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Sunday, 30 July 2017

136) WHAT HAPPENED IN MEDZEBUZH AFTER MIDNIGHT?

LETTERS FROM THE BAAL SHEM TOV IN ENGLISH FOR THE FIRST TIME: 

LETTERS FROM THE CHERSON GENIZA – TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH.  PART 6.


A sample of the writing of the Rav of Rashkov, the scribe who copied the Sefer haTzoref  for the Baal Shem Tov (see Document 32).

See here for introduction.


DOCUMENT 55:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to R. Nachman of Horodenka asking him to keep an eye on R. Dovber of Mezeritch while he (the Besht) is away:


B”H

Tuesday  (Parshat) Vayerah 5516 (1756).

To my student the holy rabbi etc., our teacher the rabbi Nachman n’y, of Horodenka, the faithful of my house:

Urgently send me my Chanukah Lamp, because G-d willing, after Shabbat - may it descend upon us for good – I will be travelling from here, this holy community (unnamed[1]) to Lvov.[2]
I shall remain there, G-d willing until after Chanukah.

And for G-d’s sake, see to it that (my) house is in order, and particularly ensure with open eyes that my exceptional student, the holy gaon Mr Berenya[3], may he live, is well and not punishing himself (with asceticism) heaven forefend. (Let him) receive the medicines as I have prescribed, before (I leave on) my journey.

From your rabbi who requests your well being:

Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer Baal Shem from Medzebuzh.
Shalom and all the best to the members of my household and to all those associated with me, may they live.


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DOCUMENT 29:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to R. Dovber of Mezeritch informing him that R. Yaakov Josef of Polnoye has been taken captive.



B”H

Motza’ei Shabbat (Saturday night, Parshat) Vayeshev 5516 (1756).

To my exceptional student, the rabbi and holy gaon, Officer of the Torah etc., Mr. Berenya[4]:

Know that we are in (a situation of) great anguish (because) they have taken as captive my dear student Mr Yaakov Yosef (of Polnoye) n’y.

Inform this to the public: We require for this 200 Adumim. I have only 50 Adumim. Try to add (another) 100 Adumim and bring (the money) to me.[5]

From your teacher:

Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer Baal Shem from Medzebuzh.


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DOCUMENT 73:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to R. Dovber of Mezeritch informing his not to assume a leadership role as ‘two cannot rule together’[6]:


B”H

Erev Chanukah 5516 (1756). Medzebuzh.

To my exceptional student, the holy gaon (and) and faithful shepherd of the House of Israel, my soul is bound up in your soul etc., Mr Berenya[7] sy’n:

I received the letter from your holy hand but it was not enough because I yearn to see your face. Therefore I do not agree that you should remain (in an unnamed location) under any circumstances in the world.

Come (back) immediately.

Additionally, it is not possible that (the Movement) can (be governed simultaneously) with two crowns[8] and leadership cannot impinge one on another. Enough said in alluded (form).

From your rabbi and teacher who clings to you....(text missing):

Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer Baal Shem from Medzebuzh.


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DOCUMENT 167:

Letter from R. Dovber of Mezeritch to R. Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye asking if he knows who the mysterious invisible figure was during his (R. Dovber’s) strange interaction with the Baal Shem Tov:



B”H

Sunday night (Parshat) Vayigash 5516 (1756) here in the holy congregation of Medzebuzh.

Long life. To the honourable beloved of my soul and beloved of G-d. The rabbi and holy gaon, man of G-d, the awesome (man) who has accomplished many things, officer of the Torah, the true Torah etc. etc. etc. ks’t.[9] Our teacher the rabbi, Yaakov Yosef the Cohen, may you live. Head of the Court of the holy community of Polnoye:

Great terror seized me last night after midnight.

It was my turn to (stay up) all night and study mishnaot while our holy master, teacher and rabbi (the Baal Shem Tov), may he live, slept.

(Suddenly) he (the Baal Shem Tov) moaned and called me (using) the following words:

“Berili[10], come here.”

 I immediately walked (over to him) and asked in the following words:

“What does the rabbi want?”

