The Kiss of God

Spiritual and Mystical Death in Judaism

Michael Fishbane

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  • hardcover not available
  • Published: 1994. Paperback 1996
  • Subject Listing: Jewish Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 168 pp.
  • Series: Samuel and Althea Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies
  • Contents

The lines of Michael Fishbane's book trace the spiritual face of Judaism in one of its many appearances. Fishbane explores the quest for spiritual perfection in early rabbinic sources and in Jewish philosophy and mysticism. The "kiss of God," a symbol for union with God, and the ritual practices-meditation and performance-connected with it are presented.

The book identifies a persistent passion for religious perfection, expressed as the love of God unto death itself. The masters of the tradition cultivated this ideal in all periods, in diverse genres, and in different modes. Rabbinic law and midrash, medieval philosophy and mysticism, public and private ritual all contributed to its development. Rooted in the understanding that the spiritual life requires discipline, the sages set up different ladders of ascension. For some, the Law itself was the means of spiritual growth; for others, more private practices were built upon its foundation. But all agreed that the purification of desire and the perfection of the soul offered the hope of personal salvation. None denied the historical redemption of the nation.

"The work is a blend of scholarly insight into and deep personal engagement with a panoply of Jewish sources that evince a coherent web of religious and psychological themes of love and death. The result is impressive for its clarity of expression, its unencumbered command of a wide range of complex texts and topics, and its intellectual originality and verve."
-Steven D. Fraade, Yale University
1. "If you wish to live, then die": Aspects of Death and Desire in Jewish Spirituality
2. "For Your sake we are killed all day long": The Sanctification of God in Love
3. "As if he sacrificed a soul": Forms of Ritual Simulation and Substitution