Historisches Seminar



Between tradition and innovation: images of the Divine Chariot (merkavah) in early modern Ashkenazi Kabbalah

Dissertationsprojekt von Anna Sierka

Betreuer/in: Prof. Dr. Eva Haverkamp und Prof. Dr. Moshe Idel (Hebräische Universität Jerusalem/ Shalom Hartman Institute)


This project proceeds from the premise that the early modern images of the merkavah can be traced back not only to Lurianic and Sarugian kabbalistic teachings but, to a considerable degree, how they mirror medieval Ashkenazic and so-called “protokabbalistic” views on the Divine Chariot. It is necessary to clarify from which developmental stage this crucial symbol, the merkavah, was sexualized, multiplied, and demonized, whether and which gnostic features were adopted by Ashkenazic mystics, and what impact the adaptations of the concept of the Divine Chariot had on early modern Jewish folk demonology.

The study will concentrate primarily upon elaborations of the merkavah visions provided by early modern Ashkenazi kabbalists such as Shimshon Ostropoly, Nathan Shapira and Naftali Hertz Bacharach in their central works Dan Yadin, Megaleh 'amukot 'al ha-Torah and particularly Emek ha-Melekh.