Philosophy and Kabbalah: Elijah Benamozegh and the Reconciliation of Western Thought and Jewish Esotericism

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Philosophy and Kabbalah offers an analysis of the life and work of Elijah Benamozegh (1823-1900), an Italian Kabbalist and philosopher of Moroccan origins. Although the relationship between Kabbalah and philosophy has always been problematic, Benamozegh considered Kabbalah to be the true dogmatic and rational tradition of Judaism. In his numerous books and articles in Hebrew, Italian, and French, he constantly integrated this Jewish esoteric tradition into the currents of Western European philosophy, particularly Hegelian idealism and positivism, as well as the philosophy of the unconscious that would later develop into psychoanalysis. Benamozegh's inspired reading of Spinoza, his grand project of a universal religion, his "feminization" of Jewish thought, and his ability to excel simultaneously as a rabbi, an Italian patriot, a citizen of the République des Letters, and a proud representative of an ancient Sephardic culture make him one of the most outstanding and original figures of the nineteenth-century Jewish culture.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“…Guetta’s work, especially now that it is available in an English translation, should go a long way toward bringing Benamozegh’s thought into contemporary dialogue.” — AJS Review
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Alessandro Guetta is Professor of Jewish Thought at the National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations in Paris.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

A Few Biographical Pointers 3

Part I Philosophy and Kabbalah

Kabbalah and Progress 9

Theology and the Discovery of the Unconscious 11

The Universal Relationship 15

Conditioned Progress 17

History and Truth 21

"Pantheism: The Great Error Of Our Age" 27

Moderate Idealism: A Tendency Toward Union 31

Distinctions Preserved 35

The Philosophical Context 35

Spinoza's Error: Downward Union 37

Christianity's Error: Upward Union 39

The Metaphysical Flaws of Christian Morality 39

The Historical Jesus 45

Reconciliation: Immanentist Monotheism 47

The Triumph of the Occident and Thoughts on Difference 47

Plurality within Unity 52

Hidden Anthropomorphism: Feuerbach's Reasons 61

From Lamentations of Exile To A Sense of Mission 65

Philology and Philosophy 71

Hebrew: A Perfect Language? 71

Hebrew: A Dead Language? The Possibility of Modem Hebraic Poetry 74

Vico and the Zohar 77

The Inevitable Choices of Nineteenth-Century Biblical Commentary 83

An Eloquent Incipit 85

Condemnation from the Oriental Rabbis 88

Israel Moshe Hazan: Fundamentalism and Moderation 90

"As though hanging in air" 91

The Omissions of Em La-Miqra: The Conjunction of Kabbalah and Modernity 92

The Positive Hermeneutics 94

Comparativism 95

Concordism and Tradition 97

Erudition and Philosophy 98

The Notes on the Zohar 101

Part II Tradition, Orality, and Text

Issues In Play 105

Tradition and Text: Between Enlightenment and Romanticism 107

Tradition and Texts For The "Science of Judaism" 113

In Defense of Tradition 117

Definitions 118

The Written and the Spoken Word 123

Polemical Context127

Tradition versus Subjectivity 127

Criticism of Modernity and a New Apologia 130

The Danger of Individualism 133

Jewish Reformers and Traditionalists 135

Defense of Kabbalah 141

Polemic in Italian Judaism: S. D. Luzzatto's Dialogues on the Kabbalah 141

The Inadequacy of Literal Interpretation 149

Kabbalah and Philology 152

Reason and Divine Tradition 154

Science, Method, and Transmission 159

Religion in the Feminine Declension 163

Part III Style as Witness

The Orient, "To Orient Oneself" 171

Solitude: "I Live in the Boeotia of Judaism" 175

The Need to Speak 176

The Imaginary Library 177

From Orient to Occident 178

Notes 181

Index 225

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