Course overview: This course will explore various aspects of Jewish spirituality and their interconnection: how mystical interpretations of the Hebrew Bible (in the Zohar) can enrich our understanding of Scripture; how the observance of commandments relates to the interior life of the heart and soul; theoretical and practical aspects of Kabbalah, including meditative exercises; and the implications of Jewish mysticism for tikkun olam, the mending of our broken world. How these insights might impact on Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations will also be addressed—are there affinities on the mystical level that can be tapped for interreligious peacemaking?
(Note: to get the most out of this course, WS-623 or a similar introduction to Jewish spirituality is highly recommended).
Pedagogical methods: The course will be conducted as a seminar. Class sessions will feature presentations and guiding questions by the professor, students’ critical text summaries and talking points, facilitated discussions, and audio-visual resources including musical selections.
Methods of Assessment: Class participation (20%), in-class text summaries and talking points (30%), and quality of the course paper (50%). Depending on the number of students, each member of the class will be asked to introduce (at least) one session with a critical summary of that week’s readings. A course paper, approximating 15 double-spaced pages, is due by the last session, April 29. A one-page preview of the paper with preliminary bibliography should be submitted for feedback by April 15.
Course Schedule and Readings
(Readings indicated should be read for that session; books listed in bold italics are recommended for purchase; others on reserve in the library)
January 28: Kabbalah in Context: An Introduction to Jewish Spirituality
Reading: Principles of Jewish Spirituality by Sara Isaacson, London:
February 4: An Overview of Kabbalah I
Reading: The Beliefnet Guide to Kabbalah by Arthur Goldwag, introduction by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, New York: Doubleday, 2005
Recommended: Kabbalah: A Brief Introduction for Christians by Tamar Frankiel, Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2006.
February 11: An Overview of Kabbalah II
Reading: The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism by
Daniel C. Matt, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.
Recommended: Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism by Gershom G. Scholem, New York: Schocken Books, 1946/1961.
February 18: Intoduction to The Zohar
Reading: Zohar: The Book of Enlightenment, translation and introduction by Daniel Chanan Matt, preface by Arthur Green, Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1983.
Recommended: A Guide to the Zohar by Arthur Green, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004; Zohar: Annotated and Explained, translation and annotation by Daniel C. Matt, Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2002.
February 25: Jewish Mystical Experiences
Readings: selections from Jewish Mystical Testimonies by Louis Jacobs,
New York: Schocken Books, 1977, and Jewish Mystical Autobiographies, translated and introduced by Morris M. Maierstein, preface by Moshe Idel,
New York/Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1999 (on reserve)
March 4: Experiencing the Divine Presence in Prayer
Reading: Your Word is Fire: The Hasidic Masters on Contemplative Prayer, edited and translated by Arthur Green and Barry W. Holtz, with a new introduction, Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1993.
Recommended: Hasidic Prayer by Louis Jacobs, New York: Schocken Books, 1973.
March 11: Jewish Meditation
Reading: Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide by Aryeh Kaplan, New York: Schocken Books, 1985.
Recommended: Meditation and Kabbalah by Aryeh Kaplan, York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1982; Meditation from the Heart of Judaism edited by Avram Davis, Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1997.
March 18: Revelatory Dreams
Readings: selections from The Mystical Meaning of Dreams by Avraham Arieh Trugman, Southfield, MI: Targum Press, 2006; “Dreams and Dream Interpretation in Said Nursi’s Risale-i Nur: Islamic, Judaic, and Universal Resonances,” in Spiritual Dimensions of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi’s Risale-i Nur, edited by Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi’, Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008, pp. 147-174 (on reserve).
March 25: Kabbalistic Ethics I
Readings: selections from Jewish Ethics, Philosophy and Mysticism by Louis Jacobs, New York: Behrman House, Inc., 1969; and Elijah de Visas’s Beginning of Wisdom [Reishit Hokhmah] as condensed by Jacob Poyetto, in Safed Spirituality, translation and introduction by Lawrence Fine, Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, pp. 81-156 (on reserve)
Recommended: Ethical Tales from the Kabbalah by Aryeh Wineman, Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1999.
April 1: Kabbalistic Ethics II
Readings: “Sitra Ahra: Good and Evil in the Kabbalah,” “Tsaddik: The Righteous One,” and “Gilgul: The Transmigration of Souls,” in On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead: Basic Concepts in the Kabbalah by Gershom Scholem, New York: Schocken Books, 1991 (on reserve).
NO CLASS APRIL 8—READING WEEK, PASSOVER SEDER NIGHT
April 15: Kabbalistic Ethics III—Contemporary Applications
Readings: “Great Chain of Being: Kabbalah for an Environmental Age,” “What about Evil?”, and “Community: Where Shekhinah Dwells,” in Ehyeh: A Kabbalah for Tomorrow by Arthur Green, Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2003 (on reserve).
April 22: A Kabbalistic Perspective on the Holy Land
Reading: “The Land of Israel in Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations”
by Yehezkel Landau, from the e-journal Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations, Volume 3, Issue 1, 2008, Article 17, CP1-12, accessible at http://escholarship.bc.edu/scjr/vol3 (on reserve)
April 29: Kabbalah and Self-Transformation
Reading: “The Path of the Tzaddik (Jewish Enlightenment)” in God is a Verb: Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism by Rabbi David A. Cooper, New York: Riverhead Books, 1997, pp. 184-234 (on reserve).
Recommended: Practical Kabbalah: A Guide to Jewish Wisdom for Everyday Life by Rabbi Laibl Wolf, New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.