Mystical Theology and Social Dissent

BookMystical Theology and Social Dissent

Mystical Theology and Social Dissent

The Life and Works of Judah Loew of Prague

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

2006

July 13th, 2006

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Judah Loew, better known as the Maharal of Prague, was a pivotal personality in late medieval European Judaism. Best known from the popular legend that credited him with the creation of a golem - an artificial human with superhuman powers - his true importance lay in his comprehensive exposition of a unique expression of Jewish mystical theology, his call for a reformation of Jewish communal life, and his influence on subsequent Jewish life and thought. Byron Sherwin’s lucid exposition of the life, legend, works, and ideas developed in Loew’s massive writings ‘reveals the concealed’ by unravelling the often obscure nature of his mystical theology, his polemical jousts against past and contemporary Jewish scholars, and his innovative programme for social and educational reform.

Judah Loew, better known as the Maharal of Prague, was a pivotal personality in late medieval European Judaism. Best known from the popular legend that credited him with the creation of a golem - an artificial human with superhuman powers - his true importance lay in his comprehensive exposition of a unique expression of Jewish mystical theology, his call for a reformation of Jewish communal life, and his influence on subsequent Jewish life and thought. Byron Sherwin’s lucid exposition of the life, legend, works, and ideas developed in Loew’s massive writings ‘reveals the concealed’ by unravelling the often obscure nature of his mystical theology, his polemical jousts against past and contemporary Jewish scholars, and his innovative programme for social and educational reform.

‘Very fine . . . a model of clarity and scholarship.’
Howard Schwartz, Jerusalem Post

‘A solid contribution to our knowledge of the intellectual world of central and east European Jewry in the early modern era, an area and an era that deserves greater scholarly attention.’
Ira Robinson, Association for Jewish Studies Newsletter

‘The heart of the book, on Maharal’s thought, is valuable for its careful and admirably clear explication of Maharal’s complex views on Divine attributes, Torah, Jewish uniqueness, man and his perfection, and messianism . . .  to be welcomed for its lucid presentation of major themes in the thought of a protean sixteenth-century Jewish thinker who influenced certain key Hasidic, Zionistic and semi-Mitnaggedic thinkers.’  
- Hillel Goldberg, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

‘[An] illuminating book.’
David Katz, London Review of Books

‘Excellent.’
Chimen Abramsky, Times Literary Supplement

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/9781904113508?cc=us

Author Information

Byron L. Sherwin was Distinguished Service Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Mysticism and Director of Doctoral Programs at Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, Chicago. His books included Golems among Us, Workers of Wonders, and Kabbalah: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism. He died in 2015.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Cover 1
Half Title 2
Title Page4
Copyright5
Dedication6
Contents 8
Acknowledgments10
Mystical Theology and Social Dissent12
1. Rabbi Loew in Legend14
2. Judah Loew and Modern Jewish Scholarship21
3. The Man Behind the Legends: The Life of Judah Loew26
4. Judah Loew: Writings and Sources39
5. Judah Loew and the Jewish Mystical Tradition: Introductory Remarks52
6. The Nature of God57
7. The Nature of the Torah71
8. Jew and Gentile: Theoretical Considerations84
9. Jew and Gentile: Halakhic Concretizations95
10. Man and Cosmos: The Quest for Perfection108
11. Beyond Human Perfection: "Cleaving" to God125
12. Messianic Redemption143
13. Mystical Theology and Social Reform162
14. Conclusion186
Appendix 1: When Was Judah Loew Born?188
Appendix 2: In What Order Did Loew Write His Works?191
Abbreviations193
Notes195
Bibliography236
Index249