Ron Margolin: Inner Religion in Jewish Sources: A Phenomenology of Inner Religious Life and Its Manifestation from the Bible to Hasidic Texts

Inner Religion in Jewish Sources: A Phenomenology of Inner Religious Life and Its Manifestation from the Bible to Hasidic Texts Couverture du livre Inner Religion in Jewish Sources: A Phenomenology of Inner Religious Life and Its Manifestation from the Bible to Hasidic Texts
Emunot: Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah
Ron Margolin. Translated by Edward Levin
Academic Studies Press

Reviewed by: Yutong Li (Hoger Instituut voor Wijsbegeerte, KU Leuven)

Inner Religion in Jewish Sources: A Phenomenology of Inner Religious Life and Its Manifestation from the Bible to Hasidic Texts, trans. Eduard Levin, Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2021 (shortened as Inner Religion hereafter), presented before us by Professor Ron Margolin, is an informative handbook with abounding materials. The thesis Margolin offers to defend is a simple one, and he defends it through this hefty book of 600 pages. The thesis is, despite criticisms issued from other religious or secular groups, Judaism is a tradition that holds a high regard for the interior, intrinsic, or immanent features of religious consciousness. Put in other words, the Jewish people’s observing of the commandments or of maintaining the love for God, is not triggered by fear, nor motivated by outer purposes (physical, social, political, etc.). Their piety results from inner experiences and aspires after inner goals, e.g., the cultivation of their own souls.

To defend this religious thesis, however, Margolin treads the detour of phenomenology. On the one hand, it is a natural choice, since this philosophical tradition lays its emphasis on reduction, givenness, consciousness, and so on, prioritizing subjective experiences to objective validities. On the other hand, nonetheless, Margolin disagrees with the majority of the phenomenologists of religion and theology: van der Leeuw, Levinas, Chrétien, among others. This independent spirit, which, by the way, surpasses the scope of phenomenology and also applies itself to the domain of the research of Jewish mysticism (whose forerunners, above all Gershom Scholem and Idel Moshe, become the targets of sober criticism in many places of Inner Religion), is one of the features that render this book a good read. There are deficiencies, indeed, as will be addressed at the end of the review, but they will by no means prevent readers from appreciating the meticulous interpretative efforts Margolin dedicates to the defending of whatever he tries to defend.

In this article, I will first go over the key concepts (inner, interiority, interiorization) and, second, three of the instantiations (ritual, conceptual, and experiential interiorization) of inner religion. The length of my review will prevent me from reproducing the material abundance waiting for readers in Margolin’s work, but this needs not to be done, due to the nature of the monograph (a handbook, as mentioned in the beginning): instead of arguments piling up on one another, the book, an anthology, rather, consists of a singular overarching principle applied to a variety of literatures. Thirdly, I will comment on the methodology adopted in this book in general (phenomenology and others). At last, as predicted, I will raise a critical remark that concerns in particular the problem of history, which, I believe, is not treated as a problem per se, despite the historical appearance of the work (it is, after all, a commentary on materials from the Bible to Hasidic texts).

Before we start the thematic discussions, however, I should notify the readers of one underlying attitude of this review article. Given the nature of the journal, I will focus primarily on the phenomenological part of Inner Religion, although it occupies a somewhat marginal place in the book. One should not fail to notice that this monograph pertains, to a larger extent, to the studies of Jewish religion and theology. Its central mission, as just mentioned, consists in the apologetics for the Judaic religion, instead of working out an elaborate systematics of phenomenology. It goes without saying that the abundance of sources from the Jewish background does not at all obstruct the phenomenological potentials of the study, but, on the contrary, opens up a new perspective for philosophy. However, this pre-emptive reminder is still needed for the purpose of helping the readers establish a fitting attitude toward Inner Religion: To be found within is, I repeat, not architectonics composed of Husserlian or Heideggerian jargons, but an applied phenomenology that mobilizes the fundamental methods or conceptual framework in the field of religion.

Ambiguity of the term inner

The most crucial term of Inner Religion, is, naturally, “inner”. The Hebrew language has several terms that connotes what Margolin means by it. A metaphorical and hence the most straightforward one is the word lev [heart] (35), but the same idea can be expressed by more theoretical or epistemological jargons, whose exemplar specimen is the word Kavanah [intent] (36-37). This concept connotes proactive planning (87) or attentiveness (89).

