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Kabbalah: Secrecy, Scandal and the Soul Reviews

Kabbalah: Secrecy, Scandal and the Soul by Harry Freedman

Kabbalah: Secrecy, Scandal and the Soul

Harry Freedman

3.50 out of 5

3 reviews

Category: Religion, Non-fiction
Imprint: Bloomsbury Continuum
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publication date: 24 Jan 2019
ISBN: 9781472950987

This book tells the story of the mystical Jewish system known as Kabbalah, from its earliest origins until the present day. We trace Kabbalah's development, from the second century visionaries who visited the divine realms and brought back tales of their glories and splendours, through the unexpected arrival of a book in Spain that appeared to have lain unconcealed for over a thousand years, and on to the mystical city of Safed where souls could be read and the history of heaven was an open book.

4 stars out of 5
17 Feb 2019

"Harry Freedman tries his best to explain one of the world’s most esoteric traditions, but mystery, it transpires, is mysterious"

There is so much to ponder here and so little space to do it in. Which honestly renders Freedman’s bold attempt to do so an act bordering on the heroic. That he should manage to perform this service soberly and respectfully while creating a palpable sense in the reader of how extraordinarily fragile the transmission of spiritual knowledge can be, is trebly impressive. Mystery, it transpires, is mysterious. And that’s authentically intriguing.

Reviews

3 stars out of 5
Peter Stanford
15 Feb 2019

"Freedman has undoubtedly done a great service by rescuing Kabbalah from the pile that a sceptical world labels “mumbo-jumbo”"

In a secular age such as our own, when popular theological literacy is at an all-time low, Freedman has undoubtedly done a great service by rescuing Kabbalah from the pile that a sceptical world labels “mumbo-jumbo”. Yet by the end of his account, there is no real sense of having nailed down his subject. Perhaps the impossibility of defining it is, in fact, the real reason for Kabbalah’s continuing appeal.

4 stars out of 5
Stuart Kelly
7 Feb 2019

"This is the kind of erudite, witty, empathetic and sceptical book which gladdens."

This is the kind of erudite, witty, empathetic and sceptical book which gladdens. It also has moments of genuine profundity. Freedman recounts a story about Rabbi Israel, son of Eliezer, who, through Kabbalistic meditation, eventually approaches the gates to the Garden of Eden. He is warned that if he passes through, he must stay there eternally. In Poland, his wife touches his ice-cold body and weeps. At that point, he turns back from Eden and goes back to “the life he was placed on earth to live.