Body of Land

In "escstatic" mysticism, the Land of Israel is a metaphor for the human body.

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Wherever a Jew Goes…

Like Abulafia before him, R. Isaac of Acre uses a pun on the word eretz, which means both land and earth; by changing "land," as mentioned in the dictum, into "earth," which is taken to signify the human body, he transfers the focus of the discussion from the geographical-national level to the in­dividual one. The Land of Israel thereby loses its geographical centrality of the theosophical kabbalah, so that its national and, eventually, its mes­sianic role, is neutralized by its transformation into a metaphor of the hu­man body. According to R. Isaac, the Land of Israel exists wherever a Jew goes; in Abulafia's view, the body of any person who is worthy to receive a prophetic inspiration may be considered as a "Land of Israel."

At least from the phenomenological point of view, the views of these two kabbalists may be considered as the precursors of attitudes which flour­ished much later in the Hasidic literature (18th century). Some Hasidic masters considered the place where they established their court as the "Land of Israel," an assertion closely related to their emphasis on the possibility of individual salvation, which (for them) is independent of both the Mes­siah and the actual geographical Land of Israel.

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Moshe Idel

Moshe Idel is Professor of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and one of the foremost contemporary experts on kabbalah.