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The ExorbitantEmmanuel Levinas Between Jews and Christians$
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Kevin Hart and Michael A. Signer

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780823230150

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823230150.001.0001

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Secrecy, Modesty, and the Feminine Kabbalistic Traces In the Thought of Levinas

Secrecy, Modesty, and the Feminine Kabbalistic Traces In the Thought of Levinas

(p.52) Secrecy, Modesty, and the Feminine Kabbalistic Traces In the Thought of Levinas
The Exorbitant

Elliot R. Wolfson

Fordham University Press

Various scholars have discussed the possible affinities between Levinas and kabbalistic tradition, despite his unambiguous critique of mysticism on the grounds that the experience of union it presumes effaces the transcendence beyond ontology that grounds the radical difference between human and divine, the basis for the alterity that serves as the foundation for the ethical responsibility that one must bear for the other. To date, the most extensive and affirmative treatment of Levinas and kabbalah has been proffered by Oona Ajzenstat, who argued that Levinas was guided by the esoteric nature of kabbalah “to occult the kabbalistic images in his own text and to protect them under a layer of antimystical argument.” This chapter presents a similar argument regarding the need to posit an esoteric use of Jewish esotericism on his part. Specifically, it proposes that the antitheosophic interpretation of kabbalah proffered by Levinas accords with his polemical depiction of Christianity as a form of idolatry.

Keywords:   Emmanuel Levinas, Oona Ajzenstat, kabbalah, Jewish esotericism, Christianity, idolatry, kabbalistic tradition

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