The Paradoxical Ascent to God

The Kabbalistic Theosophy of Habad Hasidism

By Rachel Elior
Translated by Jeffrey M. Green

Subjects: Jewish Studies
Series: SUNY series in Judaica: Hermeneutics, Mysticism, and Religion
Paperback : 9780791410462, 279 pages, November 1992
Hardcover : 9780791410455, 279 pages, December 1992

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Table of contents


PART ONE: Introduction

1. A Spiritual Awakening
2. The Influence of the Kabbalah
3. The Historical Background
4. The Hasidic World-View
5. Habad-Hasidism
6. The Dual Meaning of Existence
7. The Dialectical Systems
8. The Books of Habad
9. The Four Subjects of Discussion
10. The Background of the Paradoxical Argument

PART TWO: The Doctine of Divinity, The Mystical Theology

11. Acosmism
12. The Relation Between God and the World
13. Wholeness as the Incorporation of Opposites
14. Hashvaah (Equalization)
15. Entity and Manifestation--Nothingness and Being
16. The Doctrine of Tzimtzum
17. Transcendence and Immanence
18. The Paradox--Two Opposites in a Single Subject

PART THREE: Soul Consciousness and Perception

19. The Doctrine of the Soul
20. The Divine Soul
21. The Bestial Soul

PART FOUR: Divine Worship

22. Divine Worship--Introduction
23. Two Aspects of Divine Worship
24. Esoterics and Exoterics--The Dispute over the Dissemination of Spiritual Doctrines
25. Ha-'Avodah be-Bittul--Worship in Self-Annihilation
26. Self-Annihilation and the Divine Wholeness
27. Ha-'Avodah be-Hitbonenut--Worship in Contemplation
28. The Controversy over Contemplation
29. The Three Principal Types of Worship in Annihilation
30. Faith That Transcends Intellect and Comprehension
31. Mesirut Nefesh--Self-Sacrifice
32. The Confrontation Concerning the Goals of Spiritual Worship
33. 'Avodah be-Hipukh--Worship through Inversion and the Actualization of Divine Wholeness




Primary Sources

Reference List



This book is a study of the Habad Hasidism movement, an influential part of the Hasidic Movement, which originated in the eigteenth century. Habad was founded by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1813) who established a Hasidic community in Belorussia and who set forth the new Habad doctrine in a book entitled Tanya (Likutey Amarim). This doctrine expounded the mystical ideas underlying the quest for God. Its essential innovation lay in the formulation of a religious outlook which concentrated upon perceiving the divinity: its essence, its nature, the stages of its manifestation, its characteristics, its perfection, its differing wills, its processes, the significance of its revelation and the possibilities of its perception. This conception generated a profound transformation of religious worship and was the cause of great controversy throughout the Jewish world.

Rachel Elior is Professor in the Department of Jewish Studies at Hebrew University.