Textes de référence

published 15/01/1999

Hananya Goodman

Methodology for Developing a Current Bibliography of Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism Serving a Need


In a time of increasing interest in spirituality and Jewish spiritual renewal there exists no periodical, until now, of scholarly, or wide appeal, dedicated to the exploration of Jewish mysticism. Although other publications may, here and there, address the topics of kabbalah, Jewish mysticism and Hasidism, none of them can be looked to as the centralized, regular and reliable source of current information on the topic. With so much going on in the expanding field of scholarship and with the increasing demand for access to Jewish spiritual experiences and communal renewal, it is our belief that this community deserves a focussed bibliographic resource and a vehicle of communication.

  The web-based Journal of Kabbalah Studies and the print-based Journal for the Study of Jewish Mystical Texts published by Cherub Press will serve academic readers and research libraries from the United States, Europe and Israel. Scholars, for example, look forward to having bibliographic surveys which they can rely on with confidence to keep them abreast of an otherwise diffuse literature. These two journals, in particular, will alert scholars to useful materials relevant to their work. Another group to be served are "serious spiritual seekers."

Project Description

What follows is a systematic procedure for creating and maintaining a current awareness bibliography of scholarly periodicals and books in the literature of Jewish mysticism. The bibliography will list, by author, journal articles, books and monographs published within the last two years. Ideally it will list the most current publications at the moment of issue, but practically speaking there is sometimes a lag period of some two years before most periodicals are entered into all the databases we wish to search. But this is mostly true of the broad literature of the humanities and social sciences. More manageable is our ability to identify a limited set of publications which we can manually search on a regular basis in an academic Judaica library. In addition, we are able to communicate directly, through conversations, internet, and correspondence, with many key scholars in the field to learn about their publications, thus saving us the time and effort it would take to discover publications much later on our own.


One of our first tasks will be the development of a thesaurus, an index of the key words, subjects, concepts, practices, persons, periods and places, within all variant languages (Aramaic, Hebrew, Yiddish, Judeo-Arabic, and European languages) and spellings (scientific phonetic, common, mispelled; e.g., cabala, kabbalah, qabbalah). The reason a thesaurus is important is twofold. First, it allows us to structure and determine what we are comprehensively trying to search for. Second, it is useful, after the initial retrieval, to create a subject index for future recovery of data. In any case, we will follow the standards set by the Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) produced by the Getty Art History Information Program (J. Paul Getty Trust, 1990, 1992), and the Musurus: A Music Thesaurus by Ann Harrold and Graham Lea (London: Music Press, 1991). These excellent models offer the best frameworks for organizing our knowledge of a large and very dense subject.

The thesaurus is a rich indexing tool essential for retrieval searching, as pointed out by Helen R. Tibbo in "Indexing for the Humanities" Journal of the American Society for Information Science 45(8):607-619. She provides some useful tools and insights into the particularistic nature of humanities research. By contrast, for example, terminology in scientific literature tends toward consensual homogeneity while humanities literature is highly stylized, individualistic and hetergenous. Thus, the bibliographer who does know what he or she is looking for must also have a consistent system of scanning and precise searching. The work of S.E. Wiberley Jr. and others suggests that the most precise methods used by humanists in searching their literature involves five levels, going from highly specific names, dates and places to general classes of things and ideas. (See references to Wiberley in Tibbo's article, above.)

While we are engaged in developing a thesaurus we will continue to search with broad scans, taking a swing through indexes and abstracts using varied combinations and permutations of quite general terms. For example:

kabbalah, kabbala, kabbalistic, cabala, cabbalah, qabbalah, qabbala; Jewish, Jew, Jews, Judaism; Judaica; mysticism, mystics, mystical; Chassidism, Hasidism, Hassidism; Gershom Scholem; Isaac Luria; Bible, biblical; Hebrew; occult, esotericism, magic, symbolism, folklore, legends, myths, meditation, ritual, philosophy, psychic, customs

The problem with this particular method is that when I scan for the purposes of developing a comprehensive bibliography I am not seeking a specific topic, such as "Isaac Luria's prayer book in 16th century Safed" but rather all items which fit within a broad purview of relevance. That is, I could put my line into the water and come up with different sorts of fish in different sizes. You never know what you'll get. The flip side of this situation is that entering a general term such as "cabala" into a database tends to miss items that have not been indexed as "cabala," nor have the word "cabala" somewhere in the text. Consequently, our need for reassurance throws us back to the more controlled habit of scanning printed lists manually.

