Prof. Dugin On "Exoteric" vs. "Mystical" Judaism

Professor Boaz Huss

Ben Gurion University

I read Prof. Dugin's correspondences with great interest. Yet, I have strong reservations about the distinction he makes between exoteric, Rabbinic (legalistic) anti mystical, rationalistic, creationist Jewish tradition on the one hand and esoteric, mystical, manifestationist Jewish tradition on the other.

The origin of this dualistic perception stems from Christian Kabbalists who perceived Kabbalah as an ancient Jewish tradition that was not contaminated by Talmudic Judaism. The distinction they made between Kabbalah and Rabbinic Judaism was motivated by their Christian suppositions and missionary zeal (By the way, this distinction encouraged Frank and his followers to present themselves as Zoharites and anti-Talmudists in their dealings with the church, before their conversion). Interestingly, a similar dualistic perception of Judaism was adopted by modern Jewish scholars, including Scholem, who regarded Kabbalah as a mystical and mythical rebellion against non-mystical non-mythical Rabbinic tradition. This perception adopted the Christian Hebraists notion of Kabbalah (indeed, Scholem regarded Reuchlin as the first scholar of Kabbalah), and was motivated by Scholem's own national Zionist and romantic ideology.

This perception of Kabbalah as the opposition of Rabbinic tradition is of course alien to the Kabbalists, who regarded Kabbalah as part of Oral Torah and as the superstructure of Halacha. Indeed, neither the Kabbalists nor the Hasidim (not even Sabbatianist who did not convert) were opposed to "Rabbinic" Judaism. Many Jewish mystics and Kabbalists were central halachic authorities - Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai, Rabbi Akiva, the Rabad, Nahmanides, Joseph Karo, Yonatan Eibschutz and the Gaon of Vilna to name just a few.  It is true that tensions and even "war" occurred in Jewish religious history, such as between the Rashba and R. Abraham Abulafia, R. Jacob Emden and R. Jonathan Eibschutz, The Gaon of Vilna and the early Hasidim. Yet the issue of these "wars" was not Mysticism versus Rationalism or legalism, nor Creationism versus Manifestationism. Rather, I believe, these were wars between different mystical schools and trends that fought over cultural power and hegemony. Furthermore  - the notion of Rabbinic Judaism as creationist (as Prof. Dugin defined it) is untrue. The perception of the human as divine is a basic Jewish notion, both in Kabbalah, Talmudic and Biblical traditions (This was demonstrated recently in the Ph.D. thesis of Ya'ir Leurberbaum, who showed that the Rabbinic laws of execution were based on the notion of the Divine being inherent in the human body). Rabbinic Judaism does not reject the possibility of the creature to become God, as Prof; Dugins asserts, but rather assumes that the human creature was created as Divine. This of course is stated in the first chapter of Genesis - "And God created the Human being in his own image, in the image of God he created him - male and female he created them".

Breaking up the vessels

Boaz Hanoch Huss

internal linkComments on Prof. Huss's Post - Dr Bryan Griffith Dobbs

internal linkUnion With God in Judaism? Not According to Gospels - Dr. Thomas Hickey


I must say that I am in complete agreement with Prof. Huss on this matter. I see the anti-rabbinic attitude in "Christian" Kabbalah to be one more expression of the archetypal conflict between Jacob (eponymous father of the Jews) and Esau (eponymous father of the Gentiles) for the "Birthright" and "Promises" which Jacob received and Esau vowed to take back by hook or by crook.

The Christian Church, which began as a Jewish sect and wound up, thanks to Paul, as a Gentile religion is one more example of the efforts by Esau's descendants to wrest back the Birthright and Promises from the descendants of Jacob. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the outrage with which the Church reacted when it first learned of Jewish "Oral" Scripture (particularly the Talmud and Midrashim) in the mid-13th century -- prior to which time the Popes had tolerated and even protected the Jews, but after which they persecuted them unmercifully until the last half of the present century. (For example, see Professor Jeremy Cohen's book The Friars and the Jews, Cornell University Press, 1982, pages 60-76.)

Although these efforts by the early Popes to destroy the "Oral" Torah by literally burning it failed, their legacy lives on in so-called Christian "scholarship" and "Christian" Kabbalah, both of which seek to discredit the authenticy of Jewish Oral Scripture by more "civilized" means than those used by their predecessors.

There is an important story to tell about these matters -- one that I think I shall relate in a new series of lectures on Jewish "Oral" Scripture and its relationship to Kabbalah that I plan call, "The Legacy of Nicholas Donin" for reasons that will become clear as it progresses.


posted on the Donmeh mail list
Sat, 23 Oct 1999

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