He responded to me:

“Berili, go immediately to my shul and bring (back to me) my new (walking) stick, immediately. But go quickly and fetch (the walking stick).”

I went immediately (to fetch the stick) and I gave it to him.

As soon as he received the (walking) stick from me, he returned it to me and said:

“Go immediately and return this stick to the man who is standing next to you, and tell him that the rabbi (the Baal Shem Tov) does not want to receive the gift which you gave to him, because it is beyond his capabilities to rectify (your - the stranger’s - soul).”

And I (R. Dovber) never saw any person (standing there)!

(Nevertheless) I stuck out my right hand and I told (the invisible stranger) what our holy master y’n told me to say.

And (then) the man took the stick from my hand but I did not see him and the stick disappeared from my hand.

And my knees gave in and were knocking together from fear.

And our master, teacher and rabbi y’n (the Baal Shem Tov) said to me in the following words:

“Berili come here. Do you fear? Do not be afraid. That man transgressed all of the Torah in its entirety, heaven forfend. He gifted me with the (walking) stick and then he died.

It has been a number of months (since his death and) he has be requesting of (and bothering) me to rectify (his soul), but (whatever I do) does not help.

Therefore, now that he has started to bother me again (I asked you) to give his stick back to him (so that he will leave me alone).

He (the invisible stranger) is (was) from Polnoye and used to be a regular guest at my Yosselin (R. Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye), may he live.”

-Thus the words of our master (the Baal Shem Tov) may his soul live.

All this my eyes beheld and I have never seen such a wondrous event (before).

(For this reason) I request of you (R. Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye), honourable one y’n, is it possible that you know this individual?

Is it possible for you to respond to me (and tell me who this man was)?

(From) the one who loves your soul, and who loves you in truth with a great love.
With great kindness and (greeting from my) heart and soul which love you:

Dovber, son of our teacher and rabbi, the Rabbi Avraham.


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UNNUMBERED DOCUMENT:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to R. Dovber of Mezeritch expressing his dismay at not hearing from R. Dovber:


B”H

Monday evening 5516 (1756). Lvov.

To my exceptional student, the holy rabbi and gaon, Officer of the Torah, man of G-d etc. Our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Dovbernya[11] n’y:

I was most surprised at you!

Did we not speak, prior to my journey[12] (and agree) that you would write to me every week (and inform me) about your well-being (health), and about the functioning of my household and about those (students) connected with me.

It is now two weeks and I have not received any (news).[13].

I, therefore, request, for G-d’s sake, that you do not cause me consternation, heaven forefend, and that as soon as you receive my letter you write to me (particularly) about your well-being because this will restore my soul, as my soul is bound with yours.

(Also) inform me about the (day to day) affairs of my household and whether (or not) my debts have been paid.

G-d willing, in a month’s time, I shall return to my home.

The gathering of rabbis[14], may they live, will begin in a week’s time, may it come on us for good. (And) with G-d’s help, the good side will be victorious. Amen, so may it be (G-d’s) will.

From your teacher and rabbi who loves you with a wholesome heart, and is waiting for a speedy letter (of reply):

Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer Baal Shem from Medzebuzh.

(P.s. Regards to all the above mentioned.)


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DOCUMENT 146:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to R. Nachman of Horodenka advocating for an increase in the salary of R. Dovber of Mezeritch:


B”H

Tuesday (Parshat) Vayikra 5516 (1756). Medzebuzh.

To my student, the holy rabbi, man of G-d, Mr Nachman n’y of Horodenka:

For G-d’s sake increase the weekly salary of the holy rabbi, my colleague, Mr Dovber n’y, for he is a very weak (and unhealthy) person.

And if the rabbi the gaon (R. Yaakov Yosef) of Polnoye does not agree to this – well I do, and who does one listen to; the rabbi or the student?

And one needs to be particularly careful not to upset the holy thoughts (of R. Dovber)[15] even one iota or hair’s breadth.

And if the world would know of his great holiness the rabbis and gaonim would ‘carry his garments’ (to the bathhouse for him as a sign of respect)[16].

From your teacher and rabbi who constantly seeks your welfare,

Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer Baal Shem from Medzebuzh.


