Just a quick update to a 2011 post on Jewish Mysticism. I admittedly do not know too much about this topic. Some time ago, I tried to converse with one advocate of Jewish mysticism. She seemed to be suggesting that one must understand Hebrew to really “get inside” the heart of this tradition. I replied that I prefer Christianity because apparently ‘special’ languages don’t matter. What matters is morally good behavior and a right relationship with God.
The Christian Bible works just fine in any translated language known to mankind, making its message of redemption universal instead of something only a select few can understand and fully benefit from.¹
Our dialog didn’t go much further than that. And on that note, here’s my slightly revised 2011 Think Free entry:
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Jewish mysticism, as a means towards getting closer to God, has both orthodox and unorthodox strands.
The Jewish Bible tells of a series of prophets who’ve seen or received messages from God. This is a kind of mysticism, to be sure. But it differs from the more Gnostic influenced forms in that the Biblical prophet doesn’t necessarily earn a visionary experience (or spiritual knowledge) through self-discipline and purification.
When it comes to choosing prophets, the God of the Jewish Bible seems to choose whomever S/He pleases.
S. G. F. Brandon, suggests that “all the great figures in the history of religion were, basically, mystics.”²
Martin Buber has been described as a modern representative of a heterodox form of Jewish mysticism called Hasidism. This was
¹ Some arguably display a similar kind of elitism with Sanskrit. Only those who read and speak this ancient language apparently can fully ‘understand.’ I personally think it is arrogant and misguided to suggest that only those with knowledge of special languages may be close to God.
² A Dictionary of Comparative Religion, S. G. F. Brandon ed., New York: Scribner, 1970, p. 463