Mystical and spiritual discourse in the contemporary ashkenazi haredi worlds

Jonathan Garb*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The intensification of mystical and spiritual discourse amongst the Haredim has been largely overlooked by the emerging field of research on contemporary Kabbalah. Drawing on discourse analysis as well as fieldwork, the main schools of contemporary haredi mysticism are described, focusing on three Ashkenazi worlds in Israel: Hasidism, "Lithuanians", and trans-haredi figures. New networks of younger leaders are identified as directing their followers away from standardized forms of generic haredi identity and towards inner-directed spirituality, which enables forms of mystical specialization. This plurality, resulting from dramatic demographic expansion, justifies the claim that scholars should move towards speaking of haredi "worlds". The new leaders, openly addressing the unique needs of this generation, subtly critique accepted mores, as well as phenomena that most Haredim regard as signs of success. Dynamics of continuity and change within haredi spirituality are also discussed, with special emphasis on the effect of the recent influx of newly observant and the dilemma posed by their spiritual background. Contemporary haredi spirituality is thus examined in relation to earlier forms of Jewish mysticism. By way of conclusion, recent developments are positioned in the context of inter-generational processes in the haredi history of the last decades.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)17-36
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Modern Jewish Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2010


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