A New Hasidism: Branches

A New Hasidism: Branches

A New Hasidism: Branches

A New Hasidism: Branches


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You are invited to enter the new-old pathway of Neo-Hasidism—a movement that uplifts key elements of Hasidism’s Jewish revival of two centuries ago to reexamine the meaning of existence, see everything anew, and bring the world as it is and as it can be closer together.

This volume brings this discussion into the twenty-first century, highlighting Neo-Hasidic approaches to key issues of our time. Eighteen contributions by leading Neo-Hasidic thinkers open with the credos of Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Arthur Green. Or Rose wrestles with reinterpreting the rebbes’ harsh teachings concerning non-Jews. Ebn Leader assesses the perils of trusting one’s whole being to a single personality: can Neo-Hasidism endure as a living tradition without a rebbe? Shaul Magid candidly calibrates Shlomo Carlebach: how “the singing rabbi” transformed him and why Magid eventually walked away. Other contributors engage questions such as: How might women enter this hitherto gendered sphere created by and for men? How can we honor and draw nourishment from other religions’ teachings? Can the rebbes’ radiant wisdom guide those who struggle with self-diminishment to reclaim wholeness?

Together these intellectually honest and spiritually robust conversations inspire us to grapple anew with Judaism’s legacy and future.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780827617957
Publisher: The Jewish Publication Society
Publication date: 10/01/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 512
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Arthur Green is rector of the Rabbinical School and Irving Brudnick Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Religion at Hebrew College. He is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, including The Heart of the Matter: Studies in Jewish Mysticism and Theology (JPS, 2015). Ariel Evan Mayse is an assistant professor of religious studies at Stanford University and editor of From the Depth of the Well: An Anthology of Jewish Mysticism. Green and Mayse’s companion volume, A New Hasidism: Roots (JPS, 2019), is being published concurrently.


Read an Excerpt


The Thirteen Aspirations of Faith



My God,
I aspire to Perfect faith In Your Infinite Light,
Issuing from the Source Beyond time and space,
Who, longing for A dwelling-place In the Worlds below,
Compassionately contracts Her Radiant Glory In order to emanate,
Create, form, and effect All that exists in The Universe.


My God,
I aspire to Perfect faith In Your Oneness With all of creation;
A Oneness Without a second,
A Oneness that says,
All that exists In the Universe Is called into being According to Your Desire In every Moment.


My God,
I aspire to Perfect faith In your intent And purpose In Creation;
That the Divine He May become Known to us Through Creation,
The Divine She;
That we expand This awareness Until the Worlds Are filled with the Consciousness of God,
As the waters Cover the sea.


My God,
I aspire to Perfect faith In Your unfolding plan,
In which all of us May come to constitute One consciously Interconnected And organic whole;
That every living being May know that You Are the One Who constantly causes Their existence.


My God,
I aspire to Perfect faith In all the paths Through which the Holy Spirit manifests And reveals to us That all Your Manifestations are one,
Though called By different names Through time And space.


My God,
I aspire to Perfect faith In the mission Of each path As an organ of The collective being That comprises All existence;
That through Your compassion On all creatures It be revealed to all How integral Each Message is To the health Of all the species Of our collective Being.


My God,
I aspire to Perfect faith In the reciprocity Of Your Universe,
Which takes our Impressions;
That everyone Who does good With one's own life Takes part in the fixing Of the world,
And that everyone Who uses that life For negative purposes Likewise participates In the destruction Of the world;
That every action Has an impact On the rest of Existence.


My God,
I aspire to Perfect faith In Your perfect Judgment;
That the amount Of good In the Universe Is greater than The amount of Negativity;
And that our Entire movement Through the chain Of evolution Is designed To bring about The fulfillment Of Your Divine Intention.


My God,
I aspire to Perfect faithv In your tradition;
That the deeds Of our mothers And fathers Inure to the benefit Of their children;
That the traditions Passed on Contain within them The seeds of the light Of Redemption.


My God,
I aspire to Perfect faith In Your compassion;
That our prayers Are heard and Answered.


My God,
I aspire to Perfect faith In Your Holy Presence,
Dwelling in Our midst;
That all who Show kindness To living creatures Also show kindness To You.


My God,
I aspire to Perfect faith In Your continuity;
That physical death Does not terminate The existence Of the soul;
That there are Innumerable Worlds In which souls Reside.

My God,
I aspire to Perfect faith In the fixing Of the World;
And our part In its awakening,
Possessing life,
And feeling,
Becoming a fitting Vessel for the Revelation of the Divine Will.


