Ouaknin, Marc-Alain

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OUAKNIN, MARC-ALAIN (1957– ), rabbi, scholar. Born in Paris as one of five siblings, Ouaknin came from a family of both Sephardi and Ashkenazi origin. His father, Jacques Ouaknin, born in Marrakech and himself author of several books on Judaism, was a former chief rabbi of Marseilles, and his mother, Eliane-Sophie, was born in Lille to an Alsatian-Luxembourg Ashkenazi family. A best-selling author of many books on Jewish thought, philosophy and Kabbalah, Ouaknin is an associate professor at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, where he teaches comparative literature. After public school, Ouaknin was trained at the yeshivah of Aix-les-Bains and at Gateshead in England. He started to study medicine in Strasbourg but after two years turned to philosophy at the University of Nanterres Paris x, while simultaneously beginning rabbinical studies at the *Séminaire israélite in Paris. During the 1980s, Ouaknin's encounter with Edmond *Jabes and Emmanuel *Lévinas determined the future of his work. His Ph.D. dissertation, under the direction by Pierre Kaufmann and the guidance of Lévinas and presented in 1986, was partly published in his The Burnt Book: Reading the Talmud (French, 1986), gained immediate recognition, and was later translated into German (1990), English (1994), Japanese (1994), Spanish (1999), and Italian (2000). A combination of poetry, mysticism, and phenomenology, his numerous books have reached a large audience. Geared to accessibility, they have introduced the basic main ideas and traditions of Judaism and Kabbalah, taking a modern approach. Among his books are Lire aux éclats Eloge de la caresse (1989); Ouvertures hassidiques (1990) Méditations érotiques, essais sur Emmanuel Lévinas (1992); Tsimtsoum, Introduction à la méditation hébraïque (1992); Bibliothérapie, Lire c'est guérir (1994); The Mysteries of the Alphabet: the Origins of Writing (1999); The Mysteries of the Kabbalah (French, 2000; English, 2001); The Mystery of Numbers (2004). In addition he published popular books written with Dory Rotnemer about Jewish humor and Jewish names, and also about Jerusalem, where he lives. Translated into many languages, his work has become a subject for academic research in places such as Belgium, Spain, and Italy.


J. Eladan, Penseurs juifs de langue française (1995); J.J. Bailly, "Eros et Infini. Essai sur les écrits de Marc-Alain Ouaknin" (Ph.D. diss., Brussels, 2005); M. Kavka, "Saying Nihilism: A Review of Marc-Alain Ouaknin's The Burnt Book," in: Sh. Magid (ed.), God's Voice from the Void: Old and New Studies in Bratslav Hassidism, (2002), 217–36; F. Eskenazi & É. Waintrop, Le Talmud et la République: enquête sur les Juifs français à l'heure des renouveaux religieux (1991).

[Sylvie Anne Goldberg (2nd ed.)]