"Questing for my rabbi I have gone from Buber through Scholem to Idel. I abide with Moshe Idel. He is not only a scholar of Scholem's magnitude but a guide for the perplexed like myself. I believe he will yet show us the way to the authentic Jewish culture still available to us in this waning time."—Harold Bloom
"A brilliant and often illuminating exposition and critique of the role that Jewish mysticism has played in much of twentieth-century Western thought. Idel uncovers the many ways in which external sources, rather than traditional texts and practices, have informed accounts of Jewish mysticism."—Jewish Review of BooksThere emerged in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries a new Jewish elite, notes Moshe Idel, no longer made up of prophets, priests, kings, or rabbis but of intellectuals and academicians working in secular universities or writing for an audience not defined by any one set of religious beliefs. In Old Worlds, New Mirrors Idel turns his gaze on figures as diverse as Walter Benjamin and Jacques Derrida, Franz Kafka and Franz Rosenzweig, Arnaldo Momigliano and Paul Celan, Abraham Heschel and George Steiner to reflect on their relationships to Judaism in a cosmopolitan, mostly European, context.
Idel—himself one of the world's most eminent scholars of Jewish mysticism—focuses in particular on the mystical aspects of his subjects' writings. Avoiding all attempts to discern anything like a single "essence of Judaism" in their works, he nevertheless maintains a sustained effort to illumine especially the Kabbalistic and Hasidic strains of thought these figures would have derived from earlier Jewish sources. Looming large throughout is Gershom Scholem, the thinker who played such a crucial role in establishing the study of Kabbalah as a modern academic discipline and whose influence pervades Idel's own work; indeed, the author observes, much of the book may be seen as a mirror held up to reflect on the broader reception of Scholem's thought.
Moshe Idel is Max Cooper Professor of Jewish Thought Emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Senior Researcher at the Shalom Hartman Institute. He is the winner of many awards and prizes, including the EMET Prize, given by the Prime Minister of Israel; the Israel Prize for Jewish Thought; the Gershom Scholem Prize for research in Kabbalah, given by the Israeli Academy for Sciences and Humanities; and the National Jewish Book Award. Among his many books are Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic, Absorbing Perfections: Kabbalah and Interpretation, and Kabbalah and Eros.