A Neo-Hasidic Credo

Arthur Green

When I first read Hillel Zeitlin's essay "The Fundaments of Hasidism" at age twenty, I became a Neo-Hasidic Jew.

Zeitlin led me back to the Hasidic sources, which I have since been loving and learning, teaching and translating, now for more than half a century. Zeitlin, along with Martin Buber, and my in-life teachers Abraham Joshua Heschel and Zalman SchachterShalomi, saved Judaism for me, much as the Hasidic Rabbi Pinhas of Korets once said that the Zohar had "kept him a Jew." Collectively they moved me toward a rather defined faith-stance (I intentionally choose this term over "theology"), from which I have wavered rather little.

Zeitlin was the most important, and thus remains myrebbe. He showed me the abstract truth that lay behind the mask of personalist God-language, which was already difficult for me. He then opened for me the possibility of a passionate and intense devotional life that might accompany such a quest; an abstract theology, I realized, did not consign me to an arid spirituality. From these teachers, and especially from Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav, I sought out a vision of life as a journey filled with ever-higher spiritual questions and challenges.

My purpose here is to give language to the essence of that quest, to flesh out in specifics my lifelong project of bringing to birth a Neo-Hasidic Judaism that might have broad appeal to contemporary seekers. These seekers include many present and future rabbis, with whom I have tried to share my love of the original Hasidic sources, and the many spiritually serious Jews who have turned toward Eastern spiritual paths in despair of finding anything usable in our own spiritual patrimony. My heart goes out especially to this latter group, and I constantly have them in mind as I write. It is for them (though I daresay for myself as well, since I am spiritually so close to them!) that I have sought to use Hasidism in creating what I sometimes call a "seeker-friendly" Judaism.

Elsewhere, most notably in Radical Judaism, I outlined a theological position that takes as its departure-point an evolutionary approach, both to human origins and to the origins and development of religion. I believe that the evolutionary moment in which we stand offers us great challenges and unique opportunities.

The first of these is the more obvious. Human and other forms of advanced life on our planet are dangerously threatened by the dominance of a single species, the human, over all forms of life, accompanied by our seemingly relentless exploitation of the Earth's resources and disregard for its degradation. Unless we change our attitude toward the natural world from that of exploiter to responsible steward, we will simply not survive.

But can it be coincidence that the first species to achieve such dangerous mastery is also the first to be blessed with the moral conscience and awareness that might save us from self-destruction? And might that process not be aided by our living in an era when some of the greatest spiritual teachers among us seek to overcome the competitive spirit that has so plagued religion over the centuries? This too is a great evolutionary moment. The expanding of our cultural horizons has brought us to an era when the spiritual traditions of East and West are able to learn from and nourish one another as never before. This cross-fertilization of spiritual energies can potentially play a great role in helping us chart our future course, both in saving the planet and in setting the direction for the further growth of the human spirit. We only have to open ourselves to it.

Over the past half century I have sought to bring forth a Judaism that can be an active player in this process, having profound teachings to offer as it is also open to learning from others in this great era of interfaith dialogue and collective growth. In so doing I made frequent recourse to the kabbalistic and Hasidic traditions, as I believe they provide tools that make such a transition possible.

Here I would like to work in a different way. Rather than expounding on the nature of our theological situation, drawing on historical sources, and then offering conclusions, I want to lay out directly what I consider to be the key principles of Neo-Hasidism. I offer both original text and my own commentary, following a format occasionally found in the kabbalistic corpus.

In doing so I realize that I run the risk of being read dogmatically, in contrast to various statements in which I eschew dogma, insisting that religious truth need emerge from personal experience. Here let me say clearly that I have not abandoned that stance. The credo that you are about to read is precisely a distillation of whatever meager bits of wisdom I have collected in the course of fifty years' experience as a seeker, nothing more.

Zeitlin's introduction to Hasidic thought was published just over a century ago. A bit later he published an "interview" with himself in which he described the new Hasidism he sought to create in interwar Poland and emphasized its continuities with and differences from the old. He also wrote fourteen admonitions for members of his intended community Yavneh, a sort of Neo-Hasidic hanhagot or guidelines for personal practice (these are included in A New Hasidism: Roots, the companion book to this volume).

Although there is no text called a "credo," we can certainly surmise one from a reading of these in tandem. Back in the 1950s Schachter-Shalomi wrote something called "A Modern Hasid's Credo," which formed the basis for many of his later writings. His later, updated version of it appears as chapter 1 in the present volume.

