Page 99 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 33

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FABER
I
JEWISH MYSTICISM
89
anniversary of his death on 5th of Av, 5732—July 16th, 1972.
In fact, the date was hardly noted by scholars and scholarly
journals. Surely the record of Lu ria’s tremendous impact upon
Jewish life these past four centuries in the Mediterranean area
and Eastern Europe, would warrant more than passing atten­
tion. Must one apply to him the well-known quote “even a Holy
Scroll in the ark needs good luck” (to be occasionally used at
religious services) ? Or is he a living legend like “our teacher
Moses” whose alleged yahrzeit on 7th of Adar hardly anybody
thinks of?
L ev i Yitzhak of Berditchev,
by Samuel Dresner (Hartford,
Hartmore, 1974) is more than a biography of Israel’s famous
pleader. I t is a poetic song, powerful and moving, its stirring
melodies ringing with undiminished pathos in the English
tongue as in the native Yiddish two centuries ago.
The Faith of a Hassid,
by Max A. Lipschitz (New York, Jona­
than David, 1967), presents a biography of the famous Hasidic
dynasty of Gur, especially its founder Yitzhak Meir Alter (1799-
1866), and his successor Yehuda Arye Leb Alter (1847-1905).
A serious analysis is attempted in this work of the revivalist
potential of Hasidism among contemporary Western Jewries.
The question is discussed, not in a spirit of futile romantic nos­
talgia, bu t with realism and historic perspective.
Abraham J. Heschel’s
A Passion for T ru th
(New York, Farrar,
1973) contains a biography of Menahem Mendel Morgenstern,
the “Kotzker Rebbe,” a towering leader, famous in the annals
of Hasidism for his efforts to raise a community of followers to
unprecedented moral heights. Convinced tha t the Baal Shem’s
rejuvenating influence upon Judaism has run its course, he
believed tha t his goal can be achieved once absolute, unadultered
tru th has been uncompromisingly established as a supreme
value. He failed, and disillusioned with the reality, he withdrew
from the world and lived for many years in nearly complete
self-isolation.
Heschel, himself an heir to and product of the Baal Shem’s
heritage, writes with compassionate understanding of the Kotz-
ker’s tensions and tragic dilemmas. The lonely uncompromising
seeker of tru th emerges in this biography as a challenging hero.
His heirs in Hasidic leadership, especially the founder of the