A spacial metaphor itself, the equivocal notion “inner” harbors a leeway of interpretation. There are several options that appear thematically or unthematically throughout Inner Religion. First, inner as mental or psychological, as opposed to somatic or physical; one practices belief for the good of her soul, not to strengthen her body. Second, inner as subjective or self, as opposed to objective or others. Third, inner as private, as opposed to public; faith is best tested when one is isolated from the crowd. Fourth, inner as inherent, as opposed to instrumental; religion should be intrinsically good, not a tool to seek respect or other social benefits. Fifth, inner as immanent, as opposed to transcendent; God is dwelling in men’s souls, so there is no need to search for Him outside of oneself, a credo reminiscent of St. Augustine’s teaching. Granted, these understandings of the term « inner » partially overlap with one another. For example, mental, subjective/self, and private are used quite interchangeably by the author in the introductory chapter. But they have different connotations with regard to their oppositions.

Margolin does not intent to categorically distinguish these multiple significations, but he knows how to discern the inner he wants in numerous religious phenomena: “most importantly, this book will focus on practices that the religious individual perceives as means to stand before, or to make contact with, the divine” (13). Where certain events or testimonies attest to one’s—immanent—direct union with the divine, there is inner religion. Two remarks to be made here. First, the innerness Margolin has in mind presents itself, paradoxically, in transcendent or ecstatic experiences. Second, this transcendence is nevertheless not referring to anything really exterior, outside of one’s soul or consciousness, but precisely manifested within interiority. In other words, special attention will be given to the experience of union with divinity, but it is a transcending union as perceived by the mind of an individual: a transcendence from the point of view of immanence.


Margolin, however, does not let this overtly reductive approach develop into a full-blown annulment of the demarcation between the inner and outer. Indeed, the insistence on the distinction between, i.e., the claim that all interiority does not correspond with an outer expression, is what distinguishes Margolin from other phenomenologists. This gives rise to a difficulty, namely whether there is an enclosed domain of interiority, a private spiritual sphere absolutely insulated from outer influences, forming an empire within an empire.

The tendency to espouse this substantial reading, proposing a static, fixed, or idealistic conception of men’s interiority, is an attitude not unlike that of the phenomenological eidetic method in early Husserl. Nevertheless, Margolin does point out yet another way to talk about the inner, which assists to avert the criticism. Instead of substantiating an interiority, he mentions the term « interiorization », referring to “the process of change that occurs within a given religious culture, when the center of attention is shifted from the ‘objective world’ of nature or myth to the ‘subjective world’ of the individual’s psyche” (15). The wording “center of attention” here echoes on another plane the author’s phenomenological method: inner religion proposes a change in attitude, not an ontological claim about some self-sufficient inner space. The outer perception is not simply cancelled out in favor of the inner, but rather regarded as an achievement, a constitution of it. To be more precise, the religious texts that pertain to outer qualities can be (re-)interpreted as metaphorical language that, at the end of the day, alludes back to the inner ones. As Margolin notes down: “The term ‘interiorization’ presumes a transition from outer to inner perception, but the assumed existence of a developmental transition does not necessarily mean the prevalence of inner perception. Often, both perceptions continue to coexist.” (15)

Three kinds of interiorization

The body of Inner Religion is carried out in three parts, each explicating on one or several possible forms of interiorization: ritual, experiential, and conceptual, existential, and epistemological interiorization. Since the space here is limited, I will focus on the first three of these possibilities: ritual interiorization, conceptual interiorization, and experiential interiorization.

First, in line with the author, I start with the rituals, and I believe there is a reason for doing so. The author can best demonstrate his claim if even in rituals, often believed to be social and public events, there can be found elements of inner religion. Second, I single out what is called « conceptual interiorization » because Margolin considers this idea as one of his contributions to the discussion of inner religion. Third, I reverse the order of experiential and conceptual interiorization, because it is in the former that Margolin’s polemical tone reaches a high point, which allows us to more easily situate the author in the traditions both of phenomenology and of the studies of Jewish mysticism.

Ritual interiorization

The technical term « interiorization » mentioned above first manifests itself in the phenomena of ritual and customs. Due to their public features, the practices of rituals and customs permit at the outset no enclosed domain of interiority, but an interplay between the outer and the inner. Or to be more precise: public and exterior in the first place, religious rituals have nevertheless the potential to let their participants focus back on themselves, on the well-being of their souls, instead of that of the bodies that are actually carrying rituals out.

