Critically Acclaimed Book Explores Life of Medieval Kabbalist

Press Contact: Nina Jacobson
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July 6, 2009, New York, NY

In his new book, As Light Before Dawn: The Inner World of a Medieval Kabbalist (Stanford University Press, July 2009), Dr. Eitan Fishbane explores the mystical thought of Isaac ben Samuel of Akko, whose work has until now received relatively little attention but is essential to the understanding of Jewish mystical trends in the Middle Ages.

Dr. Eitan FishbaneAn important contribution to the scholarly study of mysticism, As Light Before Dawn is also accessible to a broader readership—to students of religious culture, devotional practice, and spiritual creativity. Dr. Fishbane's book explores how this seminal Kabbalistic figure reflected on his own mystical experiences and on the process of spiritual discovery.

Assistant professor in the Department of Jewish Thought at The Jewish Theological Seminary, Dr. Fishbane previously served on the faculties of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles and Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. His research focuses on the history and literature of Jewish mysticism, with a primary specialization in medieval Kabbalah and an active interest in later currents—particularly Hasidic spirituality. His scholarship has been published in a number of prestigious academic journals, including The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy and The Journal of Religion, and has resulted in research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, and the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation.

Dr. Fishbane is presently at work on a new book project, tentatively titled Mystical Drama and Narrative Form: The Literary Craft of the Zohar. This work is a monograph that sets out to chart a new literary approach to the centerpiece of medieval Jewish mysticism. He recently delivered a lecture on this subject at Harvard University, and further research will be presented at an international conference on the Zohar in Italy this month.

In addition, Dr. Fishbane is editing two forthcoming volumes. The first (with coeditors Lawrence Fine and Or Rose), titled Jewish Mysticism and the Spiritual Life: Classical Texts, Contemporary Reflections—Essays in Honor of Arthur Green, is forthcoming from Jewish Lights Publishing. The second volume (with coeditor Jonathan Sarna), Jewish Renaissance and Revival in America: Essays in Memory of Leah Levitz Fishbane, will be published by University Press of New England.

For additional information or to order As Light Before Dawn: The Inner World of a Medieval Kabbalist, please click here.

Advance Praise for As Light Before Dawn:

"Deeply creative scholarship . . . A true delight to students of Kabbalah and meditative practice . . . A model scholarly work." —Arthur Green, Irving Brudnick Professor, Hebrew College

"Eitan Fishbane's As Light Before Dawn is a major contribution both to the study of Jewish mysticism and to the wider world of comparative mystical research . . . Fishbane [shows] impressive command of the sources, penetrating analysis of difficult texts, and a masterly ability to reveal the inner dynamics of Isaac [of Akko's] spiritual teaching." —Bernard McGinn, Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor Emeritus, Divinity School, University of Chicago

" . . . Eitan Fishbane's work is marked by extraordinary erudition, sophisticated methodologies, and a richly textured, nuanced analysis of this important contemplative mystic. This superb book is a distinguished contribution to the study of medieval Jewish mysticism." —Professor Lawrence Fine, Irene Kaplan Leiwant Chair of Jewish Studies, Mt. Holyoke College

"Eitan Fishbane presents a dazzling, erudite analysis of Isaac's writings, exploring his theory and practice of contemplation . . . A superb work of scholarship, sophisticated yet fully accessible." —Daniel Matt, editor and translator of The Zohar: Pritzker Edition