7. The Torah of the Tree of Life 158
Chapter Seven The Torah of the Tree of Life Kabbalistic Reflections on the Hermeneutics of Infinity ontemporary scholarship on the Kabbalah has focused considerable attention on the Kabbalist’s views of language and interpretation. One reason for this, as Moshe Idel has observed, 1 is that there is an important affinity between the Kabbalistic conception of infinite layers of meaning in scripture and contemporary philosophical ideas regarding the infinite interpretability of both texts and the world. In this chapter, I will review some recent scholarship on Kabbalistic hermeneutics, and I will show how a careful consideration of Kabbalistic notions of “infinite interpretation” lead not only to a new understanding of the relevance of Kabbalah to contemporary thought, but also to a radical new understanding of the Kabbalah’s attitude toward “Torah” and religious life. Scholem: The Divine World of Language Gershom Scholem was perhaps the first modern scholar to note that for the Kabbalists, language plays a unique and foundational role in both the nature of the cosmos and the mystical ascent to the absolute. As Scholem observed, “the secret world of the godhead is a world of language.” 2 Scripture, and its constituent elements, stories, phrases, names, and, especially, the very letters of the Hebrew alphabet, carry a wealth of significance that goes far beyond their literal or conventional meaning. The C Torah of the Tree of Life 159 Zohar teaches that the cosmos, including the upper, divine worlds, is comprised of the “foundational letters” (Otiyot Yesod), which through an infinity...
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