ABSTRACT This essay begins by conceptualizing a “kabbalistic masculinity” characterized by pious discipline and a presumption to cosmic influence. This ideal was embodied in the kabbalistic discourse about the sin of “wasted seed,” or improper emission of semen. Kabbalists developed theories and practices intended to prevent the wasting of seed, atone for its spiritual consequences, and neutralize its demonic effects. I then trace these themes in texts from seventeenth-century Poland, beginning with Meir Poppers’ ethical text Or Tzadiqim, which wove theoretical Lurianic kabbalah into everyday routines and embodied practices. Finally, I turn to Poppers’ relative and student Joseph b. Solomon Calahora, the darshan (preacher) of Poznań. Calahora composed and published the first Hebrew book devoted exclusively to the causes, consequences, and cures for wasted seed: Yesod Yosef (Frankfurt an der Oder, 1679). These texts and their contexts show how the kabbalistic discourse on wasted seed played out, both individually and communally, in the bodies of early modern Jewish men in East-Central Europe.

issue 24 / n.2 (2023) by Avinoam J. Stillman