The Kabbalistic Tree: Parchment Scrolls for Contemplation
with Dr. Yossi Chajes
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Or Zarua is delighted to welcome Dr. Yossi Chajes, Sir Isaac Wolfson Professor of Jewish Thought in the Department of Jewish History at the University of Haifa, for what promises to be a visually and intellectually dynamic presentation. It was an honor for Or Zarua to invest in the Ilanot Project’s groundbreaking work to introduce a new genre of Jewish mystical literature to the world through a magnificent new volume, The Kabbalistic Tree, (Pennsylvania University Press, 2022). For the past decade, Dr. Chajes has directed the Ilanot Project, an ambitious and unprecedented attempt to research the history of kabbalistic diagrams and the ilanot genre in particular. Dr. Chajes’s pioneering work has been awarded four consecutive Israel Science Foundation personal research grants, three ISF research seminar grants, an ISF book subvention award, and the 2014 Friedenberg Prize for the outstanding ISF-funded project in the humanities. Dr. Chajes has been awarded two consecutive grants by the German Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony/Volkswagen Foundation to partner with the digital humanities lab at the University of Göttingen to build a platform for the research and presentation of critical editions of ilanot online: Maps of God.
Professor Chajes’s talk will introduce the genre of “ilanot” (trees), striking parchment rolls devoted to visualizations of kabbalistic lore that have been created and used by kabbalists since the fourteenth century for study and contemplation. These divinity maps were made wherever there were kabbalists throughout the Jewish world. Each has a unique story; individually and collectively they offer new perspectives on the ways in which Jews visualized knowledge, assimilated diverse traditions, and interacted with contemporary cultures. Chajes’s The Kabbalistic Tree (PSUP, 2022) is the first ever study of this practical expression of Kabbalah, about which he is the preeminent authority.