In the beginning of the chapter in question, “Ritual Interiorization and Intent for Commandments”, Margolin invokes an understanding of rituals opposite to his own. In this view, ritual is defined as “a category of standardized behavior (custom) in which the relationship between the means and the end is not ‘intrinsic’, i.e. is either irrational or non-rational” (proposed by Jack Goody, quoted in Inner Religion, 61; emphasis mine) This definition hinges on a merely extrinsic relation “between the means and the end”. We now will see how Margolin argues for the contrary with the aid of Jewish sources. There are several steps in ritual interiorization, as can be seen in the formalization of rites, a process that dates back to the Scripture, and through the prophets and rabbis, reaches its pinnacle in the mystics and Hasidim.

The first step is the replacement of rituals that are more demanding or cruel with ones less so. The Torah already initiates a nascent form of ritual interiorization, which is especially patent in the story of the Binding of Isaac. It is a well-known tale: God demands Abraham to sacrifice Issac, but in the last moment, when Abraham was raising his knife and ready to kill his only son, God sends him a ram, instructing him to perform an animal sacrifice instead. The sanguinary rite is preserved, but, at least from an anthropocentric point of view, it becomes more humane. In line with Martin Buber, Margolin interprets this episode as a demonstration that “God wants the intent and not the actual act” (82) The actual, material, actions being carried out or not, it is men’s sincerity and good faith that count.

The history has seen the intensification of the figure of Abraham, who gradually becomes a figure that not only embodies a sincere intent, but, through his love alone, had fulfilled the entire Torah even before God gave it to human beings. This can be read in, for example, in  R. Menahem Mendel, a grand-disciple of Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism: “with a single attribute, namely, love, he fulfilled the entire Torah” (quoted in Inner Religion, 151). The Hasidim “attack the rabbinic formalistic conceptions, which assume that the commandments do not require intent, by imparting inner content to the halakhah” (156), manage to fulfill the incipient tendency of interiorization in the Bible. Hasidism, with its disobedient attitude, exploits ritual interiorization to an unprecedented degree. Here, rituals become a method to intensify the experiential dimension, without eliminating the social, public, objective elements of religion, only aiming to refer therefrom back to its men’s soul: “The method of ritual interiorization adopted by the early Hasidic masters maintained the external religious ritual while infusing the fulfillment of the commandments with inner meaning.” (156) The consequence of this method is twofold: the outer forms are retained, but transformed, e.g., from the original human sacrifices to prayers in the end, and it is now permeated with subjective significance, with intent.

Conceptual interiorization

Margolin offers a special treatment to the phenomenon of “conceptual interiorization”, regarding it as an independent category that, in his opinion, shares the same right with “epistemological interiorizations, existential challenges of religious life, inward focusings” (276).

The particularity about conceptual interiorization is that it establishes an inner religion not through religious or in particular mystic experiences, but via the mediation of the interpretation of statements or concepts in religious texts. (In fact, I would go one step forward and describe this practice as “interiorization through interpretations”, not just through conceptualization). By this conceptual labor, it transforms “sanctified myths, laws, and narratives in the conceptual formulations that mainly emphasize the inner meanings relevant to every person” (276).

Margolin begins to elaborate conceptual interiorization by quoting Nachmanides’s commentary on one passage in Book of Deuteronomy, which is translated in English as: “Do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you…” (Deut. 6:18; Inner Religion, 277) Nachmanides’s exegesis goes like this: “Also when He did not command you, think to do what is good and right in His sight, for He loves what is good and right.” (Inner Religion, 277) In Margolin’s reading, this interpretation expends the original semantics of the biblical statement in a way that favors inner faithfulness to merely exterior or instrumental observations of the commandments. The hinge of Nachmanides’s explanation lies in the phrase “do what is right and good”. Similar wordings can be found, e.g., in Psalms, “Do good, O Lord, to the good, to the upright in heart” (Ps. 125:4; Inner Religion, 277; emphasis mine). In Rabbinic teachings, “‘Do what is right and good’—this refers to a compromise, acting beyond the strict demands of the law⁠1. We should then be able to notice that, by drawing associations between the biblical passages and rabbis’ teachings, Nachmanides harvests an inner reading of the Law, a reading that instructs people to act well even in the absence of laws and commandments (“Also when He did not command you…”).

