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The Spiritual World of a Master of Awe: Divine Vitality, Theosis, and Healing in the Degel Mahaneh Ephraim Alan

Brill, Yeshiva University

Second Draft- 1999 Graetz characterized Hasidism primarily as a popular revivalist movement, one, which contained elements of superstitious magic and obscurantism. In contrast, twentieth century scholarship has followed the neo-hasidic views of Buber and Dubnow, presenting Hasidism as a form of romanticism reflecting modern experiential and pietistic sensibilities.1 Gershom Scholem's kabbalistic conception of Hasidism, while consistent with this romantic trend, emphasized the kabbalistic background of this romantic outburst of experiential piety and mysticism. Scholem's dialectic of history reconfigures Hasidism, seeing it as a popularist channeling of the myth and symbols of Kabbalah and of Sabbatian antinominalism into a devotional movement dedicated to finding God in the physical world.2 Accordingly, then, contemporary scholarship, with its view of Hasidism as a romantic movement based on popularized Kabbalah, has produced elucidations of the quietism and

Martin Buber, The Origin and Meaning of Hasidism (New York: 1960); Simon Dubnow, Toledot HaHasidut (Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1960). On Dubnow's use of the romantic image of Jesus in his characterization of early Hasidism see R.M. Seltzer, "The Secular Appropriation of Hasidism by an East European Intellectual: Dubnow, Renan, and the Besht," Polin 1 (1986). On the origin of the romantic view of Hasidism see Joseph Dan, "A Bow to Frumkinian Hasidism" in Modern Judaism 11 (1991). The ideology for these approaches was created by Peretz who affirmed the need to mold ethnographic reports into a positivistic and enlightened folklore, see Mark W. Kiel, "Vox Populi, Vox Dei: The Centrality of Peretz in Jewish Folkloristics," Polin 7 (1992) 88-120.

Gershom Scholem, "Martin Buber's Interpretation of Hasidism" in The Messianic Idea in Judaism (New York: Schocken Books, 1971), 228-250.

mysticism of the Maggid of Miedzyrec,3 the social ethos of the court of the Hasidic Zaddik,4 and the classical Safed piety of the Toldot Yaakov Yosef.5 Recently, there has been a trend in scholarship to return to the nineteenth century's perception of Hasidism as magic, but now, with a positive evaluation of magic. Most recently, some scholars relate Hasidism in a panoramic way to renaissance magic and the magic working baalei shem of Eastern Europe.6 In light of this trend, this paper will present the magical elements of a single work, the Degel Mahaneh Ephraim, whose author (henceforth the Degel) is a representative example of the wonder-working Zaddik. The Degel has a complete worldview that integrates healing, story telling, the interpretation of dreams, and perceptions of God in the physical world that seems to have more in common with other faith healers than with mysticism or the Kabbalah. The Degel describes different types of spiritual experiences; he characterizes his grandfather the Baal Shem Tov as possessing what may be characterized as strong

Joseph Weiss, Studies in Eastern European Jewish Mysticism ed. David Goldstein, (London: Littman Library-O.U.P., 1985); Rifka Shatz, Hasidism as Mysticism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993).

Rachel Elior, "Between Yesh and Ayin: The Doctrine of the Zaddik in the Works of Jacob Isaac, The Seer of Lublin" in Jewish History: Essays in Honour of Chimen Abramsky (London: 1988), 393-45; David Asaf, Derekh Ha-Malkhut: R. Israel MiRyzhin and his Place in the History of Hasidism (Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar, 1997) [Hebrew]. Much scholarship is still needed in order to account for the world recorded by Jiri Langer, Nine Gates to the Chassidic Mysteries (New York: David McKay, 1961).

Mordechai Pachter, "Traces of the Influence of R. Elijah de Vidas's Reshit Hokhmah upon the Writings of R. Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye" in Studies in Jewish Mysticism, Philosophy, and Ethical Literature Presented To Isaiah Tishby eds. J. Dan and J. Hacker, (Jerusalem: 1986), 569-592; Mendel Piekarz, The Beginnings of Hasidism (Jerusalem: Bialek Press, 1978); idem, Between Ideology and Reality: Humility, Ayin, SelfNegation and Devekut in Hasidic Thought (Jerusalem: Bialek Press, 1994); Zev Gries, Conduct Literature: Its History and Place in the Life of Beshtian Hasidism (Jerusalem: Bialek Press, 1989). Moshe Idel, Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic (Albany: Suny Press, 1995); Immanuel Etkes, "The Role of Magic and Baalei Shem in Ashkenazic Society in the Late Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries" in Zion 60:1 (1995), 69-104; Moshe Rosman, Founder of Hasidism: A Quest for the Historical Baal Shem Tov (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996).

shamanic characteristics, including communication with the dead, trance states, and the power of clairvoyance. In contrast, the Degel portrays himself as a faith healer using the energy of a universal life force to heal the sick. An analysis of the healing techniques, dreams, and worldview of the Degel, shows that he is not shamanic. Rather, he uses techniques for channeling energy within his rabbinic profession. Furthermore, the Degel requires those seeking to find this universal life force to maintain an ascetic life, in order to sense the divine vitality in the physical world. Life in the world is seen as being lost at sea, and reaching the divine vitality leads one to a safe shore. The divine becomes embodied as a theosis in which the divine literally indwells in the zaddik's body.

