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The Mystical Significance of Torah Study in German Pietism

Elliot R. Wolfson
The Jewish Quarterly Review
Vol. 84, No. 1 (Jul., 1993), pp. 43-78
DOI: 10.2307/1454699
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1454699
Page Count: 36
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Mystical Significance of Torah Study in German Pietism
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Abstract

This paper explores the mystical significance that the ritual of Torah-study assumes within the overall theosophic orientation of the Kalonymide circle of German Pietists active in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. This particular ritual is presented as one example of a much larger phenomenon alluded to in this corpus, namely, the esoteric nature and mystical efficacy of the performance of traditional commandments. My analysis focuses on three critical aspects of the Pietists' view of Torah based on earlier aggadic or mystical texts: (1) Torah as the divine names; (2) Torah as the singular divine name (the Tetragrammaton); and (3) Torah as the divine glory. It is shown in this paper that for the Pietists the notion that the Torah comprises the divine names is related to the identification of the Torah and the glory. Indeed, this identification provides the ideational basis for the mystical experience that underlies this most central ritual of normative rabbinic Judaism: the study of Torah provides the occasion for the visualization of the luminous glory or the divine name. This nexus of motifs is epitomized in Eleazar of Worms' statement that the one who studies Torah has the effect of mentioning the name which is understood in the Pietistic writings as a technical mystical praxis that results in a contemplative vision of the luminous glory.

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