In Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, Joseph Dan, one of the world's leading authorities on Jewish mysticism, offers a concise and highly accurate look at the history and character of the various systems developed by the adherents of the Kabbalah.
Dan sheds light on the many misconceptions about what Kabbalah is and isn'tincluding its connections to magic, astronomy, alchemy, and numerologyand he illuminates the relationship between Kaballah and Christianity on the one hand and New Age religion on the other. The book provides fascinating historical background, ranging from the mystical groups that flourished in ancient Judaism in the East, and the medieval schools of Kabbalah in Northern Spain and Southern France, to the widening growth of Kabbalah through the school of Isaac Luria of Safed in the sixteenth century, to the most potent and influential modern Jewish religious movement, Hasidism, and its use of kabbalistic language in its preaching. The book examines the key ancient texts of this tradition, including the Sefer Yezira or "Book of Creation," The Book of Bahir, and the Zohar. Dan explains Midrash, the classical Jewish exegesis of scriptures, which assumes an infinity of meanings for every biblical verse, and he concludes with a brief survey of scholarship in the field and a list of books for further reading.
Embraced by celebrities and integrated in many contemporary spiritual phenomena, Kabbalah has reaped a wealth of attention in the press. But many critics argue that the form of Kabbalah practiced in Hollywood is more New Age pabulum than authentic tradition. Can there be a positive role for the Kabbalah in the contemporary quest for spirituality?
In Kabbalah, Joseph Dan debunks the myths surrounding modern Kabbalistic practice, offering an engaging and dependable account of this traditional Jewish religious phenomenon and its impact outside of Judaism.
If Hollywood serves as a spiritual thermometer of our culture, then Kabbalah is hot. Celebrities from Madonna to Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore tout the benefits of this form of Jewish mysticism. The general public, however, is still asking questions. Dan (Kabbalah, Jewish thought, Hebrew Univ., Jerusalem; The Teachings of Hasidism) offers a lucid history and explanation of Kabbalah, covering its key periods, texts, figures, and theories. He knowledgeably and expertly untangles the complexity of the tradition, specifically addressing misconceptions by discussing what Kabbalah is and what it is not. Other topics he covers include Kabbalah's relationship to magic, numerology, alchemy, astronomy, Christianity, and the New Age Movement. The text concludes with a bibliography that lists resources to consult in general studies, ancient Jewish mysticism, early Kabbalah, the Zohar, Safed and Luria, the Sabbatian movement, and Hasidism and the modern period. Like other "very short introductions" published by Oxford, this primer is scholarly yet accessible to the lay reader; it's "Kabbalah for Dummies" sans the cheeky humor. Strongly recommended for public and academic libraries, especially those focusing on comparative religions and theology.-C. Brian Smith, Arlington Heights Memorial Lib., IL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.