“For There I, Hayyim, was Living”: R. Hayyim Vital and His World

A Conference Commemorating the 400th Anniversary of his Death (1620-2020)

September 14th-16th, 2020

An online conference, held by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and The Ben Zvi Institute for the Study of Jewish Communities in the East

In commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the death of R. Hayyim Vital (1542-1620), the Goldstein-Goren International Center for Jewish Thought at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the Ben Zvi Institute for the Study of Jewish Communities in the East, and the World Union of Jewish Studies will hold a three-day conference via ZOOM dedicated to Vital and his world.

Vital is known first and foremost as the chief disciple of R. Isaac Luria. Luria himself wrote little; Vital is thus responsible to a large extent for what is now known as “Lurianic Kabbalah.” As a paragon of the sixteenth-century Safed renaissance, many aspects of Jewish life in Palestine and Syria are imbricated in his life and thought in this critical chapter of early modern Jewish history. Alongside his immense and singular contribution to the development of the Kabbalah, the breadth and diversity of Vital’s interests are evident in his rich corpus of writings. These are devoted to a plethora of topics and express the variegated aspects of his activity over many decades in Safed, Jerusalem, and Damascus. The study of Vital’s life and work may thus shed light on many facets of contemporary Ottoman Jewish society.

The fifteen sessions of the conference will cover many aspects of the activity of Vital and his contemporaries, as well as the history of the reception of his intellectual legacy in the modern and early modern periods.

Sessions include:

Safedian Modes of Fashioning Prominent Figures | Crossroads in the Formations of Kabbalistic Knowledge | Vital, Between Cordovero and Luria: A Reappraisal | Vital’s Book of Visions and Its Early and Later Contexts | Safedian Praxis and Its Contexts | Safed Beyond the Text: Reality and Imagination | Metempsychosis and the Fate of the Soul | Vital the Doubtful Messiah | Safed’s Culture of the Book | The Formation of Lurianic Kabbalah Across Regions | From Vilna to Jerusalem: Reading Vital in Modern Times | Vital in a Philosophical Tone

Papers will be delivered in both Hebrew and English

The English papers presented in the conference are the following:

[All times according to Israel Daylight Time (UTC +3)]

Monday 14/9

Session 2 (11:00-12:30): Morris Faierstein (University of Maryland), The Popularization of the Dybbuk in the Seventeenth Century [third speaker in the session]

Session 3 (14:00-15:30): Eugene D. Matanky (Tel Aviv University), Ḥayyim Vital as the Framer of Cordoverean Kabbalah [First speaker in the session]

Session 4: Sefer ha-Hezyonot (Book of Visions): From Ottoman Safed to Modern Vienna (16:00-17:30) chair: Uri Safrai (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Haifa University)

Roni Weinstein (The Hebrew University), The Mystical Diary of Vital: The Sufi-Ottoman Settings

Natan Ophir (Emuna Academic College), R. Hayyim Vital’s Dreams & 16th Century Sufi Dream Diaries

Boaz Huss (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev), Between Safed and Vienna: Chayim Bloch`s 1927 German Translation of Sefer ha-Hezyonot

Tuesday 15/9

Session 5 (09:00-10:30):

John MacMurphy (Universiteit van Amsterdam), Between chymia and Alchemy: Chayim Vital’s Intimate Relationship with Western Occult Praxis [First speaker in the session]

Andrea Gondos (Freie Universität Berlin), Chaining Lilith and Easing Childbirth: Magic and the Dichotomous Feminine in Hayyim Vital‘s Sefer ha-Peulot [Second speaker in the session]

For further inquiries: 400vital@gmail.com.

Academic Committee: Prof. Boaz Huss, Prof. Bracha Sack, Prof. J. H. Chajes, Dr. Hanan Harif, Prof. Ronit Meroz, Prof. Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin. Committee secretary: Dr. Assaf Tamari