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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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5. A-Systematic Theology 104


Chapter Five A-Systematic Theology he Lurianic Kabbalah, as it is traditionally understood, is a theosophical system that purports to detail the nature of the cosmos, the meaning of human existence, and the inner workings of the godhead. Superficially at least, this theosophy partakes in the very search for foundations that Derrida and others have “deconstructed” in their critique of western metaphysics. It would appear that the Lurianic Kabbalah is a prime example of the metaphysical impulse at work, as it articulates a center and foundation through which all things can be understood. Looked at from this perspective, nothing could be further from the postmodern and deconstructive spirit. However, as we have seen, there are elements within the Lurianic theosophy that are decidedly “postmodern” and “deconstructive” in character. For example, the equation of the divine infinite principle with Ayin (nothingness), threatens to nullify the very foundation of the Lurianic system, the doctrine of Tzimtzum (concealment, contraction) entails that the creation of the world involves a limitation, concealment, and deconstruction of a unified totality, while the symbol of the Shevirat ha-Kelim (the Breaking of the Vessels) implies that every entity, attribute, value, idea, and utterance, is displaced, exiled, broken and incomplete, and that all things, including the attributes of God, the Torah, and the Lurianic Kabbalah itself, are subject to deconstruction, revision, and transformation. These three “negations” (Ayin, Tzimtzum, and Shevirah) destabilize the Lurianic system and preclude it from ever becoming final and absolute. T A-Systematic Theology 105 In this chapter I...

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