Senior Fellow: July–August 2016, July–August 2017, and July–August 2019
Research Project: Dream Enquiry: Theory and Praxis of Dreaming in Medieval and Early Modern Judaism
Yuval Harari will work on a chapter of his planned book about a branch of Jewish magic dealing with practices for manipulating dreams. The primary sources for his research are Jewish manuscripts of magic and practical Kabbalah, in which practices of dream magic are explicit and abundant. He will also consider and include Halakhic, Kabbalistic, and narrative sources. Both dreams and magic undermine the borderlines of nature and society and are in conflict with ‘rational’ interpretations of the human experience. Despite engendering scepticism and ridicule, they retained a strong hold on Jewish communities, both East and West. ‘Dream enquiry,’ which seems to have been a prevalent practice in the medieval and early modern periods, is an especially interesting test case for this debate. Dream request, or better, dream enquiry, is the most common pattern of magic dream divination in Jewish culture. The most significant source for understanding this practice, the worldview in which it was anchored, and the criticism and disdain it raised, are the dozens of recipes for dream enquiry scattered in the broad and yet unexplored corpus of Jewish manuscripts of magic and practical Kabbalah from the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Yuval Harari’s research will focus first and foremost on this corpus, aiming at a comprehensive survey of the phenomenon and its place in Jewish thought and action.
Yuval Harari teaches Jewish thought and folklore at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.