Heavenly Palaces in Judaism. A Historical Travel Guide

Sara Ben-Isaac's picture
February 4, 2021
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Humanities, Jewish History / Studies

The literature of the Hekhalot precedes the kabbalah. It precedes it not only in time, beginning to appear in the first centuries of the common era, but also in the mental order and the collective imagination. Whoever reaches the divine dwellings, and manages to penetrate them, enters into a scholarly aristocracy, prized and coveted. The path is dangerous. The gates of the heavenly buildings are protected by grumpy and maniacal guardians. It is necessary to know how to catch them in a good mood, ingratiate yourself, or get around them by enlisting some high-ranking helper. But it is not only the difficult route that repels many, or perhaps almost all. The problem, with which the adept clashed in ancient times, and which still today discourages more than one reader, is to understand why so much effort is demanded. What is in heaven? Of course, not in the sky of our intercontinental journeys. What matters here is the pure heaven of primordial wisdom. The heaven inhabited by God and his supernal court. The heaven, crowded with angels, protected by high walls with burning embers, at one time is filled with very sweet melodies and then shaken by fearful banging. What is there to see, what is there to know? This is the subject of the newly published book by Giulio Busi, Heavenly Palaces in Judaism: A Historical Travel Guide. What have you seen? What’s “there?” Was it worth it? What can such exotic texts give to us, which is so urgent and profound?

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Sara Ben-Isaac

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