Friday, January 25, 2019

Reiser on "Imagery Techniques in Modern Jewish Mysticism" (plus MOTP2 update)

THE BOOK OF DOCTRINES AND OPINIONS BLOG: Interview with Daniel Reiser – Imagery Techniques in Modern Jewish Mysticism (Alan Brill).
Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira of Piacetzna (1889-1943), also known as the “Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto” left behind a series of books on educating teenagers and newly married men, a diary of his Holocaust sermons, and variety of visualization techniques that he used in his work to create a modern Chassidus in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman emphasized the use of imagination and vision within Torah. We are to imagine the events in the weekly Torah study as if we are there and with vivid imagery, we imagine the Biblical stories in sermons, we use the vivid element of the midrash to teach and we are to engage in specific techniques of visualization to achieve closeness to God. We can even, if needed, image God for praying. This visionary quality is what gives his tragic Holocaust sermons delivered in the Warsaw ghetto such pathos. Daniel Reiser wrote his dissertation and subsequent book on these visionary meditations. The book was translated last year.

The book is Imagery Techniques in Modern Jewish Mysticism (De Gruyter, 2018). I have not yet read it, but I must do so

This may not seem like a topic of interest to PaleoJudaica, but it is. I am currently thinking a lot about the psychology of imagery and the imagination with reference to ancient Jewish, Christian, etc. visionary and magical literature. Human psychology hasn't changed in the last few thousand years. The techniques used by ancient visionaries seem to have a lot of overlap with those used by modern practitioners. I hope to be writing more about that in the future.

Meanwhile, today is the last day of my year of research leave. During that time I have made excellent progress on the editing of the second volume of texts for the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project (MOTP2). We have some distance to go, but we're getting there! And when we are done, you will see that it was worth the wait.

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