Page 36 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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Gershom Scholem. His
Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism
(Schocken, 1961) is the best source for studying the whole range
of expression in this area. It may be a daunting task, even though
it is beautifully written, but the “Introduction,” at any rate, is a
must. A good short overview of the field with a close reading of a
few texts can be found in the essay on “Kabbalistic Texts,” by
Lawrence Fine, in
Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish
Next we could turn to Hasidism. No movement in Jewish reli­
gious life has so captured the imagination of the Jewish peole in
modern times as has this 18th Century revivalist reaction. The
works below explore the energizing ideas o f early Hasidism
rather than look at contemporary hasidic life.
For the homiletical literature of Hasidism (i.e. commentaries
on the Torah), one can see Arthur Green’s translation
The Light of
the Eyes
(Paulist, 1982); the anthology textbook by Louis Jacobs,
Hasidic Thought
(Behrman House, 1976); the thematically
arranged anthology by Joseph Dan,
The Teachings of Hasidism
(Behrman House, 1983); and the anthology of hasidic advice and
commentary on prayer
Your Word is Fire: The Hasidic Masters on
Contemplative Prayer
(Schocken, 1987), by Arthur Green and
Barry W. Holtz. For the hasidic stories Martin Buber’s two
Tales of theHasidism
(Schocken, 1948) remain classics. See
also Elie Wiesel’s
Souls on Fire
(Random House, 1972).
An excellent short introduction to the literature of Hasidism
combined with close readings of selected texts is Arthur Green’s
“Teachngs of the Hasidic Masters,” in
Back to the Sources: Reading
the ClassicJewish Texts.
A key essay on the historical development
of Hasidism is the final chapter of Scholem’s
Major Trends inJew­
ish Mysticism
(Schocken, 1961). See also the Introduction to the
Joseph Dan volume mentioned above,
The Teachings of Hasidism.
Buber’s readings of Hasidism should not be ignored. See his
The Origin and Meaning of Hasidism
(Horizon, 1960).
With the modern age the term Jewish “texts” begins to take on a
new meaning. Although writers continued to use the old forms of
Midrash and exegesis, Jews began to enter the secular world and
with that entry, they began writing in the style of secular writers.