Class Insights: The Merkebah

1. Quest structure of the narrative: Jewish heroic literature?

2. Torah referred to as feminine

3. Definite theurgic features: material rewards mentioned, knowledge of Torah, and "many students"

4. One possible aim: recovery or reformulation of Jewish identity after the destruction?

5. Perhaps an origin myth for rabbinic Judaism

6. Perhaps the journey is the Chariot, a metaphor for divine knowledge

7. Through this quest is the divine brought into the material world?

8. G-d does not seem benevolent in this text: why?

9. There doesn't seem to be any clear reason why anyone would want to do this

10. Is the purpose attaining some ultimate truth?

11. Although the text seems to describe the Chariot, in fact it's impossible to imagine it

12. The murkiness of the text increases the sense of awe

13. A contrast with Gnostic texts: once you get past the seven heavens, you're home, no reason to come back. Here, however, the mystic returns.

14. Purpose may be to sing hymns before the divine Throne, not to "see" G-d

15. Interesting that everyone seems to accept at face value that this really happened: no skepticism?

16. For something so dangerous, not a lot of actual detail given. Much assumption of knowledge.

17. Although they have come so far, the mystics don't actually get to see the Creator, or if they do, they don't describe it.

18. Possibly at this time Jews were seeking some assurances that connection with G-d was still possible.

19. Jews have a central place in the maintenance of the cosmos.

20. Ezekiel gets to see the Merkevah but he doesn't have to endure all the dangers and preparation that these folks do.

21. Those who produced this mystical tradition seems to have its own inherent reasons for engaging in these feats, which they don't feel impelled to share with anyone else.

22. There is an emphasis on physical action as well as knowledge of secret names: knowing when to bow down, to enter, and what to say or not to say.

23. Absence of clear purpose is maddening: fear of tradition becoming extinct, cosmos maintenance, way to attain power, connection between divine and human, knowledge that G-d is still bonded with Jews