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God's Voice from the Void

Old and New Studies in Bratslav Hasidism

Shaul Magid

Publication Year: 2002

New and classic explorations of the work of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav, a major Hasidic thinker, using a wide range of approaches. 'Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav was one of the most celebrated masters of late Jewish mysticism and Hasidism, and his writings have become classics. This volume brings together translations of three seminal studies on Rabbi Nahman in German, Hebrew, and Yiddish with six new studies from scholars in various fields of Jewish studies. The presentation of new scholarly work widens the conversation about Hasidism in general and Rabbi Nahman in particular by viewing his ideology from the perspective of contemporary hermeneutic, philosophical, and literary perspectives incorporating the insights of postmodernism, gender theory, and literary criticism. New ground is covered in essays on Rabbi Nahman’s attitude toward death, his approach to gender, his interpretation of circumcision, the impact of his tales on Yiddish literature, and his hermeneutic theory. The combination of classic and new studies in God’s Voice from the Void offers a window into the trajectory of scholarship on Hasidism, including ways in which contemporary scholars of Hasidism and Hasidic literature both continue and develop the work of their predecessors.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v

CONTENTS

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pp. vii-viii

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INTRODUCTION AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. ix-xi

Scholarly inquiry on the Hasidic ideology and personal religiosity of Rabbi Nahman ben Simhah of Bratslav (1771–1810) remains essential for understanding the nature of Jewish mysticism as it developed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in Eastern Europe. Although Martin Buber’s studies in the first part of the twentieth century and Arthur Green’s intellectual biography of R. Nahman, Tormented Master, introduced this...

Part I: New Studies

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Shir Yedidut: A Pleasant Song of Companionship

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pp. 3-13

These are the words of our Rabbi, his memory as a blessing, the Pleasant Song that includes many matters in great brevity, for the brevity houses its immensity. A song that speaks wonders about the glory of our Holy Teachings and about the glory of our Rabbi Moses, peace be upon him. Wondrous Teachings of edification and deep arousal to awaken the soul in every one. It speaks of the majesty of the blessed Creator and the...

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1. Associative Midrash: Reflections on a Hermeneutical Theory in Likkutei MoHaRan

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pp. 15-66

Rabbi Nahman ben Simha of Bratslav (1772–1810) remains one of the most celebrated and controversial masters in the history of Hasidism.1 His collected homilies, published as Likkutei MoHaRan (1805) and Likkutei MoHaRan Tinyana (1811) continue to inspire both disciples and scholars alike.2 In this chapter I will explore two related issues in the study of these homilies. First, the ways in which R. Nahman’s homilies...

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2. The Master of Prayer: Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav

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pp. 67-102

Stories, it was once believed, offer a temporary reprieve from death. So Scheherazade stayed her execution at the hands of the sultan with fantasy, suspense, and eroticism enough to last a thousand and one years. So too the seven noble women and three amorous men who fled the plague-ridden city of Florence in 1348. While they did nothing to alleviate the collective horror, they managed to...

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3. The Cut That Binds: Time, Memory, and the Ascetic Impulse

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pp. 103-154

Throughout the ages commentators have given a host of explanations to account for the significance of circumcision, arguably one of the most important rites in the history of Judaism when viewed from both the anthropological and theological perspectives. A rather innovative attempt to characterize circumcision is found in David M. Levin’s study on phenomenological psychology, The Body’s Recollection of Being: Phenomenological Psychology and the Deconstruction of Nihilism (1985).1 In...

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4. Adorning the Souls of the Dead: Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav and Tikkun Ha-Neshamot*

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pp. 155-192

Death is a veil separating the land of the living from the world of souls. This does not, however, prevent the human spirit from reaching beyond its bounds—to influence those in the realm beyond the grave, or to reach back from that realm to touch the lives of the living. This interchange between the living and the dead is richly expressed in various religious traditions.1 Judaism is no exception; the...

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5. Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav: The Zaddik as Androgyne

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pp. 193-215

Rabbi Nahman ben Simhah of Bratslav (1772–1810) may be viewed as a bridge between the beginnings of Hasidism and the movement’s flowering in the Ukrainian heartland. As a great grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, Nahman represented a physical link with the founder himself, and this “noble lineage,” or yihus, played a significant role in Nahman’s life. Nahman’s relationship with his illustrious great...

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6. Saying Nihilism: A Review of Marc-Alain Ouaknin’s Burnt Book

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pp. 217-236

With the recent translation of Marc-Alain Ouaknin’s Burnt Book: Reading the Talmud,1 once again the argument appears that Judaism has always been inseparable from the type of hermeneutics embodied by what Edith Wyschogrod has termed differential postmodernism, a term that primarily refers to the writings of Emmanuel Levinas, Maurice Blanchot, and Jacques Derrida.2 Ouaknin’s language...

Part II: Old Studies

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7. Messiah and the Light of the Messiah in Reb Nahman’s Thought

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pp. 239-262

The statement of Rabbi Nahman ben Simhah of Bratslav “My flame will continue to burn until the Messiah comes,” might sound to some ears as a mere Hasidic flourish. They are words that seem to have been uttered in the throes of prayer, or in the midst of a plea for mercy, and stem from a passionate desire to press a stamp of eternity on the teachings of Likkutei Moharan. Reb Nathan, R. Nahman’s most...

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8. Rabbi Nahman, Romanticism, and Rationalism

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pp. 263-276

Even before the struggle of heart against intellect, of feeling against reason, had been aroused in German civilization at large—even before the great German romantics were conscious of a “longing for God” and pined for the mystical experience characteristic of medieval religion in their love of the “nameless” and in their “striving after the unattainable”—a similarly spiritual phenomenon had...

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9. Mystical Hasidism and the Hasidism of Faith: A Typological Analysis

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pp. 277-285

If one examines Hasidism—the most recent religious movement in our history— through the lens of critical scholarship, one sees a uniform image. At first glance, the image seems free of internal contradiction. At most it seems to consist of “different paths for serving the Creator”; but even these different paths spread forth from a place of unity. The unity itself is not subject to doubt. Ultimately, all...

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

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pp. 287-288

INDEX [Includes Back Cover]

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pp. 289-298


E-ISBN-13: 9780791489567
E-ISBN-10: 0791489566
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791451755
Print-ISBN-10: 0791451755

Page Count: 310
Publication Year: 2002

Series Title: SUNY series in Judaica: Hermeneutics, Mysticism, and Religion
Series Editor Byline: Michael Fishbane

Research Areas

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