Death and Afterlife in the Rabbinic and Kabbalistic Imagination
Jewish death rituals are famous for their existential profundity and psychological insight concerning our most difficult times. Less well-known is the vast treasury of myths about death and the afterlife that undergird those rituals. These myths go back to the beginnings of Judaism, flower in rabbinic literature, and reach their fullest elaboration in kabbalah. We will study a selection of these rabbinic and kabbalistic myths, particularly those in the Zohar, the central work of kabbalah. Shakespeare may have declared that death is the “undiscovered country,” but we will study the journeys of the Jewish imagination deep into its innermost provinces. The only requirement for this course is that you be willing to employ your imagination, your mind, and your soul to engage with this overwhelming, and often shattering, feature of the human condition.