Man, Woman, and Serpent: Kabbalah and High Modernity in the Early Writings of Aaron Zeitlin

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This study presents a translation and analysis of Aaron Zeitlin’s 1924 essay, “ Man, froy un shlang ,” published in Illustrirte vokh . The short essay belongs to the neo-kabbalistic phase in Zeitlin’s oeuvre, and is part of the same literary project that includes such compositions as Metatron: Apokaliptishe poeme (1922) and “ Keser: Fragmentn fun a rapsodye ” (1923). At the heart of the essay is Zeitlin’s creative reading of the Garden of Eden narrative which he claims describes the “eternal connection between three related things: Between death, sex, and civilization.” According to Zeitlin’s interpretation of the Genesis
story, which I show to be based on his reading of a Zohar passage, the narrative describes thehuman condition as the fall from unity and stasis (associated with the male) to duality, multiplicity and change (associated with the female). Furthermore, Zeitlin’s short essay contains the key to understanding aspects of his earlier poetry, namely Metatron and its desire to transcend the fluctuations of history, and “ Keser ,” and its desire to transcend phenomenological reality and annihilate time (both associated with the female divine potency
in Kabbalah) as the precondition for the messianic breakthrough. My study also presents a translation of his 1926 poem “ Dokument ,” also concerned with the relationship between geshlekht (sex) and geshikhte (history).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalIn geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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