THE WAY INTO JEWISH MYSTICAL TRADITION

Lawrence Kushner, Author THE WAY INTO JEWISH MYSTICAL TRADITION

Jewish Lights adds another installment to its The Way Into... series with this examination of Jewish mysticism, which fails to live up to the standard of earlier volumes on such subjects as prayer and God. While those books each succeeded in presenting a basic introduction to one important concept in Judaism, most readers will find that Jewish mysticism continues to be a mystery after reading Kushner's murky primer. This is a shame, since Kushner is a genuine expert on Jewish mysticism and has authored much better books (Honey from the Rock; The River of Light) on the subject. Here, he relies largely on "classical texts" that turn on unfathomable passages drawn mostly from obscure 18th-century Hasidic rebbes. The material is organized into three parts, based on his division of Psalm 19 into a "triptych of Jewish mystical tradition." Throughout, Kushner offers 50 "Jewish mystical ideas": phrases, words or brief biblical quotations that are supposedly explained by the citations from the Hasidic rebbes. Some attempts at clarification become gross oversimplifications; for example, Kushner confounds Jewish mysticism with political activism, asserting that the mysticism of Abraham Joshua Heschel, "like most Jewish mysticism, was one of political activism." Such dubious statements are disappointing in a work that ought to elucidate the Jewish mystical tradition, not shroud it in further layers of obfuscation.(May)

Reviewed on: 04/09/2001
Release date: 03/01/2001
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