MIDEAST 456 - Jewish Mysticism
Fall 2023, Section 001
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: Middle East Studies (MIDEAST)
Department: LSA Middle East Studies
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Waitlist Capacity:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:
Start/End Date:
Full Term 8/28/23 - 12/6/23 (see other Sections below)
NOTE: Drop/Add deadlines are dependent on the class meeting dates and will differ for full term versus partial term offerings.
For information on drop/add deadlines, see the Office of the Registrar and search Registration Deadlines.


What is Jewish Mysticism? It is at once a series of techniques designed to alter consciousness or unite with the divine, interpretive practices for creatively reading sacred texts, and ways of creating community. This course invites you to enter into the mystery and travel along the paths of the mysterious worlds that range from the popular to the esoteric.

While we will survey Jewish mystical traditions (social movements, meditative practices, and striking God-language) from the late antique era through the present, the heart of the course is that many-branched medieval and post-medieval stream known as kabbalah, along with its central work, the Zohar, the “Bible of Spanish Jewish Mysticism.” Our study will take us across the globe from the Mideast to Morocco, from Ukraine to Israel and North America. Modern interpretations of the phenomenon of mysticism, and contemporary literary-artistic explorations, will be considered as well.

Our exploration will be rooted in primary sources (in translation) as well as secondary sources from the fields of comparative religion and the history of Judaism. These will be enriched by potential “lab” sessions to help us grasp non-cognitive and “experiential” dimensions of the traditions (e.g., the role of music, the modulation of the senses, altered consciousness, etc.). We will try to maintain a stereoscopic vision throughout the course, shuttling between history and phenomenology, between dispassionate study and the world of practice, between mind and heart.

It is my deepest hope that we will evolve as a community of deep learning — analytic, empathetic, playful, attentive.

Course Requirements:

Brief weekly reflections, class participation, and two short essays

Intended Audience:

Upper level undergraduate and graduate students in Judaic Studies, Middle East Studies, Religion, Comparative Literature, and Gender Studies

Class Format:

Two 90-minute meetings weekly


MIDEAST 456 - Jewish Mysticism
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM
8/28/23 - 12/6/23

Textbooks/Other Materials

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Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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