Experiential interiorization

However, although Margolin esteems the conceptual approach to interiorization as an independent form of inner religion, he does not fail to point out that there is an antagonistic, i.e., non-conceptual method, which is as legitimate as those immanent interpretations. In fact, the chapters about the non-conceptual or non-verbal interiorization, that is, about “paranormal experiences” and “introspective contemplation and inward focusing” (chapter 2 and 3), antecede the one that evolves around the conceptual counterpart (chapter 4). I invert the sequence in the review article on purpose to, I hope, show that Margolin’s own emphasis lies on the former. If language, concepts, and interpretations should indeed have their fair share in the Jewish inner religion, they can nonetheless never eclipse the pre-linguistic or pre-predicative religious experience.

The discussion of experiential interiorization, instantiate by contemplation and inward focusing, appears in the middle of a scholarly debate as to how to interpret the ecstatic experience documented in the Heikhalot literature (233-234). Pioneers in this field of research, above all Gershom Scholem and Idel Moshe, have set the keynote: this experience reflects a “mystic ascent” (233) that leads one away from oneself. Margolin, however, chooses to side with the opposite interpretation, as proposed by Rabbi Hai Gaon, which tones down the exterior or self-alienating dimension of ecstatic experience but emphasizes its immanent character: those who experience ecstasy do not depart from the body, but have visions precisely “in the chambers of their hearts”. (235) As Margolin puts it: “‘Ascent to Heaven’ is therefore an expression of an inner experience of the consciousness of a fierce inner sensation of ascent and detachment from the body; but we need not assign it a meaning of changed outer, spatial location.” (237)

That being said, it is worth noticing that the pre-linguistic and inner faithfulness is, once again, registered in a linguistic or ritual practice: the reciting of the prayers. Therefore, this particular religious practice brings  the three kinds of interiorization together. Prayer is a ritual; it is linguistic (and therefore open to interpretation); and it, as just said, elicits experience. The discussion of prayer is scattered over multiple chapters and sections in the book. It appears first when the author is handling the issue of intent and rituals (chapter 1), returns when he talks about inward focusing (chapter 2), and emerges again in the end where he critically situates himself within the tradition of phenomenology (Afterword). Moreover, prayers should be distinguished in different kinds. Scholars have proposed diverse distinctions (for example, see the discussion on p.91-95), but Margolin chooses to draw it by—like everywhere else in the book—the scale of interiority: There are outer prayers, and there are inner prayers. This particular dichotomy incarnates his problems within the phenomenological tradition.

Apparently, Margolin regards this distinction as significant, since he, after all the discussions of the body, comes back to it in the afterword. The discussion of prayers, the distinction between inner and outer prayer, also allows Margolin to situate himself, albeit in a critical manner, within the phenomenological tradition. He contrasts his own idea with that of a French phenomenologist of religion, Jean-Louis Chrétien, whom the author of Inner Religion accuses of “not distinguish[ing] between different types of prayer, focusing rather on what he sees as the fundamental element common to all prayers: standing before the transcendental Thou.” (519) The same fault is registered in an earlier phenomenologist, Emmanuel Levinas, who is, according to Margolin, still too obsessed with the transcendent Otherness likewise. (518)

Immediately after the polemic, Margolin reasserts the existence of two, not merely one, kinds of prayers. He defines them as such: Outer prayer is that which is “directed to the transcendent Thou who stands opposite him, for the fulfilling of his [the reciter of the prayer] desires”, while inner prayer is represented in “an act of self-negation or negation of the consciousness” (519). There is nothing surprising anymore about this central claim of Margolin’s; the prominence of the interiority of religious experience has been established by the abundant materials Margolin offers so far. However, there is still one consequence to be addressed, a consequence that surpasses the mere intellectual debate regarding which is the preferable, the inner or the outer dimension, but that bears an existential significance. We should not fail to recognize between the lines in this afterword that the term “outer”, and mutandis mutatis, “inner”, adopt a very specific meaning. Not that bodies or rituals or commandments or social recognition are outer, but God Himself, the transcendent divinity, is the ultimately outer element. Combined with the appeal for the coming back to “inner religion”, this equation of outer with transcendent has a theo- and anthropological importance. To put it in more phenomenological (and less controversial) terms, inner religion brackets the validity of the transcendent in its reductive regression to men’s religious experiences. This humanistic undertone makes itself tangible in many places of the book, for instance, in his discussions of the Zoharic doctrine “the awakening below results in the awakening above” (314-318) as well as his retelling of Etty Hillesum’s diary: “I shall try to help You, God, to stop my strength ebbing away […] You cannot help us, that we must help You to help ourselves.” (537)