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DOCUMENT 141:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to R. Dovber of Mezeritch informing him that he (the Besht) took his advice and spoke assertively to certain people behaving recklessly:


B”H

Slovita. Sunday (Parshat) Vayeira 5517 (1757).

To my student, the holy rabbi and gaon, man of G-d, Officer of the Torah etc. Mr Dovber n’y:

After inquiring after your good health, I (wish to) inform you that I annulled my thinking and my will (against my better judgement) in favour of yours and I spoke to them (unnamed persons) harshly like (hard) sinews.

And thank G-d I was successful and they will no longer return to their foolishness.[17]

G-d willing in a few more days I shall return to my home.
Send regards to all in our group[18], may they live.

From your rabbi and friend who loves you in truth:

Yisrael Baal Shem of Medzebuzh.


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DOCUMENT 24:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to R. Mordechai inviting him to Medzebuzh for Pesach and promising that no one (besides the Maggid) will recognize him:


B”H

After the Search of leaven, this year 5517 (1757) of Peret Katan[19].

A happy and kosher festival (of Pesach).

To the honourable and holy, beloved of my soul and my colleague, whose name is holy, Mr. Mordechai the Tzadik[20] n’y:

I am sending a designated messenger to you, honourable and holy one shalita, (to invite you) to come immediately to me for the holy festival (of Pesach), G-d willing.

Do not remain in the village.

I guarantee that one will know you, except for my holy student and colleague Mr Berenya[21], may he live, as he already knows you from before. Enough said.

I am preparing to welcome you in joy and great abundance, G-d willing.

From the one who wishes you well:

Yisrael Baal Shem of Medzebuzh.


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DOCUMENT 32:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to R. Dovber of Mezeritch rebuking him for revealing the secret of the rabbi from Rashkov:


B”H

Thursday 5 Iyyar 5517 (1757). Medzebuzh.

To my student, Officer of the Torah, Mr Dovber n’y:

What you did was not good in that you revealed the hidden secret of my student the rabbi from Rashkov[22] n’y.

But I forgive you completely[23] and from now on do not do anything without informing me.
From your teacher and rabbi who loves you:

Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer Baal Shem.






[1] It doesn’t appear that this letter was written in the Baal Shem Tov’s hometown of Medzebuzh as he concludes this letter by sending regards to all the members of his household. This letter must, therefore, have been written from another unspecified town.
[2] This visit to Lvov could not have been for purposes of debate with Bishop Sokolski (see KOTZK BLOG 123.) as that debate took place three years later in 1759.
[3] A term of endearment for R. Dovber of Mezeritch.
[4] A term of endearment for R. Dovber of Mezeritch.

[5] The assumption, of course, is that the Baal Shem Tov had a plan to acquire the other 50 Adumim from another unmentioned source.
[6] This letter is quite unusual as the Baal Shem Tov, who at the age of 56 - four years before his passing - is rather assertive and protective of his leadership position. Compare this to Document 260, where the Baal Shem Tov seems happy to temporarily hand over a full and complete power of attorney to R. Dovber.
[7] A term of endearment for R. Dovber of Mezeritch.
[8] I.e.: The Baal Shem Tov and R. Dovber of Mezeritch.
[9] I do not know what this abbreviation stands for.
[10] A term of endearment for Dovber.
[11] A term of endearment for Dovber.
[12] To Lvov, as apparent from the opening sentence.
[13] T”a is an abbreviation for temunat ot, which literally means the shape of a letter.
[14] This may be a reference to one of the debates between the rabbis and the followers of the false messiah Jacob Frank, which were held under the auspices of the church.
[15] This could be understood in two ways: either simply not to insult R. Dovber, or not to cause him grief by him having no money which will impact on his thought process and ability to function in his leadership role.
[16] A Talmudic expression of respect.
[17] There is no indication as to who these people were or what they did that was so offensive.
[18] Literally Anash or Anshei shlomeimu which means the members of our faction.
[19] A calendar designation.
[20] This appears to be a reference to R. Mordechai the Tzadik, a student of the Baal Shem Tov. It is said that the Besht revealed to him (R. Mordechai) the famous teaching: A soul can toil for seventy of eighty years just to do a material (and certainly a spiritual) favour to another. R. Mordechai, in turn, revealed this teaching to R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi.
[21] A term of endearment for R. Dovber.
[22] This may be a reference to R. Shabbatai of Rashkov who put together a kabbalistic Siddur based on the kavanot or intentions of the Ari Zal. This became the basis for much of the Chassidic prayer rites and future siddurim. He was an expert scribe and copier of texts, particularly kabbalistic texts. It was R. Shabbatai who copied the text of Sefer haTzoref for the Baal Shem Tov. (This was a rather controversial works and may perhaps be connected to the ‘secret of the rabbi of Rashkov’. See here.) According to tradition the Baal Shem Tov together with R. Shabbatai of Rashkov worked together to cancel out the negative effects of the Frankist movement using kabbalistic methodology.
An example of the writing of R. Shabbatai of Rashkov.
[23] Bm’g is an abbreviation for bimechilla gemurah, which means with complete forgiveness.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

