The claim to "Hidden Truths" as the reason for the rejection of Kabbalah by the "Wissenschaft des Judentums"

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The essay analyses several reasons for the well-known rejection of thetheological "worth" of kabbalah by two of the leading scholars of the 19thcentury German-Jewish movement of Wissenschaft des Judentums: Heinrich Graetz and Abraham Geiger. Kabbalistic esotericism, resting on fraudulentclaims to authorship and masking the irrationality of its doctrines, wasamong the major objections of these historians. Dealing in mysticism wasunderstood to ruin the morality of human relations by leading to a secretive,elitist individualism instead of creating a healthy human society —- kabbalahfocused on the capturing of imaginary worlds instead of improving theexisting world. Particularly disturbing was that kabbalah often blurred theboundary between the bodily and the spiritual, specifically by formulating anew, hallowed dialectic relation between human limbs and the humanintellect that was purportedly superior to common morality. Eventually,both scholars agreed that kabbalah could therefore not promote the modernJudaism that nineteenth-century German Jews wished to see as a viable,ethical alternative to traditional religion, a Judaism that is capable of survivalin the modern age.We may define science as the analysis and explanation of the laws ofnature, as well as the rules that govern human society and history, withresults that lay open this research’s methodology and allow the scientificoutcome to be reproduced. Given this definition, science in essence becomesthe ultimate disclosure of all secrets. Esotericism anchored in revelation or apurported authoritative tradition that can be known only by the initiate thusstands in contradiction to scientific research. The kabbalist, who speaks of“hidden truths” which he believes to be universally true but not in need ofor even open to rational proof, is not only being irrational from a scientificperspective but also falsely pretentious. The present study will look into theexciting question of what happened when these two methods of knowledge,the scientific and the kabbalistic, came for the first time in close contactwithin the realm of Judaism
Translated title of the contributionהטענה ל'אמיתות נסתרות' כסיבה לדחיית הקבלה על ידי 'חכמת ישראל'
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-155
Number of pages23
Journalמחשבת ישראל
StatePublished - 2020

IHP publications

  • ihp
  • Aversion
  • Cabala
  • Geiger, Abraham -- 1810-1874
  • Graetz, Heinrich -- 1817-1891
  • Jews -- Germany
  • Rejection (Psychology)
  • Wissenschaft des Judentums (Movement)


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