Shalom Shar'abi and the Kabbalists of Beit El / Edition 1

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Overview

The Jerusalem kabbalists of the Beit El Yeshivah are the most influential school of kabbalah in modernity. The school is associated with the writings and personality of a charismatic eighteenth-century Yemenite Rabbi, Shalom Shar'abi, considered by his acolytes to be divinely inspired by the prophet Elijah. Shar'abi initiated what is still the most active school of mysticism in contemporary Middle Eastern Jewry. Today, this meditative tradition is rising in popularity not only in Jerusalem, but throughout the Jewish World.

Pinchas Giller examines the characteristic mystical practices of the Beit El School. The dominant practice is that of ritual prayer with mystical "intentions," or kavvanot. The kavvanot themselves are the product of thousands of years of development and incorporate many traditions and bodies of lore. Giller examines the archaeology of the kavvanot literature, the principle aspect of which is the meditation on God's sacred names while reciting prayers, the development of particular rituals, and the innovative mystical and devotional practices of the Beit El kabbalists.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Pinchas Giller has filled in a major gap in Kabbalah studies with this meticulously researched and beautifully written account of the most influential school of practicing Jewish mystics in the contemporary world. Giller chronicles the development of the Beit El School from its founding in Jerusalem during the eighteenth century by the Yemenite kabbalist Shalom Shar'abi up to the present. He sheds light on its thought, its praxis, its key figures, and their literary creativity, and he masterfully places it all within the wider context of Kabbalah history and scholarship. The clarity with which Giller is able to present abstruse mystical doctrines without in any way vulgarizing or compromising the material is truly impressive. This is and — no doubt — will remain for a long time to come the authoritative work on the subject." —Norman A. Stillman, Schusterman-Josey Professor of Judaic History, University of Oklahoma

"Once again, Pinchas Giller has made an obscure and highly technical area of kabbalah available to a broader readership. As he did with the latter strata of the Zohar, then the interpretive traditions of zoharic commentary, and now with the complexities of the kabbalah of the Shar'abi school, Giller has lifted the veil on extraordinarily opaque and difficult material. This book will, no doubt, be the opening salvo in scholarship of this centrally important stream of Jewish esoteric literature. That the forms of kabbalah that are most widely practiced in traditional circles today place themselves in the Sharabian lineage makes a study of its history, ideas, and practice long overdue. The prayer practices of this school are the most abstract and complex of all of the systems of kavvanot, making this entree very welcome." —Joel Hecker, author of Mystical Bodies, Mystical Meals: Eating and Embodiment in Medieval Kabbalah

"Pinchas Giller's Shalom Shar'abi and the Kabbalists of Beit El is a fascinating window into an influential yet largely unexplored moment in the reception of Lurianic Kabbala. The Beth El School of Shalom Shar'abi and its labyrinthine structure of contemplative prayer was a crucial part of early modern Kabbala and was adopted by many elites from the hermetic mystics of the Levant and Eastern Europe to contemporary Kabbalists in Israel and the Diaspora. Giller's book is a detailed study of the history of this school and its enigmatic leader and gives us an accessible and learned presentation of Shar'abi's system. It is an important contribution to the history of the reception of Lurianic Kabbala from the seventeenth century to the present." —Shaul Magid, author of From Metaphysics to Midrash: Myth, History and the Interpretation of Scripture in Lurianic Kabbala

"Giller's study fills an important lacuna in the history and development of the Jewish mystical tradition. Simultaneously engaging and informative, his discussion of Shar'abi, a seminal, yet virtually ignored figure is worthwhile on its own. What enlivens the presentation even more is Giller's introduction of his own observations and those of other contemporary schoalars of such as the Yonatan Garb and Boaz Huss, who likewise are interested in exploring popular expressions of kabbalistic practice, Not only does Sharabi's influence continue to resonate within esoteric circles, but now there is an admirable scholarly exploration of his innovative approach to Jewish prayer." —Shofar

"[A] great contribution...to the history of the Kabbalah in the modern era." —Journal of Religion

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195328806
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/19/2008
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 6.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Pinchas Giller is Professor of Jewish Thought at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. He is the author of Reading the Zohar: The Sacred Text of the Kabbalah.

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