Kabbala Expert Yehuda Liebes Wins Israel Prize in Jewish Thought

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Professor Yehuda Liebes.
Professor Yehuda Liebes.Credit: EMET Prize

Hebrew University Professor Emeritus Yehuda Liebes has won the Israel Prize in Jewish thought, the prize jury announced Sunday.

The judges noted Liebes’ groundbreaking research on the history of Jewish mystical literature and his work in illuminating the role of myth and messianism as driving forces in Jewish culture from biblical times to the present.

The jury cited Liebes’ knowledge of classical culture as well as Christian and Muslim culture, and his mastery of a number of languages. He is strong on the Book of the Zohar, the central work of the mystical kabbala movement, and the Jewish messianic movements of the 17th century.

He is responsible for a decisive change in the understanding of these subjects, the jury said.

Born in Jerusalem in 1947, Liebes began studying language in high school and after the army studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Early in his career he did research on the Hebrew historical dictionary of the Hebrew Language Academy.

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