135) RADICAL THEOLOGY - RAV TZADOK HAKOHEN'S OUT OF THE BOX THINKING:

Burial site of Rav Tzadok HaKohen and R. Leibel Eiger.
INTRODUCTION:

About twenty-five years ago I was sitting and talking to R. Shlomo Carlebach - who for a so many from my generation had been a towering and influential figure – when I asked him: “R. Shlomo, what do I have to do to become a chassid of yours?”

He looked at me and his eyes smiled as he responded: “But I want to be a chassid of you!”
I said: “Okay, but in the meantime tell me what I have to do.”
He said: “Read all the books of R. Tzadok haKohen, particularly Resisei Leiyla.”

I was desperate to get hold of this book but I had difficulty in finding a copy. Months passed and I was disappointed that I had not read Resisei Laiyla.

Then, out of the blue, a mother of a congregant of mine arrived back from holidaying in the United States.  She called me and said she had a book for me from ‘some or other rabbi’ she had bumped into whilst in New York. It was a well worn blue hard covered book entitled Resisei Leiyla. R. Shlomo had given me his own personal copy of this book, which is today one of my prized possessions.

What was it about R. Tzadok haKohen that R. Shlomo knew would resonate with me?
This article is an attempt at trying to discover that answer.

RADICAL THEOLOGY IN THE WESTERN WORLD:

We begin with a look at a modern movement which caught the imagination of the non-Jewish[1] world and which also began to attract attention from the Jewish religious word:

In the 1960’s a movement began amongst the avant-garde which became known as Radical Theology. It prompted religious people generally to take a new and challenging look at their religion whilst still remaining technically within the broad folds of their theology.

The followers of this new movement bandied about slogans like the ‘Death of G-d’ which they explained to mean that the old and narrow definitions of G-d had to make way for a far broader understanding of the G-d concept. And far broader it certainly was because Radical Theology could even encompass aspects of classical atheism!

Professor Thomas Altizer[2] gives a number of possible explanations as to what the term ‘Death of G-d’ could mean for modern Western culture:

“...That our traditional liturgical and theological language needs a thorough overhaul; the reality (of G-d[3]) abides, but classical modes of thought and form of language may well have had it...That the Christian story is no longer a saving or healing story. It may manage to stay on as merely illuminating or guiding, but it no longer performs its classical functions of salvation or redemption...that our language about G-d is always inadequate and imperfect...(Religion) has learned...the necessity for theology to engage in a living dialogue with the actual world and history which theology confronts...

For anyone who has ever studied mysticism, these concepts – such as the inability to describe G-d – are not that foreign at all.

RADICAL THEOLOGY IN THE JEWISH WORLD:

A similar form of Radical Theology also started (and it could be argued already existed) within the Jewish and Torah world.

I found it interesting that in his book on the Sefat Emet, Professor Arthur Green writes that he had studied privately with R. Abraham Joshua Heschel, and in 1966 he asked his teacher what he thought about Radical Theology.

