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As Light Before Dawn: The Inner World of a Medieval Kabbalist (Stanford Studies in Jewish History and C) Hardcover – June 29, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0804759137 ISBN-10: 0804759138
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Editorial Reviews


'Eitan Fishbane's (i)As Light Before Dawn: The Inner World of a Medieval Kabbalist(/i) is a major contribution both to the study of Jewish mysticism and to the wider world of comparative mystical research. Although Isaac of Akko has long been known as an important Kabbalist, this is the first systematic presentation of one of the most challenging and rewarding mystical teachers of Kabbalah. With impressive command of the sources, penetrating analysis of difficult texts, and, above all, with a masterly ability to to reveal the inner dynamics of Isaac's spiritual teaching, Fishbane presents us with a full account of a mystic whose teaching on topics such as authority and tradition, theurgy and devotion, as well as contemplation and union with God, show him to be a true sage of Judaism, as well as a significant conversation partner for students of other mystical traditions.' —Bernard McGinn, Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor Emeritus, Divinity School, University of Chicago

"Eitan P. Fishbane's compelling study of Isaac of Akko shines a light on one of medieval kabbalah's most unique thinkers. Fishbane's book contributes mightily to a wide range of issues in kabbalah scholarship: sociology of knowledge, kabbalistic hermeneutics, mystical practice, mystical experience, and mystical union. Throughout, Fishbane treats the reader with his engaging and sophisticated style, a fecund reading of this kabbalist's oeuvre, and impressive erudition. Moreover, the author brings a wide variety of methodological approaches that deepen and enrich the scholarly conversation."—H-Net

"Isaac of Acre, a fascinating, even unique medieval kabbalist, finally receives the broad scholarly treatment that he deserves in As Light Before Dawn. Eitan Fishbane's work is marked by extraordinary erudition, sophisticated methodologies, and a richly textured, nuanced analysis of this important contemplative mystic. This superb book is a distinguished contribution to the study of medieval Jewish mysticism." —Professor Lawrence Fine, Irene Kaplan Leiwant Chair of Jewish Studies, Mt. Holyoke College

"Isaac of Akko is one of the few early kabbalists who described, and reflected on, his own mystical experiences. Here Eitan Fishbane presents a dazzling, erudite analysis of Isaac's writings, exploring his theory and practice of contemplation. This book captures the excitement and creativity of Kabbalah by expertly presenting one of its boldest pioneers, who spanned the Mediterranean world and imbibed wisdom wherever he journeyed. A superb work of scholarship, sophisticated yet fully accessible." —Daniel Matt, editor and translator of The Zohar: Pritzker Edition

"Isaac of Akko, a seminal figure in the history of Jewish mystical thought, is here rescued from obscurity. The richness of his teachings combines with Fishbane's deeply creative scholarship to offer a true delight to students of Kabbalah, of meditative practice, and of the transmission of esoteric traditions in prior ages. Critical and comparative perspectives are well used to bring ancient wisdom to life in this model scholarly work." —Arthur Green, Irving Brudnick Professor, Hebrew College

About the Author

Eitan P. Fishbane is Assistant Professor of Jewish Thought at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Series: Stanford Studies in Jewish History and C
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press (June 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804759138
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804759137
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,671,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Eitan Fishbane serves on the faculty of the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses on Jewish mysticism and spirituality. Dr. Fishbane is the author or editor of five books, including: "The Sabbath Soul: Mystical Reflections on the Transformative Power of Holy Time" (Jewish Lights Publishing) and "As Light Before Dawn: The Inner World of a Medieval Kabbalist" (Stanford University Press). Leading scholars of mysticism have hailed Fishbane's "As Light Before Dawn" as "dazzling and erudite"; prominent religious leaders have praised "The Sabbath Soul" as "moving, inspiring, and deeply poetic." Most recently, Dr. Fishbane's "Shadows in Winter: A Memoir of Love and Loss" (Syracuse Library of Modern Jewish Literature) was named one of the best Jewish books of 2011 by Jewish Ideas Daily. He is also the co-editor of "Jewish Mysticism and the Spiritual Life: Classical Texts, Contemporary Reflections" (Jewish Lights) and "Jewish Renaissance and Revival in America" (Brandeis University Press). Fishbane's writing has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Atlantic, and The Forward; he has been interviewed on; in The Wall Street Journal; People Magazine; and Ha'aretz. He is a regular scholar-in-residence and guest speaker at congregations and community centers across North America.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D. Cheifetz on September 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The book provides an insightful view into the thinking of a significant figure in the Jewish mystical tradition. The framing of the book notes the significant "bridge" role that Isaac of Acco may have played across contemporary communities and Kabbalistic traditions in the Middle East and Europe.

The book is written in an approachable style -- While engaging in the details of academic interest, it is a readable text that sheds light on a real person, as well as on his theological-mystical ideas and innovations.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a rare glimpse into the mystic teachings and experience of Isaac of Akko. Fishbane has beautifully translated important pieces of text which show that the mystical experience of this 13th century kabbalist resonates with that of mystics from other traditions, although Isaac couched his descriptions in kabbalistic and Sufi-influenced language. I especially like the way the Hebrew text is available for comparison with the English. And it's all beautifully typeset.
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