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The Hekhalot literature (sometimes transliterated Heichalot) from the Hebrew word for "Palaces", relating to visions of ascents into heavenly palaces. The genre overlaps with Merkabah or "Chariot" literature, concerning Ezekiel's chariot, so the two are sometimes referred to together as "Books of the Palaces and the Chariot" ( ? ?). The Hekhalot literature is a genre of Jewish esoteric and revelatory texts produced some time between late antiquity - some believe from Talmudic times or earlier - to the Early Middle Ages.
Many motifs of later Kabbalah are based on the Hekhalot texts, and the Hekhalot literature itself is based upon earlier sources, including traditions about heavenly ascents of Enoch found among the Dead Sea scrolls and the Hebrew Bible pseudepigrapha.
Title Page of Hekhalot, Lvov, Poland, 1850
Some of the Hekhalot texts are:
- Hekhalot Zutartey ("Lesser Palaces" or "Palaces Minor"), which details an ascent of Rabbi Akiva;
- Hekhalot Rabbati ("Greater Palaces" or "Palaces Major"), or Pirkei Hekhalot, which details an ascent of Rabbi Ishmael;
- Maaseh Merkabah ("Account of the Chariot"), a collection of hymns recited by the "descenders" and heard during their ascent;
- Merkavah Rabba ("The great Chariot"):
- Sepher Hekhalot ("Book of Palaces," also known as 3 Enoch)
Other similar texts are:
Dating and genre
The Hekhalot literature is post-rabbinical, and not a literature of the rabbis, but since it seeks to stand in continuity with the Rabbinic literature often pseudepigraphical.