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Mystical Texts

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Chapter Summary

Along with the Talmuds, Midrashim, and liturgy, Hebrew literature in late antiquity includes a body of esoteric texts that describe visionary experiences and magical rituals. Since the nineteenth century, scholars have argued that in the rabbinic period small circles of Jews cultivated a type of visionary mysticism that involved the cultivation of visions of the heavens and of ecstatic journeys through the seven 'palaces' or layers of the celestial world to the throne-room of God, where he is seated on his 'chariot-throne'. The evidence for this phenomenon exists primarily in manuscripts from early medieval Europe and the Cairo Geniza in what is known as Hekhalot literature, as well as short passages in rabbinic literature. This chapter concerns these texts and what can be learned from them about mysticism in rabbinic Judaism and related cultural phenomena. Early scholars of rabbinic Judaism and Jewish history characterized Hekhalot literature as mystical.

Keywords: Cairo Geniza manuscripts; early medieval Europe manuscripts; Hekhalot literature; Midrashim; rabbinic Judaism mysticism; Talmuds

10.1163/9789004275126_012
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