MERKAVAH NARRATIVE: TWO PARADIGMATIC EXAMPLES Herbert W. Basser (Queen's University) Merkavah, or Hekhalot literature as it is sometimes called, belongs to a body of mystical literature that developed within the spheres of influ- ence of the Talmudic rabbis and their successors. As such, it makes some sense to read these works from the standpoint of the library left us by the Talmudic rabbis. If they are to succeed in unraveling the precise meaning of many passages, the readers of Merkavah, it will be argued here, must descend beneath the surface of the texts to expose the glow of known Rabbinic teachings. Furthermore, this literature has had a roundabout career, as a glance at the various versions of the same work shows us and we should not stop at Rabbinic literature as the only sources of inspiration. In this paper I offer plausible inter- pretations of two difficult passages of this literature. While virtually everyone who has dealt with the topic of Merkavah has endeavored to unlock these passages in some way or other, very few have searched the passages for detailed halakhic or haggadic erudition presumed by the writers. Nor have they searched adequately for folk motifs that
Review of Rabbinic Judaism – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1999
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