Synopses & Reviews
Mysticism, which transcends the boundaries of time and space and refers to a reality not grasped by means of ordinary human cognition, is one of the central sources of inspiration of religious thought. It is an attempt to decode the mystery of divine existence by penetrating to the depths of consciousness through language, memory, myth, and symbolism. Delving deep into the psyche,mystics strive to redeem perceived reality from its immediate meaning. Mystical texts constitute a history of this religious creativity, of mans attempt to reveal the divine structure underlying the chaos of reality and thereby endow life with hope and purpose. By offering an alternative perspective on the world that givesexpression to yearnings for freedom and change,mysticism engenders new modes of authority and leadership; as such it plays a decisive role in moulding religious and social history. For all these reasons, the mystical corpus deserves study and discussion in the framework of cultural criticis
The central thesis of A Tree of Life, now revised and expanded, is that social, economic, theological, and even political factors have always played a part in framing of Jewish law, as has consideration of the wider ideals of Judaism. Through discussion of historical and contemporary halakhic responses to a wide range of issues, Louis Jacobs shows how the halakhic system has demonstrated its potential for vitality, creativity, and sensitivity. Louis Jacobs's call, in the last chapter, for a non-fundamentalist approach to halakhah was a cause of controversy both when the book was first published in 1984 and subsequently. The new introduction written for this edition responds robustly to the criticisms raised, and also summarizes new developments, both halakhic and scholarly, in the various areas covered.