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KABBALAH/QABBALAH/CABALA/QABALAH/KABBALAH MA'ASIT

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Bianca
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« Reply #15 on: August 03, 2007, 08:59:29 am »








Perception of non-Jews



Another aspect of Kabbalah that Jewish critics object to is its metaphysics of the human soul. Since the Zohar was written, most Kabbalistic works assume that Jewish and non-Jewish souls are fundamentally different. While all human souls emanate from God, the Zohar posits that at least part of the Gentile soul emanates from the "left side" of the Sefirotic structure and that non-Jews therefore have a dark or demonic aspect to them that is absent in Jews.

Later Kabbalistic works build and elaborate on this idea. The Hasidic work, the Tanya, fuses this idea with Judah ha-Levi's medieval philosophical argument for the uniqueness of the Jewish soul, in order to argue that Jews have an additional level of soul that other humans do not possess.

Theologically framed hostility may be a response to the demonization of Jews which developed in Western and Christian society and thought, starting with the Patristic Fathers. By the Middle Ages, Jews were widely characterized as minions of Satan, or even devilish non-humans in their own right.

The Kabbalistic view concerning non-Jews can be compared with the Christian doctrine that baptized Christians form part of the Body of Christ while (at least according to Augustine of Hippo) all others remain in the massa perditionis.

In an article that appears in The Seductiveness of Jewish Myth, David Halperin theorizes that the collapse of Kabbalah's influence among Western European Jews over the course of the 17th and 18th Century was a result of the cognitive dissonance they experienced between Kabbalah's very negative perception of gentiles and their own dealings with non-Jews, which were rapidly expanding and improving during this period due to the influence of the Enlightenment.

Modern Judaism has rejected, or at least dismissed, this outdated aspect of Kabbalah as non-relevant[citation needed], as it possibly persists in only the most recondite and anti-modernist corners of the Jewish world.

For a different perspective, one might consult the first chapter of Elliot R. Wolfson, Venturing Beyond: Law and Morality in Kabbalistic Mysticism (Oxford University Press, 2006). Wolfson provides extensive documentation to illustrate the prevalence of the distinction between the souls of Jews and non-Jews in kabbalistic literature. He provides numerous examples from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, which would challenge the view of Halperin cited above as well as the notion that "modern Judaism" has rejected or dismissed this "outdated aspect" of the kabbalah. There are still kabbalists today, and many influenced by them, who harbor this view. It is accurate to say that many Jews do and would find this distinction offensive, but it is inaccurate to say that the idea has been totally rejected. As Wolfson has argued, it is an ethical demand on the part of scholars to be vigilant with regard this matter and in this way the tradition can be refined from within.
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