Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism

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Overview

"Only one of the world's mythologies has remained essentially unexplored - the mythology of Judaism. As Howard Schwartz reveals in Tree of Souls, the first anthology of Jewish mythology in English, this mythical tradition is as rich and as fascinating as any in the world." "Drawing from the Bible, the Pseudepigrapha, the Talmud and Midrash, the kabbalistic literature, medieval folklore, Hasidic texts, and oral lore collected in the modern era, Schwartz has gathered together nearly 700 of the key Jewish myths." Schwartz, a renowned collector and teller of traditional Jewish tales, now illuminates the previously unexplored territory of Jewish mythology. This pioneering anthology is essential for anyone interested in the Hebrew Bible, Jewish faith and culture, and world mythology.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Schwartz (English, Univ. of Missouri, St. Louis) gathers nearly 700 Jewish myths, organized into ten sections, with additional commentary for each selection revealing the source and explaining how it relates to other myths as well as to world literature. This is not exactly new; works by Hayim Bialik and Yehoshua Ravinitzky, Rabbi Yakov ibn Chabib, and Louis Ginzberg also gather Aggadic stories. Schwartz, however, has widened his category of inclusion, drawing not only from Talmudim and midrashim but also from "outside texts" (sefer hitzonim) of the Apocrypha and pseudepigrapha; Gnostic, Samaritan, and Karaite texts; and more mainstream rabbinical works, such as excerpts from the Dead Sea Scrolls, Hekhalot texts and Kabalistic literature, medieval folklore, and Hasidic texts. Refreshingly, Schwartz also rightly includes Kafka's Vor dem Gesetz ("Before the Law"). Note that some Orthodox Jews may object to the use of the term myths, as Judaism is conceived as a religion of revealed law viewed as truth. Outstanding bibliographies and an "Israel Folktale Archives List" complete this excellent book of wondrous stories. Highly recommended. David B. Levy, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day Sch., Rockville, MD Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"This remarkable work will be of interest to both the scholar and the browser."--Booklist

"One of those few books that can be cherished and enjoyed by all readers, whether scholars or merely those interested in good stories.... In this massive work, Schwartz gathers nearly seven hundred myths to show that there is, indeed, a Jewish mythology. His selections are wisely and cleverly chosen.... No one in recent times has even attempted to put together such a comprehensive work. In both the collecting and organizing of his material, Schwartz has done a masterful job."--Josepha Sherman, Parabola

"Howard Schwartz offers a resounding rebuttal to the old accusation that the Jews have no mythology: hundreds of myths, in an unbroken line from the Tanakh itself to many new, previously untranslated contemporary retellings from the Middle East and throughout the diaspora. Tree of Souls illuminates the mythic elements of stories previously seen as theological or folkloric. Now properly classified as world mythology, they will for the first time be more accurately compared and contrasted with the foundational myths of other cultures. This is that rare book that is both a fascinating read for the non-specialist and a turning point for scholarship." --Wendy Doniger, author of The Woman Who Pretended to Be Who She Was: Myths of Self-Imitation

"Beyond any of his other books, in Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism Howard Schwartz offers us his masterwork. If only Joseph Campbell had lived to see it. Schwartz has brought the underground streams of Midrash to the surface for the delight and edification of his academic as well as his popular readers." --Rabbi Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi, author of Wrapped in a Holy Flame: Teachings and Tales of the Hasidic Masters

"Under the complex, meaning-rich, and culturally important heading of 'mythology,' Howard Schwartz provides a beautifully introduced and annotated collection of essential stories and scenes that help to define Judaism in the classical tradition. Schwartz's careful, erudite method of presentation and his excellent selection of texts reveals fine mastery of the material and the pleasingly comparative orientation of the folklorist." --Susan Niditch, author of Ancient Israelite Religion

"Tree of Souls promises to shatter the myth that Judaism is mythless. Drawing on primary source texts of the Jewish tradition itself, storyteller Howard Schwartz introduces us to a dimension of this ancient path that has for centuries been overshadowed by attempts at religious correctness and party-line theology. Jewish mythology, Schwartz demonstrates with ample commentaries, is not only a fact, it is the very kernel out of which grew the deepest of Kabbalistic mystery wisdom as well as the most pragmatic of Jewish law and lore. Clearly, Judaism owes its survival to its mythology, and in Tree of Souls Schwartz invites us to discover the mystique, actually the very life force, of this very ancient religion." --Gershon Winkler, author of Magic of the Ordinary: Recovering the Shamanic in Judaism

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195086799
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/1/2004
  • Pages: 704
  • Product dimensions: 10.22 (w) x 7.38 (h) x 1.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Howard Schwartz is Professor of English at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He is the editor of Elijah's Violin & Other Jewish Fairy Tales, Miriam's Tambourine: Jewish Folktales from Around the World, Lilith's Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural, and Gabriel's Palace: Jewish Mystical Tales. Caren Loebel-Fried is an award-winning illustrator and author of many works on mythology. Her Hawaiian Legends of the Guardian Spirits received the 2003 Ka Palapala Pòokela Award for Excellence in Illustration.

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Table of Contents

Foreword
Bk. 1 Myths of God 1
Bk. 2 Myths of creation 69
Bk. 3 Myths of heaven 153
Bk. 4 Myths of hell 211
Bk. 5 Myths of the holy word 245
Bk. 6 Myths of the holy time 287
Bk. 7 Myths of the holy people 325
Bk. 8 Myths of the holy land 399
Bk. 9 Myths of exile 431
Bk. 10 Myths of the messiah 481
App The primary biblical myths 527
App Diagram of the ten Sefirot 529
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