Degel Mahaneh Ephraim: Author and Context Rabbi Moses Hayim Ephraim of Sudylkow (c. 1740-1800?), son of Adel, the daughter of the Baal Shem Tov, and brother of the enigmatic Baruch b. Jehiel of Medzhibozh,7 was a preacher, a rabbi who rendered legal decisions (posek), and a zaddik.8 His work the Degel Mahaneh Ephraim,9 is an outstanding text of early Hasidism
One cannot safely use the work of his brother because it is difficult to ascertain details about R. Barukh, based on the current state of research. See A. Shisha, "On the Book Bozina di-Nehora" in Alei Sefer, Volume 8 (1980), 155-157; he claims a late nineteenth century forgery of some the sayings of R. Baruch in the Bozina di-Nehora (Lvov: 1880); Raya Haran, "On The Copying and Transmission of Hasidic Letters," Zion 56 #3 (1991), 299-320, shows the unreliability of the letters describing R. Barukh; The traditional work about R. Barukh is Margaliot MiLvov, Sefer Mekor Barukh: Toldot R. Barukh MiMedziebuz, (Zamosch: 1931). Moshe Hallamish, Encyclopedia Judaica Volume 12 col 430; M. Gutman, Geza Kodesh (1951); S. Dubnow, Toldot Hahasidut (Tel Aviv:Dvir 1930-1932); I. Tishby "The Messianic Idea and Messianic Trends in the Growth of Hasidism," Zion 32 (1967), 1-45; J. Weiss, "On the Beginnings of Hasidism," in Zion 16 (1951), 46-105; A translation of some of his homilies is found in Jay Rock, "Rabbi Moses Ephraim of Sudlikov's Degel Mahaneh Ephraim" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of California at Berkeley, 1986); Elliot R. Wolfson, Walking as a Sacred Duty: Theological Transformation of Social reality in Early Hasidism, Along the Path (Albany: Suny Press, 1995), 102-4.
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because he wrote it himself, and because it does not come from the school of the Maggid of Miedzyrec.10 The Degel's identifies with the conservative Polish feudal system that controlled the Ukrainian countryside and was rejecting the encroachments of modernity. Podolia was resettled and prospered under Polish magnates who rebuilt the area after the Ukrainian uprising of 1768.11 Limited to the very mild cosmopolitanism of a Polish private townwithout the enlightened thinking developing within Vilna, Skhlov, Brody or Warsaw- Hasidic thought easily espoused a rejection of enlightenment education, social theory, leisure activities, and scientific knowledge.12 R. Moses Hayim Ephraim of Sudylkow signed a

