Boaz Huss: The Theologies of Kabbalah Research

Boaz Huss‘ essay on The Theologies of Kabbalah Research will be in the February issue of Modern Judaism . Here is the opening paragraph:

It is commonly accepted today that Gershom Scholem’s study of Kabbalah was shaped within the framework of his national and anarchic theology (although there remain scholars who dismiss this claim). In this article I would like to expand the discussion on the theological perspectives of the study of Jewish mysticism beyond the discussion of Scholem’s theological positions and their influence on his studies. In the following, I will suggest that the theological nature of the academic study of Kabbalah and Hasidism is not exclusively connected to Scholem’s theological interest, rather it is imprinted within the basic assumptions of the field, and mainly in the use of “mysticism” as the central analytical category in the study of Kabbalah. As I have claimed in the past, the term “mysticism” is embedded in theological discourse and its use as an analytical category entails basic theological assumptions. From this point of view, it is not only Scholem’s research that bears a theological nature, but that of his successors as well, as long as it is based on categorizing Kabbalah as “mysticism.” It should be noted that a few researchers opposed use of the term mysticism to categorize the Kabbalah (and it seems that this opposition has increased in the past few years). Yet, the theological perception that identifies Kabbalah as mysticism is still accepted by most researchers and, to a great extent, this notion shapes and dictates academic research on the Kabbalah and Hasidism. It should be noted that similar theological perceptions shape academic research in other fields of religious studies that use terms such as “mysticism,” “the sacred,” and “religious experience” as analytical categories.

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