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Kabbalah and Postmodernism

A Dialogue


Sandford L. Drob

Kabbalah and Postmodernism: A Dialogue challenges certain long-held philosophical and theological beliefs, including the assumptions that the insights of mystical experience are unavailable to human reason and inexpressible in linguistic terms, that the God of traditional theology either does or does not exist, that «systematic theology» must provide a univocal account of God, man, and the world, that «truth» is «absolute» and not continually subject to radical revision, and that the truth of propositions in philosophy and theology excludes the truth of their opposites and contradictions. Readers of Kabbalah and Postmodernism will be exposed to a comprehensive mode of theological thought that incorporates the very doubts that would otherwise lead one to challenge the possibility of theology and religion, and which both preserves the riches of the Jewish tradition and extends beyond Judaism to a non-dogmatic universal philosophy and ethic.


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4. The Shevirah and Deconstruction 91


Chapter Four The Shevirah and Deconstruction he Lurianic symbol of Shevirat ha-Kelim (the Breaking of the Vessels) provides a critical point of contact between the Kabbalah and deconstructive thought. The Breaking of the Vessels 1 symbolizes the biblical and later Jewish mystical view that God’s original creation must be radically altered and even destroyed as a prelude to its completion and perfection by humankind. 2 The Lurianists held that the Breaking of the Vessels, like all other moments in the Lurianic dialectic, is present in all things, and at all times. As such, the Shevirah introduces a “crisis in creation” into all divine, natural, and human events, however great or small. 3 This crisis, which involves the repeated alteration between Shevirah (Breaking or Destruction) and Tikkun (Restoration or Repair) is, for the Lurianists, the basis for all creativity and progress in the world, and is even necessary for the completion of God Himself. The logic of Shevirah and Tikkun is ubiquitous, operating in the realms of reason, spirit, emotion, sexuality, art and history; in the life of both nations and individual men and women. While some commentators have interpreted the Breaking of the Vessels in a unidimensional fashion (Scholem, for example, held that it is a symbol of the exile and Diaspora of the Jewish people 4 ), the Shevirah is better understood as a symbol of nearly universal application, one that is able to bring diverse aspects of human experience under a single, powerful, dynamic idea. Indeed, the symbol of...

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