ON THE POSSIBILITY OF JEWISH MYSTICISM IN OUR TIME by Gershom Scholem

ON THE POSSIBILITY OF JEWISH MYSTICISM IN OUR TIME

and Other Essays
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A mixed bag of 23 essays, most previously unpublished in English, by the passionate German-born Zionist and master scholar of Jewish mysticism. As in many such gatherings, there is too much intellectual ``filling'' that might well have been left out; had this volume been reduced by a third, it would have seemed more substantive. In addition, a great many more explanatory notes are needed; how many readers, after all, will understand references to ``anti- Canaanite'' thought or to ``Alfasi''? Some of Scholem's (18971982) essays are meant only for specialists. An analysis of Franz Rosenweig's The Star of Redemption proves to be as dense as that acclaimed but little-read work of 20th-century Jewish theology. Some half-dozen essays, however, are highly accessible and scintillating, particularly ``Reflections on Modern Jewish Studies,'' a devastating critique of the highly rationalist and apologetic 19th-century ``science of Judaism.'' Scholem maintains that ``operative within the Jewish Haskalah'' (Enlightenment) were ``tendencies towards historical suicide'' and the ``destruction and dismantling'' of many facets of the tradition unacceptable to the Haskalah's leading thinkers. Also noteworthy are the beautifully crafted essays ``Three Types of Jewish Piety'' and ``My Way to Kabbalah,'' an autobiographical sketch. The introduction by Shapira (the chief editor of Scholem's writings), while too short, provides a fascinating intellectual sketch of Scholem, revealing, for example, that his magisterial biography of the 17th-century false messiah Shabtai Zevi was written ``in its entirety, almost at once, in one draft, without early studies or partial preparations.'' The best parts of this collection reveal that Scholem, who spoke of himself as a God-believer but also a ``religious anarchist,'' delved into previously neglected aspects of Judaism's long history with unparalleled intellectual empathy and thoroughness.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8276-0579-X
Page count: 260pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1997




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