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"Messianism and Kabbalah Scholarship: The Life and Works of Isaiah Tishby"

Tue, December 18, 10:15 to 11:45am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Backbay 1 Complex

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


This session will examine the life, scholarship, and other works of Isaiah Tishby (1908-1992) one of the defining scholars of the academic study of Kabbalah in the twentieth century. Tishby’s work will be discussed within the context of larger historical and intellectual developments that influenced the leading academics and religious thinkers active in the first half of the twentieth century in Mandatory Palestine. A scholarly re-examination of Tisbhy’s academic and intellectual legacy is much overdue. Overshadowed by the monumental scholarship of Gershom Scholem, Tishby, one of Scholem’s first students, rightly deserves to receive his own place in Jewish intellectual history of the twentieth century. As Moshe Idel (2012) recently highlighted in an important essay, the messianic “orientation” infused the personal life as well as the academic scholarship of a number of intellectuals who immigrated to the Land of Israel in the twentieth century including prominent scholars of Kabbalah, such as Gershom Scholem and Isaiah Tishby. This session will trace the messianism and messianic “orientation” in the scholarship, creative activity and life of Isaiah Tishby by looking at four distinct topics: 1) Tishby’s unique role as editor of Jacob Sasportas’s “Zizath Novel Zvi” (Yaakob Dweck); 2) Tishby’s unfinished work on Mishnat haZohar that deals with questions of messianism, eschatology and apocalyptic ideas (Avishai Bar-Asher); 3) Messianic impulses in Tishby’s personal life and poetry (Andrea Gondos); 4) Tishby’s scholarship on Sabbatean activities during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century discussed in his work, Paths of Faith and Heresy and other collected essays (Matt Goldish).

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