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The Rise Of The Body In Early Modern Jewish Society: The Italian Case Study

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Chapter Summary

Sefer Haredim is emblematic of the rise of the Body in early modern Jewish life and culture. It is related to the intense religious atmosphere and pietistic-kabbalistic fermentation in Safed which shifted previous and contemporary mystical traditions from esoteric circles to ever wider publicity. This chapter examines the validity of these general claims in a case study of early modern Jewish-Italian communities. The body in Jewish-Italian culture during the Early Modern Period was a significant front of encounter between kabbalistic innovatory conceptions on the one hand and Catholic counter-reformatory and Baroque religiosity on the other hand. The discourse on the body was conducted at several levels: kabbalistic-theological, magical, medical, pietistic, sexual comportment, refinement of the body, emotions. They enabled, as the Foucault thesis suggested, to tighten control on individuals and collectives within the Jewish-Italian communities, by setting clearer models of comportment.

Keywords: Baroque religiosity; Foucault thesis; Jewish-Italian communities; kabbalistic conceptions; Sefer Haredim



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