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Kabbalah in Italy, 1280-1510A Survey$
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Moshe Idel

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780300126266

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300126266.001.0001

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Introductory Remarks

(p.19) 1 Kabbalah
Kabbalah in Italy, 1280-1510

Moshe Idel

Yale University Press

This chapter discusses Jewish culture's continuous oscillation between two attitudes toward the majority cultures in which they exist: the particularist and the universalist. Particularism is marked by adherence to Jewish rituals and the Hebrew language, universalism by the adoption of cultural attitudes and practices prevailing in the larger, non-Jewish cultures in which Jews have lived. These two tendencies produced two corresponding approaches among historians of Judaism: nineteenth-century historians emphasized universalist and integrative factors. In the twentieth century, especially after the Holocaust, particularism acquired a positive moral valence and universalism a negative one. This perspective reflects the strong influence of Gershom Scholem's axiology, which emphasized the importance of Kabbalah as a particularist lore. The recent positive attitude toward Kabbalah depends to a very great extent on the pivotal change in the view of the nature and role of Jewish mysticism produced by Scholem's magisterial studies.

Keywords:   particularism, universalism, Jewish rituals, Hebrew language, Gershom Scholem

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