n.p., 1808. The Hebrew of the text is awkward in syntax and non-grammatical at points. There is greater repetition than usual in homilies. The same thought is stated in Genesis as the meaning of the Torah used in creation, is repeated in Exodus as the meaning of Revelation, then it is repeated in Leviticus as the meaning of ritual, and again in Numbers and Deuteronomy as the meaning of Moses' Torah. Almost every idea is repeated with regularity. The exegesis is based on the mystical elements in the commentary of R. Hayyim Ben Attar (16961743), Or ha-Hayyim; see 14a, 19a. On Ben Attar's closeness to Hasidism see below, footnote 167. R. Nathanson writes in his approbation to the Degel "that some of the comments are close to the true peshat of the Torah," and R. Nathanson further mentions that he wrote similar things in his youth. Weiss raised the question of its authenticity as a representation of the teachings of the Besht because the Degel himself used the Zafnat Pa'aneah of R. Jacob Joseph a secondary source and paraphrased it by limiting the teaching to the Zaddik alone. See Joseph Weiss, "The Beginnings of Hasidism" in Zion 16 (1951); Ada Rapoport-Albert, "God and the Zaddik as the Two Focal Points of Hasidic Worship," reprinted in Essential Papers on Hasidism ed. Gershon David Hundret (New York: New York University Press, 1991), 327, shows that the paraphrase is consistent with the thought of R. Jacob Joseph. For my purpose, the spiritual world of the Degel himself, does not have to be in continuity with earlier thinkers. Gershon Hundert, "Early Hasidism in Context" lecture given at Harvard University March 14, 1995; Rosman, Founder of Hasidism chapter 3; Orest Subtelny, Ukraine: A History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988), 189-190, points out that these Polish magnates who returned still held 46% of the land and 54% of the industry in 1904; See M. N. Litinsky, Korot Podoliah ve-Kadmoniot haYehudim Sham (Odessa: 1895). Raphael Mahler, Hasidism and the Jewish Enlightenment (Philadelphia: J.P.S., 1985), 10. Economic wealth was based on God's gift and the work of the gentiles, and not on self-sufficiency and initiative. "When Israel are occupied with Torah then the non-Jews do the work of Israel as a slave for a master," Degel 38b, based on Isaiah (60:22) as interpreted by Berakhot 35b. See Mahler, 262-267 on appealing to wonder workers for economic concerns. As a case in point, the Degel gave a sermon on the Sabbath before Passover 1782 pointing to the need to fight the heretical views of the unbelievers. On the debate between the traditionalist feudal hasidim and the hedonistic and materialistic bourgeois life of the Maskilim, see Steve Zipperstein, Jews of Odessa
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contract in 1798 with "the chiefs of the holders of arenda (lessees from the princes) in the neighboring villages." They would "submit to his authority in all that he might say," and he would "help them with his teaching and prayer which effectively aids all who cleave to him" in return for 6 guilden of every thousand of their income.13 An important element of Hasidism was its anti-modern trends especially its practice of folk healing, in opposition to the modern Western practice of medicine.14 As Arthur Green notes, the zaddik's role as healer and holy man, particularly in times of illness or childbirth, was part of the Eastern European culture. "Here he [the zaddik] was acting as priestly holy man, in a way that probably would have been quite familiar to the [Eastern] Orthodox clergy just across the town square." 15 This prototype of the elite wonder working
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1985), chapter 1; Raphael Mahler, Hasidism and the Jewish Enlightenment (Philadelphia: J.P.S., 1985); Israel Zinberg, A History of Jewish Literature (New York: Ktav, 1976) vol. 12 chapter 8; On the anti-modernity of the Hasidim in Beloruss see David Fishman, Russia's First Modern Jews: The Jews of Skhlov: (New York: N.Y.U. Press, 1994) chap. 6. Shmuel Ettinger, "The Hasidic Movement-Reality and Ideals" 236 reprinted in Essential Papers on Hasidism ed. Gershon David Hundret (New York: New York University Press, 1991); A. Kahana, Sefer Hasidim (Warsaw: 1922), 304. It is interesting to note that a rabbinic appointment included the responsibility for the intercession by prayer before the Divine as part of ones duties. From the fourteen signatories, on this contract alone, he earned at least 84 guilden per thousand. In contrast, the Encyclopedia Judaica writes that he lived a life of poverty and humility due to his failure to become a popular Hasidic leader. There was a period in which some Jews rejected modern medicine, just as various Protestant groups did. Other contemporaries who rejected medicine include R. Nahman of Bratzlav, R. Pinhas of Koretz, and R. Levi of Berdichev. Part of the social patterns that created the Mitnagdim includes their acceptance (with some reservations by the Vilna Gaon) of modern medicine. A. Green, "Typologies of Leadership and the Hasidic Zaddiq," Jewish Spirituality Volume 2 ed. Arthur Green (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1987), 141. There are many works in Russian and other Slavic languages that provide bibliographies on spiritual healing in areas that possibly influenced Podolia. Works in English include on Poland, Z. Libera, A. Palvich " Ethnomedicine and the Pilca" in Poland at the 12th Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Science ed. Slawoj Szyniciewicz (Wroclaw: 1988). On Russia, Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer, ed. Russian Traditional Culture: Religion, Gender, and Customary Law (Armonk N.Y: M.E. Sharpe, 1992); On Romania, Mircea Eliade, Zalmoxis: The Vanishing God (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1970); On Tartars, Thomas A. Sebock, Frances J. Ingemanns, Studies in Cherinis:The Supernatural (New York: WennerGren Foundation, 1956). On southern Slavs, Richard and Eva Blum, Health and Healing in Rural Greece (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1965); P. Kemp, Healing Ritual: Studies in the Technique and Tradition of the Southern Slavs (London: Faber and Faber, 1936). It would be instructive to compare books of baalei-shem to these works.
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rabbi is important for the Degel Mahaneh Ephraim in his own theoretical presentation of Hasidism.16

