"The Mystical Element in Judaism," is Abraham Joshua Heschel's alternative to Gershom Scholem's thesis of Kabbalah as significantly a gnostic phenomenon. Scholem's "Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism" was published in New York in 1941; Heschel's essay was completed four years later, albeit published in 1949. Heschel finished his essay at the age of 38. Scholem delivered the lecture behind his essay in 1938 at the age of 41. In 1944, Heschel reviewed Scholem's book in "The Journal of Religion" and then wrote in "Al Ruach HaQodesh Bimei Beinayim," that "they still have not evaluated properly the place of mystical experience in Jewish life." In the first week of 1945, Heschel lectured at YIVO in Yiddish on "The East European Era in Jewish History" which became the basis of "The Earth Is the Lord's", finished in 1948. His discussion of Kabbalah there, minus the quotations, is from "The Mystical Element in Judaism." Thus already in 1944 Heschel was involved in revising Scholem's thesis as attested to by his essays on medieval religious experience and "The Mystical Element in Judaism," all composed in the 1940's.
Recent research has vindicated Heschel's focus on the dynamics of the religious life and on the foundations of Kabbalistic thought in classical Jewish thinking. The change that Heschel initiated in assessing Kabbalah's intellectual roots is part of a trend in recent scholarship highlighting continuities over discontinuities. The perception of discontinuities in historical research is frequently due to the lack of data. As data grows so grows the perception of continuities. In Heschel's case, however, it was not so much the discovery of new data as the reconceptualizing of old data that made him the trendsetter in disclosing the links between the Biblical and the Rabbinic, the Rabbinic and the Kabbalistic, the Kabbalistic and the Hasidic.
See also - Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition by Gershom G. Scholem
the Author -- The Mystical Element in Judaism
Abraham J. Heschel ---
One of the leading Jewish theologians and Jewish philosophers of the 20th century. Heschel, a professor of Jewish mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, authored a number of widely read books on Jewish philosophy.
Introduction by Reuven Kimelman v
1. The Meaning of Jewish Mysticism 1
2. The Exaltation of Man 7
3. The En Sof and his Manifestations 13
4. The Doctrine of the Shekinah 19
5. Mystic Experience 25
6. The Torah – A Mystic Reality 31
7. The Mystic Way of Life 37
8. The Concern for God 45
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