Gershom Scholem Conference at the National Library

Two months ago, there was a conference at the National Library in Israel to commemorate thirty years since the death of Gershom Scholem. The videos are exceptionally high quality in both audio and visual, so one can see the entire pantheon on Hebrew University scholars. Almost all of the presentations were polished and within time limits, not usually Israeli academic traits. Several were mechanical summaries of Scholem’s contribution to a topic or why he took a certain approach. Some of the highlights were:
Yehudah Liebes at his clearest presentation of his philological method applied to “rosh hermenutica demalka” of Zohar 15a. He connected the phrase to idea of Rashbi as author and traced the heroic figure who reveals secrets back to the myth of Orpheus and forward to the writing of Nathan of Gaza and his influence on the writings of the Gra and Rabbi Yonatan Eybeschutz. He has given these ideas as separate papers, all available online. But here we see him open a text, the way he does in his class.
Moshe Idel showed how Scholem hide his experiential attempts to work practice Abulafia and it only appears in his posthumous diary. As a neat lecture, he showed how Abulafia represented for Scholem diversity in Kabblah and that as he suppressed his interest in Abulafia he also made kabbalah monolithic.
Tzipi Kaufman showed how Scholem’s studies of Hasidut lacked questions about lumdanut, about diverse social roles, and about the importance of gestures and embodied practices.
Shalom Ratzabi showed how Scholem’s Zionism was not innovative in that it was part of the general approach of German Jews; they wanted Zionism to be ethics and religion, but had an aversion to any political element. As Hugo Bergman said- their Zionism is after having mastered Fichte not as fleeing from the uneducated shtetl. For Scholem, using traditional Jewish terms for Zionism would rob them of their ethical dimensions.
Yonatan Meir discusses Scholem’s avoidance of the Yeshivat Mekubalim in Jerusalem- yet shows that he still collected their works. He brought up a topic already started by Idel, that Scholem not only believed that history can only be written about past dead objects but like Walter Benjamim the angel of history leave a path of destruction and we are only left with an ineffable attempt to grasp lost secrets.

Here is the full program.
Here is the Liebes lecture and here are links to all the others.
Liebes maintains an updated website with pdf’s of all his articles. The top bar opens pages that contain full texts of everything he wrote sorted by myth, zohar, ari, classical studies, reviews, and classroom material.

3 responses to “Gershom Scholem Conference at the National Library

  1. Yehudah Mirsky

    For what it’s worth here’s my write-up of the conference, which complements Alan’s write-up, with notes on some of the other talks

  2. Reblogged this on jewish philosophy place and commented:
    You might find this of interest. Highly recommended are Alan Brill’s review of the conference, as well as Yehudah Mirsky who provides a link in the comment section.

  3. Lawrence Kaplan

    I just listened to Liebes’ lecture.Actually, the first half dealt with phrase “botsina de-qardinuta,” while it was the second half that dealt with “hurmanuta de-malka.” Liebes’ philological method is very suggestive and illuminating and his erudition and ability to draw parallels astounding, but withal his conclusions are very speculative. The very end of his talk with it comparison of Shabtai Zevi and Herzl, was, of course, sheer derush.

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