List of Jewish Kabbalists

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This article lists figures in Kabbalah according to historical chronology and schools of thought. In popular reference, Kabbalah has been used to refer to the whole history of Jewish mysticism, but more accurately, and as used in academic Jewish studies, Kabbalah refers to the doctrines, practices and esoteric exegetical method in Torah, that emerged in 12th-13th century Southern France and Spain, and was developed further in 16th century Ottoman Palestine. These formed the basis of subsequent Jewish mystical development.

This is a partial list of Jewish Kabbalists; secondary literature incorporating Kabbalah is enormous, particularly in the voluminous library of Hasidic Judaism that turned esoteric Kabbalah into a popular revivalist movement. Hasidism both adapted Kabbalah to its own internalised psychological concern, and also continued the development of the Jewish mystical tradition. Therefore, only formative articulators of Hasidic thought, or particularly Kabbalistic schools/authors in Hasidism are included here. In the Sabbatean mystical heresy that broke away from Judaism, only the founders are listed. Solely academic-university Jewish studies researchers of Jewish mysticism, not being "Kabbalists", nor necessarily Jewish, are not listed here; nor are separate non-Jewish derivative/syncretic traditions of Kabbalah.

Rabbinic figures in Judaism are often known after the name of their magnum opus, or as Hebrew acronyms based on their name, preceded by R for Rabbi/Rav.

Early Jewish mysticism[edit]

Talmudic tannaic sages: Maaseh Merkabah (mystical Chariot)-Maaseh Bereishit (mystical Creation) (1st-2nd centuries). Yordei Merkabah (Chariot Riders)-Heikhalot (Palaces) mysticism (1st-11th centuries). Early-Formative texts are variously Traditional/Attributed/Anonymous/Pseudepigraphical:

Hasidei Ashkenaz (1150-1250 German Pietists). Mystical conceptions influenced Medieval Kabbalah:

Medieval emergence and development of Kabbalah (12th-15th centuries)[edit]

Jewish Quarter "El Call" in Girona, Catalonia North-East Spain, an early centre of Kabbalah
Genesis in the Schocken Bible, 1300. Kabbalists in Castile described Evil gnostically, personified in Lilith-Samael
Moses de León, disseminator of the Zohar, main text of Jewish mysticism
1618 edition Torah. Kabbalistic commentaries include 13th century Nachmanides, 16th century Alshich and 18th century ibn Attar

Provence circle (Southern France - Provence and Languedoc 12th-13th centuries):

Catalonia/Girona circle (North-East Spain 13th century):

  • Ezra ben Solomon
  • Azriel of Gerona Synthesised Gnostic and Neoplatonic elements c. 1160–1238
  • Nachmanides (Moses ben Nahman, RaMBaN) Introduced Kabbalah in classic Bible commentary 1194–1270
  • Jacob ben Sheshet
  • Meshullam ben Solomon Da Piera

Castile circle (Northern Spain 13th century). Developed Demonic/Gnostic theory:

Ecstatic/Prophetic-Meditative Kabbalah (13th century):

Publication of the Zohar (1280s–90s Northern Spain):

13th century Kabbalistic commentary:

14th-15th centuries saw a slowing continuation in Kabbalistic commentary:

Fusional influences (15th-17th centuries)[edit]

Influence of Medieval Jewish rationalism in Spain declined, culminating with the expulsion. Jewish fusions of Philosophy and Kabbalah were shared by wider non-Jewish Renaissance trends (not listed here):

16th century Kabbalistic renaissance[edit]

Safed, Galilee, became the centre for the early-modern renaissance and comprehensive systemisations of Kabbalah

Emigrees, some from Spain, some founding new centre of Safed in Ottoman Palestine:

Cordoverian school. Rationally-influenced systemisation of preceding Kabbalah:

Lurianic school. New mythological systemisation of Kabbalah. Basis of modern Kabbalah. Kitvei HaAri-Writings of the Ari written by disciples:

Safed dissemination:

16th-19th century Kabbalistic commentary[edit]