Shamanistic Ascents and Faith Healing Recent studies, which have situated the Baal Shem Tov both historically and phenomenologically within traditions of folk medicine and magic, show that the early Hasidic leaders were carrying on the tradition in which Rabbinic leadership was involved in preserving the knowledge contained in folk-medical works, including natural medical knowledge (refuot), special remedies (segulot), and amulet writing (shemot).17 Someone who had proficiency in using the divine name was called a master of the name ( baal shem ).18 The books of the Baalei Shem, (including the Baal Shem Tov) discuss demons, natural medical cures, amulets and shemot, or warnings of danger before adjuring angels.19 In contrast, the Degel does not discuss demons or natural cures. Instead, the special status of the Zaddik is based on his connection to the inner light of Torah and his sense of the divine vitality within objects that cures and gives power over nature.
218b. On the elitism of the Degel see Mendel Piekarz, Between Ideology and Reality:Humility, Ayin, Self-Negation and Devekut in Hasidic Thought [Hebrew], 203, 209.

Moshe Idel, Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic (Albany: Suny Press, 1995); Immanuel Etkes, "The Role of Magic and Baalei Shem in Ashkenazic Society in the Late Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries" in Zion 60:1 (1995) pp. 69-104. On the magical cultural climate in Ashkenaz see Herman Pollack, Jewish Folkways in Germanic Lands (1648-1806) (Cambridge, M.I.T. Press, 1971) chapter 6. A traditional collection of many sources is contained in Moshe Hillel, Baalei Shem (Jerusalem: 1993). There are no mentions of specific diseases either but one can ascribe that difference to his claimed genre of Biblical commentary.
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Functionally, the Zaddik's own spiritual energy has replaced both natural healing and kabbalistic shemot. In common with the Baalei Shem literature the Degel discusses dream interpretation, ascents of the soul, and some talismanic astrological magic. While the Baalei Shem literature claims that the world works by natural or astrological means, the Degel sees nature as consisting of divine vitality, in which every object has this life giving energy as light or sparks. P. Kemp made the important observation that spiritual healing in Eastern Europe is divided by regional and not ethnic differences.20 Similarly, Moshe Idel notes the similarities between the ascents of the soul practiced by the Baal Shem Tov and those experienced by the shamans in the Moldavian Carpats.21 If this comparison between the Baal Shem Tov and the Eastern European shamanic faith healers is valid, then from the perspective of the phenomenology of religion, the shamanic experience of an ascent of the soul found in Hasidism is different from kabbalistic mysticism. The shamanic elements would be more important for understanding Hasidic phenomena than the antecedents of Hasidic terminology in Lurianic, Heikhalot, or Abulafian writings.22

P. Kemp, Healing Ritual, 181.

M. Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives p. 321 note 137, referring to Mircea Eliade, Zalmoxis: The Vanishing God (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1970), pp. 191-194. Idel in note 133 mentions the parallel between the cosmic column linking the lower paradise to other levels of reality in both Hasidism and shamanism. Yet, Eliade himself in this discussion of the healers and sorcerers of Romania writes that they possess ecstatic qualities of oracle dreams, trances, and ascents, without most of the other characteristics of shamans including: initiatory malady, costumes, ritual death and resurrection, or the ability to turn into an animal. Furthermore, in reference to Rumanian Orthodox ecstatic healers who invoke God and the saints Eliade writes that they "lack all of the constituent elements of shamanism," 202-203. The use of Kabbalah in the Degel is limited to a few set sefirotic metaphors and a few elements of the Lurianic prayer book. Only a few works are cited, including a Lurianic prayer book, Toldot Yaakov Yosef, Or Hayyim and Brit Menuhah in the name of the Baal Shem Tov. In addition, he seems to have consulted an Ein Yaakov on the Aggadot in the Talmud and possibly a Zohar or a Shnei Luhot Habrit. Most importantly, he used one of the recensions of Shaar ha-Yihudim (Koretz: 1783) on Lurianic kavvanot, see 13b. The Degel contains a popular orientation towards the Lurianic prayer book with many citations of Leshem Yihud and


There are various definitions of shamanism ranging from those who limit it to Siberian healers alone to those who use it as a cross-cultural phenomenon. Eliade provides a narrow definition of shamanism as a technique of ecstasy leading to a journey or flight of the soul based on prior initiatory malady, costumes, ritual death and resurrection, or the ability to turn into an animal.23 A broader definition of shamanism includes an altered state of consciousness based upon entering the realm of the spirits and the dead, which is used for out of body traveling, healing, dreams, possession, future knowledge, and knowledge of the dead.24 Related to these shamanic traditions are various religious

