The Sabbath in the Classical Kabbalah

Elliot K. Ginsburg

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ISBN: 9781904113430

Publication: January 24, 2008

Series: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

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This now classic study is concerned with the richly imagined world of kabbalistic myth concerning the sabbath as it developed from the late twelfth century to the early sixteenth century and with its activation in religious life via ritual.

The book opens with a historical overview of classical kabbalah, an outline of its symbolic universe. Special attention is given to the key mythic motifs that underlie sabbath observance: the sabbath as source of cosmic blessing; the sabbath as perfected time; the drama of divine restoration and sacred marriage; and the drama of human transformation by the sabbath as reflected in the motif of the sabbath-soul. This is followed by a theoretical discussion of the function and meaning of kabbalistic ritual and the problems of its interpretation. Theory gives way to practice with the close study of dramatic rituals located on the margins of the sabbath: the ritual of preparation—how one enters the sabbath—and the ritual of separation—how one leaves the sabbath and yet takes it into the week. Brief appendices deal with the special issues of Torah study and sexuality related to sabbath observance. The book also demonstrates how many of the influential practices associated with Safed kabbalah were actually anticipated by earlier mystics.

The Sabbath in the Classical Kabbalah combines the close textual readings of traditional scholarly enquiry with more innovative approaches drawing on symbolic anthropology and the like. The presentation is coherent, cohesive, and accessible. It makes a contribution to the history of Jewish spirituality and, more broadly, to the understanding of myth and ritual.

Elliot K. Ginsburg is Associate Professor of Jewish Thought at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, prior to which he taught at Oberlin College, and also served as Director of its Judaic Studies Program. He is the author of 'Sod Ha-Shabbat: The Mystery of the Sabbath' (1989), a translated and annotated edition of a work by R. Me’ir ibn Gabbai.

Note on Transliteration and Orthography

Introduction: Classical Kabbalah, its History, and Symbolic Universe
Section One: An Historical Outline of Classical Kabbalah
Origins  - Gerona Kabbalah - Other Trends in Thirteenth-Century Kabbalah - The Zohar - Kabbalah from the Fourteenth Century until the Safed Renaissance
Section Two: The Sefirot and their Symbolism Structural Overview - The Dynamics of Sefirotic Unfolding: the Sefirot as Stages of Emanation - The Sefirot as Stages of a Mystical Ascent - Further Thoughts on Sefirotic Symbolism
Section Three: Reading a Zoharic Text
Notes to the Introduction
1 The Symbolism of the Kabbalistic Sabbath: Motif Studies
Section One: An Historical Overview
The Sabbath in Antiquity - The Rabbinic Sabbath - The Sabbath of the Medieval Philosophers - The Distinctive Features of the Kabbalistic Sabbath - The Sefirotic Sabbath Section Two: Motif Studies Shabbat as the Source of Cosmic Blessing: Thematic Overview; The Sabbath as Sacred Centre - Sabbath Transformations - Sabbath as Perfected Time Divine Transformations: Sabbath as Hieros Gamos
Rabbinic Precursors - Heikhalot Mysticism: The Evidence of Seder Rabba’ di- Vre’shit - Medieval Understandings of the Marital Imagery Prior to the Kabbalah - The Impact of Sefer ha-Bahir - Marital Imagery in the Nahmanidean Tradition - Hieros Gamos in the Zohar - The Marital Motif after the Zohar
Transformation of the Person: The Sabbath-Soul
Pre-Zoharic Developments - The Sabbath-Soul in the Writings of Moshe de Leon and in the Tiqqunei ha-Zohar / Raaya’ Meheimna’ - Imagery Used - Reception of Neshamah Yeterah as the Existential Beginning of Shabbat - The Impact of the Sabbath-Soul During Shabbat
A Cosmos That is Entirely Shabbat: Some Concluding Thoughts Notes to Chapter 1
2 Aspects of Meaning in Kabbalistic Ritual: With Special Reference to the Case of Shabbat
A Programmatic Introduction to Chapters 2–4
A Typology of Kabbalistic Ritual
Rabbinic and Kabbalistic Ritual: Some Contrasts - Symbolism and Magic: The Ontological Structure of Kabbalistic Ritual - The Multiple Consequences of Kabbalistic Ritual: Ritual as Sacred Drama - Ritual as Agent of Human Transformation - Ritual as Theurgic Act - A Concluding Example
Notes to Chapter 2
3 Rituals of Preparation
Projecting the Sabbath into the Spatial Realm: The Case of One’s Home and Courtyard
The Significance of Transforming One’s Abode - The establishment of Courtyard- Fusions: ‘Eruvei hazerot
Internalizing Shabbat: The Body as Microcosm
Nail-Paring - Bathing and Ablution - The Rite of Dressing: The Tola’at Ya’aqov’s Account - The Significance of ‘Dress’ in the Zohar and Tiqqunei ha-Zohar / Raaya Meheimna’ - Conclusion
Notes to Chapter 3
4 Rituals of Separation: The Drama of Sabbath’s Departure in Zoharic Kabbalah
The Concluding Prayers: The Need for Apotropaics
The ‘Havdalah Over Wine’
The Havdalah Blessings as Rites of Healing - The Symbolism of Myrtle - The Blessing over the Fire: The Re-emergence of Sitra’ ‘Ahra’ - The Changing of the Cosmic Guards: The Empowerment of the Angelic Realm - Concluding Blessing, Concluding Thoughts
An Epilogue (from the Zohar)
Notes to Chapter 4 and Epilogue

Appendix 1
Some Further Thoughts on the Transformation of the Person during Shabbat
Appendix 2
Sabbath-Ritual as a Means of Furthering the Divine-Human Nexus: Two Examples from Zoharic Kabbalah
Notes on Appendix 2


Format: Paperback

Edition: New edition

Size: 156 × 234 × 19 mm

362 Pages

ISBN: 9781904113430

Publication: January 24, 2008

Series: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

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