Margolin’s debate about prayers with other phenomenologists, moreover, allows us to draw a clearer association between his own project and the phenomenological tradition. This, however, is a problematic relationship. Indeed, as said above, the phenomenological method is apt for the subject matter of this book: inner religion. The emphasis on intentional consciousness and subjective experience enables the author, first, to revitalize the debate about the distinction of pure interiority and pure exteriority (5), and second, to bracket “everything except the reality of the self” (21): while the first reflects the gist of the concept of intentionality, the second, that of reduction. Nevertheless, although he evidently follows the method of reduction, Margolin harbors a quite special idea when it comes to the inner-outer problem. For one, he persists in the distinction between the inner and the outer, although it has been put in doubt by van der Leeuw (“here can be no inner without the outer”, 2). For another, as said just now, he stringently restricts himself within the domain of interiority, keeping the transcendent out of discussion, in contrast to Levinas and Chrétien’s approach. These polemics distinctly locate Margolin’s phenomenology in the historical map of the phenomenology of religion.

Notably, however, the strictly descriptive, eidetic, science of consciousness that Husserl establishes in his earlier career is not the exclusive approach the author adopts. Strictly speaking, the author of Inner Religion uses three methods instead of one, the other two being comparative study of religion and hermeneutics. I do not want to go into details regarding the other strategies but am satisfied with pointing out their most fundamental traits: by comparative study of religion, I mean the method used to demonstrate a fact in a particular religion by gathering data from other religious traditions; by hermeneutics, the (re-)interpretation of a passage such that the original text proves whatever the author tries to show. That said, let me tarry a little longer with the first of these two methods, because it reveals one of Margolin’s underlying principles.

That comparative religion is contestable (48), does not prevent Margolin from carrying on with this method. He starts each chapter in this book with an overview of world religions, and believes himself justified in doing so because “[similar] religious phenomena occur in distant parts of the globe and in different historical periods” (48-49), and the term religion indubitably “[denotes] a universal phenomenon” (49). There is undoubtedly a universalistic undertone in the application of the comparative method in Margolin, who explicitly claims that his aim is “to highlight the common denominators of religious phenomena throughout the world” (49). Particularly, as pertains to the scope of this book, the author finds out that there exists in world religions a highly similar tendency to approve of the inner dimension of religious consciousness: “the types of rites in Hinduism and Judaism, for example, they both demonstrate interiorization: the attention of people performing Hindu and Jewish rites shifts from the (‘objective’) world to the (‘subjective’) mind and soul.” (49) Margolin is convinced that the subject matter of his study, men’s interiority, grants him permission to treat different religions in different peoples, at least in this respect, alike. A book centered on the “Jewish sources”, Margolin’s research is however not confined in Judaism alone. The result is transferable to all human beings:

Comparisons of Western interiorization processes with those typical of the Eastern religions, most evident in the Chinese Tao and in Buddhism, also strengthen our understanding that interiorization processes are not dependent on any specific religious worldview. (Margolin, 2021, 522)

A history of the a-historical?

However, we might wonder whether the universalistic understanding of interiority will cause a substantial problem that can undermine the genre of historical research in general, of which Margolin’s study seems a part. Since this book ranges over a span from Bible to Hasidism, readers might expect that it must take into consideration the temporal elements within the development of Judaism, that the author must encounter the diachronic aspect of what he calls “inner religion”. The opposite, however, seems to be the case. The inner, due to the very fact that it is inner and not outer, has in the first place been insulated from the plurality and mutability of empirical ethnicities and religious traditions. For that which has no history but universality, there is only compilation and no historical research.

In line with Idel Moshe, Margolin clearly regards himself as a contestant of Gershom Scholem, the founder of historical science of Jewish mysticism, and sides with Martin Buber in the Buber-Scholem polemics. Margolin’s criticism is centered on how to interpret Hasidism. He criticizes Scholem of going too far in his rebuke of Buber, of negating the whole existential dimension in Hasidism (102, footnote 174; see also 430 and 445), although from time to time, he tries to reconcile his approach with Scholem’s (see, e.g., 27, where Margolin comments in a favorable tone: “To a large degree, Scholem’s work was based on his desire to uncover the experiential inner dimensions of the Jewish religion.”). However, his difference with Scholem has yet another fundamental dimension, which pertains not to the problem of existentialism, but to history. The author of Inner Religion does not explicitly point it out in this book, but already addressed it in an earlier paper (Margolin 2007) — not sufficiently, however, as will be discussed in what follows.

