“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.
Orot, Inc. together with Ramhal Institute, Jerusalem, just released this new work by Bezalel Naor, Shod Melakhim, a collection of studies in Maimonides' Mishneh Torah. 176 pages. Hebrew. Contains tribute to Rabbi Joshua Hoffman zt”l.
Available from Orot, Inc. (USA) or Ramhal Institute (Israel).
Mahol la-Tsaddikim/Dance Circle for the Righteous explores the divine design in the creation of the universe. Although Maimonides (Guide of the Perplexed) shied away from this conversation, deeming the question illegitimate, the Kabbalists produced not one, but two responses to the question: a philosophic approach which centers on God’s ultimate goodness (Luzzatto), and a mythic approach which pivots on God’s “self-actualization,” as it were (Zohar, Luria). The departure point of our book is a fundamental mahloket or controversy between Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto (Ramhal), on the one hand, and Rabbi Pinhas Elijah Hurwitz (Sefer ha-Berit) and the great Habad thinker Rabbi Eizik of Homel, on the other.
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), great-grandson of Israel Ba’al Shem Tov, founder of the East-European Hasidic movement, is considered by many the “genius of Hasidism.” His mysteriously allusive lessons and stories have invited numerous studies, both by his followers, the Breslov Hasidim, and by academic scholars of various stripes. Needless to say, modern spiritual teachers such as the late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan and the contemporary Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz have written commentaries to Rabbi Nachman’s stories. Somehow, until now, the one poem from the hand of Rabbi Nachman —ShirNa’im, translated as Song of Delight— has escaped notice.