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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: July 2020

4 - Canonization


The eighteenth century is defined as the definitive period of modern Kabbalah, echoing revolutionary changes in Europe and America. The natural focus here is on the first three generations of Hasidism, as the first enduring kabbalistic social movement. Magic and sociology join theology and ideology to convey the richness of the movement. Extensive analysis is also devoted to the movement's opponents, spearheaded by R. Eliyahu, the Gaon of Vilna. The chapter's main innovation is the extensive treatment of R. Shalom Shar‘abi (Rashash) and the hegemony that he and his close students established in Near Eastern communities. Here the stress is on the three-dimensional depiction of the kabbalistic universe, and the accompanying doctrines of relativity, interchangeability, temporality and nominalism. Another innovation is the exposure of lesser known circles. The chapter concludes with discussions of the role of Kabbalah in the general and Jewish philosophical wave, as well as a summary of general characteristics of the century's Kabbalah, such as individualization, greater focus on everyday life and a search for totality.