18 May 2008

Gershom Scholem

I see a brief review in the latest issue of Harper's of a new edition of the diaries of Gershom Scholem, an expert on the history of Judaism, who grew up in Germany, among a thoroughly assimilated German-Jewish family, in the years before the first world war.

The reviewer make the point that Scholem's scholarly interest in Judaism was itself something of a youthful rebellion, one which (combined with his anti-war opinions) got him evicted from his family home in Berlin in February 1917.

The new edition is a publication of the Harvard University Press, of the journals Scholem kept betwen 1913 and 1919, under the title "Lamentations of Youth." There isn't much there about the eviction, though. Only a cryptic entry in which he says he has "experienced something."

Two books generally regarded as masterpieces define Scholem's achievement, MAJOR TRENDS IN JEWISH MYSTICISM (1941) and SABBATAI SEVI: The MYSTICAL MESSIAH (1957).

I'll leave that as a teaser for now. I'll be back Thursday and continue this train of thought.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.