Mar 12, 2012
Tom Block spoke on his forthcoming book, "Shalom/Salaam: A Story of a Mystical Fraternity" (Fons Vitae Publisher, Louisville, KY, 2010) , which traces the virtually unknown story of Islamic mystical influence on the development of Jewish mysticism for over 1000 years. Mr. Block's introduced this story, exploring how Jewish thinkers and mystics, from Moses Maimonides (d. 1204) in Egypt to the Kabbalists in Spain (13th century) and the Holy Land (15th century), turned to their Islamic cousins for spiritual inspiration, as well as specific manners of understanding the relationship with the Divine. These medieval Jewish thinkers irrevocably turned Jewish worship, meditation and synagogue practice in the direction of their Islamic cousins. By the 18th century, when the Baal Shem Tov was developing Hasidism in eastern Europe, he was attracted to the same medieval Jewish thinkers who had, in turn, depended so much on Islam for inspiration. Although he didn't realize it, his interest in specific medieval Jewish thinkers and systems of thought continued the "Islamicization" of Jewish worship, an influence which still reverberates through Jewish practice to this day.