Diagramming sabbateanism

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Scholars have only recently started to study ilanot (lit., “trees”), the cosmographic genre constituted by the wedding of kabbalistic diagrams-the trees of the metonymic name-and large parchment sheets. Differences of kabbalistic opinion naturally found expression in these “maps of God.” The Sabbatean messianic movement of the 1660s and its prolonged and impactful afterlife produced, among other things, a number of distinctive kabbalistic opinions. For the most part, these innovations were tightly integrated with the speculations associated with “Lurianic” Kabbalah based on the teachings of R. Isaac Luria (1534-1572). The great Lurianic ilanot were designed and circulated in the second third of the seventeenth century, not long before the emergence of Sabbateanism, but their golden age was “the long eighteenth century”-a British coinage for roughly 1660-1830-and thus coincided with the profound and pervasive absorption of Sabbatean elements in precisely those sectors that produced and consumed these artifacts, including nascent Hasidism. The deceptively simple question at the heart of this article is this: What would it mean to diagram Sabbateanism? Or to put it another way, what would constitute a Sabbatean ilan? How might distinctive Sabbatean ideas have found diagrammatic expression in this genre? Once identified as such, what do Sabbatean ilanot tell us about the meanings of Sabbateanism in the contexts within which they were produced?.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-134
Number of pages27
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • History
  • Religious studies


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