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.ยน

Our dialog didn’t go much further than that.ย  And on that note, here’s my slightly revised 2011 Think Free entry:

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Signature of Israel Baal Shem Tov.
Signature of Israel Baal Shem Tov via Wikipedia

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.”ยฒ

Martin Buber hasย been described as a modern representative of a heterodox form of Jewish mysticism called Hasidism. This was

founded in 18th century Eastern Europe by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov as a reaction against overly legalistic Judaism.ยณ

The most popular form of Jewish mysticism, however, is arguably Kabbalah, especially since being embraced by the pop icon Madonna.


ยน 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.

ยฒ A Dictionary of Comparative Religion, S. G. F. Brandon ed., New York: Scribner, 1970, p. 463

ยณย See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasidic_Judaism