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Nesirah: Myth and Androgyny in Late Kabbalistic Practice

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Jewish mysticism, in its classical period, is replete with images and theories that employ a mythic view of gender. This article will review a motif that has not been the subject of particular scholarly attention, that of the nesirah. The motif of the nesirah clearly has its origins in the most ancient understandings on the proclivities of the feminine aspects of Divinity. That a mythic motif that encompassed such a brazen sexuality was retained and worked into the core of classical Kabbalah is indicative of the resonance of the myth, and the reluctance of the creators of the mystical canon to relinquish a tradition that they clearly viewed as essential, notwithstanding its challenges to the monotheistic ideal of classical, exoteric Judaism.

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