Secrecy, Modesty, and the Feminine Kabbalistic Traces In the Thought of Levinas

Elliot R. Wolfson

in The Exorbitant

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780823230150
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235711 | DOI:

Series: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

Secrecy, Modesty, and the Feminine Kabbalistic Traces In the             Thought of Levinas

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Various scholars have discussed the possible affinities between Levinas and kabbalistic tradition, despite his unambiguous critique of mysticism on the grounds that the experience of union it presumes effaces the transcendence beyond ontology that grounds the radical difference between human and divine, the basis for the alterity that serves as the foundation for the ethical responsibility that one must bear for the other. To date, the most extensive and affirmative treatment of Levinas and kabbalah has been proffered by Oona Ajzenstat, who argued that Levinas was guided by the esoteric nature of kabbalah “to occult the kabbalistic images in his own text and to protect them under a layer of antimystical argument.” This chapter presents a similar argument regarding the need to posit an esoteric use of Jewish esotericism on his part. Specifically, it proposes that the antitheosophic interpretation of kabbalah proffered by Levinas accords with his polemical depiction of Christianity as a form of idolatry.

Keywords: Emmanuel Levinas; Oona Ajzenstat; kabbalah; Jewish esotericism; Christianity; idolatry; kabbalistic tradition

Chapter.  9893 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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