Characterization of the Literature

In our experience, the absolute number of bibliographic items to be identified is relatively small, under 100 items at any given instant. But to locate these items requires scanning an extremely diverse literature, primarily in Judaica, humanities and the social sciences. In addition, the subject indexing of kabbalah is highly inconsistent and unpredictable and therefore unreliable as a means of retrieval. Nevertheless, abstracting services, such as Arts and Humanities Citation Index, have started to include "implicit" subject guides to their entries. The subject matter contained under the rubric of kabbalah is highly ramified and ecclectic and it does not always announce itself explicitly as pertaining to our interest. An expert eye knowledgeable in the literature must scan the literature. If we were looking for something highly specific, a needle in a haystack, then our search would, in some ways, be more manageable. But we are engaged in a survey of a limited bibliographic literature rather than a specialized research project.


Bibliographic Style

Entries for journals and monographs will follow the rules in the Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1982) and Li, Xia and Nancy B. Crane. Electronic Style: A Guide to Citing Electronic Information Citations (Westport: Meckler, 1993). In the WWW we will follow a consistent style so the reader can effectively locate the online source. A separate in-house database, not for publication, will include entry data modeled on a modified version of the Arts and Humanities Citation Index, which we see as model of the kind of detailed data we would find most useful for future internal research purposes. Citations are not annotated because I believe the reader can decide what is significant based on the title, author and source. Hebrew materials will be transliterated according to the system used by the Encyclopedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Keter, 1973).


Journal articles, monographs and chapters in books are entered, alphabetically by author, into the section entitled "Recent Articles" while books, editions of classical texts, are entered, alphabetically by author, in the section entitled "Recent Books." Dissertations are listed in a separate section. Since the number of entries per issue of newsletter is small in number, and diverse in content, it is not necessary to overly define the arrangement of entries.

Scope and Inclusion

Materials deemed popular may be included but, generally speaking, a systematic effort to scan popular magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, conference proceedings, electronic discussion groups, will be limited, and only those items considered to offer substantive weight to the topic will be included. A separate section of the newsletter will review popular literature and news but no attempt is made to develop a comprehensive bibliography in this area. Many approaches to Jewish mysticism have been taken and we will pursue those in Jewish studies and the humanities and social sciences.


Every effort will be made to make the bibliography complete and comprehensive for the two year period under consideration. Current means anything published within the two year period before the actual date of publication. One of the advantages of a current awareness newsletter is the ability to continually update information as it is found. If we miss something the first time we will have another chance within two months to publish our new findings. The main difficulty is our reliance on printed index providers who are not able to update, print and distribute their publications fast enough. Wherever possible we would like to be up-to-date on which indexes are offered in electronic form.

Languages Covered

Most studies are written in Hebrew or English with French and German following in frequency.

Hebrew citations will be transliterated and not translated. There is no use of Hebrew type.

Accuracy and Physical Verification

Bibliographic information will be gathered whenever possible directly from the publication but since many of the citations will be coming from abstracting services and many of the journals will not be available for purusal it will be necessary to include materials which we have not handled for verification. Should sufficient funding ever become available, we could make document delivery from vendors, such as EBSCO, UnCover, SwetDoc, a priority.

At some point, it might be a good idea to make access to these services available to our readers so that they can dial in directly to a document delivery service with the ordering information cited next to each of our citations. (For a good evaluation of these services, see: Jennifer Rowley, "Revolution in Current Awareness Services." Journal of Librarianship and Information Science 26 (1) March 1994, 7-14.)

Cumulative Annual Index

An annual cumulative index will include author, title, subject indices. Author indexes will list individuals in multiauthored works. Subject indices will follow our thesaurus for periodization, geographic location, biographical information, etc.

Search Procedures and Evaluation

No method is complete or perfectly accurate. It is hoped that this discussion of method will serve both as a checklist for the editor and as a proposal for organizing the bibliographic search process. The goal of our method is to seek comprehensiveness within the constraints of the temporal and financial resources available. A careful analysis of likely output from various information sources, and the most cost and time efficient means of searching, will be the basis of our evaluation of methods.

Identify subject areas and journals

1. Search core journals in the field, such as Da'at, Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy, Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought, Tarbiz, Zion, Sinai, Revue des Etudes Juives, Judaism, Jewish Quarterly Review, Hebrew Union College Annual and new books ordered and received, at academic Judaica library (Brandeis, Hebrew University, Harvard); in our experience a systematic sifting of specially shelved journals produces a good half of our bibliography. This is to be expected. The next three stages produce the remainder of citations. As we move away from the core scholarship, carried out by a few scholars whose entire life work is in the field of kabbalah, we find that their studies, and the subject matter itself, have had a tremendous influence outside in many other places. It is for this reason that we broaden our search to include religious studies, humanities and the social sciences.