practices including those of medicine men and of healing priests who serve communities.25 The shamanic journey to the realm of the dead and spirits is undertaken for a specific purpose after preparatory fasting, intoxication, and sleep deprivation. Mental concentration is increased and shamans maintain control of the experience, keeping their sense of self intact when they encounter the dead and the spirits. They can enter or leave the experience at will and are partially able to determine the type of imagery and experience they will have. In contrast, the mystical ascent as found in the Kabbalah and as described by most
hamtakat hadinim;see 274b. He is also acquainted with the Lurianic doctrine of gilgulim. On knowledge of Lurianic kavvanot in early Hasidism, see the dissertation in progress by Menahem Kalush at the Hebrew University. Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (Princeton: Princeton U.P., 1976); Roger Walsh, The Spirit of Shamanism (Los Angeles: Tarcher, 1990). Jane Monnig Atkinson, "Shamanisms Today" Annual Review of Anthropology 21 (1992) 307-30 is an important essay surveying the state of the field. Holger Kalweit, Dreamtime and Inner Space: The World of the Shaman (Boston: Shambhala, 1988). Carlo Ginzburg, Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witch's Sabbath (New York: Viking-Penguin, 1992) sees a universal folk culture in Europe of witches and sorcerers fighting spirits of the dead.
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Roger Walsh, The Spirit of Shamanism, 742.

mystics is quite different. In a mystic state, arousal is decreased and the mystic is calm, maintaining heightened emotional pleasure of divine bliss and terror of the dark night of the soul. In shamanism, arousal is increased and there is no mystical union or merging with the divine. Mystics generally do not have out of body experiences; instead they lose awareness of their bodies, occurring with various degrees of egolessness and loss of the self. Idel notes that the ascent of the soul in Heikhalot and Hasidut is different than the types of mental ascent of Bonaventure in Christian mysticism or that of kavvanah in the Kabbalistic tradition.26 In light of this dichotomy, the experiences of the Baal Shem Tov and the Degel Mahaneh Ephraim cannot simultaneously, in the same act, be both mystical and shamanic. If it is shown that they have controlled their aroused altered states of consciousness, those experiences are not mystical even if they use the mystical language of Cordovero and the Zohar. It is important to state clearly that the Neoplatonic ascent in Kabbalah and the ascent in Hasidism are possibly worlds apart even if they share a similar textual tradition. The actual relationship is more complex because the Degel combines both mystical and shamanic elements in his system.27 In contrast to the literary nature of the Kabbalah, shamanism is generally an oral tradition. In the case of the Degel we find an oral tradition with an authoritative reliance on

Walsh, The Spirit of Shamanism.; Idel, Kabbalah p. 317, n. 88.

Studies on shamanism are usually limited to oral religious cultures and those on mystics to literate cultures. Yet some literate mystics, such as Julian of Norwich are far from a calm Neoplatonic ascent or Buddhist samadhi. But this proves the point, Julian of Norwich has a different experience than Augustine or Bonaventure even if she uses some of their language. For a four-level model of the mind that creates a congruence between altered states of consciousness, including the shamanic and mystic see Stanislov Grof, The Adventure of Self Discovery (Albany: SUNY Press, 1988); idem, Realms of the Human Unconscious (New York: Viking Press, 1975).


