Academic Year 2012-2013
Avishai Bar-Asher is currently writing his PhD at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Concepts of Paradise in 13th Century Kabbalah (Castile). He is also awarded a Doctoral Scholarship by the PhD Honors Program in the Humanities, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
He holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Philosophy and Judaic Studies from Hebrew University. His graduate thesis dealt with the integration of an interpretative methodology and the plentiful Hanhagot and Tiqqunim [=instructions & Rectifications] literature that was developed in later Kabbalah.
Avishai is married to Miki and father to Nehora. Alongside his academic work, he is a member of the Hoffmann leadership fellowship for Ph.D students in HU, and a coordinator of interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Jews in Israel-Palestine.
Utopian Realms – Paradisal Legislature
My research focuses on a formative stage of Kabbalah in late 13th Century Iberian Peninsula. I analyze concepts of Paradise from the literature being discussed, theories made up of concepts such as, theory of the Soul, the Reward and Punishment system, Prophetology, Revelation theory, Theosophy and Eschatology of an individual etc. Through this research I take a particular interest in the emergence of Garden of Eden concepts in Castile during this fascinating period. Among others, I discuss the emergence of this lore, through the Castilian Jewish mystics, in the Kabbalistic magnum opus, The Zohar (The Book of Splendor).
Legal discourses have long sought to discern societal patterns, methodically actualizing the realms of jurisprudence and legislation for the common good. In this sense, legislation is the stuff of imagination, that perennially shifts from the stage of ideas, towards its formulation in rules and regulations. It comprises the instability of human beings; their changing visions and behavioral patterns; competing or parallel narratives; and an array of other factors, and seeks to create viable and stable societies. Naturally, multiple discourses come into play, not least those of utopic narratives which have long served to bind together legislative norms and expectations. And yet, it is the role of the Law to draw realistic, yet idealistic, associations between imagination and activity. My research will draw precisely on the interplay between human imaginings of paradise – and how theoretically these are actualized by the Law.