The next step:

2. Find abstracting services which scan electronically, online and CD-ROM.

In some cases the following indexes and abstracts, which we are about to look at below, exist in an electronic form, either as a CD-ROM or online. Gale Research has very recently published several directories which can be checked to determine which of our bibliographic sources are now available in electronic form. See: Gale Directory of Databases Volume 1: Online Databases and Volume 2: CD-ROM, Diskette, Magnetic Tape, Handheld and Batch Access Database Products (Detroit: Gale Research, 1994); Gale Directory of Databases CD-ROM (Detroit: Gale Research, 1994); and, the forthcoming: Gale Guide to Internet Databases (Detroit: Gale Research, April, 1995), which locates more than one access pathway to 2000 databases on the Internet, including gopher, telnet, ftp, e-mail and URL addresses. In these directories we will find which vendors, such as Dialog, DataStar, EPIC/First Search, RLIN, BRS, etc. handle which online databases. From this we can decide how best to proceed in terms of cost and efficiency of searching. I have attempted to indicate, wherever possible, the online options.

3. Manually scan indexes of abstracts when more efficient electronic means are absent.

4. Communicate with cooperating specialists, scholars, librarians, publishers, to fill in gaps and develop future leads. We maintain a mailing list of international scholars and publishers working in the field of Jewish mysticism.

Checklist of Abstracting and Indexing

Academic Index (Foster City, CA: Information Access Co., 1976-) Dialog File #88

Monthly update of 1450 scholarly and general interest publications in humanities and social sciences.

Arts and Humanities Citation Index (Philadelphia: Institute for Scientific Information, 1978-) Dialog File #439.

In casting a wide net, in the second stage of our search process, we turn to the White Sheets provided by Dialog for Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI). The White Sheets for AHCI indicate an indexing and retrieval method which we wish could be applied to all of the broad based indexing and abstracting sources we're interested in below. But even with all the strengths of the method of searching AHCI we discover that the Institute for Scientific Information covers a minute number of journals in Jewish studies, English or Hebrew. Nevertheless, I have had some wonderful success, over the years, using AHCI to find articles dealing, in a signficant way, with kabbalah. What I have done is this. It is fair to say that all modern research in Jewish mysticism has one author, Gershom Scholem, who is the most frequently cited scholar. A significant number of studies have turned up by searching for articles which cite Scholem in AHCI and SCCI.

ATLA Religion Database (Chicago: American Theological Library Association, 1949- ) includes: Religion Index One: Periodicals (1949-) and Religion Index Two: Multi-Author Works (1960-) and Index to Book Reviews in Religion (1949-) Dialog File #190

This CD-ROM indexes periodical articles, essays and book reviews on religious subjects, and it is an excellent source of material on mysticism.

America: History and Life (1989-) Dialog File #38

This major source indexes and abstracts periodical articles on the subject of North American history and culture.

ARTbibliographies Modern (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1974-) Dialog File #56 Comprehensive bibliographic coverage of 18th to 20th century art in all its aspects.

Bibliographic Index (New York: Wilson, 1938-)

Bibliography of Philosophy/Bibliographie de la Philosophie (Paris: International Institute of Philosophy, 1937-)

Covers books only with subject, author and title indexes in the fourth issue of each year. Multilingual abstracts review items. A useful complement to the Philosopher's Index.

Bibliography of the History of Art:BHA/Bibliographie d'Histoire de l'Art (Santa Monica: Getty Trust, 1991-) and combined with RILA: Repertoire International de la Litterature de l'Art

Bibliographie Internationale de l'Humanisme et de la Renaissance (Geneva: Federation Internationale des Societes et Instituts pour l'Etude de la Renaissance, 1965-)

An enormous source for articles and books dealing with the renaissance period, it covers about 2500 titles. There is a significant delay between the year covered and the date of publication.

Books in Print (New York: Bowker, 1948-) Dialog File #470

The volume, Subject Guide to Books in Print, is a very useful annual which is arranged by Library of Congress subject headings.

Book Review Index (Detroit:Gale, 1965-) Bimonthly Dialog File #137

British National Bibliography (London: British Library, 1950-)

A weekly subject catalog, with cumulations, of new British books received by the British Library and arranged according to the Dewey Decimal Classification. This, along with the Israeli national biliographies and the Library of Congress, are excellent, authoritative sources for new book information. [cf. British Books in Print Dialog File #430]

Bulletin Signaletique 527: Histoire et Sciences des Religieuses (Paris: Centre de Documentation Sciences Humaines, 1970-)

This major quarterly indexes some 1200 religion journals drawn from all over the world but with a strong European-American bias. The bibliography has nine divisions, based on area and period, each with its own index, which requires that one look into each index to search for ones topic. Abstracts are in French. Articles of interest appear in unexpected places. It is also worth checking other subject sections of Bulletin Signaletique such as those dedicated to history and philosophy.

