Philosophy and Kabbalah

Elijah Benamozegh and the Reconciliation of Western Thought and Jewish Esotericism

By Alessandro Guetta
Translated by Helena Kahan

Subjects: Jewish Studies, Kabbalah, Philosophy, Religion
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Jewish Thought
Paperback : 9780791475768, 246 pages, January 2010
Hardcover : 9780791475751, 246 pages, March 2009

Table of contents

INTRODUCTION
A FEW BIOGRAPHICAL POINTERS

PART I: PHILOSOPHY AND KABBALAH

KABBALAH AND PROGRESS
THEOLOGY AND THE DISCOVERY OF THE UNCONSCIOUS
THE UNIVERSAL RELATIONSHIP
CONDITIONED PROGRESS
HISTORY AND TRUTH
“PANTHEISM: THE GREAT ERROR OF OUR AGE”
MODERATE IDEALISM: A TENDENCY TOWARD UNION
DISTINCTIONS PRESERVED
The Philosophical Context
Spinoza’s Error: Downwards Union
Christianity’s error: Upwards Union
The Metaphysical Flaws of Christian Morality
The Historical Jesus
RECONCILIATION: IMMANENTIST MONOTHEISM
The Triumph of the Occident and Thoughts on Difference
Plurality within Unity
HIDDEN ANTHROPOMORPHISM: FEUERBACH’S REASONS
FROM LAMENTATIONS OF EXILE TO A SENSE OF MISSION
PHILOLOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY
Hebrew: A Perfect Language?
Hebrew: A Dead Language? The Possibility of Modern Hebraic Poetry
Vico and the Zohar

THE INEVITABLE CHOICES OF NINETEENTH-CENTURY
BIBLICAL COMMENTARY
An Eloquent Incipit
Condemnation from the Oriental Rabbis
Israel Moshe Hazan: Fundamentalism and Moderation
“As though hanging in air”
The Omissions of Em La-Miqra: The Conjunction of Kabbalah
and Modernity
The Positive Hermeneutics
Comparitivism
Concordism and Tradition
Erudition and Philosophy
THE NOTES ON THE ZOHAR

PART II: TRADITION, ORALITY, AND TEXT

ISSUES IN PLAY
TRADITION AND TEXT: BETWEEN ENLIGHTENMENT AND ROMANTICISM
TRADITION AND TEXTS FOR A SCIENCE OF JUDAISM
IN DEFENSE OF TRADITION
Definitions
THE WRITTEN AND THE SPOKEN WORD
POLEMICAL CONTEXT
Tradition versus Subjectivity
Criticism of Modernity and a New Apologia
The Danger of Individualism
Jewish Reformers and Traditionalists
Defense of Kabbalah
Polemic in Italian Judaism: S. D. Luzzatto’s Dialogues on the Kabbalah
The Inadequacy of Literal Interpretation
Kabbalah and Philology
Reason and Divine Tradition
Science, Method, and Transmission
Religion in the Feminine Declension

PART III: STYLE AS WITNESS

The Orient, “To Orient Oneself”
Solitude: “I live in the Boeotia of Judaism”
The Need to Speak
The Imaginary Library
From Orient to Occident
NOTES
INDEX

Reconciles the conflict between these two seemingly diverse traditions.

Description

Philosophy and Kabbalah offers an analysis of the life and work of Elijah Benamozegh (1823–1900), an Italian Kabbalist and philosopher of Moroccan origins. Although the relationship between Kabbalah and philosophy has always been problematic, Benamozegh considered Kabbalah to be the true dogmatic and rational tradition of Judaism. In his numerous books and articles in Hebrew, Italian, and French, he constantly integrated this Jewish esoteric tradition into the currents of Western European philosophy, particularly Hegelian idealism and positivism, as well as the philosophy of the unconscious that would later develop into psychoanalysis. Benamozegh's inspired reading of Spinoza, his grand project of a universal religion, his "feminization" of Jewish thought, and his ability to excel simultaneously as a rabbi, an Italian patriot, a citizen of the République des Lettres, and a proud representative of an ancient Sephardic culture make him one of the most outstanding and original figures of the nineteenth-century Jewish culture.

Alessandro Guetta is Professor of Jewish Thought at the National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations in Paris.

Reviews

"…Guetta's work, especially now that it is available in an English translation, should go a long way toward bringing Benamozegh's thought into contemporary dialogue. " — AJS Review

"Guetta carefully contextualizes the thinking of this last great Kabbalist on Italian soil against the background of earlier and contemporary Italian Jewish thought and general philosophical and theological trends throughout Europe. The result is a marvelous reconstruction of a highly original Jewish thinker attempting to carve a place for Jewish tradition within European culture through his innovative interpretations of Kabbalistic sapience and its relevance for the modern world. " — David B. Ruderman, Ella Darivoff Director, Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania

"We should all be grateful for Alessandro Guetta's important study that places the little-known Jewish sage Benamozegh at the forefront of modern Kabbalists. " — David Appelbaum, author of Jacques Derrida's Ghost: A Conjuration