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Kabbalah Research in the Wissenschaft des Judentums (1820–1880)

The Foundation of an Academic Discipline

In recent years more and more scholars have become aware of the fact that the 19th century movement of the Wissenschaft des Judentums engaged in essential research of kabbalistic texts and thinkers. The legend of Wissenschaft’s neglect for the mystic traditions of Judaism is no longer sustainable. However, the true extent of this enterprise of German Jewish scholars is not yet known. This book will give an overview of what the leading figures have actually achieved: Landauer, Jellinek, Jost, Graetz, Steinschneider and others. It is true that their theological evaluation of the "worth" of kabbalah for what they believed was the ‘essence of Judaism’ yielded overall negative results, but this rejection was rationally founded and rather suggests a true concern for Judaism that transcended their own emancipation and assimilation as German Jews.

Author Information

George Y. Kohler, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel.


“This book will certainly lead to a radical revision of our view of 19th century science of Judaism. Against the verdict of Gershom Scholem who accused its leaders of an apologetical repression of Kabbala, Kohler can demonstrate in detail that its pioneers were engaged in a deep investigation of Jewish mysticism. They nevertheless rejected it on strict ethical grounds, since Kabbala was opposed to the very idea of Jewish monotheism. In this line Kohler’s book might lead to another revision of the post Scholem Science of Judaism with its specific politico theological orientation towards Jewish nationalism.”

Prof. Christoph Schmidt, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

“In his groundbreaking work George Y. Kohler challenges the pervasive narrative of the suppression and neglect of the Kabbalah in the Wissenschaft des Judentums movement. The book presents the most detailed and in-depth study of 19th century Kabbalah scholarship to date, and reveals the complexity of the Wissenschaft’s attitude to Kabbalah.”

Prof. Boaz Huss, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Be’er Sheva

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Audience: Historians and theologians with an interest in German-Jewish thinking and history.