Byzantinische Zeitschrift (Munchen: C.H. Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1892-)

Contains a significant bibliographical section of several thousand entries covering all literature on the Eastern Roman Empire (A.D. 325-1453) centered on Byzantium history, literature, religion, culture and symbolism, etc. Currency is good, covering materials within last two years. Very inclusive in its approach.

Current Index to Journals in Education (New York: Macmillan Publishing and the Educational Resources Information Center, 1967-) Dialog File #1

Available as the large up-to-date ERIC CD-ROM database of educational literature, it is useful for identifying educational and social science materials on mysticism, religion, Judaism, and Hasidism.

Dissertation Abstracts International (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 1969-) Dialog File #35

As a CD-ROM this database is up dated monthly and allows for broad searching of its full abstracts which are doctoral dissertations sent by several hundred cooperating institutions in the United States and overseas. Many institutions do not participate and one must search manually through other indexes. See: Reynolds, Michael M. Guide to Theses and Dissertations: An International Bibliography of Bibliographies (Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1985).

Essay and General Literature Index (New York: Wilson, 1934) Semiannual

Forthcoming Books and Subject Guide to Forthcoming Books (New York: Bowker, 1966-)

Bimonthly list of books mostly of North American, and some British, publishers.

Guide to Social Science and Religion in Periodical Literature (Flint: National Periodical Library, 1964-)

Quarterly publication with good cross-referencing of about 100 journals.

Historical Abstracts (Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 1953-) Dialog File #39

Over 2000 periodicals are selectively indexed in this quarterly covering the world literature of history from 1775 to 1945, except for the United States and Canada, which are covered in America: History and Life. This is a major abstracting resource for history.

Humanities Index (New York: H.W. Wilson, 1974-)

Available as a CD-ROM, this current index covers archaeology and classical studies, folklore, history, language and literature, religion, philosophy and the arts. One advantage of this index is that it is broad-based in its coverage of scholarly literature in the humanities and related disciplines.

International Medieval Bibliography (Leeds: University of Leeds, 1967-)

Arranged by topic and area this index covers material for the entire world from A.D. 500 to 1500. About 650 journals are scanned and currency is good.

Internationale Bibliographie der Zeitschriftenliteratur aus allen Gebieten des Wissens/International Bibliography of Periodical Literature Covering All Fields of Knowledge (Osnabruck: Felix Dietrich Verlag, 1963-)

Semi-annual volume covers all of German literature as well as European literature.

Index to Jewish Periodicals of General and Scholarly Interest. (Cleveland Heights, OH: College of Jewish Studies Press, 1963-)

This semiannual publication offers author and subject access to articles in approximately fifty American and Anglo-Jewish journals.

International Bibliography of the Social Sciences

As of 1994 this index can be searched on CD-ROM. There are two sections of this bibliography which interests us.

International Bibliography of Social and Cultural Anthropology (London: Tavistock Publications Ltd., 1955)

This annual covers nearly 1000 journals with a large number of countries represented and dealing, in part, with the social sciences approach to religion, magic, mythology, religious rites and beliefs. Detailed classification scheme is the basis for organization along with subject and author indices. Some time lag between citations and publication.

International Bibliography of Sociology (London: Tavistock Publications Ltd., 1951)

This annual covers about 1600 periodicals world wide and is organized around sociological terms.

ISIS Current Bibliography of the History of Science (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1913-)

An annual bibliography covers books and periodical literature dealing with all aspects of the history of science and technology. Material on the occult sciences, astrology, alchemy are very strong here. This database is available online through the History of Science and Technology (See Books and Periodicals Online and also Directory of Online Databases.)

Kiryat Sefer: Bibliographical Quarterly of the Jewish National and University Library.(Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1924/5-)

This comprehensive quarterly dealing with the publication data of books and periodicals, arranged by subject provides international coverage of all Judaica publications regardless of language. Citations are annotated and there are annual cumulative author and title indexes but no subject index. There are four section: Current bibliography of Israel publications and Judaica-Hebraica Abroad; Book Reviews; Studies in Bibliography and Jewish Booklore; From the Library's collection.

Le Moyen Age (Bruxelles: La Renaissance du Livre, 1880-)

This quarterly publication contains a current bibliography of the history, literature and ideas of Europe in the medieval period.

