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About the Author: Rachel Elior

Rachel Elior served twice as the head of the Department of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has been a member of the university’s faculty since 1978 and is the John and Golda Cohen Professor of Jewish Philosophy in the Department of Jewish Thought. She received her BA (1973) and PhD (1976), both summa cum laude, from the Hebrew University.
Prof. Elior's research interests include the history of Jewish mysticism – early Jewish mysticism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Heikhalot literature; Kabbalah – the early modern period, Messianism, Sabbatianism, Hasidism, Frankism; the presence and absence of women in Jewish culture and religious tradition, and the history of freedom; traditional sources of secular Judaism – identity, knowledge, criticism and creativity.
Prof. Elior has taught at the University of Chicago, Princeton University, Doshisha University at Kyoto, Tokyo University, Yeshiva University and Case Western University, the Shalom Institute at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Oberlin College and University College London. She has also been a research fellow at the Oxford Center for Jewish Studies at Oxford University.
Prof. Elior has written eight books on various periods of Jewish mystical creativity, six of which have been translated into English, Spanish and Polish. She has edited eight books, transcribed from manuscripts, edited and annotated three books and authored some hundred articles on this subject. She has received many awards, among them the Friedenberg Award of Excellence of the Israel National Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the Beracha-Yigal Alon Prize for Academic Excellence, the AVI Fellowship – Geneva award, the Warburg Prize, the Federman Foundation award, the State University of New York Research Foundation award, The Littauer Fund award, the Oxford Jerusalem Trust Visiting Fellowship, the Wolfson Foundation award and the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Studies Fellowship. In 2006 the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities awarded her the Gershom Scholem Prize for Research in Kabbalah. Her book Israel Ba’al Shem Tov and His Contemporaries: Kabbalists, Sabbatians, Hasidim and Mitnaggedim was published in 2014 in Jerusalem by Carmel Publishing House.
Prof. Elior is a member of the international council of the New Israel Fund, the Council for Secular Judaism and the Tag Meir forum.


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On the Emergence of Jewish Mysticism by

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Paperback, Published in Jun 2005 by Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

ISBN10: 1904113338 | ISBN13: 9781904113331

Page count: 301

In this ground-breaking study, Rachel Elior offers a comprehensive theory of the crystallization of the early stages of the mystical tradition in Judaism based on the numerous ancient scrolls and manuscripts published in the last few decades. Her wide-ranging research, scrupulously documented, enables her to demonstrate an uninterrupted line linking the priestly traditions of the Temple, the mystical liturgical literature found in the Qumran caves and associated directly and indirectly with the Merkavah tradition of around the second and first centuries BCE, and the mystical works of the second to fifth centuries CE known as Heikhalot literature. The key factor linking all these texts, according to Professor Elior s theory, is that many of those who wrote them were members of the priestly classes. Prevented from being able to perform the rituals of sacred service in the Temple as ordained in the biblical tradition, they channelled their religious impetus in other directions to create a new spiritual focus. The mystical tradition they developed centred first on a heavenly Chariot Throne known as the Merkavah, and later on heavenly sanctuaries known as Heikhalot. In this way the priestly class developed an alternative focus for spirituality, based on a supertemporal liturgical and ritual relationship with ministering angels in the supernal sanctuaries. This came to embrace an entire mystical world devoted to sustaining religious liturgical tradition and ritual memory in the absence of the Temple. This lyrical investigation of the origins and workings of this supernal world is sure to become a standard work in the study of early Jewish mysticism.

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