R. Heschel answered: “Radical theology is very important. And it must begin with the Sfas Emes and R. Tzadok ha-Kohen of Lublin.”
In this way, R. Heschel characterised Rav Tzadok haKohen as a proponent of a Jewish form of Radical Theology.

In keeping with the dictum ‘as in the non-Jewish world so in the Jewish world’, Professor Green explains that the writings of Rav Tzadok haKohen: “... have enjoyed a recent upsurge of popularity, especially in Israel, where they are currently being reprinted in various augmented and well-indexed editions.” So these books are today finding some appeal for those looking for an unrestrained view on G-d and religion.

Perhaps one can add to the list and include more rabbis who could be said to have written in the style of Radical Theology:

RAV KOOK:

Rav Kook had already written that atheism had a role to play to ‘cleanse’ some of the religious who espoused very narrow definitions of what in fact is an infinite and universal G-d. The atheist could therefore rightly deny a narrow and parochial interpretation of G-d and thus inadvertently contribute something of great value to theology. See KOTZK BLOG 114.

KOTZK:

In a similar fashion, the Kotzker Rebbe brilliantly remarked: “I too do not believe in the same G-d that an atheist doesn’t believe in.” This view again, adds something to the expansiveness of the G-d concept.

In this sense, the common and limited definition of G-d was indeed ‘dead’. And the way was opened for a truer, bigger and more infinite, universal and unknowable G-d. This was something that Kabbalah in general and Chassidut, in particular, had already been addressing for a long time.

Another statement of the Kotzker, which speaks to the notion of Radical Theology more than anything else I know, is: “Other Chassidim believe that man’s soul is reincarnated into this world in order to affect a tikkun (I.e. to repair some misconduct from a past life) – But in Kotzk we believe that man is put onto this world in order to affect a tikkun in G-d Himself!

What this may mean is that he was so uneasy with the way the masses had conclusively defined and limited the G-d concept to fit their own inadequate notions of infinity, that he needed to teach a way of ‘rectifying’ their perceptions of G-d.

But let’s see how Rav Tzadok haKohen relates to Radical Theology:

WHO WAS RAV TZADOK HAKOHEN?

R. Tzadok haKohen Rabinowitz of Lublin (1823-1900) was born to a Lithuanian rabbinic family that was related to the Vilna Gaon and traced its roots back to the Maharal of Prague. He left the Lithuanian way and joined R. Mordechai Yosef Leiner (known as the Izbica Rebbe). 

He later took over the reins of from R. Yehuda Leib Eiger (a grandson of the famed R. Akiva Eiger and also a student of the Izbica) and in 1888 he assumed a leadership role in the Izbica movement. For some reason, during his lifetime he did not manage to attract a significant following, something which ironically did occur after his passing.

It was during the so called ‘silent years’ of R. Leibelle Eiger’s leadership, which amounted to about thirty-four years during which he spent in seclusion, that Rav Tzadok devoted himself to writing.
One of his apparently only surviving students – the rest all perished during the Holocaust - R. Mokotovsky, was the father of R. Eliyahu Mokotovsky also known as Eliyahu Kitov[4].

Besides his prolific writing on Halacha, Kabbalah and ethics, he also wrote on astronomy, geometry and algebra, something rather unusual for a Chassidic Rebbe. He was particularly interested in History. None of his writings were published during his lifetime.

[It should be mentioned that according to Alan Brill[5] some editors were hasty to add that Rav Tzadok later regretted his forays into secular wisdom. Brill views this extrapolation with a degree of scepticism and considers it to be unsubstantiated. Furthermore, he cites Bromberg who records Rav Tzadok continuing his secular studies well into his later years.]

He married young, into a wealthy family, but divorced quickly after allegations concerning the impropriety of his wife began to surface. His wife refused to accept the divorce so Rav Tzadok was forced to travel in order to get signatures of one hundred rabbis to annul his marriage. It was during these travels that he met the Izbica Rebbe. He did marry again but did not have any children. His childlessness affected him deeply and some of his books (Pri - offspring- Tzadik and Poked Akkarim - barren) allude to his pain of not having children.

