JTS Book Talk to Feature Author of As Light Before Dawn: The Inner World of a Medieval Kabbalist

Press Contact: Nina Jacobson
Office: (212) 678-8950
Email: nijacobson@jtsa.edu

November 23, 2009, New York, NY

Dr. Eitan Fishbane, assistant professor in the Department of Jewish Thought of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), will discuss his new book, As Light Before Dawn: The Inner World of a Medieval Kabbalist (Stanford University Press, 2009), at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 1, at JTS, 3080 Broadway (at 122nd Street), New York City.

An exploration of the mystical thought of Isaac ben Samuel of Akko, a major medieval kabbalist whose significant contribution to Jewish thought has, until now, been little explored, the program is being sponsored by The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary and is part of The Library’s 2009–2010 series of book talks by JTS faculty. Dr. David Kraemer, Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian and professor of Talmud and Rabbinics, will serve as moderator.

Through consideration of an extensive literary corpus, including much that still remains in manuscript, Dr. Fishbane’s study examines an array of themes and questions that have great applicability to the comparative study of mysticism and the broader study of religion. These themes include prayer and the nature of mystical experience; meditative concentration directed to God; and the power of mental intention, authority, creativity, and the transmission of wisdom.

A scholar of Jewish mysticism whose research and teaching are devoted to the texts of medieval Kabbalah and modern Hasidism, Dr. Fishbane has published in a variety of major academic journals, including the Jewish Quarterly Review, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and Journal of Religious Ethics. His theological essays have appeared in Sh'ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility and CJ: Voices of Conservative/Masorti Judaism.

Dr. Fishbane is presently at work on a second book project, Mystical Drama and Narrative Form: The Literary Craft of the Zohar, a monograph that sets out to chart a new literary approach to the masterpiece of medieval Jewish mysticism, the Zohar, and consider its lyric and narrative dimensions with modern critical tools. He is also the co-editor of two forthcoming volumes: Jewish Mysticism and the Spiritual Life: Classical Texts, Contemporary Reflections (Jewish Lights Publishing) and Jewish Renaissance and Revival in America (University Press of New England). Among his many honors and awards, Dr. Fishbane has received the Nahum and Anne Glatzer Prize for Outstanding Achievement from Brandeis University (where he earned his BA, summa cum laude, and PhD) and research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, and the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation.

Autographed copies of Dr. Fishbane's book will be available for purchase. The talk is open to the community at no charge; reservations are required. For further information and to RSVP, please contact Hector Guzman at (212) 678-8075 or email heguzman@jtsa.edu.

Critical Praise for As Light Before Dawn
"Deeply creative scholarship . . . a true delight to students of Kabbalah and meditative
Practice . . . a model scholarly work."Arthur Green, Irving Brudnick Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Hebrew College

"A major contribution . . . Fishbane [shows] impressive command of the sources, penetrating analysis of difficult texts, and a masterly ability to reveal the inner dynamics of Isaac's spiritual teaching."Bernard McGinn, Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago Divinity School

"Marked by extraordinary erudition, sophisticated methodologies, and a richly textured, nuanced analysis . . . a distinguished contribution."Lawrence Fine, Irene Kaplan Leiwant Chair of Jewish Studies, Mount Holyoke College

"A dazzling, erudite analysis of Isaac's writings, exploring his theory and practice of contemplation . . . a superb work of scholarship, sophisticated yet fully accessible."Daniel Matt, editor and translator of The Zohar: Pritzker Edition