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Mystical Theology and Social DissentThe Life and Works of Judah Loew of Prague$
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Byron L. Sherwin

Print publication date: 1983

Print ISBN-13: 9780197100516

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9780197100516.001.0001

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Judah Loew and Modern Jewish Scholarship

Judah Loew and Modern Jewish Scholarship

(p.20) 2 Judah Loew and Modern Jewish Scholarship
Mystical Theology and Social Dissent

Byron L. Sherwin

Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines Judah Loew in modern Jewish scholarship. The personal and intellectual prejudices of many nineteenth-century German Jewish scholars toward Central and Eastern European Jewry affected the shape modern Jewish scholarship was to take in subsequent years. It was only as a result of the monumental scholarly efforts of Gershom Scholem, beginning in the 1920s, that the field of Jewish mysticism began to attain a respectable place within Jewish scholarly circles. Ultimately, the sparse attention given Judah Loew in nineteenth-century Jewish scholarship yielded two reactions. Those who considered him an Eastern European by birth and a mystic by inclination abhorred him. Those who considered him German by birth and an enlightened, scientifically and philosophically minded Renaissance figure by inclination distorted his views and offered a portrait of what they had hoped he was rather than of what he actually was. An example of the first approach was Heinrich Graetz, while an example of the second was Solomon Judah Rapoport. Meanwhile, in Jewish and Bohemian legend, Rabbi Loew is venerated as a master of what Jewish mystics call kabbalah ma'asit or “practical mysticism.”

Keywords:   Judah Loew, modern Jewish scholarship, Gershom Scholem, Jewish mysticism, Heinrich Graetz, Solomon Judah Rapoport, Jewish mystics, practical mysticism, German Jewish scholars, Eastern European Jewry

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