HIS PHILOSOPHY:

In recent times, the academic world has started paying attention to Rav Tzadok’s writings which have attracted historians, theologians and sociologists, who refer to him as ‘The Kohen’.[6]
Rav Tzadok had an amazing ability to synchronise two very distinct area of classical rabbinical thought, namely Halacha (legal study) and Aggadita (non-legal study).

His thoughts influenced many leaders like R. Eliyahu Dessler and R. Yitzchak Hutner. According to Dovid Bashevkin: “...the resurgence of the study of what has come to be known as ‘mahshava’ in contemporary yeshivot truly owes a great deal of credit to the works of Reb Tzadok.”

Bashevkin explains that Rav Tzadok differed from the mainstream orthodox approach which follows the Zohar, where the Torah is the exclusive representation of G-d’s will; “G-d looked into the Torah and created the world.”[7] The universe is therefore not afforded any G-dly status as that is the sole domain of the Torah which created it.

However, in Rav Tzadok’s system which he learned from the Izbica, there are actually two ‘Books’: G-d created one book called the World! The commentary on that book is called the Torah!

Thus, in a sense, the Universe is higher than the Torah: “This...places a greater focus on the world as a repository for G-dly revelation...” writes Bashevkin, who goes on ask: “...does this analogy leave room for the possibility that the World may contain truths that do not even exist within the Torah?[8] 

Bashevkin quotes Galileo who in 1623, wrote a fascinating description of a ‘Grand Book of the Universe’:

Philosophy is written in this Grand Book, the Universe, which stands continually open to our gaze. But the Book cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and read the letters in which it is composed. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles and other geometric figures without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it...”[9]

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why so many of our classical sages were all masters of astronomy, geometry and such sciences. And perhaps this is also why some rebbes encouraged their students to spend time in the natural world.

Here is Rav Tzadok’s full text which deals with his understanding of this ‘Book of the Universe’:

And it is for this reason that after the blessing ‘Yotzer ha-Meorot,’ which relates to the recognition of the recreation of the world every day, [the Rabbis] established a second blessing which functions as a blessing on the Torah as explained in Berachot 11b (i.e. ‘Ahava Rabba’). One requests (to God) to know the innovations of the Torah which are through the recreation of the world. And as I have heard, that God created a book, and that is the world (Olam), and the commentary (on the book), and that is that Torah. For the Torah is akin to a commentary of God’s possessions.”[10]

Thus, according to Rav Tzadok the first blessing recognises the creation of the Universe. The second blessing requests to know the unique Torah contained within that Universe. This Torah is higher than the Book of the Torah which is the commentary to the Torah of the Universe.

Rav Tzadok continues: “And so I have received that this entire world is a book which G-d created. And it appears to me that as a child I saw such a formulation in the work Meor Einayim[11], which cited the formulation in a gentile work of pedagogy.”[12]

So we see that according to Rav Tzadok the experiential world becomes a means of revelation of the highest order and the Torah is the ‘commentary’ to it.
Now that’s Radical Theology.

R. Haym Soloveitchick wrote about Sefer Chassidim (a text by R. Yehudah ben Shmuel of Regensburg [1150-1217] which discusses the life and times of the Chassidei Ashkenaz or the pious rabbis of Germany during that period). He points out that this notion of ‘Book of Universe’ was prevalent even in the medieval world of Chassidei Ashkenaz as expressed in Sefer Chassidim.

R. Soloveitchick writes: “underlying much of Sefer Hasidim, is the will of G-d...(which) has not been confined within the overt dictates of the Torah, written or oral.”[13] In other words there is a ‘will of G-d’ to be found within the Universe in addition to within the Book of the Torah.

Thus Sefer Chassidim could serve as a possible precedent for the Izbica’s and Rav Tzadok’s bold philosophy.[14]

[It is interesting to note that the notion of multiple 'Books' in addition to the Torah is not uncommon in mystical thinking. The Sefer Yetzirah, for example, begins by stating:

"He created His universe with three books (sefarim) - with text (sefer), with number (sefar) and with communication (sippur)."]

