The Chosen Will Become Herds

The Chosen Will Become Herds: Studies in Twentieth-Century Kabbalah

JONATHAN GARB
Translated by Yaffah Berkovits-Murciano
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1np9z9
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  • Book Info
    The Chosen Will Become Herds
    Book Description:

    The popularity of Kabbalah, a Jewish mystical movement at least 900 years old, has grown astonishingly within the context of the vast and ever-expanding social movement commonly referred to as the New Age. This book is the first to provide a broad overview of the major trends in contemporary Kabbalah together with in-depth discussions of major figures and schools.

    A noted expert on Kabbalah, Jonathan Garb places the "kabbalistic Renaissance" within the global context of the rise of other forms of spirituality, including Sufism and Tibetan Buddhism. He shows how Kabbalah has been transformed by the events of the Holocaust and, following the establishment of Israel, by aliyah.The Chosen Will Become Herdsis an original piece of scholarship and, in its own right, a new chapter in the history of Kabbalah.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15504-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Study of Twentieth-Century Kabbalah: Dilemmas and Possibilities
    (pp. 1-10)

    The proliferation of mystical and magical ideas and practices has characterized cultural life in the past few decades. The Internet, the fashion world, the cinema, and literature are steeped in symbols, metaphors, and terms that derive from mystical and occult traditions. The sensational literary and cinematic success of theLord of the Rings and Harry Potterseries testifies to this unusual interest in the occult.¹ In these and similar works, the magician with supernatural powers has become a cultural icon of sorts.

    I would like to begin by clarifying that I have adopted the cultural studies methodology in this book....

  5. 1 JEWISH MYSTICISM IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY: Major Trends
    (pp. 11-20)

    In a lecture published in 1941 in his monumental work on the main currents in Jewish mysticism, Gershom Scholem described the status of contemporary Kabbalah as follows: “What it was at the beginning: the esoteric wisdom of small groups of men out of touch with life and without any influence on it.”¹

    This description reflects Scholem’s perception of Religious Judaism as being obsolete.² Based on this approach, Scholem and some of his students studied Jewish mysticism as a literary, philological-historical phenomenon rather than as a vital and dynamic phenomenon. However, as anyone involved in public life in the past few...

  6. 2 THE DRIVE TO DISSEMINATE KABBALAH
    (pp. 21-36)

    A distinctive feature of twentieth-century Kabbalah was its dissemination through a number of different circles. This trend was already under way at the beginning of the century, as the proliferation of Kabbalah guides for beginners from that period testifies.¹ In attempting to elucidate this phenomenon, one must grant equal weight to “external” (sociological) factors and to “internal” (ideological) factors. The above notwithstanding, my main focus, as a researcher of Jewish thought, will be on ideological factors, although I will also discuss social factors in more detail in the ensuing chapters.

    From an internal perspective, the dissemination of Kabbalah in the...

  7. 3 THE CONCEPT OF POWER IN NATIONAL MYSTICISM
    (pp. 37-51)

    One of the features of twentieth-century Kabbalah was the rise of “national mysticism,” generally accompanied by a fervent support of Zionism, in particular in its more nationalistic guises.¹ Although the doctrine of national mysticism predated R. Avraham Yizhaaq Ha-Kohen Kook (see, for example, the sixteenth-century writings of R. Judah Loew [known as Maharal] of Prague, which were widely acclaimed in the twentieth century, especially by the Kook circle), it gained considerable momentum in the course of the twentieth century.² In this chapter, I attempt to clarify the concept of national mysticism by focusing specifically on the place of “power” within...

  8. 4 PSYCHOLOGICAL NOTIONS OF POWER
    (pp. 52-59)

    In the previous chapter, I focused principally on the national perception of power. In this chapter, I will focus on the psychological perception of power, particularly within R. Yehuda Ha-Levi Leib Ashlag’s circle—a subject I touched upon in Chapter 1. Although power is less pivotal for this circle than for R. Avraham Yizḥaaq Ha-Kohen Kook’s circle, I will show how it still serves as a key concept in the kabbalistic doctrine advocated by Ashlag and his disciples. Ashlag assigned importance to the political dimension of power, but he tended to overlook the national dimension of power that was so...

  9. 5 SACRED SPACE AND SACRED PERSONS
    (pp. 60-74)

    Predictably, the historic event of the Jews’ return to Eretz Israel lent impetus to the discourse on sacred space in twentieth-century Kabbalah, as in other areas of contemporary Jewish discourse.¹ This impetus, however, did not underscore the importance of Eretz Israel only, although naturally statements on the merit of the Holy Land figured prominently in it. As we will see, sacred space was frequently subordinated to the sacred person (the Tzaddiq), who played a central role in twentieth-century Kabbalah.² In other words, kabbalistic discourse in the twentieth century internalized the concept of sacred space and replaced it with that of...

  10. 6 CIRCUMVENTION AND VIOLATION OF HALAKHA
    (pp. 75-99)

    One of the main issues in the study of Jewish mysticism is its attitude toward Halakha and the observance of the commandments—or the relationship between kabbalistic literature and halakhic literature.¹ A related issue is the link between a halakhic way of life (a system of daily rituals and customs) and kabbalistic behavior (mystical rituals, customs, and techniques). Do these two systems complement each other, contradict each other, or simply coexist?

    One of the more salient manifestations of the changing face of Kabbalah in the twentieth century is its attitude toward Halakha. Throughout the history of Jewish mysticism, there have...

  11. 7 THE UPSURGE OF MYSTICISM AS A JEWISH AND GLOBAL PHENOMENON
    (pp. 100-122)

    In this final chapter I focus on three processes in the development of Jewish mysticism from the start of the twenty-first century: the global process (that is, the rise of the New Age movement), changes taking place in Israel and the Jewish world in general, and changes within Jewish religious society in Israel and the world. Although I differentiate between these processes, globalization and increasing ties between Israeli society and the Jewish Diaspora have to some extent blurred the distinctions between them.

    Let us first consider the global process. The globalization of spirituality, known as the New Age movement, is...

  12. POSTSCRIPT
    (pp. 123-124)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 125-178)
  14. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 179-184)
  15. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 185-208)
  16. Index
    (pp. 209-218)