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The Impossibility of Mourning: Zoharic Thoughts on the Interminability of Tisha b’Av

Dr. Nathaniel Berman / August 7, 2020

“From the day the Temple was destroyed…” – with this phrase, Jewish tradition repeatedly insists that the Temple’s destruction irreparably damaged the cosmos, even the divine itself. We commemorate Tisha B’Av with many of the customs of mourning in our personal lives. Why can we not ever complete this mourning? Do we ever complete mourning in our personal lives? We will study some texts from the kabbalistic masterpiece, the Zohar, on what Tisha B’Av can teach us about mourning … and vice versa.


Dr. Nathaniel Berman

Nathaniel Berman holds the Rahel Varnhagen Chair at Brown University, where he teaches in the Religious Studies Department. Nathaniel’s writing and teaching span a number of disciplines. As a legal historian, his work has focused on the modern construction of the “nation” and “religion” in tandem with the “international.” He is the author of, among many other publications, Passion and Ambivalence: Nationalism, Colonialism, and International Law (Brill 2011). In Jewish Studies, his work has focused on classical kabbalah, particularly the Zohar. He has taught widely in this field in the New York area, as well as at Brown. His book, Divine and Demonic in the Poetic Mythology of the Zohar: The “Other Side” of Kabbalah, will be published this year by Brill. Nathaniel holds a J.D. from Harvard and a PhD in Jewish Studies from University College London.


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