Judah Abrabanel's Philosophy of Love and Kabbalah

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Winner of the Adele Mellen Prize for Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship
This book shows how Judah Abrabanel’s writings are philosophical, and not merely religious. It examines the Renaissance belief that Love should know more than Wisdom, which is something Abrabanel taught. The ultimate mystical union with God for Abrabanel is beneficence towards one’s fellow human beings. His view is that love is the affirmation of both God and human individual experience. Knowledge of man and God are both dependent upon the experience of love.


“...the book helps the reader avoid serious mistakes about the nature of the texts studied in this fine book."

-Prof. Menachem Keller,
University of Haifa

“The author has produced a thorough, personal, and erudite reading of Abrabanel’s work. It displays great breadth of scholarship and reflection."

-Prof. James Nelson Novoa,
University of Lisbon

Table of Contents

Foreword by Menachem Kellner Introduction: Methodology
Art and Philosophy/Religion
History vs. Religion or Philosophy
Historical Methods
Judaic Studies, History and Philosophy

Chapter 1: An Overview of the Milieu, the Book and its Author
Some Biographical Facts
The Book
The Confluence of Judaism and Renaissance Humanist Culture
The Style
The Philosophical Sources
A Very Brief Description to the Three Sections of the Book
Dialogue I
Dialogue II
Dialogue III
Was There a Fourth Dialogue?
Love and Intellect
Can the Human Love of God Coexist with Human Dignity?
Love in Renaissance Philosophy
Mystical Union
The Origin of Love

Chapter II: The Background of Jewish Thought
The Biblical Background
The Talmudic Literature and Rabbinic Judaism
A Brief Overview of Jewish Philosophy in the Middle Ages
Solomon Ibn Gabirol
Isaac Abrabenel
Some Stylistic Differences Between Judah Abrabanel and the Prior Three Thinkers
Some Elements of the Prior Jewish Genres in the Dialoghi
Particularism and Universalism Revisited
The Problem of the Cycles
God’s Justice in This World

Chapter III: Kabbalah
A Definition
Sefer Bahir
The Zohar
Abraham Abulafia
Is There an Objective Way of Assessing Kabbalistic Influence?
The Theory of Mind and Soul in the Dialoghi and in Kabbalah

Chapter IV: Pantheism
Early Judaism
Jewish Philosophy
Judah Abrabanel
Concluding Comments Regarding Pantheism

Chapter V: Some Important Non-Jewish Influences
Affinities to and Divergences from Contemporary Christian Thought

Chapter VI: A More In-Depth Look at the Jewishness of the Dialoghi
The Relevance of Jewishness to Kabbalistic Influence
How Jewish is Philo?
Is Sophia Necessarily Jewish?

Chapter VII: The Actual Encounter with Kabbalah in the Dialoghi
The Discussion of Kabbalistic Tradition and Authority
Faith and Reason

Chapter VIII: Moses or Plato?
The Love of the Superior for the Inferior

Chapter IX: Mysticism and Union with the Divine
Copulation as a Metaphor for Mystical Union with God
Union with the Divine in the Kabbalah
Union with the Divine in Medieval Christian Thought
Union with the Divine in Islamic Thought
Union with the Divine in Jewish Thought

Chapter X: The Origin of Love
The Song of Songs
Proverbs, VIII: 22-36
Aquinas on Aristotle
Ficino’s Treatment of the Origin of Love
The Teaching of the Dialoghi
Moshe Idel’s Conclusions
Keter Malkhut
Some More Conjectures and Opinions

Chapter XI: Conclusion
What is Kabbalistic Writing?
What is the Evidence for Conscious Kabbalistic Influence or Intention?
The Significance of this Study
Changing Fashions in Jewish Scholarship
Revisiting the Kabbalistic Hypothesis
Crypto-Kabbalism as a Possibility
Was Judah Abrabanel a Kabbalist? Penultimate Remarks

References and Bibliography

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