Jewish Customs of Kabbalistic Origin: Their History and Practice

Jewish Customs of Kabbalistic Origin: Their History and Practice


Morris Faierstein

Series: Emunot: Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah
ISBN: 9781618112521 (hardcover)
Pages: 275 pp.
Publication Date: July 2013

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Jewish religious practice was transformed by the Kabbalists of Safed in the sixteenth century. They brought new meaning and importance to many biblical and rabbinic commandments and created new rituals that have become central practices for Jews of all denominations. This volume describes the origins of these traditions and explains the mystical meaning of these specific practices and rituals. Some of these innovations include: Kabbalat Shabbat, inviting the Ushpizin to the Sukkah, Tikkun Leyl Shavuot, and visitation to the grave of Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai on Lag Be-Omer. This volume is written in a style accessible to the non-specialist in Kabbalah and the Jewishly knowledgeable general reader.

Morris Faierstein (PhD Temple University) is an independent scholar and speaker. His previous books include All is in the Hands of Heaven: The Teachings of Rabbi Mordecai Joseph of Izbica (1989, revised edition, 2005); Jewish Mystical Autobiographies: Book of Visions and Book of Secrets (1999); and Sefer ha-Hezyonot: Yomano shel R. Hayyim Vital (2005).

Dr. Faierstein’s book is long awaited. There are many books on Jewish customs, but none in English that specifically addresses customs that are kabbalistic in origin. Their impact on all aspects of Jewish religious life and culture has been profound. This important volume is the first in English to collect and explain the origins, meaning, and symbolism of these customs. It is a work of great erudition, yet presents this material in a way that is accessible for a wider audience.
— Zeev Gries, David Berg and Family Professor of East European Jewish History, Ben-Gurion University
Over the past 35 years, Morris Faierstein has created a body of work that is among the most varied and impressive among contemporary scholars of Jewish life. His oeuvre extends from mysticism to Yiddish poetry, from refined thought to popular registers of practice. Among students of early Yiddish, Faierstein is unique in his mastery of the religious sources. The current book on kabbalistic customs is a signal contribution to the study of popular religion, and shows how pervasive (and early) the influence of Kabbalah was on early modern Jewish life. The book is informed by a deep scholarship, yet it manages to be gloriously accessible —written in the clear and concise style that Faierstein is known for. This book should find a wide and enthusiastic audience.
— Elliot K. Ginsbur, Professor of Jewish Thought and Mysticism at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor
Rabbi Faierstein’s book is a fascinating collection of kabbalistic customs which are practiced today in many Jewish quarters.
— Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins, JewishMediaReview
Very highly recommended for academic library Judaic Studies reference collections, Jewish Customs of Kabbalistic Origin: Their Origin and Practice is so exceptionally well-written and presented that it would be completely accessible to non-specialist general readers with an interest in the Kabbalah.
— Wisconsin Bookwatch (The Midwest Book Review), February 2014

Table of Contents


I. Synagogue Customs
II. Prayer and Ritual

Zizit and Talit
I. Tying the Zizit
II. The Talit
III. The Talit and the SynagogueTefillin
I. Customs Stemming from Diff erences of Opinions
II. Kabbalistic Innovations
III. Customs Relating to Donning the Tefi llin

I. Berikh Shemei: A Tehinnah Recited When Taking out the Torah
II. Birkhat Ha-Mazon (Grace after Meals)
III. Birkat Kohanim
IV. Le-Shem Yihud
V. Modeh Ani
VI. Psalms during the High Holiday Season
VII. Reading the Chapter of the Nesi’im during the First Twelve Days of Nisan

The Eve of the Sabbath
I. Preparations for the Sabbath
II. Additional Prayers on the Eve of the Sabbath

Sabbath Evening / Friday Night
I. Lighting the Sabbath Candles
II. The Friday Night Prayer Service / Kabbalat Shabbat
III. The Friday Night Meal Preliminaries
IV. Kiddush
V. The Friday Night Meal
VI. The End of the Meal

The Sabbath Day
I. The Sabbath Morning
II. Sabbath Mincha
III. Seudah Shlishit
IV. The Conclusion of the Sabbath
V. Havdalah

I. Lulav and Etrog
II. Ushpizin [Guests in the Sukkah]
III. Hoshana Rabba
IV. Hakafot on Simhat Torah

I. Tu B’Shevat
II. Counting the Omer
III. Lag ba-Omer

I. Tikkun Leyl Shavuot
II. Tikkun Hazot
III. Tikkun for the Night of the Seventh Day of Passover
IV. Tikkun for Erev Rosh Hodesh
V. Tikkun Leyl Hoshanah Rabba

APPENDIX. “God’s Need for the Commandments” in Medieval Kabbalah

Index of Citations