As Margolin also sees it, tradition and history, that is, the diachronical dimension, of the Jewish religion plays a crucial part in Scholem’s reading of mystic experiences. For example, in the opening chapter of his masterpiece, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, “There is no mysticism as such, there is only the mysticism of a particular religious system[.]”(Scholem 1971, 6) Indeed, despite this contextualistic attitude, Scholem acknowledges the universal experiences that are able to unify all mystics regardless of the different traditions, but he also warns his readers not to exaggerate it, a danger in which the modern age is too willing to indulge in. (ibid.) A danger, indeed, to which Margolin may be already exposed.

In both the earlier essay and the recent monograph, Margolin holds a simplistic reading of history that goes hand in hand with his minimalist adaptation of phenomenology. Just as he limits his phenomenology in the study of the static human psyche, history as he conceives it is but a compilation of empirical and exterior facts. His phenomenological analyses, correspondingly, consist in the elaboration of men’s (first-)personal feelings as such and all the other psychological complex happening directly within subjectivity, while the historical ones are conceived as non-phenomenological enterprises that assign those experiences to objective elements: environment, society, historical events, etc., which, at best, harbor an indirect relation with individuals. History in this sense, as an instance of inauthenticity, becomes an easy target, for it surpasses the domain of the intrapersonal consciousness. But a later Husserl would argue that history, in fact, adds an interpersonal or intersubjective dimension to phenomenology, an equally or even more constitutive component without which nothing individual, personal, or “inner”, can emerge.

Therefore, Scholem’s historical attitude, although it is not really new and criticized by Margolin, keeps reminding us of a fundamental problem: to which extent is Margolin’s universalistic and, indeed, ahistorical, treatment of inner religion justified? If we come back to the distinction between interiority and interiorization, men’s soul or spirit — this ideal interior space — might have no history, but the painstaking process of excavating it or coming back to it has one: Just like dots, lines, planes and all other eidetic mathematical objects do not permit developments, but mathematics as a discipline in history are perpetually subject to the governance of mutations. In fact, despite all the universalistic attitude, the author still makes a, however minimal, historical claim that borders on teleology. From Bible to Hasidim, there is after all a history of ascent: first hidden between the lines in the Bible, the interiority of religion was gradually excavated by prophets and rabbis, and this movement of turning inside finally reached its pinnacle in Kabbalah and especially Hasidism in the 18th century. Inner religion is a phenomenon whose embryo already appears in the earliest religious scriptures, but its growth requires a whole complex system of irrigation that entails ritual, conceptual, experiential, existential, epistemological operations. However, without any comparison with other eras, we could not understand what Hasidim really contributes to Judaism and to religions in general. The a-historical attitude which suggests that they are fulfilling a universal mission, a platonic idea of inner religion, does not really explain to us the particular reason why human beings should choose this moment, and not in others, not earlier in the Bible itself, to push the process of interiority to its extreme. To look for insights in this, we still have to turn to Scholem, and not Inner Religion. What this book offers us is a comprehensive reader, a neat elaboration of all the human psyches, as well as human endeavors to search for connections with God. The author lays out before us a vast map of religious consciousness but hides from us its depth.

To be clear, this judgement is not at all a criticism of Margolin’s contribution to our understanding of Judaism as an inner religion. It is a matter of choice, or a matter of perspective. Margolin chooses to write the book in a horizontal and static way, not vertical or genetic. But this choice is made from a phenomenological point of view, and it bears consequence to our understanding of phenomenology, so I choose to split hairs with Margolin’s phenomenology. Hairs are to split because, although the debate about Hasidism in particular and the Jewish religion in general might sound peripheral for many phenomenologists, yet the problem of history carries weight with phenomenological researches: how do we do phenomenology after Husserl, how do we do it when even he himself realizes the problem behind his static and eidetic method?



Margolin, Ron. 2007. ‘Moshe Idel’s Phenomenology and Its Sources’. Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 6 (18): 41–51.

———. 2021. Inner Religion in Jewish Sources: A Phenomenology of Inner Religious Life and Its Manifestation from the Bible to Hasidic Texts. Translated by Edward Levin. Boston: Academic Studies Press.

Scholem, Gershom. 1971. Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. New York: Schocken Books.

1 BT Bava Metzia, 108a10; translation Levin. In fact, the anomic tone becomes  more patent in translation of Koran Noé Talmud: “One should not perform an action that is not right and good, even if he is legally entitled to do so.” (Quotation taken from:, accessed November 2021).

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