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The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism Paperback – January 6, 2009
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The words of 14th-century mystic Shem Tov ibn Shem Tov, for example, are rendered with a startling immediacy: "How did God create the world? Like a person taking a deep breath and holding it, so that the small contains the large. Similarly God contracted his light to a divine handbreadth, and the world was left in darkness. In the darkness God carved cliffs and hewed rocks to clear the wondrous paths of wisdom." A short introduction traces the history of Kabbalah, explaining its salient concepts and symbols, and extensive notes provide background on the featured texts and writers. A brief bibliography is provided for those who will want to savor more of these extraordinary texts after tasting their richness in this collection. --Uma Kukathas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Original Language: Hebrew --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Matt divides his book into sections by topic and each entry contains an excerpt from a text that fits the particular topic. The introduction contains a brief essay on the development of the Kabbalah; in the back of the book is a commentary on each passage, helping the reader to understand aspects, meanings, and references in the texts that otherwise may have not been understood.
Probably the best thing about this text is the beautiful poetry Matt utilizes. Translations are never quite the same as the original, but Matt sacrifices more of the literal meaning than most. However, the poetry is very nice. Particularly noteworthy is "The Creation of God," which I fell in love with on the first read.
For the casual student, this is a good beginner text. But for those who really want to know more about the Kabbalah, try other authors such as Gershom Scholem, Howard Schwartz, and Aryah Wineman.
According to Prof. Lawrence Fine (one of my professors when he and I were at Indiana University): 'Kabbalah is a mystical tradition filled with radiance, vitality, and spiritual depth. [In Matt's book] we catch a glimpse of the sparks of diving life about which the kabbalists speak.'
'Those who persevere in this wisdom find that when they ponder these teachings many times, knowledge grows within them--an increase of essence. The search always leads to something new.'
Kabbalah has often been a secret, or restricted, knowledge. Some have likened it to a gnostic framework. Some kabbalists would not teach, or indeed even discuss, kabbalistic knowledge and practice with anyone under forty years of age.
'Other requirements included high moral standards, prior rabbinic learning, being married, and mental and emotional stability. The point is not to keep people away from Kabbalah, but to protect them.'
The tendency for people to get lost in spirituality, essentially to get lost in the vastness of God to be found deep within themselves, has been noted in almost every spirituality of maturity throughout history. And many has been the false prophet who entices the unwary and uninitiated into mystical territory only to abandon them there.Read more ›
But reading more closely I was surprised by how well Matt manages to cover some of the Kabbalah's central obsessions in such a short space. The intricate patterns of the Sefirot, the notion of God's 'Nothingness', and a more philosophical account of Creation than the version in Genesis all make a concise appearance. Reading authors from different centuries on the same subject helps to reinforce some of the trickier ideas.
The intro and notes lean heavily on Gershom Scholem's more detailed scholarship. I'd have liked to see more passages from the Zohar (the most famous text of Kabbalah, which Matt's translated), and a historical arrangement would appeal to readers looking for more than Chicken Soup for the Soul. But Matt compensates with useful notes and a good bibliography. The translations themselves are clear but not afraid to shy away from knotty philosphical concepts that will have you thinking of parallels from Buddhism to the Big Bang.
The book left me wanting to read more from the texts, which was probably its aim. A helpful start for anyone interested in learning about this fascinating tradition.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
OMG this actually tells you things you really wanted to know but didn't know who to ask.. yes I loved it..Published 7 days ago by Mary Didier
This is a very good book on Kabbalah. Very well written and compiling some very interesting texts that are not available in other authors books. Read morePublished 1 month ago by arnaldo
I never got the book. All that I did get was the picture of the book. That's all not a happy camper.Published 1 month ago by michael adams
Very good book. Thank you. Would order from you again. Best price, super service. Good jobPublished 2 months ago by Sebastian
not a good book. I have been looking for a copy of a good book I read years ago. This is not it.Published 2 months ago by OK
It's an excellent book. Not easy to read because subject is complex but the book allows readers with basic knowledge to navigate through with relative ease... I enjoyed it.Published 2 months ago by Ingrid