Page 90 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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ABRAHAM BERGER
Rabbi Nahman: Recent
Interpretations and Translations
As
a n
e ig h t
-
y e a r
-
o l d
hasidic bookworm in the Galician shtetl o f
Rimalov, I first came across the Tales o f Rabbi Nahman and the
story o f his life in the workshop o f the local bookbinder. I was
spellbound by the stories o f the enchan ted princess, pirates and
beggars, a magical music box, babes lost in the woods and the
search fo r a golden moun ta in . I became hooked on Rabbi
Nahman. In Warsaw at the end o f World War I, I made a pilgrim ­
age to the house o f Hillel Zeitlin, the “p ro tec to r” o f the Braslav
hasidim. Zeitlin’s younger son Elhanan took me to the Braslav
center. Ever since those early days I have been following with
eager interest the growth o f Nahman studies.1
In his
Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism
, Gershom Scholem cha r­
acterized Rabbi Nahman as “a man whose kabbalistic term inology
hides an almost hyper-modern sensitiveness to problems.” It was
this thesis that was developed by Joseph Weiss, one o f Scholem’s
disciples. Most o f Weiss’ many studies o f Nahman, scattered in
learned Hebrew jou rna ls and Festschriften since 1947, were pub ­
lished by Mosad Bialik in 1974 und e r the title of
Mehkarim Be-
Hasidut Braslav.
They were edited by Mendel Piekarz, whose
dissertation
“Hasidut Braslav”
was published two years earlier, also
by Mosad Bialik.
It is now g en e ra lly accep ted th a t Weiss d ev e lop ed th e
guidelines for fu tu re Nahmanic studies by means o f intellectual
history and the insights o f psychoanalysis. His most im po r tan t
insight was the a ttem p t to fathom the psyche o f his subject who
alternated between seeing himself as the religious leader o f his
day and sitting in judgm en t on himself as an abject sinner, des­
1 The author’s earlier summary o f Nahmanic studies appeared in the
Jewish Book
Annual,
vol. 29 (1971-72).
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