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Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  212 ratings  ·  33 reviews
In Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, Joseph Dan, one of the world's leading authorities on Jewish mysticism, offers a concise and highly accurate look at the history and character of the various systems developed by the adherents of the Kabbalah.
Dan sheds light on the many misconceptions about what Kabbalah is and isn't--including its connections to magic, astronomy,
Hardcover, 130 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published October 6th 2005)
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Average rating 3.64  · 
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Ahmad Sharabiani
Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #162), Joseph Dan

In Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, Joseph Dan, one of the world's leading authorities on Jewish mysticism, offers a concise and highly accurate look at the history and character of the various systems developed by the adherents of the Kabbalah.
Xenophon Hendrix
Aug 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
I wanted an introduction to the kabbalah that was written by an authoritative non-crank. This book served that purpose.

The author mostly confines his presentation to the Jewish kabbalah. Approximately seven percent of the text describes Christian and western esoteric kabbalah.

Given my level of interest in the subject, the book being short is one of its most attractive features. Unfortunately, it is also dry. Over a period of several days, I fell asleep several times as I made my way through the
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Quite short, but very interesting and highly informative
Sleepless Dreamer
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
More like 4.5 but who cares really?

This book is excellent! It's a solid introduction, explaining both ideas and the history of Kabbalah. The author is incredibly aware of how religious books can be problematic and I admire that.

A word of caution: I know Hebrew and live in Israel so all the Hebrew phrases were easily understood and I am familiar with a lot of the names and different sects (though wow, I learned so much). If you aren't, this book might be difficult to understand. There's a lot o
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book may be short, but it is densely packed with information. In my quest for information related to a book I'm working on, I typed notes on most of this book. It is highly informative and I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in knowing how Kabbalah came about.
David Schwartz
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well written and clear summary of a vast field of history, religion, and philosophy. Excellent for beginners.
Marsha Altman
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jewish
Surprisingly good and thorough evaluation of Kabbalah. Didn't know it could be summarized this well.
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing mind-blowing book, I love how scientific he is, how he is so scholarly and organized. An expert in Kabbalah, Joseph Dan recognizes the difficulties in talking about religious books and ideas, and how previous scholars made mistakes in attributing gnostic characteristics to the medieval Kabbalah. It served the purpose, and it made me want to read more of Dan's books on the subject.
Kitty Red-Eye
Perhaps I'm being unfair to the author here when I say the book is "boring", maybe it is only my own lack of patience with the oh-so-many paths to a god I don't believe exists, I might as well read about the hidden meanings in the gospel of Batman. Or something. I can kind of see the appeal, though, in the idea of kabalah (or similar), it's esoteric, you must study to gain "knowledge", and it's definitely not for everyone. I can't help myself but prefer when the kabalistic system is used to tell ...more
Jody Mena
Aug 02, 2011 added it
Shelves: nonfiction
A great introduction to Kabbalah. For one thing, it is, indeed, very short, which is good if you're looking for information but don't have a lot of extra time on your hands to mull over a mire of minutae. There was a good amount of general information without overmuch detail, just the right amount for an introduction - ideal for those who don't know what kabbalah is really all about and are just starting out learning about it.

It is a clear and concise account of the history and practices of the
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Definitely one of my favorite books on the subject. The research work is mesmerizing, pretty much al there's to know (on a general basis) is described from a very formal point of view. The citations are always on point and the explanations left me satisfied at every moment.
The sincere and direct speech of the author very valuable, as is his objectivity. His tone is solid and confident enough to be perceived wise and studied but not as super authoritative or rigid as some authors on the fie
Jan 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Very interesting book, but poorly written. It is a great introduction into Kabbalah. It's amazing that Kabbalahists believe that they can affect the future in the present. There are many ideas and beliefs mentioned in this book that I'd like to learn more about.

