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Extra info for The Books of Contemplation: Medieval Jewish Mystical Sources

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Abuyah, see Halperin's Faces, 31-37 and 194-206. 39. Kohelet Rabbah, 7:26:3 cited and discussed by R. Kimelman, "Birkat Ha-Minim and the Lack of Evidence for an Anti-Christian Jewish Prayer in Late Antiquity," in Jewish and Christian Self-Definition, Vol. P. Sanders ed. (Philadelphia 1980), 232. 40. B. Baba' Mefi'a, 59b. 18 The Books of Contemplation of being a Jewish-Christian heretic! "41 Although the link between apocalyptic mysticism and prophecy persisted until the early Christian period, it appears to have been broken with the rabbinic involvement in ma'aseh merkavah.

One can mention in this regard Akiva's support for the messianic claims of the revolutionary Bar Kokhba and the apocalyptic subtheme evident in Hekhalot Rabbati, one of the centerpieces of hekhalot literature. 42 Ostensibly normative Judaism asserts that prophecy has long since ceased; nonetheless, it has remained a significant issue for Jewish luminaries throughout the ages. During every period of intense mystical activity, individuals have attempted to reforge the channel of Divine communication.

Jewish life in western Europe at that time was quite precarious. Commencing at the nadir of the eleventh century and periodically thereafter, Jewish communities in western Europe were ravaged by each new wave of Crusaders as they marched off to fight the infidels. These harsh persecutions, occurring primarily in Germany but of concern to all of the Jews, compelled many to reflect on basic theological issues such as theodicy. Working within the traditional Jewish understanding of history as being divinely controlled, many were puzzled by the course of events and sought rationales to justify what had happened.

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