Haskalah and Esotericism: The Strange Case of Elyakim Getzel Hamilzahgi (1780-1854)

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The Haskalah, or "Jewish Enlightenment," is often considered to be a secularizing trend within modern European Judaism. Yet as recent studies have begun to show, this characterization ignores the Romantic and religious attitudes of many Haskalah authors (maskilim). This article reassesses the Haskalah's relationship to esotericism and Kabbalah by analyzing the life and work of Elyakim Getzel Hamilzahgi (1780-1854), a Galician maskil with a deep commitment to Kabbalistic study. Hamilzahgi's pioneering textual criticism of Kabbalistic texts, particularly the Zohar, countered the attitudes of Western European scholars and Eastern European Hasidim alike. His scholarship aimed to purify Kabbalah from corruption and to render it a source for a renewal of Jewish religious culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-187
Number of pages35
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Eastern Europe
  • Enlightenment
  • Haskalah
  • Jewish Mysticism
  • Kabbalah
  • esotericism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy


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