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International Conference on R. Hayyim Vital Sept 14-16, 2020

Readers of The Times of Israel might be interested in knowing that next week, Sept. 14-16, 2020, an international Zoom conference will be held entitled R. Hayyim Vital and His World. It is free and open to the public. For more details see Never before have so many outstanding scholars come together on Zoom to discuss Safed Kabbalah. I’m privileged to be a presenter at the Sept. 14 session at 16:30. My topic is “R. Hayyim Vital’s Dreams & 16th Century Sufi Dream Diaries”. Below is my abstract:

Hayyim Vital’s dream diary, Sefer HaHezyonot, is unique in the annals of Jewish ego documents[1] with its distinctive messages and colorful fairy tale dreams. However, academic research has not yet analyzed Vital’s dreams as part of the Islamic cultural setting of dream divination in the 16th century. Islamic dreamers practiced “lucid dreaming” and distinguished between Divinely inspired dreams as opposed to adghath al-ahlam (jumbled dreams) and those “sent by Satan”. Some Sufis published tarjamat al-nafs (autobiographical) dream diaries to prove pneumatic revelations and justify crucial life decisions. For example, the dream autobiography of Egyptian Sufi Abd al-Wahhāb al-Sha‘rānī (1492-1565) expressed such dreams. Vital’s dream diary seemingly served a similar purpose to that of his Sufi contemporaries. His revelatory dreams justified crucial life decisions and demonstrated his elevated status, granting him spiritual authority over his rivals and predecessors. In this talk, I’ll analyze sample dreams of Vital and compare them to those described by his Sufi contemporaries. It is anticipated that such comparisons can shed new light on the purposes of Sefer HaHezyonot and explain Vital’s premise that correct dream methods enable pneumatic insights and personal Divine guidance.

[1] The term ‘egodocument’ refers to autobiographical writing, such as memoirs, diaries, letters and travel accounts. The term was coined around 1955 by the historian Jacques Presser, who defined egodocuments as writings in which the ‘I’, the writer, is continuously present in the text as the writing and describing subject.

About the Author
Born in Philadelphia, I came on Aliyah after graduating Yeshiva University and studied 7 years at Yeshivat Mercaz Harav Kook where I received Rabbinical ordination. I then received my PhD in Jewish Philosophy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where I served as campus Rabbi for 16 years. My specialty is in researching Jewish meditation in the light of neuropsychology. Recently I published two academic books about Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.
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