Eugene D. Matanky
PhD Candidate, Tel Aviv University
Piracy, Theft, and Print in Modern Jewish Esotericism
While legends abound concerning earlier kabblistic periods, interestingly, there is no legend concerning the theft of this propietary literature. It is only in the early modern period that we find accounts of theft and potential piracy raised as concerns. This distinction can be traced to the advent of printing technology, which posed a new quantitative challenge for Jewish kabbalists in early modernity—how to safegaurd esoteric knowledge in an age of print? In earlier periods, kabbalah was primarily an oral enterprise.
Even kabbalists who allowed themselves to record their esoteric knowledge, often only wrote coded ideas, which ended with a veiled statement of “the wise will understand.” However, later kabbalists were much more explicit in their formulations and the printing of their tracts would allow unprecedented access to Jewish esoteric knowledge. In this presentation, I will discuss the different strategies employed by various modern kabbalists to prevent such exposure.