Doubt and Certainty in Late Modern Kabbalah: A Tale of Two Schools

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In this paper, two test-cases for examining the role of doubt in late modern Kabbalah are addressed and compared: R. Gershon Henikh Leiner (1839–1891), leader of the controversial Izbiche-Radzin school, and R. David Kohen (1887–1972), an important student of the famous R. Avraham Itzhak ha-Kohen Kook. In the former case, Leiner frames doubt, even with regard to God’s existence, as central to the existential human condition, and thus to divine worship. For Kohen, doubt was bound up in his very identity as a religious philosopher, as well as a constant companion of his often-frustrating quest for prophetic experience. He thus provides the most extensive explicit treatment of scepticism extant in kabbalistic literature. Based on these prominent examples, from adjacent yet discrete historical, cultural, and geographical settings, it is claimed that as modernity progressed, doubt occupied a more prominent and challenging place in Kabbalistic writing and experience.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationMaimonides Review of Philosophy and Religion
EditorsZe'ev Strauss
Place of PublicationLeiden
ISBN (Electronic)9789004506626
StatePublished - 2022


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