The Shiur Komah: Imaging the Divine

A text's physical description of God might actually have been intended to emphasize God's indescribability.

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The treatise even emphasizes that the knowledge of the secrets included in it carries a meaningful religious reward. Anyone who studies this text and knows it, declares Rabbi Ishmael, and relies on the support of Rabbi Akiva, will be happy in this world and live a long life, and will inherit the next world. Such a religious prize for esoteric knowledge is rare in ancient Jewish culture.

The Shiur Komah is a problematic book, and many questions need more study. It is clear, however, that the descenders to the chariot not only created a system of active mystical ascent, a via mystica, but also produced the earliest mystical theology and a description of God Himself, as viewed and understood by them. The Shiur Komah is the only remnant we have of the variegated creative activity of this circle in the field of theology.

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Dr Joseph Dan

Dr. Joseph Dan, a world-renowned authority on Jewish mysticism, is the Gershom Scholem Professor of Kabbalah at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.