Overall, worth a read for a brief intro.
Nov 29, 2011 rated it did not like it
Instead of "A Very Short Introduction", the subtitle of this book should be "A Very Boring History of People and Books Related to the Word Kabbalah". Ugh. I'm sure it's all very accurate, but it sure as hell isn't interesting.
Jan 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Informative, but rather academic for an introduction. Could have used a glossary for all the Hebrew words!
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joseph Dan doesn't mince words and the taut spare academic style will not be to everyone's tastes. Its a positive virtue in his area of expertise (and he is clearly an expert) because the subject is infected with so much claptrap and nonsense that a surgeon's calculating knife is exactly what is needed to get clarity.

In particular the chapters linking the development of Lurianic Kabbalah with the development of both modern messianic (Sabbatean) mysticism and modern Hasidic orthodoxy is very help
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While generally reliable, some of these short intros go above and beyond. For as thorny a topic as kabbalah, it is particularly important to be brief and exceptionally clear. Dan's work is precisely that. After some quick definitional and etymological work, he offers a succinct survey of the meanings of the term over time. He notes its origins in Jewish circles of Provence with the Book Bahir and then the Zohar. He usefully delineates the Christian offshoots originating in the circle of Marsilio ...more
Benjamin Fasching-Gray
This is a scholarly work that answers the question “what do people mean when they say ‘kabbalah’?” It follows some mystical traditions in Judaism and the broader European environment from the Middle Ages to the present but doesn’t get into detailed discussions of each sefirah or other kabbala concepts. Like other books in this series, it is a good introduction to the topic and is helpful in framing the consensus on stuff like who wrote what and when.
Cris Edwards
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wild ride through the history and concepts of kabbalah, which has no clear definition, from the Middle Ages through today. Very informative and as clear as can be for a subject which is, by nature, unclear and divisive.
Feb 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Excellent overview, but very dry and dense, which is not surprising considering the complexity of the subject. Can get quite academic at time and if you're not familiar with the topic you'll need to cross reference numerous times.
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Solid overview
May 18, 2020 rated it liked it
I think I have a rough idea of what this could be, ...
Sep 02, 2019 added it
I appreciated the sometimes droll skepticism of the author and his defense of halakhah as a form of Judaic practice in no way inferior to mysticism.
Interesting overview of a broad and varied topic. Would recommend.
Fatih Başar
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Gereksiz detay agirmeden Kabala ve Yahudi mistisizminin diğer unsurlarını açıklayan güzel bir eser. Konu hakkında hiçbir fikri olmayan birinin kolayca kavrayabileceği düzeyde ve aynı zamanda önemli neredeyse tüm unsurların tarihsel gelişimiyle işlenmesi de söz konusu.
Jennifer W
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
So let me explain why I picked up this book. I have a love for novels about Jewish characters. Historical, like The Red Tent or contemporary like The Ladies Auxiliary or a bit of both like People of the Book. It seems that whenever I hear about Jewish practices in the news, though, they focus on practitioners of Kabbalah. I figured this would be a good book to fill in some knowledge gaps that make novels so fascinating and also bring me up to speed on the modern Jewish practices. Unfortunately, ...more
Stephen Olley
Apr 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'll get the one negative point out of the way first: This book is trying to cover over a thousand years worth of Jewish and Christian religious thought... in a hundred pages. This is why, despite it being a very short book, it has actually taken a while to read: Some pages are so jam-packed with names, alien concepts and new terminology that you have to put it down every now and again to let some of it sink in. It could all do with a bit of space to breathe.
But hey, it is a "Very Short Introduc
Jul 06, 2014 rated it liked it
left me wanting to check out the bibliography in the back of the book, so i think it served it's purpose? really liked the historical overview of the medieval origins of kabbalah in the bahir and the zohar, explanations of the differing views of the sefirot, appropriations of kabbalah in christian mysticism and western esotericism, its historical centrality to hasidism, without providing any illusions that there is one single way of defining kabbalah as it has meant different things to different ...more
Lilie Esot
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Livre passionnant écrit par quelqu'un qui maitrise son sujet...Mais pour une introduction les informations sont denses et difficiles à suivre lorsqu'on est totalement novice en la matière. Peu recommandé pour une première lecture.
Jan 12, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Learned nothing. Waste of time.
Vikas Datta
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite interesting...
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