1600s synagogue in Zabłudów, Poland. Baal Shem-Nistarim activists worked among the common folk, from which Hasidism developed
Great Synagogue of Vilna model. Rabbinic Mitnagdic Judaism reserved esoteric Kabbalah for traditional Talmudic elite
Elijah Benamozegh (1822-1900), in Italy, continued a Universalist tradition of reading Kabbalah

Central European Kabbalist Rabbis:

Italian Kabbalists:

  • Moshe Haim Luzzatto (RaMHaL) Kabbalistic dissemination and cultural works. Italy, Holland, Israel 1707–1746
  • Elijah Benamozegh Universalist interpretation of Kabbalah. Italian Rabbi and scholar 1822–1900

Sephardi-Mizrachi (Oriental) Kabbalah:

Sabbatean mystical heresy (founders only):

Eastern European Baal Shem/Nistarim and other mystical circles:

Mitnagdic/Lithuanian Kabbalah:

  • Vilna Gaon (Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, GRA) Head of Non-Hasidic Eastern European Judaism. Opposed Hasidism 1720–1797
  • Hayim Volozhin Founder of Lithuanian Yeshivah movement. Main theorist of Mitnagdism in his Nefesh HaHayim 1749–1821
  • Yitzchak Eizik Chaver
  • Shlomo Elyashiv (Baal HaLeshem, after his major work) Lithuania 1841–1926
  • Mordechai Leib HaCohen Kaminetzky

Hasidic popularisation of Kabbalah (18th century-present)[edit]

Hasidim in 1845 Iași Romania. Hasidism changed Kabbalah's theosophical aim to the psychology of Divine Omnipresence amidst materiality

Kabbalistic notions pervade Hasidic thought, but it developed a new approach to Kabbalah, replacing esoteric theosophical focus with successive psychological internalisation. Therefore, only a minimal listing of Hasidic figures is given here; founding formative figures or commentators on esoteric Kabbalah texts/tradition.
Founding East-European Hasidic Masters:

Other Hasidic commentators on Kabbalah:

  • Hayyim Tyrer. Author of Sidduro shel Shabbat, kabbalistic homilies on Sabbatical subjects, and Sha'ar ha-Tefillah, kabbalistic reflections on prayer. Died at Jerusalem 1813.
  • Yisroel Hopsztajn (Maggid of Kozhnitz) A father of Polish Hasidism. Commentaries on Zohar and Tikunei Zohar 1737–1814
  • Dovber Schneuri Second Habad leader. Wrote commentary on Zohar and contemplation guides. Russia 1773–1827
  • Zadok HaKohen of Lublin. Kabbalistic commentaries based on Izbica personal illumination. Poland 1823–1900
  • Yaakov Yehuda Aryeh Leib Frenkel (Gevuras Aryeh). Kabbalistic work on Ramban's Torah commentary. Hungary 1850/1855–1940
  • Levi Yitzchak Schneerson.(1878–1944), father of the seventh and last Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
  • Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Lubavitcher Rebbe. Unity of esoteric Kabbalah with exoteric Judaism through Hasidic Thought 1902–1994

20th century Kabbalah[edit]

Sephardi synagogue in the birthplace of Luria. In Jerusalem Oriental and European traditions of esoteric Kabbalah meet

From diverse traditions in Kabbalah (excluding Hasidic thought's internalisation approach):

  • Abraham Isaac Kook Chief Rabbi of Mandate Palestine and poetic-visionary mystical thinker 1865–1935
  • Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam, after main work) Translation of Zohar with new approach in Luria. Poland and Israel 1885—1954
  • Baba Sali (Israel Abuhatzeira) Mizrachi sage. Morocco to Israel 1890–1984
  • Yitzhak Kaduri Mizrachi continuation from Rashash. Iraq to Israel d. 2006

Modern teachers of Jewish mysticism[edit]

Individual teachers of Jewish mysticism spirituality in modern-style articulations. Solely academic teachers in Jewish studies research are not listed here.
Orthodox Kabbalistic/Hasidic:

Non-Orthodox/Neo-Hasidic/Jewish Renewal:

Universalist-style Jewish teachers:

See also[edit]

External links[edit]