or a circular linearity, expressions that are meant to avoid the conventional split between the two temporal modalities of the line and the circle. The conception of time elicited by Wolfson from a host of philosophical and mystical sources—both Jewish and non-Jewish—buttresses the contention that it is precisely structural invariability that engenders interpretive variation. This hermeneutical axiom is justified, in turn, by the presumption regarding the cadence of time as the constant return of what has always been what is yet to be. The telling of time wells forth from the time of telling. One cannot speak of the being of time, consequently, except from the standpoint of the time of being, nor of the time of being except from the standpoint of the being of time.

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Elliot R. Wolfson, Ph.D. (1986), Brandeis University, is the Marsha and Jay Glazer Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara. He has published widely in the area of Jewish philosophy and mysticism. His work is informed by phenomenology, hermeneutics, literary criticism and gender theory. His two most recent monographs are The Duplicity of Philosophy’s Shadow: Heidegger, Nazism and the Jewish Other (2018) and Heidegger and Kabbalah: Hidden Gnosis and the Path of Poiēsis (2019).
1 Timemask and the Telling of Time in the Time of Telling
 1 Time’s Linear Circle and Reiteration of the Inimitable

2 Linear Circularity/(A)Temporal Poetics
 1 Encircled Line: Mythologic of Hebraic Time
 2 Alef/Mem/Tau: Time, Truth, Death
 3 Timeless Time and the Rotation of the Sefirot
 4 Temporal Ontology/Eventful Grammar
 5 In this Moment: Engendering Time and Feminine Indeterminacy
 6 Phallic Fecundity and the Spatio-Temporal Enshrining of Prayer
 7 Day That Is Entirely Long: Temporal In-difference

3 Kenotic Overflow, Temporal Transcendence, and Angelic Embodiment in the Kabbalah of Abraham Abulafia
 1 Tempus Discretum and the Eternal Return of What Has Never Been
 2 Intellectual Conjunction and the Mechanics of Divine Influence
 3 In the Blink of an Eye: Time as the Mysterium Coniunctionis
 4 Angelomorphic Transformation and Monopsychic Integration
 5 Kenotic Expansion and Temporal Delimitation, and Becoming the Nothing-That-Is-All
 6 Life of the World to Come: YHWH and the Compresence of Time

4 Retroactive Not Yet
 Linear Circularity and Kabbalistic Temporality
 1 Alef and the Immeasurability of Eternal Time
 2 Imagining Time and the Givenness of the Nongiven
 3 Return of the Altogether Otherwise
 4 Ṣimṣum and the Replication of Difference

5 Suffering Time
 Maharal’s Influence on Ḥasidic Perspectives on Temporality
 1 Time of Suffering in the Suffering of Time
 2 Time Out of Time: Eternality and the Temporal Transcendence of Temporality
 3 Infinity and the Eternity of Time in Ḥasidic Sources
  4 Timefully Retrieving Instant beyond Time: Ascesis and Corporeal Worship

6 The Cut That Binds
Time, Memory, and the Ascetic Impulse in Naḥman of Bratslav
 1 Memory, Mindfulness, and Masculinity
 2 Returning Beyond: Recollecting the Future in Anticipation of the Past
 3 Perfection of Memory, Rectification of the Phallus, and the Conquest of the Eros of Time
 4 Ascetic Renunciation and the Eschatological Triumph over Time

7 Malkhut de-Ein Sof and the Temporalization of Space
Ṣimṣum in the Teaching of Solomon ben Ḥayyim Eliashiv
 1 Time as the Measure of the Immeasurable
 2 Temporal Eternity and the Infinite Finitude
 3 Kingship of the Infinite and the Demarcation of the Not-Other as Other
 4 Sha‘ashu‘a and the Autoerotic Differentiating Indifference
 5 Ṣimṣum and the Literalization of the Figurative in the Figuralization of the Literal
 6 Temporalization of the Spatial: Timespace as the Fourth Dimension

8 Not Yet Now
Speaking of the End and the End of Speaking
 1 Death and the Surplus of Not Yet
 2 Waiting for the End of Waiting
 3 Messianic Time, Futural Remembering, and Historical Disjointedness
 4 Utopian Hope and Disenchantment of the Image
 5 Not Yet Now and the Nothingness of the Future


Professors and graduate studies in the areas of Jewish philosophy, Jewish mysticism, as well as scolars of continental philosophy, and others interested in theories of time.