Mafteah le-Khitve-'Et be-Ivrit =Index to Hebrew Periodicals. (Haifa: University of Haifa Library, 1977-)

This annual offers author and subject access to articles in Hebrew periodicals published in and outside Israel. A subject index is published separately in microfiche and appears six times a year.

MLA International Bibliography (New York: Modern Language Association, 1921-)

This frequently up-dated abstract is a comprehensive review of hundreds of journals from around the world. Searching for metaphors, symbols, authors, themes, etc is a pleasure on the CD-ROM.

New Serials Titles (Washington,D.C.:Library of Congress, 1953-)

Monthly new listings of serials that may be relevant. This is not a high priority.

Parapsychological Abstracts International and PsiLine (database) (Dix Hills, N.Y.: Parapsychology Sources of Information Center, 1983-)

This semiannual abstract summarizes about 300 scholarly documents in the English language that pertain to parapsychology. Name changed to: Exceptional Human Experience in 1990.

Philosopher's Index (Bowling Green: Philosophy Documentation Center, 1966-)

An excellent, up-to-date, international index to several hundred philosophical periodicals and books is quite comprehensive, covering many languages and all aspects of philosophical discourse. Available on Dialog File #57.

Psychological Abstracts (Washington,D.C: American Psychological Association, 1927-) Dialog File #11

Monthly available as Psychlit on CD-ROM and PsychInfo on Dialog covers over 1000 journals, books and monographs.

Quarterly Index Islamicus (London: Mansell Publishing, 1977-)

Periodical articles, books and monographs arranged by region or language, beginning with Islam and dealing with the Middle East in general and the entire Muslim world. Very current.

Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature (New York: Wilson, 1900-)

Repertoire Bibliographique de la Philosophie (Louvain-la-Neuve: Editions de l'Institut Superieur de Philosophie, 1949-)

This quarterly is limited to some 400 philosophical periodicals published in European languages.

Reshimat Maamarim be-Mada'e ha-Yahadut [RAMBI]=Index of Articles in Jewish Studies. (Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1966-).

This annual indexes scholarly articles in journals and collected works that relate to all aspects of Jewish studies. The index is arranged in broad areas such as Bible, Rabbinic literature, and Kabbalah. RAMBI is the best source of article on Jewish studies covering all Semitic and European languages. It is now available online through the ALEPH opac at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. One can telnet: ALEPH.HUJI.AC.IL, username is ALEPH and no password is required. The ALEPH network supports a central computer which contains the Union List of Serials in Israel Libraries (ULS), the Union List of Monographs in ALEPH (ULM), and the Index to Hebrew Periodicals (IHP).

The articles indexed under the "Kabbalah" are few but good for our purposes. The bibliographers at RAMBI miss many articles which we have been successful in locating using other means. There are four indexes for authors, in Hebrew and European languages, and subjects, in Hebrew and European languages. Nevertheless, it is necessary to read thoroughly thru the annual volume, manually, to pick up items that are, in fact, very relevant to scholars of kabbalah.

Revue de Qumran (Paris: Gabalda, 1958-)

Published with variable frequency this publication contains the best bibliography on Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls scholarly literature. It is a useful source for the literature of gnosticism and Second Temple mysticism.

Science of Religion: Abstracts and Index of Recent Articles (Amsterdam: Institute for the Study of Religion, 1976-)

This is a systematic bibliography of articles dealing with the academic study of religion and covers over 200 specialized and general journals from around the world. English abstracts for articles which are in other languages and does not include Biblical studies. Delay between publication and cited items.

Social Sciences Citation Index (Philadelphia: Institute for Scientific Information, 1973-) Dialog File # 7

Updated weekly this powerful citation index make several thousand current social science journals accessible. See comments on Arts and Humanities Citation Index, above.

Sociological Abstracts (San Diego: Sociological Abstracts, 1952-) Dialog File #37

Sociofile on CD-ROM is a comprehensive periodical abstract and index publication covering the entire international field of sociology.

Internet Resources

Coon, Jeffrey A. "Internet Resources for Religious Studies." College and Research Library News, December 1993, 635-637.

Gresham, John L. "Finding God in Cyberspace: A Guide to Religious Studies Resources on the Internet" ([http://users.ox.ac.uk/~mikef/durham/fgic/contents.htm] 1994).

Strangelove, Michael. Electronic Mystic's Guide to the Internet. Ottawa: University of Ottawa. Religious Studies Department, 1992-93. 2v.

Winer, Dov. "Partial Directory of Jewish Electronic Services" (Ashkelon: Jewishnet: Global Jewish Information Network, n.d.) [viner@bguvm.bgu.ac.il]


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