Ben: Son­ship and Jew­ish Mysticism

Moshe Idel
  • Review
By – November 10, 2011
The top­ic of son­ship” in Jew­ish mys­ti­cal lit­er­a­ture has fas­ci­nat­ed Prof. Idel since 1976. Now, three decades lat­er, he has pro­duced a major work explor­ing this theme as it ranges across the var­i­ous gen­res of Jew­ish mys­ti­cal lit­er­a­ture from Bib­li­cal times through the Tal­mu­dic and Rab­binic peri­od, across Ashke­nazi eso­teric texts, kabal­is­tic tracts, Chris­to­log­i­cal lit­er­a­ture, and Hasidic writ­ings. Despite the scope of his exhaus­tive research and his ency­clo­pe­dic com­mand of all the texts, Idel offers this as a pre­lim­i­nary work. 

The par­al­lel notions of son­ship” in Chris­t­ian thought rever­ber­ate in many places. The medi­at­ing role of the son is explored. The the­o­log­i­cal flu­id­i­ty and flex­i­bil­i­ty found in the medieval peri­od gen­er­at­ed mul­ti­ple streams of thought free of rab­binic stric­tures. While Judaism reject­ed the Chris­t­ian ver­sion of son­ship” it left open the pos­si­bil­i­ty of oth­er forms of son­ship.” 

Ben will be of inter­est to seri­ous schol­ars of Jew­ish mys­ti­cism, the­olo­gians, and per­haps philoso­phers of reli­gion. The goal of this book was to sur­vey struc­tures of son­ship of God in many dif­fer­ent lay­ers of Jew­ish mys­ti­cal lit­er­a­ture. What emerged is that there is no sin­gle under­stand­ing of this notion in Jew­ish mys­ti­cism or Judaism. The jour­ney to that con­clu­sion is both fas­ci­nat­ing and enlightening.

Wal­lace Greene, Ph.D., has held sev­er­al uni­ver­si­ty appoint­ments, and cur­rent­ly writes and lec­tures on Jew­ish and his­tor­i­cal subjects.

Discussion Questions