RAV TZADOK’S DEFINITION OF GOOD:

Bashevkin shares a passage from Rav Tzadok which offers an interesting interpretation of the definition of good:

 “For example when G-d wishes good it is manifest(ed) personally in each of his creations according to their conception of good. The Jewish people relate according to their conception of good, gentiles relate each according to their own conception…and so it is with all creations according to their own conception. And therefore it is nearly impossible to define what is the implicit will that God intends to impart since it is manifest(ed) through different being(s), each with their own conceptions and notions of that message.”[15]

RAV TZADOK’S UNDERSTANDING OF HISTORICAL INFLUENCES:

According to Professor Yaakov Elman:

In Tsadok ha-Kohen’s view, the development of Torah paralleled that of secular wisdom—gentile or, in this case, Greek wisdom—the two unfolding apace and in parallel, in accordance with the principle of Ecclesiastes 7:14, “One opposite the other did the Lord make.” Thus, just as Babylonian magic and sorcery gave way to Greek philosophy, so did prophecy give way to Talmudic reasoning and logic—and in both cases, the later stage was superior to the earlier one.”

RAV TZADOK REJECTS THE TRADITIONAL CHASSIDIC MODEL:

Alan Brill writes[16] that Rav Tzadok rejected the traditional Chassidic model of simple piety. He departed from his other Chassidim in that he didn’t believe it was enough to simply direct the emotions and thought toward heaven because no mystical experience could take place without knowledge. This was quite a departure from the teachings of many of the other Rebbes.

Rav Tzadok even quoted from Ramabm’s Guide of the Perplexed:

It is impossible to reach the level of continual cleaving (to G-d) except through wisdom and comprehension of the mysteries of out holy Torah. As is written in the Guide of the Perplexed concerning those who think of G-d and continuously remember Him: If it is done without knowledge, through imagination (dimayon) alone or through the traditional faith that G-d is near, withot remembering G-d in truth, you are not thinking of Him.”

ANALYSIS:

Rav Tzadok haKohen was no typical Chassidic Rebbe.  His views on many crucial subjects are somewhat out of the box, or more accurately ‘out of the book’. He was one of the few who was able to successfully blend mysticism with rationalism and tradition with history.

The masses will probably always follow whatever format of religious philosophy their leaders present to them. However, those who allow their minds to explore the depths of theology would do well to revisit the writings of Rav Tzadok haKohen, who seemes to be communicating not so much with his generation but with ours.






[1] Particularly the Protestants.
[2] See Radical Theology and the Death of G-d by Thomas Altizer and William Hamilton.
[3] Parenthesis mine.
[4] Author of the well known Sefer haToda’ah.

[5] See Thinking God: The Mysticism of Rabbi Zadok of Lublin, by Alan Brill, p.43.

[6] See Perpetual Prophecy: An Intellectual Tribute to Reb Tzadok ha-Kohen of Lublin on his 110th Yartzeit, By Dovid Bashevkin. I have drawn widely from this article.
[7] Zohar: vol. 2, 161a.
[8] See Perpetual Prophecy ibid.
[9] Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (New York: Doubleday, 1957), 238.
[10] Taken from Perpetual Prophecy ibid.
[11] Which was written by Azariah de Rossi (1513-1578).
[12] Mahashvot Harutz, 11. Bashevkin points out that it is amazing that Rav Tzadok cited Meor Einayim (which was already considered a controversial work) and that he did not omit the reference to the Gentile source! 
[13] See R. Haym Soloveitchik, “Three Themes in Sefer Hasidim,” 313.
[14] It now appears that there may be three sources for Rav Tzadok’s radical view on the Book of the World: 1) The Izbica, from whom he heard concept from. 2) Sefer Chassidim, and 3) Meor Einayim.
[15] Dover Tzedek, 111.
The full text reads: “And our Rabbis have revealed to us stories which discuss the bat kol, which is defined as listening to the voices of everyday people who are discussing daily matters and do have other intentions. Rather one listener is able to be informed, through their words, what is required of him… Namely, God articulates the will of his voice through regular people. Even though they have their own intentions when they speak and the directives do not seem to emanate from God with intention and clarity, rather His will relates to us implicitly…”
[16] Ibid. p.55.