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Rabbi, Mystic, or Impostor?The Eighteenth-Century Ba'al Shem of London$
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Michal Oron

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781904113034

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781904113034.001.0001

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A Brief History of Ba’Alei Shem

A Brief History of Ba’Alei Shem

(p.15) I A Brief History of Ba’Alei Shem
Rabbi, Mystic, or Impostor?

Michal Oron

Liverpool University Press

This chapter focuses on ba'alei shem, the primary representatives of Jewish magic in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It considers the ba'alei shem as the wonder-workers who employed the names of God or his angels through certain techniques, for various theurgic purposes. It also cites rabbinic literature that teaches of the existence and spread of the phenomenon among the sages in the Land of Israel and Babylonia despite biblical opposition to magic or sorcery and their practitioners. The chapter looks at the mystical heikhalot literature, which includes magical texts and descriptions of the qualities and aptitudes of the mystical elect that resemble and later characterize the ba'alei shem. It describes the mystics that possess knowledge of incantations and divine names that enable them to undergo mystical experiences and be in contact with the supernal spheres.

Keywords:   Ba'alei shem, Jewish magic, rabbinic literature, biblical opposition, heikhalot literature, mystical elect

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