3 May 2013
Glenn Dynner, author of the book Men of Silk: The Hasidic Conquest of Polish Jewish Society, will teach a summer CCE course on Jewish Mysticism: From Antiquity to the Present at Sarah Lawrence College, in New York, between June 4- July 18, 2013:
This course traces the history of Jewish mysticism from late antiquity through modernity. After an overview of early Jewish mysticism from the biblical and rabbinic periods and the mystical-based asceticism of medieval German pietists, we will delve into the medieval flowering of the erotically-charged and heavily symbolic literature known as “Kabbalah”, which developed in Spain and Southern France. We will study kabbalistic approaches to such topics as: God, evil, demonology, sin, death, sexuality, prayer, and magic, particularly as revealed in The Zohar—the most central text of Jewish mysticism that, traditionally, one was forbidden to study until the age of 40. After tracing the further development of Kabbalah in 16th-century Safed (in present-day Israel), we will study a related mass messianic eruption which centered around Shabbetai Tzevi. We then learn about “Hasidism,” an 18th century East European popular mystical movement that centered around charismatic miracle-workers and grew into flourishing, modernity-proof dynasties that often survived the devastation of the Holocaust and continue to exist in America and Israel to this day. This course examines both the speculative and practical dimensions of Jewish mysticism.