Page 163 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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BIALE / GERSHOM SCHOLEM
157
contribution. Scholem did not train a large number of students in
Jewish mysticism, but some of them, notably Isaiah Tishby and
Joseph Weiss became original scholars in their own right. But
beyond the specialists he trained, Scholem had a profound impact
on students in other fields at the Hebrew University. Many
studied mysticism with him and thus came to accept it as a legiti­
mate discipline. In addition, Scholem gave the first seminars on
Kafka at the Hebrew University. But above all, it was his rigorous
philological method and his ability as a secular scholar to take
seriously the most esoteric religious traditions that irrevocably
defined the study of Judaica in Jerusalem.
Scholem’s studies of the history of the Kabbalah can be found in
the 579 entries in his bibliography. His most important works
include
Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism
(first published in 1941),
Sahhatai Sevi
(Hebrew edition, 1957; revised English edition,
1973),
Ursprung and Anfange der Kahhala
(1962), and
The Messianic
Idea in Judaism and Other Essays in Jewish Spirituality
(1971). In
addition, several volumes of his other essays have appeared in
German, Hebrew and English. What is most impressive about this
corpus of work is the combination of attention to detail and
synthetic sweep. On the one hand, Scholem wrote literally hun­
dreds of articles investigating the philology and authorship of
Kabbalistic texts, many of which he discovered in manuscript. On
the other, he was able to use these minute and painstaking studies
as the bases for the most far-reaching conclusions.
The main outlines of his history of Jewish mysticism can be
discerned best in
Major Trends in Jeivish Mysticism,
which was first
delivered as a series of lectures in 1938. Here Scholem developed
the idea that the history of religions has three stages: The mystical
period of immediacy with God, the legal and philosophical period
in which the revelation of the first period is institutionalized, and
the third period of mysticism in which an attempt is made to
recover the immediacy of the religion’s origins. The dialectical
structure of this theory is characteristic of Scholem’s thought and
reflects his German intellectual heritage. Mysticism, he argues,
comes to revitalize a religion in danger of losing its mythic forces.
Scholem’s solution to one of the most intractable problems in
the history of Kabbalah, the dating of the
Zohar,
reflects this
periodization model. In the 1920s, he supported the argument of
orthodox apologists that the
Zohar
was indeed a book from late
antiquity. But
in Major Trends,
he changed his mind and advanced