The Jewish Chronicle - Simon Rocker
The Jewish ChronicleIn their streimels and spodiks and long white socks, the Chasidim can seem a world apart. But they have left their mark on the wider Jewish community. The shift away from formal cantorial liturgy to sing-along melodies familiar to many synagogue-goers today owes a good deal to the Chasidic experience.
The early Chasidic masters also bequeathed a profound body of teachings, a way of reading the stories of the Torah as spiritual parables to cultivate inner devotion. This two-volume anthology, compiled by one of the great scholars of our times, Arthur Green, now opens the shutters on largely previously untranslated material.
Arranged according to the weekly Torah cycle, it presents a selection of excerpts from different sources for each sidrah, followed by a short discussion among Professor Green and fellow enthusiasts on how they might appeal to a modern mind; the Hebrew original is printed at the back.
The pioneers of Chasidism were ready to resort to creative wordplay to unlock fresh interpretations from the text. For example, the Ba'al Shem Tov, the movement's founder, gave an alternative explanation to the verse in the Yom Kippur haftarah "Do not turn away from your own flesh"usually understood as a warning not to shun the poorto mean that you should not repudiate your own physical needs.
Such bold readings entailed a rejection of asceticism and a belief that God could be worshipped through the bodya radical notion that put the Chasidim at odds with the intellectual elitism of their opponents.
From the Publisher
"If I could I surely would stand in the place where the disciples of the Maggid stood. This daydream of mine finds its closest fulfillment in this book.... Bring[s] the choicest voices of Hasidic spirituality to the modern reader."
—Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, author, Davening: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Prayer and Jewish with Feeling: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Practice
"A stunning entry point into the heart of Hasidism—a wealth of carefully curated insights that are rich and penetrating, even shattering.... A treasure for any student of Torah."
—Rabbi Sharon Brous, founder, IKAR, Los Angeles
“[A selection of] the juiciest, most inspiring insights from the finest Hasidic sources. These teachings will surprise and delight you, touching your soul.”
—Daniel C. Matt, translator and annotator, Zohar: Annotated & Explained
“[From] the incomparable teacher of Torah of our time.... Contextualizes and presents ... the richness of insights as well as the spiritual depth and significance the Hasidic tradition holds for modern persons. A delight to be savored and returned to over and over again!”
—Rabbi David Ellenson, president, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
“Opens [the world of the Hasidic masters] to those looking for spiritual meaning in Torah and in their lives.”
—Rabbi Michael Strassfeld, spiritual leader, Society for the Advancement of Judaism; author,
The Book of Life: Embracing Judaism as a Spiritual Practice
“This is the resource we've been waiting for, a milestone in the accessibility of classical Jewish spirituality. No Shabbos Torah hevra should be without it.”
—Lawrence Kushner, Emanu-El Scholar at The Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco; author, I'm God; You’re Not: Observations on Organized Religion & Other Disguises of the Ego
“Invites the spiritual seeker to feel the excitement of direct encounter with primary Hasidic texts and their capacity to awaken the soul.... 'Round Two’ discussions serve as templates for the kind of questing and questioning that small groups of seekers might do together, suddenly finding that they, too, are engaged in 'speaking Torah.’”
—Nancy Flam, co-director of programs, Institute for Jewish Spirituality; series editor, LifeLights™
“A splendid compilation—expertly presented to foster hearing, insight, and spiritual sharing.”
—Michael Fishbane, Nathan Cummings Distinguished Service Professor of Jewish Studies, University of Chicago
“Reminds us that Jewish masters read the Torah to discover the spiritual depths just beneath the surface. Every Shabbat and every holiday will be enriched when you study the Torah portion with this extraordinary collection of text and commentary.”
—Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky, Congregation Ansche Chesed, New York City
“Inspires contemporary readers to uplift their souls homeward and free themselves from their personal enslavement. It is a gem of inspiration and should be in every synagogue.”
—Dr. Alan Brill, Cooperman/Ross Endowed Professor, Graduate Department of Jewish-Christian Studies, Seton Hall University
“Insightful ... puts in dialogue the thought of the most original and formative group of Hasidic masters, demonstrating the nature of their spiritual aspirations and the dynamics of the laboratory that produced the leadership of Hasidism as a movement. A fresh and inspired project that brings to life the spirituality of an unprecedented constellation of religious geniuses.”
—Moshe Idel, Max Cooper Professor of Jewish Thought, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
“Sparkling translations, judicious selections, wise-framing comments, comprehensive scope, with an authoritative historical introduction that masterfully summarizes a lifetime of scholarship: Rabbi Arthur Green and his students have produced the most insightful, valuable and accessible presentation of early Hasidism available in the English language, an indispensable resource for study and devotional work.”
—Nehemia Polen, professor of Jewish thought, Hebrew College
“As heaven and earth met in creation, so too does scholarship and true passion of the love of the Hasidic masters meet in this monumental work of devotion and wisdom. If you were to commit to learning one book, this should be it!”
—Reb Mimi Feigelson, Mashpia Ruchanit
“In a world which too often feels fractured and dark, these precious teachings come along to lend clarity, light and hope. This extraordinary work stirs the mind, uplifts the spirit and makes age-old wisdom accessible in a way which liberates us from our most narrow places.”
—Matthew D. Gewirtz, senior rabbi, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, Short Hills, New Jersey
“Magnificent ... a treasure for all who seek to understand the rich variety of spiritual worldviews and religious experiences of the people who created the Hasidic movement. The world of those sitting around their master’s table comes alive in this book. The multiple levels of interpretations offered in their teachings allow us to encounter these incredible personalities in their own world and to then explore the vitality of their teaching for our contemporary Jewish life.”
—Melila Hellner-Eshed, research fellow, Shalom Hartman Institute