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Rare audio of a Gershom Scholem lecture (1975)

June 1, 2012

Alan Brill writes about audio from a Gershom Scholem lecture from 1975.  It was news to me, and is, to the best of my knowledge, the only audio freely available on the Web from Scholem.

It is thrilling to hear Scholem’s voice, but it is a busy day for me, so I only listened to a few minutes and I cannot speak to the entire recording.  Here are some excerpts from Alan’s description (go to his post for more details):

This lecture was delivered at the Panarion conference, 1975, an annul Jungian conference held in Los Angeles.[…] The topic was the Tzelem- the astral body.[…] One gets a good sense of Scholem in the 90 minutes.

He opens with […] two interesting autobiographical statements. First, that research into kabbalah is research into the hidden recesses of the mind. Second, that Scholem in his turn to kabbalah was searching beyond the Talmud. It is interesting that even after 60 years in Israel his accent is still entirely German even when pronouncing Hebrew..[…]

Now to the lecture itself, which Scholem claimed was really two lecture. The first half of the lecture on the personal confrontation with the soul and the second half on Tzelem. One sees how much Scholem was interested in psychological explanations.[…]

Here is a comment on Alan’s post from Alan Jay Weisbard:

Alan, I think I may have been in attendance at that lecture, or perhaps a similar one given a year or two prior at B.U. While my field was not Jewish studies, I had spent time in Israel by then and done a fair amount of reading of Judaica, including a number of Scholem’s essays on various topics. I certainly knew of his stature as a scholar and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to be in his presence.

As I remember, the (large) lecture hall was packed, and it was very difficult to hear Scholem clearly, particularly with his strong accent and the frequency of terms from a variety of languages. To be honest, I found the lecture somewhere between impenetrable and incomprehensible, as did my wife, who had been a graduate student in Jewish History at Harvard (and for a year at Hebrew U.) and had German and far better Hebrew than I. There have been very few lectures in my career as an academic that I understood less well.

Oh well.

I’ve done considerably better with Scholem’s published work in English translation.

I am curious how Scholem’s students found him as a teacher (as distinct from a scholar), and how Israelis did with his public lectures in Hebrew.

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