the spoken statements of his grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov is described as having ascents of the soul and communication with spirits that are similar to shamanic experiences, but without a prior initiatory malady, costumes, or ritual death and resurrection. R. Moses Hayim Ephraim relates a story of shamanic ascents to higher worlds experienced by the whole circle of early Hasidism, and not just the Baal Shem Tov. The Degel identifies R. Yehudah the mokhiah of Polnah absorbed in the midst of an ascent, which he immediately recognized because of his familiarity with heavenly ascents. I saw R. Yehudah Leib the mokhiah of Polnah, who returned from the higher world in intensely high and elevated [spirits]. I was in his house, and leaped up quickly with all my strength and requested that he bless me. I said to him that I know that he had returned from the higher world. He took his two hands, and placing them on my head, blessed me. I said to him that I would give him a message (kvit) for my grandfather in the higher world that he should bless him there, for the blessing, which he blessed me here.28 Heavenly ascents give the ascendant the ability to bless and to channel the blessing to others. In addition, the Degel considered the communications in an ascent an actual communication with the Besht and assumed, as in most shamanic traditions, that people are able to converse with the dead during the heavenly ascent.29
283b-284a.The shaman has a reduced awareness of the environment, though in some cases the shaman can still communicate with spectators. In this case, however, the communication was after his return. On heavenly ascents, see Ioan Couliano, Out of this World (Boston:Shambhala, 1991); within hasidism see Naftali Lowenthal, Communicating the Infinite: The Emergence of the Habad School (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990). See the instructional formula for an ascent to the Garden of Eden (a similar version was probably known in early Hasidism) in Sefer Mifalot Elokim, (Jerusalem: Bakal, 1972) 14a-b. One is instructed write on a leaf an oath to the angels to bring one to heaven. Then one fasts for three days and places the leaf under one's pillow. See Heinrich Flesch, "Sympathetische Mittel und Rezepte aus dem Buche Mifalot Elokim des Rabbi Naftali Kohen und Rabbi Joel Baal Shem" MGJV XLII (1912) 41-48. Heavenly ascents and the vision of the Heikhalot continued to be a source of religious experience and creativity and did not cease with the rise of the theosophic and ecstatic Kabbalot. Ascents that bear similarities to the shamanic ascents found in Hasidism, and Heikhalot are to be found in German Pietist, Zohar, Tikkune Zohar, Brit Menuhah, Cordovero, Luria, Vilna Gaon, and Magical texts.
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One finds a similar process at the core of daily prayers containing "an ascent through higher worlds in the morning prayers".30 In addition, the Besht ascended to heaven by adjuring, or invoking the angels in oaths in 1746, 1749, and 1757. Related stories in the Shivhei Habesht record that the shamanic yihudim of the Baal Shem Tov during prayer caused thousands of dead souls to flock to him and that he fell into ecstatic trances.31 The structure of ascent during prayer is similar to a heavenly ascent, and while praying one would also be able to communicate with the dead, intercede in heaven with the angels, and fight cosmic battles to ward off evil. The Besht's prayers seem closer to a shamanic ascent than to a mystical ascent based on Safed Kabbalah.32 Another shamanic aspect in the zaddik's role is the ability to gain knowledge by clairvoyance. "And God saw that the light was good" (Genesis 1:4) The Midrash teaches that it was good, means good to store up for the zaddikim who use it in every generation" [BT Hagigah 12a]. I heard from my grandfather [the Baal Shem Tov] (may he be remembered for a blessing, his soul in Eden, zllh'h) asked where the [original divine] light and he said that Hashem, has hidden it in the Torah. Through it zaddikim in each generation use this light, that is, by means of Torah which has in it that light, they are able to see (lehistakel) in it from one end of the world until the other end, as literally (mamash) my


In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov eds. Dan Ben-Amos & Jerome R. Mintz (New York: Schocken, 1984), on the ascent of 1757, see 54-58; on souls coming during prayer, see 46. On the ascents, see M. Rosman, Founder of Hasidism chapter 6. In addition, there were attempts to control the princes of the nations on the new moon of Nisan by the Degel himself. "God showed me on the new moon of Nisan 1788, in Medziebuz: Why is the first of Nisan the new year for kings? (Rosh Hashanah 2a.) Because on this month the ten sefirot are the secret of the skull of the king which includes all aspects of the ten sefirot of malkhut , which includes all kingship (malkhut ) and government," 99a. On the Maggid inheriting the ability to fight these battles in Nisan, see, Shlomo Lutzker, Dibrat Shlomo (Jerusalem: 1955), introduction; also printed as the introduction to Dov Baer of Mezhirech, Maggid Devarav Le-Yaakov, ed. Rivkah Shatz (Jerusalem: 1976).


On the relationship of the Heikhalot to shamanism, see James R. Davila, "The Heikhalot Literature and Shamanism" SBL 1994 Seminar Papers pp. 767-789.


own eyes have seen in numerous incidents.33 He then relates an incident in which the Besht knew about the activities of his brother-in-law R. Gershon Kutover in the land of Israel; he saw that he had temporarily left Israel to attend a circumcision.34 Rather than letting his readers think this an isolated incident, he adds: I can cite many cases similar to this and more. Even of how he, in fact, saw from one end of the world until the other end, all of which was accomplished with the hidden light in the Torah.35 This hidden light is also the Degel's goal in Torah study, even if he has not attained clairvoyant ability. 36 In contrast to the Degel's presentation of the Baal Shem Tov, which bears a close similarity to the broad category of the shaman and to the Moldavian Carpat healers, the Degel does not claim for himself these shamanic powers of ascent, clairvoyance, and communication with the dead. Rather, the Degel's role is that of spiritual healer and mystic. The Degel distinguishes between the heavenly ascents of the "Baal Shem Tov and his generation who were on [so high a] level as not to pray at all for their personal needs, only for the needs of the shekhinah," and the lower level of his own generation, cleaving to the shekhinah for their own healing needs. The shekhinah is embodied in the vitality of all the sensations of a person from the source of vitality of all life. [Because of this] I hear and feel (as if it were possible) the pain of the holy

3a. Based on a dream he writes that all cannot have this ability, only zaddikim, see 143a.

