Finalist in the 2021 National Jewish Book Awards, Scholarship category, sponsored by the Jewish Book Council.
A magisterial, modern reading of the deepest mysteries in the Kabbalistic tradition.
Seekers of the Face opens the profound treasure house at the heart of Judaism's most important mystical work: the Idra Rabba (Great Gathering) of the Zohar. This is the story of the Great Assembly of mystics called to order by the master teacher and hero of the Zohar, Rabbi Shim'on bar Yochai, to align the divine faces and to heal Jewish religion. The Idra Rabba demands a radical expansion of the religious worldview, as it reveals God's faces and bodies in daring, anthropomorphic language.
For the first time, Melila Hellner-Eshed makes this challenging, esoteric masterpiece meaningful for everyday readers. Hellner-Eshed expertly unpacks the Idra Rabba's rich grounding in tradition, its probing of hidden layers of consciousness and the psyche, and its striking, sacred images of the divine face. Leading readers of the Zohar on a transformative adventure in mystical experience, Seekers of the Face allows us to hear anew the Idra Rabba's bold call to heal and align the living faces of God.
About the author
Melila Hellner-Eshed has been a Professor of Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and is Senior Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. She is the author of A River Flows from Eden: The Language of Mystical Experience in the Zohar (Stanford, 2009).
"Melila Hellner-Eshed's deep grasp of some of the most complicated and elusive parts of the zoharic literature is palpable and highly impressive, matched by her ability to convey the striking wisdom of the Idra Rabba in a wonderfully lucid, engaging, and evocative manner. Her love for the Zohar is contagious."
—Eitan P. Fishbane, The Jewish Theological Seminary, author ofThe Art of Mystical Narrative: A Poetics of the Zohar
"Having read this book, I know that I will never read the Zohar in the same way again. All students of Kabbalah will come to view Seekers of the Face as a prerequisite, with its unique and innovative synthesis of the Jewish tradition, Jungian theory, mysticism, and feminist thought."
—Pinchas Giller, American Jewish University, author of Kabbalah: A Guide for the Perplexed
"The Zohar is the masterpiece of Jewish mysticism, and one of its greatest narratives is the Idra Rabba. For seven centuries, this intricate tale has perplexed readers—but now Melila Hellner-Eshed, a brilliant Israeli scholar of Kabbalah, has decoded the Idra Rabba, revealing its deepest secret: how God needs us."
—Daniel Matt, translator of The Zohar: Pritzker Edition
"The personal way that Hellner-Eshed connects with her subject and draws her readers into this astonishing realm makesSeekers of the Faceparticularly captivating... By means of her sensitive and methodical approach, Hellner-Eshed has made accessible one of the most difficult and abstruse medieval Jewish texts. Written for a general readership but replete with invaluable insights and wide-ranging references to the contemporary scholarship on her subject,Seekers of the Faceis well worth reading by any and all."
—Mark Verman, H-Judaic