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November 25, 1977 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1977-11-25

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS Friday, November 25, 1977 15


Jewish Mysticism and Hasidic Teachings Collected in Jacobs - Anthologies


What is Jewish mystic-
ism? Louis Jacobs, in the
anthology, "Jewish Mys-
tical Testimonies" (Scho-
cken), defines it "as that


aspect of the Jewish reli-
gious experience hi which
man's mind is in direct
encounter with God."
The anthology consists of
an introduction, personal
mystical testimonies and a
The opening testimony,
"Ezekiel's Visison of the
Heavenly Throne" portrays
some of the prophet's visual
images : the Throne (mer-
kava); four living creatures
resembling men, each hav-
ing four faces—those of a
man, lion, ox, and eagle,
and four wings ; wheels with
eyes and wheels within
The Throne is believed to
represent God's glory. The
four-headed creatures,
some interpreters explain,
reflected the prophet's sub-
conscious mind that "had
absorbed the images of the
bull-like figures guarding
the entrances to the Baby-
lonian temples." The four
faces symbolize "the four
most majestic creatures,"
and the wheels stand for
The testimony titled,
"The Zohar on the High
Priest's Ecstasy," describes
the High Priest's service on
the Day of Atonement in the
Holy of Holies. The testi-
mony reads in part: "on
that day the Priest is
crowned with supernal
crowns. He stands between
those on high and those
below as he makes atone-
ment for himself, his house-
hold, the Temple and all
Israel... When he entered
with the blood of the bullock
he had the Head of Faith in
mind...He then did the
sprinkling... as he sprinkled
he concentrated his
thoughts and began to
count: 'One' ; 'One and,
One.' This means First the
One by itself, the One that
embraces all, the One that
is the praise of all, the One
towards which all are
directed; then 'One and
One,' thus both are joined
together in love and friend-
shi,p and are never
A letter the founder of
Hasidism, Israel ben Elie-
zer (the Baal Shem Toy; c.
1700-1760), wrote to a friend

in Jerusalem is the testi-
mony titled, "The Mystical
Epistle of the Baal Shem
In it the Baal Shem Tov
revealed his soul's ascent to
heaven where he saw the
Messiah, the "tanaim," the
saints, and the Seven Shep-
herds (Adam, Seth, Meth-
uselah, David, Abraham,
Jacob and Moses) study the
Torah. "...When will the
Master come? and he
replied: "You will know of
it in this way; it will be
when your teaching
becomes famous and
revealed to the world...Then
will all `kelippot' (evil
forces) be consumed and it
will be a time of grace and
"Hasidic Thought" (Beh-
rman House) is a compan-
ion volume to Louis Jacobs'
"Jewish Mystical
It is an anthology con-
sisting of selection from
actual texts of the great
Hasidic master. The selec-
tions are preceded by bio-
graphical sketches and
include explanatory notes.
Jacobs commences the
anthology with the parables
of the founder of the Hasidic
movement, the Baal Shem
-Tov (Master of the Good
Name), also known as the
Besht. "Good Name" refers
to God.
The parables originally
were published in "Toledot
Yaacov Joseph" authored
by Yaacov Joseph of Pul-
noyye, and are titled: "How
the Maggid Was Con-
verted," "What is the Role
of the Zaddik," and "What
Is Real and What Is
A typical Besht parable
follows: "I heard from my
teacher (i.e. the Baal Shem
Tov) an interpretation of
the talmudic saying: "Yes,
in connection with Moses, it
(the fear of God) was a
small thing." The difficulty
here is obvious. Moses was
not speaking to himself but
addressing the people of
Israel. He explained it as
follows. The Talmud states
that the verse: "Thou shalt
fear the Lord thy God
includes scholars."
Jacobs explains this par-
able thus: "There is much
more to the saying of the
Baal Shem Tov...than meets
the eye...The talmudic
sayings in praise of the
`scholars' are all applied to
the Hasidic saint—the zad-
dik. What our text is really
saying... is that it is very
hard for the ordinary man

to fear God, but it becomes
easy for him if he associates
with the zaddik. Moses
becomes the prototype of
the zaddik. Just as the
people were led by their
awe in the presence of
Moses to the fear of God, so
the masses can be led to the
fear of God through their
awe of the spiritual gran-
deur of the zaddik."
A Hasidic master who left
an indelible mark on the
history of Hasidism was
Shneur Zalman of Liady
(1745-1813) a disciple of
Dov Baer, the Maggid of
Meseritch (d. 1772).
Shneur Zalman who
founded the intellectual,
Hasidic Habad movement,
also authored "Tanya," a
philosophic-mystical system
of thought. A Habad Hasid
once expressed this thought
about "Tanya:" "What an
achievement, to contain
such a great God in such a
small book."
The following passage
from "Tanya" is still timely
and valid: "God has made
one as well as the other
(Ecclesiastes 7:14). So it is,
quite the opposite with
regard to Ishmael, who rep-
resents the 'llesed' of the
telippa' (evil force). With
him the more mercy he is
shown the more he is puffed
up with pride and the more
ambitious he becomes."
The anthologies, "Jewish

rypewritets Setectric etc.

knowledge of the subjects.
The author, Louis Jacobs,
is a lecturer at Leo Baeck
College, London.



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Mexicans End
Technion Visit

HAIFA—A visit to Israel
by a Mexican delegation,
guests of the Technion-
Israel Institute of Tech-
nology, recently came to a
The purpose of the mis-
sion was to participate in a
wide-ranging series of tech-
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Mystical Testimonies" and
"Hasidic Thought," are the
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