3a. An alternate version of this story is contained in Shivhey Habesht ed. Ben-Amos #193. On the extra sensory abilities of Hasidic zaddikim see Aharon Zeitlein, Ha-Metziut Ha-Aharet (Tel Aviv: Yavneh, 1967) 168-177. On R. Gershon Kutover see Abraham Joshua Heschel, "Rabbi Gershon Kutover: His Life and Immigration to the Land of Israel" in The Circle of the Baal Shem Tov (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1985), 44-112, this story is discussed on 96.


3a. 3a, 8b. On Torah study as seeing the hidden light see below on Torah study.



shekhinah... filling her physical wants. The wise will understand that physical needs are infused with the shekhinah's vitality and will.37 This lower level does not ascend; instead the shekhinah inheres in the purified body. The faith healing approach of the Degel is stated in his comments on the verse, "The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul" (Psalms 19:8), the Degel assumes that the restoration of the soul by means of Torah pertains to healing the sick. We see that souls are healed by kabbalistic healings, segulot, divine names and amulets, which are part of Torah. If one has enough faith then a mercy (hesed),38 or prayer or Torah study alone would be sufficient. One can be healed without recourse to the ordinary techniques of a baal shem. In order to heal, one needs faith, characterized here by the Degel as belief in the divine vitality within physical objects.39 The power for healing and control over nature is contained in the Torah itself, and the study of Torah gives these powers to the talmid hakham :40 Just as the Creator of All created the natural [realm]41 in the world by means of wisdom (hokhmah), so too man can create by means of new natural knowledge (hokhmah). From this one can understand how through the physical, one can quiet the soul (heshiv nefesh) with Torah. [It is] because dejection and weakness of the soul (bittul ve hulshat ha-nefesh) comes from a deficiency in one of the natural elements... When the elements are rectified to function with complete balance, the soul is quieted to its original point. We

89a. Possibly a reference to any physical act done as a yihud.


2a. On the definition of faith see 56b; 67a; 283a. The name of someone with faith works also, 48a on the Besht. On the use of the name of the Besht, see Idel, Hasidism 74-78. On the natural healing powers of the Baal Shem Tov using herbs, blood letting and the spiritual ability to read pulses see In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov eds. Dan Ben-Amos & Jerome R. Mintz (New York: Schocken, 1984) 26, 27, 59, 119, 157, 231, 232, 245.
41 40


[or nature], he is not exact in his use of the definite article.


already said "in the beginning" means "with wisdom" 42 which is Torah as it is written "In wisdom hast Thou made them all" (Psalms 104:24). Therefore, the rectification and strengthening of nature is also by means of Torah, because there is in the Torah matters of healing also. Understand this.43 Just as physical harmony cures the soul, the converse is also true; physical sickness is based on a spiritual problem, indicating a lack of harmony with the shekhinah.44 The Degel shows his familiarity with the Lurianic method of pulse diagnosis, writing "human blood flows from the name Eh-yeh;" a clot in the blood is reflective of a clot in the flow of divine blessings.45 This power over the natural realm is the special quality gained by a man of faith that relates to the divine vitality within things. The zaddik has mastered the talent of relating to the spiritual dimension within all aspects of nature. "From my grandfather [I heard] that each zaddik has holy sparks which relate to the source of his soul which he needs to rectify and raise even his servants, animals, and utensils." 46 The ability to find the divine vitality in

In contrast to midrash and Zohar, where reshit and hokhmah are synonymous with Divine Wisdom, here they refer to the letters themselves. Combinations of letters (zerufei otiot ) have healing powers almost like recombining an internal DNA pattern see: 180a-181b. 2a; also 102a-103b. On nature as theosophy see Antoine Faivre, "Nature: Religious and Philosophic Speculations" in vol. 10, The Encyclopedia of Religion ed. Mircea Eliade (New York: MacMillan, 1987), 328331.
44 43



243b. On diagnosis by means of pulses, see Tikkune Zohar #69 108a; R. Isaac Luria Shaar Ruah Hakodesh, 3 provides a yihud which distinguishes between ten types of pulses, corresponding to the ten sefirot and the ten vowel points. It is further described in Likkutei Torah, Taamey HaMitzvot, Vayera. The Besht also used this method, Praise of the Baal Shem Tov 245. Dan, Ha-Sippur Ha-Hasidi points out that the Besht used ordinary means and not miracles to heal, 96-110. 15b. Compare Gershom Scholem, "The Neutralization of Messianism in Early Hasidism" The Messianic Idea in Judaism, 189 where it is cited as giving a concrete and personal tone to the Kabbalistic idea of Divine sparks.



