Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jewish Mysticism Influenced by Muslim Sufism

Jewish mystics on the Sufi path by Nimet Seker at the Pakistan Christian Post

Jews do not traditionally destroy texts that include the name of God – even when they are no longer needed. Such texts are kept in the synagogue in a special room called the geniza (hiding place in Hebrew). Over 100 years ago, the geniza of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo was opened, and extraordinary things came to light.

The brick room contained works in Arabic and Hebrew by medieval Muslim mystics and pious texts by Jewish writers that were clearly inspired by Sufism.

Many of the texts date from the lifetime of Rabbi Abraham Maimonides (1186–1237), the son of the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides. Rabbi Abraham he-Chassid was the religious and political leader of the Jewish community at the time, and was a significant proponent of a Sufi form of Jewish piety which the Jewish texts call chassidut. The title “he-Chassid” indicates someone pious who follows a spiritual path, similar to that of the Muslim Sufis.

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