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

2 - The Safedian Revolution of the Sixteenth Century


The chapter follows the transformation of kabbalistic life that took place in the sixteenth century, especially in Safed. The Ottoman context (including Sufi influences) is addressed. The main circles covered here are those of R. Yosef Karo, R. Moshe Cordovero and (most extensively) R. Itzhak Luria. The examination of theurgical-mythical themes continues here, alongside new psychological theories of the soul and messianic visions of both history and cosmos. Views of femininity and sexuality are explored, as well as the psychology of the mystical fellowship as a new social form and accompanying techniques and experiences, forming what the chapter's conclusion describes as a mystical culture. In the literary domain, particular emphasis is placed on the roles of print and exegesis (especially around the Zohar), as well as poetics. The interrelationship of all these innovations accounts for the staggering complexity of the Safedian doctrine (accounting for the intensive commentary it received in later generations). One of the main contributions of the chapter is that of familiarizing readers with the unique terminology of this system.

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