on March 14, 2012
This collection of essays contains some of the most cutting-edge scholarship on East European mysticism, both Jewish and Christian. Instead of studying each religion and its practitioners in isolation, as is usually done, the authors are interested in how they interacted and affected each other. This take on Jewish-Christian relations in Eastern Europe is probably closer to the majority of the lived reality. Some highlights: Yohanan Petrovsky explores the common roots of Jewish and Christian folk medicine in the Ukraine; Moshe Idel's enticing claim that the Ba'al Shem Tov was born and raised in Romanian Walachia and imbibed Christian practices there; Paul Radensky's colorful descriptions of the Tolner Rebbe's court; Elliot Wolfson's mind-blowing insights into messianism; and the several studies of Christian sectarians who "Judaized" in order to rebel against state religion. This book represents a quantum leap in the study of east European religion. It will no longer be acceptable to write about movements like Hasidism in a vacuum, as is still too often the case.