“Inyanah shel ha-Hasidut” (“The Matter of Hasidism”)
by Rabbi Bezalel Naor
In this groundbreaking essay, the author presents Beshtian or East European Hasidism as an attempt to reintroduce the charismatic or prophetic dimension to Jewish life. The optic is very much that of Rav Kook, although the author’s perspective is also influenced by the historiography of Rav Kook’s fellow kabbalist, Rabbi Pinhas Hakohen Lintop of Birzh, Lithuania. The reader will also note some common ground shared with Rabbi Kalonymos Kalmish Shapira of Piaseczna (known as the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto). The departure point for the entire discussion is a pithy remark by Rabbi Shelomo Zalman Schneerson, Rebbe of Kopyst, at the Simhat Beit ha-Sho’evah, Sukkot of 1890. (Rav Kook’s maternal grandfather was a Kopyster Hasid.)
The endnotes contain fascinating discussions:
Did Hasidism intend prophecy for the masses?
How the Vilna Gaon democratized ru’ah ha-kodesh (divine inspiration).
What was the mystical practice of the Ba‘al Shem Tov?
The clairvoyance of the Mezritcher Maggid.
Hasidism, Romanticism and the Enlightenment.
Rabbi Isaac Hutner’s allusion to the Letters of Rav Kook.
Clarification of Maimonides’ position on Prophecy and Halakhah.
The relation of the Kotzker Rebbe to the Vilna Gaon.