Sources of Jewish Mysticism

    Jewish mysticism has had many schools and phases, or 'trends'. In the future, I hope to provide brief introductory essays and notes to accompany the texts given below.

    In the meantime, I offer you some texts (in translation) from some of these schools:

The Heichalot school, perhaps the oldest form of post-Biblical Jewish mysticism.

Shi'ur Qomah, a disturbing text that presents God in super-human form, but is it meant to be understood literally?

The Sefer Yetzirah (chapter 1), the work of an ancient, but anonymous genius who created a mysticism of numbers and letters to unlock the secrets of Creation.

The Hasidei Ashkenaz, the pietists of Germany, who preserved older traditions and brought together magic, mysticism and the highest moral standards.This page includes selections from the Sefer Hasidim by Judah the Pious.

The second great teacher of the Hasidei Ashkenaz was Elazar of Worms. A selection from his work Sodei Razaya is offered here.

Abraham Maimonides, son of the great philosopher, was a Sufi-influenced mystic in Egypt. A translation of his teachings on solitude and meditation.

Abraham Abulafia, a Spanish mystic inspired by the Sefer Yetzirah and Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed, created a meditational system designed to bring its practioners to prophecy, or a mystical state.

Sefer HaBahir, a small but important kabbalistic text, filled with ancient images of the fullness of God.

The Zohar, without doubt the central text of the Kabbalah. Only a few short extracts can be presented here.

Tikkunei HaZohar, the 'repairs of the Zohar'. We present the famous 'Prayer of Elijah'.

Moses Cordovero was one of the great kabbalists who lived in Sefad (Tzfat) in northern Israel in the 16th century. His book Pardes Rimmonim is a classic of kabbalistic analysis.

Cordovero and his followers created the genre of kabbalistic ethics. We present some examples.

The author of the great Jewish code of law known as the Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Joseph Karo, was also a mystic, who was visited by the spirit of the Mishnah, the Shechinah (presence of God) herself.

Isaac Luria, known as the Ari--one of the most original kabbalists of all time, famous for his doctrines of Tzimtzum, the withdrawal of God, and Shevirat HaKelim, the breaking of the vessels and Tikkun Olam, repairing the world.
(The passage on Tzimtzum is by Hayim Vital, the text on Shevirat HaKelim is by Emanuel Hai Ricchi.) He also taught the doctrine of Gilgul, reincarnation, or the transmigration of souls.

Prayer and meditation, indeed prayer accompanied by meditation, were central techniques of later Kabbalah. We present a few simple examples from different sources.

Hasidism is the best known modern form of Jewish mysticism. Click on this for texts exploring basic concepts of Hasidic thought on attachment to God and religious leadership.

And, as an additional bonus, a collection of Hasidic and Kabbalistic teachings on the commandment to 'Love your neighbour as yourself' (Leviticus 19:18).
Heichalot Shiur Qomah Sefer Yetzirah
Hasidei Ashkenaz Elazar of Worms Abraham Maimonides
Abraham Abulafia Sefer HaBahir Zohar
Tikkunei HaZohar Moses Cordovero Kabbalistic ethics
Joseph Karo Tzimtzum Shevirat HaKelim
Gilgul Kabbalistic prayer & meditation Hasidism

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