Kabbalah in Print
The Study and Popularization of Jewish Mysticism in Early Modernity
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Demonstrates the impact of print culture on the spread of Jewish mysticism, focusing on Kabbalistic study guides by R. Yissakhar Baer of seventeenth-century Prague.
How did Jewish mysticism go from arcane knowledge to popular spirituality? Kabbalah in Print examines the cultural impact of printing on the popularization, circulation, and transmission of Kabbalah in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The Zohar, in particular, generated a large secondary literature of study guides and reference works that aimed to ease the linguistic and conceptual challenges of the text. The arrival of printed classics of Kabbalah was soon followed by the appearance of new literary genres—anthologies, digests, lexicons, and other learning aids—that mediated mystical primary sources to a community of readers not versed in this lore. A detailed investigation of the four works by R. Yissakhar Baer (ca. 1580–ca. 1629) of Prague sheds light on the literary strategies, pedagogic concerns, and religious motivations of secondary elites, a new cadre of authors empowered by the opportunities that printing opened up. Andrea Gondos highlights shifting intellectual and cultural boundaries in the early modern period, when the transmission of Kabbalah became a meeting point connecting various strata of Jewish society as well as Jewish and Christian intellectuals.
Andrea Gondos is Emmy Noether Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Jewish Studies at Free University Berlin, Germany. She is the coeditor (with Daniel Maoz) of From Antiquity to the Postmodern World: Contemporary Jewish Studies in Canada.
"…[a] a superb study, which provides many exciting avenues for future scholarship." — AJS Review
"The book's argument is compelling and clearly written, and integrates the developing literature and book history with important advances in early modern Jewish intellectual history." — AJL News and Reviews
"…informative and insightful…" — Jerusalem Report
"Kabbalah in Print is an important study of several aspects of early modern Ashkenazi culture … It is also an important contribution to our understanding of the popularization and dissemination of kabbalistic teachings and practices in the first half of the 17th century in Central and Eastern Europe. Well written and elegantly argued, it is a work that deserves a place in every collection devoted to early modern Ashkenazi society." — Reading Religion
"Charting a new direction for the study of the development of Kabbalah in the early modern period, this book examines the spread of Jewish mystical texts and what this can teach us about broader issues of knowledge communication and organization. Gondos is a sophisticated researcher, well versed in theories and methods in addition to being extremely knowledgeable about her subject area of inquiry. The result is a wonderful book that contributes much to multiple disciplines!" — Ariel Evan Mayse, author of Speaking Infinities: God and Language in the Teachings of Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezritsh