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Maimonides' Confrontation with Mysticism$
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Menachem Kellner

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9781904113294

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781904113294.001.0001

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Kavod, Shekhinah, and Created Light

Kavod, Shekhinah, and Created Light

(p.179) Six Kavod, Shekhinah, and Created Light
Maimonides' Confrontation with Mysticism

Menachem Kellner

Liverpool University Press

This chapter describes the concepts of kavod, shekhinah, and created light. The term kavod occurs about a dozen times in the Torah in some sense or other of perceptible divine presence. Rabbinic literature tends to prefer the term shekhinah for what is apparently the same phenomenon. Heikhalot literature seems to place greater emphasis on kavod than on shekhinah, while later kabbalah does just the opposite, making shekhinah one of the sefirot — the ten hypostasized attributes or emanations by means of which the Infinite enters into relationship with the finite. Medieval Jewish philosophers such as Sa'adiah and Judah Halevi added a third term, ‘created light’, and took all three as synonyms. All of these literatures seem to agree on one thing: the terms kavod, shekhinah, and created light all denote something in the ‘real world’. The terms are not simply metaphors or descriptions of the internal state of an individual undergoing a religious experience. However, it is precisely in such a fashion that Maimonides understood the terms. Maimonides' ‘non-ontological’ view of the terms kavod, shekhinah, and created light is part and parcel of his campaign against proto-kabbalistic elements in Judaism.

Keywords:   kavod, shekhinah, created light, Torah, rabbinic literature, Sa'adiah, Judah Halevi, Maimonides, proto-kabbalah, Judaism

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