Dr. Ruth Kara-Ivanov Kaniel

The myth of the cave of R. Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi), as a site of divine revelation and pilgrim rituals from the Zohar to the modern times.

I am a lecturer and a research fellow at the Tel-Aviv Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis and at the Shalom Hartman Institute, and a head of a Research Group at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. Previously, I spent a postdoctoral year at New York University, the HBI center at Brandeis University, and won Kreitman and Matanel Post-Doctoral Fellowships at Ben-Gurion University. I received my Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

My research deals with intersections between Jewish mythology, mysticism, gender and psychoanalysis. My doctoral thesis, “Motherhood and Seduction in the Myth of David’s Messianic Dynasty,” analyzes patterns of sin and redemption in the narrative of the birth of the Messiah. The thesis highlights the centrality of the mother image in Judeo-Christian culture and the continuous reworking of the feminine myth in the House of David beginning in the Bible and continuing through the Midrash and the Zohar. This research won the Pines, Lakritz and Warburg awards, and was published recently as a book, “Holiness and Transgression: Mothers of the Messiah in the Jewish Myth” (Published in Hebrew 2014, ha-Kakibbutz ha-Meuchad Press, Hillel Ben-Chaim Series in Jewish Studies, will soon appear in English by Academic Studies Press 2016). Additionally, I recently submitted a new book, entitled “The Ever-Splitting Mother: Birth and Initiation, Psychoanalysis and Kabbalah”. My poetry book ‘Ein Sheket Baolam Klal’, won the ‘Rachel Negev’ literature award, and I have published essays on poetry and art as well as translations of Russian poetry.

My current research addresses notions of birth and writing in the book of the Zohar, and their impact upon later kabbalistic works, on the basis of psychoanalytic and gender-oriented readings. As a research fellow at Da’at Hamakom I am examining, together with Professor Elchanan Reiner, the myth of the cave of R. Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi). This research will analyze performances of the cave and pilgrim rituals that see the cave of Rashbi as a medium for the divine revelation. We hope to show that this cave served as a ritual center since the generation of the Zohar in Castile, through Sefad revival, Sabbatean and Hasidic traditions and until nowadays practices.

Selected Publications

  • Holiness and Transgression: Mothers of the Messiah in the Jewish Myth” [Hebrew. Hakibbutz Hameuchad Press, Hilal Ben-Chaim Series in Jewish Studies, August 2014].
  • Between Kabbalah, Gender and Law: Sexual Ethics in the Zohar, AJS Review 39: 1 (April 2015), pp. 14-51.
  • The Myth of the Messianic Mother in Jewish and Christian Traditions – Psychoanalytic and GenderPerspectives, JAAR-Journal of the American Academy of Religion 82 (3), October 2014, pp. 1-48.
  • With Iris Felix. Fire that Bears Fire: The Literary Development of the Zohar and the Flourish of Zoharic Exegesis at the Beginning of the 14th Century: Menahem Recanati and Joseph Angelet, Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought 24, (2015) pp. 157- 200.
  • Birth – from Metaphor to Reality in Psychoanalysis and Jewish Mysticism: Discussion of Lewis Aron’s Paper “With You I’m Born Again”, Psychoanalytic Dialogues 24 (2014), pp. 374–386.
  • She Uncovered His Feet [Va’tegal margelotav]: Redemption Journey of the Shekhinah – Ruth the Moabite as a Messianic Mother in Zoharic Literature, Da’at 72, (2012) pp. 99- 141.
  • Gedolah Averah Lishmah- Mothers of the Davidic Dynasty, Feminine Seduction and the Development of Messianic Thought from Rabbinic Literature to Luzzatto. Nashim 24 (2013), pp. 27-52.
  • Consumed by Love: The Death of Nadav and Avihu as a Ritual of Erotic-Mystical-Union, Itamar Gruenwald Festschrift, Tel-Aviv University (2014), pp. 585- 653. [Hebrew]
  • Lot’s Daughters and the Mothers of Davidic Dynasty in the Zohar: The Enigma of the term “Tiqla”, ELN 50.2, “Scriptural Margins: On the Boundaries of Sacred Texts,” University of Colorado at Boulder, (2012), pp. 113-126.
  • “The Impressive Caesura” and “New Beginning” in Psychoanalysis and Jewish Mystical Experience, Answering a Question with a Question – The Tradition of Inquiry in Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Jewish Thought (2015), pp. 40- 64.
  • Eve, the Gazelle and the Serpent: Narratives of Creation and Redemption, Myth and Gender, Kabbalah: Journal for the Study of Jewish Mystical Texts 21 (2010), pp. 255-309. To download:   https://bgu.academia.edu/RuthKanielKaraIvanov

Literary and Journalistic Publications 

  • The Other Light of the “Mystical Shabbat” – an essay about Maya Zack’s permanent exhibition, Jewish Museum in Vienna, August 2014 (German and English).
  • Fragment of Birth – on Bracha Ettinger’s art. “And My Heart, Wound-Space Within Me. Eurydice – Medusa”, The 14 Istanbul Biennial 2015
  • Editor: Women’s Poetry, Mashiv Haruach: Journal of Israeli Jewish Poetry 33-34 (260 p.), 2010.
  • Therapist From the Depths – Conversation on Kabbalah and Psychoanalysis with Prof. Mik Eigen, Tikkun Magazine, NY, May 2013.
  • The Ruined House (ha-Bayit asher neḥrav) by Ruby Namdar, Haaretz: Books, November 2011
  • Fire Behind the Curtain, Eretz Acheret 44 (2008), pp. 34-40.
  • Trans. From Russian: Marina Tzvetaeva, ‘Art In The Light of Conscience’, Ashmoret 1, (2007) pp.15-35.