From Metaphysics to Midrash

From Metaphysics to Midrash

Myth, History, and the Interpretation of Scripture in Lurianic Kabbala
Shaul Magid
Distribution: World
Publication date: 6/16/2008
ISBN: 978-0-253-00037-8
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Winner, American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in Textual Studies
In From Metaphysics to Midrash, Shaul Magid explores the exegetical tradition of Isaac Luria and his followers within the historical context in 16th-century Safed, a unique community that brought practitioners of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam into close contact with one another. Luria's scripture became a theater in which kabbalists redrew boundaries of difference in areas of ethnicity, gender, and the human relation to the divine. Magid investigates how cultural influences altered scriptural exegesis of Lurianic Kabbala in its philosophical, hermeneutical, and historical perspectives. He suggests that Luria and his followers were far from cloistered. They used their considerable skills to weigh in on important matters of the day, offering, at times, some surprising solutions to perennial theological problems.

Author Bio

Shaul Magid is Jay and Jeannie Schottenstein Chair in Jewish Studies and Professor in Religious Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.


"A pioneering foray into Lurianic biblical exegesis; nothing like it has been attempted in English before." —Alan Cooper, Jewish Theological Seminary

"Shaul Magid's
From Metaphysics to Midrash is a theoretically sophisticated and textually nuanced exploration of what is unquestionably the most complex body of Jewish mystical literature. . . . The author is to be congratulated for producing a study of a 16th—century phenomenon that will resonate deeply with scholars who have explored the issues of alterity, identity and difference, gender construction, and the problem of embodiment." —Elliot R. Wolfson, New York University

"Shaul Magid has written a bold . . . book. . . .
From Metaphysics to Midrash is rich in intriguing discussions about the boundaries between Jews and non-Jews, good and evil, God and man from the perspective of Lurianic Kabbalah’s interpretation of Scripture." —Michael Nutkiewicz, Religious Studies Program,

University of New Mexico,
SHOFAR , Vol. 28, No. 1 Fall 2009

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Kabbala, New Historicism, and the Question of Boundaries
The Lurianic Myth: A Playbill
1. Genesis
"And Adam's Sin Was (Very) Great": Original Sin in Lurianic Exegesis
2. Exodus
The "Other" Israel: The Erev Rav (Mixed Multitude) as Conversos
3. Leviticus
The Sin of Becoming a Woman: Male Homosexuality and the Castration Complex
4. Numbers
Balaam, Moses, and the Prophecy of the "Other": A Lurianic Vision for the Erasure of Difference
5. Deuteronomy
The Human and/as God: Divine Incarnation and the "Image of God"