Sabbatai Ṣevi: The Mystical Messiah, 1626–1676

Princeton University Press
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Gershom Scholem stands out among modern thinkers for the richness and power of his historical imagination. A work widely esteemed as his magnum opus, Sabbatai Ṣevi offers a vividly detailed account of the only messianic movement ever to engulf the entire Jewish world. Sabbatai Ṣevi was an obscure kabbalist rabbi of seventeenth-century Turkey who aroused a fervent following that spread over the Jewish world after he declared himself to be the Messiah. The movement suffered a severe blow when Ṣevi was forced to convert to Islam, but a clandestine sect survived. A monumental and revisionary work of Jewish historiography, Sabbatai Ṣevi details Ṣevi's rise to prominence and stands out for its combination of philological and empirical authority and passion. This edition contains a new introduction by Yaacob Dweck that explains the scholarly importance of Scholem's work to a new generation of readers.
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About the author

Gershom Scholem (1897–1982) was one of the most important Jewish intellectuals of the twentieth century and the father of the academic study of Jewish mysticism. He was a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Yaacob Dweck is associate professor of history and Judaic studies at Princeton University. He is the author of The Scandal of Kabbalah (Princeton).
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Princeton University Press
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Published on
Sep 20, 2016
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History / Historiography
Religion / History
Religion / Judaism / General
Religion / Judaism / History
Religion / Judaism / Kabbalah & Mysticism
Social Science / Jewish Studies
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Few people thought as deeply or incisively about Germany, Jewish identity, and the Holocaust as Hannah Arendt and Gershom Scholem. And, as this landmark volume reveals, much of that thinking was developed in dialogue, through more than two decades of correspondence.
Arendt and Scholem met in 1932 in Berlin and quickly bonded over their mutual admiration for and friendship with Walter Benjamin. They began exchanging letters in 1939, and their lively correspondence continued until 1963, when Scholem’s vehement disagreement with Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem led to a rupture that would last until Arendt’s death a dozen years later. The years of their friendship, however, yielded a remarkably rich bounty of letters: together, they try to come to terms with being both German and Jewish, the place and legacy of Germany before and after the Holocaust, the question of what it means to be Jewish in a post-Holocaust world, and more. Walter Benjamin is a constant presence, as his life and tragic death are emblematic of the very questions that preoccupied the pair. Like any collection of letters, however, the book also has its share of lighter moments: accounts of travels, gossipy dinner parties, and the quotidian details that make up life even in the shadow of war and loss.
In a world that continues to struggle with questions of nationalism, identity, and difference, Arendt and Scholem remain crucial thinkers. This volume offers us a way to see them, and the development of their thought, anew.
Der gebürtige Berliner Gershom Scholem (1897 - 1982), der 1923 nach Jerusalem emigrierte, wurde einer breiteren Öffentlichkeit zunächst hauptsächlich als der Freund und Nachlaßverwalter Walter Benjamins, als Schüler, Verehrer und Antipode Martin Bubers und als Kritiker Franz Rosenzweigs bekannt. Erst in den letzten Jahrzehnten wurde die ungewöhnliche Breite und Tiefe seines Denkens zunehmend als herausragender Beitrag zur europäischen Geistesgeschichte erkannt. Heute gilt Scholem als einer der führenden Intellektuellen Westeuropas und Amerikas und einer der wichtigsten Juden des 20. Jahrhunderts überhaupt.

Im Zentrum von Scholems schier unüberschaubaren Veröffentlichungen stand die Erforschung der als Kabbala bezeichneten jüdischen Mystik und mittelalterlichen Esoterik. Erst durch seine kritische Erfassung und Untersuchung der Quellen wurde es möglich, diese reichen, geheimnisvollen und versunkenen Traditionen jüdischer Geschichte zu entschlüsseln. Aus der Fülle seiner Publikationen ragt das Buch über "Ursprung und Anfänge der Kabbala" (1948 auf Hebräisch erschienen) heraus, das Scholem im persönlichen Gespräch als sein Hauptwerk bezeichnete.

Die Neuauflage dieses Klassikers wird durch ein Geleitwort von Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich eröffnet, dessen persönlicher Verbindung zu Scholem und unermüdlichem Einsatz es zu verdanken ist, daß Scholems Werk 1962 überhaupt in einer deutschen Ausgabe erscheinen konnte. In einem ausführlichen Nachwort würdigt Joseph Dan, Schüler und Nachfolger Scholems auf dem Lehrstuhl für jüdische Mystik an der Hebräischen Universität von Jerusalem, Scholems epochalen Beitrag zur kritischen Erforschung der jüdischen Mystik.

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