This volume presents the texts of Sefer Yetsira, parts of the Pirkei Heikhalot, a few sections of the Zohar, and a page from a Lurianic Prayerbook. Many of these texts are translated here for the first time and all the texts are accompanied by a commentary and by introductory and concluding notes which explicate the text. The first unit introduces the Merkabah tradition, considers the Genesis story and Ezekiel's vision, and then presents the Sefer Yetsira and Pirkei Heikhalot texts. It concludes with a discussion of the character and subsequent history of this tradition. The second unit introduces the Zoharic tradition, including instructions on how to decipher a Zoharic text. Then, texts on themes of the personality of God and the role of man are presented. This is followed by a chapter explaining and illustrating the Lurianic development of the Zohar and concludes with a discussion of the character and subsequent history of this tradition. In the Forward and Afterword of "Understanding Jewish Mysticism" such questions as the Jewishness of this material, its transcendent quality, the nature of its religious language, the relationship of mysticism to spirituality, and the interplay between the mystical and the rabbinic traditions of Judaism are considered. The author identifies the terms and images endemic to the subject and discerns the "mystical" as well as the "Jewish" aspects of the traditions. His approach is explicative (a background in Judaism is not required) and interrogative.
by David R. Blumenthal
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