"The Rabbinic tradition, especially its mystical streams, is language intoxicated. The world is said to be created through the permutation of letters; Hebrew letters are said to ""contain souls, worlds, and divinity."" Letters not only have numerical significance (gimatria) but can be permutated in complex fashion, turned inside out (in a kind of winking or serious play) to reveal new textual meanings or even to remap consciousness, to re-arrange one's mental furniture. Some kabbalists famously taught that the Torah can be read as a series of divine Names or as the Name. Not only were the black letters grasped as palimpsets of meaning, but according to one hasidic master, even the white spaces between the black letters are letters, pointing to a meta-text. Given the ontological significance of Hebrew letters, is it surprising that the very act of writing and handling certain texts is freighted with ritual: scribal ablutions, etiquettes of textual kissing, touching and not touching. In this talk, Professor Ginsberg focuses specifically on orthographic elements of the Hebrew alphabet: noting how given kabbalists symbolized certain letter-formations as visual mandalas; wrapped themselves in symbolic tattoos of leather (think tefillin). As he moves towards a theory of mystical orthography, he focuses on three brief texts that treat letters as a kind of ""graphic novel"" of God: used to narrate the moonlike waning and waxing of the Shekhinah, to symbolize divinity as a Mikveh (healing bath) in Time, and perhaps most astonishingly to trace the inscribed presence of the divine on each person's face. Watch this presentation with your sense of playfulness and your Picasso-eyes. Elliot K Ginsburg is Associate Professor of Jewish Thought in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Michigan. He specializes in the Jewish mystical traditions, including kabbalah and hasidism, and has wide-ranging interests in Judaism as religious tradition, and in the history of religions."
Date Record Checked: 2012-06-19 13:07:47