Moshe Idel (Hebrew: משה אידל) is a Romanian born historian and philosopher of Jewish mysticism. He is Emeritus Max Cooper Professor in Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and a Senior Researcher at the Shalom Hartman Institute.
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Born in Târgu Neamț, Romania, in 1947, Idel was a precocious child, with a passion for reading which made him read all the books in the town, cooperative, then High school Library, in addition to buying more books with the money earned by singing at weddings. Although the Holocaust did not directly affect the Jewish population of Târgu Neamț, they were affected by the so-called “population displacements”. In 1963 he immigrated with his family to Israel.
Enrolled at the Hebrew University, he studied under Gershom Scholem. After earning his doctorate with a thesis on Abraham Abulafia, he eventually succeeded Scholem to the chair of Jewish Thought. He has served as visiting Professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, UCLA, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania and the Collège de France.
Idel has undertaken a systematic revision of the history and analysis of Jewish mysticism. His explorations of the mythical, theurgical, mystical, and messianic dimensions of Judaism have been attentive to history, sociology, and anthropology, while rejecting a naïve historicist approach to Judaism. His 1988 work, Kabbalah: New Perspectives (Yale University Press), is said to have revolutionised Kabbalah studies. His historical and phenomenological studies of rabbinic, philosophic, kabbalistic, and Hasidic texts have transformed the understanding of Jewish intellectual history and highlighted the close relationship between magic, mysticism, and liturgy.
In 1999, Idel was awarded the Israel Prize for excellent achievement in the field of Jewish philosophy, and in 2002 the EMET Prize for Jewish Thought. In 2003, he received the Koret Award for Jewish philosophy for his book Absorbing Perfections. He has been conferred honorary doctorates by the universities of Yale, Budapest, Haifa, Cluj, Iasi and Bucharest.
The following is a list of Idel’s publications in English.