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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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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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