Here is my own Neo-Hasidic credo, in the shortest form to which I am able to reduce it. It is very much a personal statement, but one that I hope will be useful to others as well. These brief theological points should be read together with my own interpretive commentary, spelling out the ideas in greater depth and providing further nuance. In order to help orient the reader, the relevant sections of this credo have been reprinted (in bold) immediately before the commentary.

Credo (Ani Ma'amin)

Hasidism is a Judaism based on hesed, meaning love or compassion. It calls us to a love for God, for Torah or wise teachings, and for one another. All that we do in this world should be motivated by our pursuit of hesed. As hesed is an endlessly flowing love, a Hasid is one who loves and gives generously, stretching beyond limits, suspending judgment of those who receive that love, and serving without thought of recompense or reward.

1. There is only One. All exists within what we humans call the mind of God, where Being is a simple, undifferentiated whole. Because Y-H-W-H (the Hebrew term for "God," really "is-was-will be") is beyond time, the oneness that underlies reality has never changed. Our evolving, ever-changing cosmos and the absolute stasis of Being are two faces of the same One. Our seeming existence as individuals, like all of physical reality, is the result of tsimtsum, a contraction or deintensification of Divine Presence so that our minds can encounter it and yet continue to see ourselves as separate beings, in order to fulfill our worldly task. Daily life requires us to live as separate individuals and to recognize both the boundaries between self and other and the great opportunity for communion across those boundaries. In ultimate reality, however, that separate existence is mostly illusion. "God is one" means that we are all one. Divine presence (shekhinah) underlies, surrounds, and fills all of existence. It is not limited to any particular place, nor is perception of it limited to Jews or Judaism. The encounter with this presence is intoxicating and transformative, the true stuff of religious experience.

2. To be a Hasid means to live in loving awareness of God's presence in all that we encounter, and to act in response to it. Our pursuit of hesed leads us to find sparks of divine light scattered everywhere, in every human being and throughout the world, but often hidden behind both real and illusory "shells." Our task is to seek out and discover those sparks, even in the most unlikely places, in order to raise them up and re-join them to their Source. This work of redeeming the sparks and restoring wholeness, carried out on spiritual, physical, and social planes, fills the daily life of the true Hasid. It brings joy to the shekhinah (the Divine Presence) and to us as we reaffirm the divine and cosmic unity. "God needs to be served in every way." All of life is an opportunity for discovering and responding to the Divine Presence. The way we relate to every creature is a mirror of our devotion to our single Creator, who lives in all of them.

3. That joyous service of Y-H-W-H is the purpose of human existence. The One delights in each creature, in every single distinctive form in which it is garbed. But we human beings occupy a unique role in the hierarchy of ever-evolving Creation, having the capacity for awareness of the larger picture and an inbuilt striving for meaning-making. We must shape that awareness so as to make us desire to serve, to fulfill our unique role as denizens of two worlds. We become most fully human as we stretch to realize the divine image in which we are created.

4. The essence of our religious life lies in the deep inward glance, a commitment to a vision of spiritual intensity and attachment to the One. Surface appearances do not suffice for us. This is true with regard to our encounter with humans, both ourselves and others. It applies also to our view of the world, as we seek the hidden One within the many. So too is it the key to our encounter with Torah and religious praxis. We are ever in search for their deeper truth, and approach them in quest for ever-new layers of meaning.

5. Outer deeds are important; the mitzvot are the forms into which we pour our devotion; they call out to us to be fulfilled. There is no Judaism without ahavat ha-mitzvot, a loving devotion to our forms of religious life. They are the tools our tradition gives us to achieve and maintain awareness. Each such mitzvah is to be seen as a great gift, an opportunity to stand in the Divine Presence in a unique way. At the same time, we need to recall that the mitzvot are means rather than ends in themselves. They are vessels to contain the divine light that floods the soul, concrete embodiments of the heart's inward quest. They also serve as paradigms for the rest of human actions. To live fully in God's presence is to do everything as though it were a mitzvah.

6. Our human task begins with the uplifting and transforming of our spiritual and emotional selves to become ever more perfect vehicles for God's service. This requires us to demand much of ourselves, setting a high bar for our spiritual aspirations, including the life of prayer. This process begins with the key devotional pair of love and awe, which together lead us to our sense of the holy. But it also means treating ourselves with kindness, accepting our own human limitations. Care for both body and spirit, our own and others', as God's handiwork, is also a vital part of our worldly task. Regarding the body, there is much correction needed of a prior imbalance in Judaism.

