Approaches Hasidism as an important stage in Jewish mysticism, rather than as a mere reaction to or result of historical and social forces.
Moshe Idel is Max Cooper Professor of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He is the author of Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid; Language, Torah, and Hermeneutics in Abraham Abulafia; The Mystical Experience in Abraham Abulafia; and Studies in Ecstatic Kabbalah, all published by SUNY Press.
"Idel's book has broken new ground in the study of the mystical Judaism of Eastern Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. By applying what he calls the panoramic approach, in contrast to the existentialist approach of Buber and the historicist approach of Scholem, Idel has been able to illuminate the phenomenon of Hasidism in all its complexity and diversity. Rather than focusing on any one immediate aspect of Jewish mysticism, Idel proposes to understand Hasidism as the aggregation of multiple streams, including magic, theosophic kabbalah, and ecstatic kabbalah. By applying Idel's orientation one can appreciate the complex fabric woven by the Hasidic masters from previous mystical sources. His book is provocative and stimulating. " — Elliot R. Wolfson, New York University
"The author succeeds in broadening our understanding of Hasidism through clarifying its relations to phenomenological models that are typical of earlier stages of Jewish mysticism. As a result of Idel's vast knowledge of mystical and philosophical literature, he is able to demonstrate and clarify the extent that Hasidism is dependent on non-Lurianic schools of Kabbalah. Thus, Hasidism emerges as an important stage in Jewish mysticism, rather than as a mere reaction or result of historical and social forces such as Sabbatianism.
"Idel focuses on one of the most significant, yet little understood developments in the history of Jewish thought and religion. His close study of ecstasy and magic will be essential for all those who are in any way interested in this area.
"The book is full of brilliant insights concerning the meaning of key concepts and practices in early Hasidism. " — Miles Krassen, Oberlin College