Circle in the Square

Studies in the Use of Gender in Kabbalistic Symbolism

By Elliot R. Wolfson

Subjects: Jewish Studies
Paperback : 9780791424063, 288 pages, July 1995
Hardcover : 9780791424056, 288 pages, July 1995

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


1. Female Imaging of the Torah: From Literary Metaphor to Religious Symbol

2. Circumcision, Vision of God, and Textual Interpretation: From Midrashic Trope to Mystical Symbol

3. Erasing the Erasure/Gender and the Writing of God's Body in Kabbalistic Symbolism

4. Crossing Gender Boundaries in Kabbalistic Ritual and Myth


Bibliography of Secondary Sources


This book deals with the issue of gender in Jewish mysticism showing the thematic correlation of eroticism and esotericism that is central to the kabbalah.


This book deals with aspects of the gender imaging of God in a variety of medieval kabbalistic sources. It provides the key to understanding the phenomenological structures of mystical experience as well as the thematic correlation of esotericism and eroticism that is central to the kabbalah. The author examines the role of gender utilizing current feminist studies and cultural anthropology. He explores the themes of the feminization of the Torah, the correlation of circumcision and vision of God, the phallocentric understanding of divine creation as a process of inscription mythologized as an act of sexual self-gratification, and the phenomenon of gender-crossing in kabbalistic myth and ritual. Collectively, the studies explore in great depth the androcentric phallocentrism that is characteristic of medieval Jewish mysticism.

Elliot R. Wolfson is Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. He is the author of The Book of the Pomegranate: Moses de León's Sefer ha-Rimmon; Through A Speculum That Shines: Vision and Imagination in Medieval Jewish Mysticism; and Along the Path: Studies in Kabbalistic Myth, Symbolism, and Hermeneutics, also published by SUNY Press.


"A tour de force in terms of historical range, analytic boldness, textual sources, and interpretive constructions. An important contribution in every sense to Jewish thought and interpretation. " — Michael Fishbane, University of Chicago

"Wolfson has a knack for selecting particularly difficult texts and elucidating them for the reader. " — Daniel Matt, Graduate Theological Union