Mystical Bodies, Mystical Meals: Eating and Embodiment in Medieval Kabbalah
By Joel Hecker
Wayne State University Press, 296 pages, $44.95.
Holy Men and Hunger Artists: Fasting and Asceticism in Rabbinic Culture
By Eliezer Diamond
Oxford University Press, 240 pages, $49.95.
Two recent studies, Rabbi Eliezer Diamond's "Holy Men and Hunger Artists: Fasting and Asceticism in Rabbinic Culture" and Joel Hecker's "Mystical Bodies, Mystical Meals: Eating and Embodiment in Medieval Kabbalah," both grapple, in different ways, with the contradictory tendencies regarding food in the Jewish religious tradition. Diamond, professor of Talmud and rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, discusses talmudic culture, and Hecker, professor of Jewish myticism at ReconstructionistRabbincal College, covers Kabbalah. But both end up in similarly ambivalent places: Diamond's rabbis seemed to yearn for asceticism but nonetheless couldn't quite reject the Jewish emphasis on the this-worldly, and Hecker's zoharic texts vacillate between seeing food as a necessary evil and praising it as a connection to God.