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9 Meshullam Feibush's Place in Early Hasidism Meshullam Feibush Heller's Yosher Divrey Emct occupies a unique place in the history of early Hasidic literature. Written in the late 1770s, Meshullam Feibush's writings were among the earliest to be produced. They were written during the period when organized persecution of Hasidism was rife in the Brody area of eastern Galicia. By this time, Hasidic leaders like Yehiel Mikhel of Zlotchov and Elimelekh of Lizhensk had succeeded in attracting significant followings in the region. Yet their recognition as leaders encountered opposition from other elements in the rabbinic world as well as from representatives of local authority] The new model of rabbinic leadership which the Hasidic Zaddiqim represented was initially successful in attracting many adherents from among the scholarly class. Later, the Hasidim were able to appeal to wider elements of the populace. As the popularity of Hasidic leaders grew, a real challenge to the authority of non-Hasidic leadership arose. However, the issue was not only political in nature. The rabbinic opponents to Hasidism were certainly motivated in part by the desire to retain authority. However, also at stake was the scale of values in Jewish life involving the relative importance of Torah study, prayer, and ethical-spiritual development. Hasidism, because of its emphasis on an emotional-contemplative concept of devequt as the supreme goal of religious life, tended to accentuate those non-intellectual components of Jewish religion which were most conducive to attaining the experience of devequt. In other words, prayer and the self-cultivation of ethical and spiritual qualities took on as a great an importance in the Hasidic scale of values as Torah study. While Torah study continued to be honored and practiced by the Hasidim, its importance was more conditioned by the extent to which the learner achieved devequt while studying than by comprehension of the subject material or exercise of the intellectual faculties per se.2 In addition, greater attention was given to the study of ethical literature (musar). On the other hand, while Hasidism's rabbinic opponents also valued prayer and ethical-spiritual development, or yirat ha-Shem, for them intellectual comprehension of the Torah in all its depth and breadth occupied 204 Uniter of Heaven and Earth pride of place in the scale of religious values. It must be added, however, that the opposition also saw devequt, or intimacy with Cod, as a fundamental condition of Torah study. However, here the intellectual act of studying Torah when performed by a scholar who had acquired yirat ha-Shem, was itself equated with devequt.3 In essence, two competing interpretations of the classical concept of deveqllt collided. Where the Hasidim defined devequt primarily in emotional and contemplative terms, their opponents located devequt in the intellectual aspects of Torah study itself. Much of Yosher Divrey Emct is intended as an explanation and justification OIf the Hasidic viewpoint. The opponents are decried for their immorality and general lack of ethical-spiritual development. Their primarily intellectual concept of devequt through Torah study is rejected. In its place a Hasidic definition of devequt is championed that is characterized by genuine experiences of love and awe of Cod while learning Torah. The rabbinic opponents are seen as lacking these essential experiences because of their attachment to pride in their learning.4 Pride, moreovel~ is the fundamental flaw in human consciousness, since it prevents a person from apprehending the exclusive reality of God. Consequently, the practitioners of the intellectual approach to devequt are denied attainment of the hidden truth which Torah study is meant to reveal, direct knowledge of the divine presence. On the other hand, the Hasidic leaders are primarily characterized by the absence of pride. As such, their intimacy with Cod may even reach unio mystica. As a result of their virtually complete detachment from the allures of this world, the Hasidic Zaddiqim can spiritualize even the mOist corporeal aspects of human life. Unlike their opponents, they have no need to protect their spirituality by isolating themselves within the prophylactic world of Torah study. They can contemplatively maintain their devequt even when participating in seemingly idle conversation. This is indeed one of the principal differences in the two approaches. For the Caon of Vilna, perishut (separation from mundane society) was an essential part of the life of a Hasid. Torah study had the effect of protecting one's soul from sin.s However, the school of the Maggid of Mezeritch, following the personal example of the Ba'al...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781438409658
Related ISBN
9780791438176
MARC Record
OCLC
42855920
Pages
309
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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