7. The deeper look at reality should put us at odds with the superficial values of the consumerist and overly self-centered society amid which we live. Being, unlike our Hasidic ancestors, citizens of a free society, we can and must take a critical stance toward all that we regard as dehumanizing or degrading in our general culture. Care for each person, including both Jew and non-Jew, as a unique image of God and as our fellow-limb on the single Adamic body or Tree of Life, is the first way we express our love of God. It is in this that we are tested, both as individuals and societies. Without seeking to impose our specific moral views on others, we envision a Jewish community that speaks out with a strong moral voice.

8. The above principles all flow directly from an expansive Hasidic reading of Torah, classical Jewish teachings. We live in an abiding and covenanted love relationship to Torah. That means the text, "written Torah," and the whole of the oral tradition, including our own interpretive voices. All of these point us to the cosmic and wordless Torah that lies within and beyond them. We know that our people has mined endless veins of wisdom and holiness from within the Torah text, and we continue in that path, adding new methods of interpretation to the old. The whole process of renewal through constant reinterpretation is sacred to us. We want this to happen in a creative and openhearted way, and we devote ourselves to that effort.

9. We are Jews. As Jewish seekers, we have a special connection to our forebear Abraham, who followed the voice and set off on a journey that we still consider unfinished. Abraham was the original teacher of hesed, and we are his children. We have a special love for our people, past, present, and future, a love that only increases our love for all of humanity, indeed for all of God's creatures. We bear within us the pain of Jewish suffering and the joy of Jewish rebirth. We consider the ingathering of exiles and the renewal of Jewish life that has taken place in the Land of Israel to be among the great miracles of our era. We fully and joyously embrace the emergence of a free and proud Jewish people in the Holy Land, and we identify with the many trials Israel has faced in the years of its existence. At the same time, a Jewish state must live up to the ideal of hesed, as reflected in the way it treats both Jews and others. When we feel it betrays that value of compassion, we Hasidim must stand up in protest. We Jews exist in order to bear witness to a truth, and we cannot allow a confrontation, even with very real enemies, to turn us aside from that mission. We care that our people, bearers of a great spiritual legacy, survive and carry our traditions forward, as embodiments of divine hesed. That means advocating for a deep and creative Jewish life wherever Jews live, both in the Diaspora and in Israel.


Excerpted from "A New Hasidism: Branches"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Arthur Green and Ariel Evan Mayse.
Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Part I. Ahavat ha-Shem, The Love of God: Theology and Faith
1. Zalman Schachter-Shalomi–The Thirteen Aspirations of Faith
2. Arthur Green–A Neo-Hasidic Credo
3. Nehemia Polen–Touches of Intimacy: Leviticus, Sacred Space, Torah’s Center
4. Don Seeman–The Anxiety of Ethics and the Presence of God
5. Or N. Rose–Hasidism and the Religious Other: A Textual Exploration and Theological Response
6. David Seidenberg–Building the Body of the Shekhinah: Re-enchantment and Redemption of the Natural World in Hasidic Thought
Part II. Ahavat Torah, The Love of Torah: Practice and Devotion
7. Ariel Evan Mayse–Neo-Hasidism and Halakhah: The Duties of Intimacy and the Law of the Heart
8. Nancy Flam–Training the Heart and Mind Toward Expansive Awareness: A Neo-Hasidic Journey
9. James Jacobson-Maisels–Neo-Hasidic Meditation: Mindfulness as a Neo-Hasidic Practice
10. Jonathan Slater–Neo-Hasidism for Today's Jewish Seeker: A Personal Reflection
11. Estelle Frankel–Sacred Narrative Therapy: Hasidism, Storytelling, and Healing
Part III. Ahavat Yisra’el, The Love of Israel: Leaders and Communities
12. Ebn Leader–Does A New Hasidism Need Rebbes?
13. Shaul Magid–Shlomo Carlebach: A Trans-National Jew in Search of Himself
14. Arthur Green–A Rebbe for Our Age?: Bratslav and Neo-Bratslav in Israel Today
15. Naama Zifroni, Bambi Sheleg, Arthur Green, and Ariel Horowitz–Spiritual Awakenings: An Interview with Haviva Pedaya
16. Elhanan Nir–The Turn to Hasidism in the Religious Zionist Israeli Yeshiva
17. Jordan Schuster–A Closing Conversation with the Editors
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