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Jewish Mysticism

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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 Gonstic 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 he pleases.

S. G. F. Brandon, suggests that “all the great figures in the history of religion were, basically, mystics.”¹

Martin Buber has 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.²

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

——

¹ A Dictionary of Comparative Religion, S. G. F. Brandon ed., New York: Scribner, 1970, p. 463

² See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasidic_Judaism

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