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4 The Attitude Towards the Merkavah Speculations in the Literature of the Tannaim and Amoraim

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Chapter Summary

Turning to the attitude towards the Merkavah materials in the literature of the Tannaim and Amoraim. There are several utterances in rabbinical literature, which refer to the Godhead in quite unusual terms. Several passages in the writings of Philo have been taken as evidence of a Jewish Hellenistic mystery-mysticism. In spite of the inclination to view Judaism as essentially unfolding in Halakhic domains, it does consist of predominant features that show a persistent inclination to unfold in mystical domains. Merkavah mysticism, including the Hekhalot literature, played an indelible role in this respect, particularly in the area of liturgical expression. The less rigorous attitude towards the study of the Merkavah lore as shown by some of the Babylonian sages reflects a more intensive interest in the mysticism of the Merkavah than in Tannaitic times. The Merkavah tradition in Babylonia outlived its counterpart in Eretz Yisrael.

Keywords: Amoraim; Jewish Hellenistic mystery; liturgical expression; Merkavah mysticism; rabbinical literature; Tannaim



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