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the messiah and the little hunch-backed man 690 Reviews The Messiah and the Little Hunch-Backed Man linda munk Moshe Idel. Messianic Mystics New Haven and London: Yale University Press 1998. 451. $40.00 Franz Kafka to Max Brod: >@our world is only a bad mood of God, a bad day of his.@= Brod to Kafka: >@Then there is hope outside this manifestation of the world that we know.>@ Kafka, smiling: >@Oh plenty of hope, an infinite amount of hope B but not for us.@= Citing that conversation (recorded by Brod), Walter Benjamin looks at Kafka=s >assistants=: for them >there may be hope.= It is not Kafka=s >hybrids= or >imaginary creatures= Benjamin has in mind, but beings >in an unfinished state,= whose >@ambition@> (Kafka is cited) is >@to use up as little space as possible.@= >It is for them and their kind, the unfinished and the bunglers [die Ungeschickten], that there is hope= (Illuminations). Benjamin=s best-known bungler is his inept alter ego: the little hunch-backed man of a children=s folk song, >Das buckliche Männlein=: Will ich in mein Küchel gehn, Will mein Süpplein kochen, Steht ein bucklich Männlein da, Hat mein Töpflein brochen. When I go to my kitchen to cook my soup, a little hunch-backed man is standing there and has broken my soup pot. When I go to my sitting room to eat my porridge, a little hunch-backed man is standing there and has eaten half of it. When I go to my 691 linda munk forest to gather wood, a little hunch-backed man is standing there and has stolen half of it. When I go to my cellar to draw wine, a little hunch-backed man is standing there and snatches my jug away. When I go to my bedroom to make my bed, a little hunch-backed man is standing there and starts to laugh. And yet and yet, if I kneel on my bench to pray, a little hunch-backed man is standing there, and he aks me to pray for him too: university of toronto quarterly, volume 70, number 2, spring 2001 Wenn ich an mein Bänklein knie, Will ein bisslein beten; Steht ein bucklicht Männlein da, Fängt gleich an zu reden. Liebes Kindlein, ach ich bitt, Bet= für=s bucklicht Männlein mit! >This little man is at home in distorted life,= Benjamin remarks; >he will disappear with the coming of the Messiah.= In Messianic Mystics, the distinguished scholar Moshe Idel sets out to >focus on the messianic dimension of Jewish mysticism and not on messianism in Judaism.= What is signified by the terms messianism and mysticism? Both terms refer to a wide variety of personal experiences, to diverse systems of belief and modes of activity. In my view, mystical experiences stem from an intimate connection, sometimes described as a direct contact with God. ... On the other hand, I will designate by the term messianism those ideas, concepts, and figures which are related to present or future stages of redemption. Intending >to concentrate on the deep bonds that exist between certain forms of messianism and messianic personalities and certain kinds of mystical experiences,= Idel focuses >on a number of related cases where the mystical experience is at the very heart of messianic self-awareness.= The Hebrew edition of Messianic Mystics, translated by Iris Felix, >provided approximately a quarter of the material for this English-language edition,= we learn in the preface. Which of the eight chapters were translated from the Hebrew edition? What is signified by the word >material=? This English edition has over one hundred pages of notes, generously documented, and printed in small type. The bibliography is useful, especially for scholars who read Hebrew. But at some stage of production things went awry. The moment an editor=s back was turned at Yale University Press, the little hunch-backed man (whom Benjamin calls >the proto-type of distortion=) got his hands on Idel=s thirty-seven-page introduction and set to work: omitting punctuation marks; dropping or doubling words; composing awkward sentences; putting subject and verb at odds; and inflating the English...


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