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DHC Lecture with David Biale (University of California, Davis)

Gershom Scholem: Between Mysticism and Modernity

                          In the more than thirty years since his death, Gershom Scholem has become increasingly recognized not only as one of the towering Jewish scholars of the twentieth century but also as one of the greatest of modern thinkers. Scholem’s achievement was the result of making medieval mysticism relevant to the modern age. The dialectical relationship that Scholem fashioned between mysticism and modernity – and between Jewish particularism and European cosmopolitanism – was part of the “reenchantment of the world” that his generation of Weimar Jewish intellectuals contributed to modern thought. Yet Scholem’s own position on the mystical was anything but unambiguous. In his Zionist politics, he rejected the mysticism and apocalypticism that were so central to his historical studies. This lecture explored Scholem's ambivalent relationship with modernity.