objects is called the Torah of mercy (Torat hesed), and allows one to "change all nature." 47 These abilities or techniques for raising sparks can only be gained through purity from lust. "Yosef who kept the covenant of peace [of sexual purity] was able to change hunger to satiation, understand it." 48 The power of divine wisdom (hokhmah) gained by sexual purity allows one to channel or sublimate one's vitality, and thereby, literally apply mind over matter. Notice that food is not associated with raising sparks nor embracing the physical. One gains the physical sustenance or healing ability directly from the food's divine source. This ability is less a miracle or magic than an ascetic mind control technique for gaining mastery over the physical. Quoting R. Nahman of Horodenka, the Degel shows that he aims to gain this ability. He defines true worship as identifying with and thereby, controlling nature itself: To worship Hashem one needs to include himself with all creations, from the smallest worm to the wild ox. 49 The secret (sod) of man is in all the worlds and all minerals, plants and animals. One understands this by an analogy: when a person does not eat for several days, he may die from hunger, but when he eats an olive size piece (ke-zayit) of bread his soul is stilled. Automatically (memele) we understand that in this small piece (ke-zayit) is the secret of complete man. That is the spiritual vitality, which contains divine energy within it, which is the secret of

"and sweeten all judgements." 47a-b. See 83a for another good example. A parallel to the thought of the Degel is found in R. Menahem Nahum of Chernobyl, Meor Eynayim (Jerusalem: 1968). R. Menahem writes that a Divine vitality (hiyyut ) is found in all things. Healing can be by means of this vitality, and its channeling by various means including visiting graves of zaddikim. The Torah gives the Zaddik these powers: "All seven wisdoms, the wisdom of medicine, and other wisdoms... are also Torah, and Torah is their vitality," 291; 26; likkutim, Masekhet Shabbat . One example on the healing powers of Zaddikim has been translated in Upright Practices, The Light of the Eyes (New York: Paulist Press, 1982) trans. Arthur Green, 148-157.



196a. On Nahman see Mendel Piekarz, In the Beginning of Hasidism (Jerusalem: Bialek Press, 1978), 23-25; 260-265.



man.50 Zaddikim bind themselves to the divine vitality in all the physical activities that they perform. They eat only a minimum amount of food because that amount is sufficient for them to reach the divine vitality in that item, while ignoring its physicality. Therefore, their own bodies become pure and exist solely as a conduit for the divine. The Degel considers this minimum amount of vitality in objects as the reason for the legal requirement of using an olive size as a minimum measure in the laws of leavening and mazot on Passover, the sacrificial cult, and the laws of ritual slaughtering. The Degel further proves that this vitality inheres in all objects; he points to the ability to heal a person by means of crystals and "the transnatural property (segulah) of precious stones to sustain a person, as is known in the case of the crystal (yahalom )." 51 He presents a general theory of divine energy within physical objects, which is contained in the following directive: When one sees a material object, whether human, animal, vegetable, or mineral, one draws from the mind (moha) to it a praiseworthy thought of desire and awe. One draws to them vitality from the higher mind by means of the influx that descends into the procession of the worlds and comes to the angel appointed on that object. [He] leads it, masters it and causes it to grow and generate, until everything is completed. Afterwards, when the object
36b. On food and the body as major categories of pre-modern thought see Piero Camporesi, Bread of Dreams: Food and Fantasy in the Early Middle Ages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989); idem, Incorruptible Flesh (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), considers the references to the worms as a death reference. 151a. Yahalom in the Bible is probably a green opal or jasper. The Degel probably refers to a clear stone, possibly quartz. Emil Hirsch, "Gems" Jewish Encyclopedia vol 5, 594. This importance of a yahalom crystal is not found in the recent anthology by Raphael Patai, The Jewish Alchemists (Princeton:Princeton University Press, 1994. On crystals in shamanism see: Michael Ripinsky-Naxon, The Nature of Shamanism: Substance and Function of a Religious Metaphor (Albany: Suny Press, 1993), p. 123, who describes the shamanic use of rock crystals as living or solidified light and compares it to Ezekiel's vision of light crystals on the Divine throne. The Degels concept of minute amounts as sufficient is also found in homeopathy, see Samuel Hahnemann, The Healing Art of Homeopathy presented by Edmond C. Hamlyn, (New Canaan, Conn.: Keats Publishing Co., 1979).
51 50


established in the world, the person reciprocates (hozer) and enjoys taking more vitality from it. This is the secret of "the vitality (hiyut) runs to and fro." 52 This passage is similar in part to the concept of kavvanah found in the circle in Gerona and in the writings of Cordovero. Yet, the Degel ignores the sefirot and their channels, the panentheistic indwelling of the divine, and the Neoplatonic psychology. What remains is a system that sees the physical world as infused with energy of higher unseen realms, and mystical practice is required to transfer this energy to the physical world. The Degel's description of finding the hidden vitality descending from above into physical objects and of channeling the energy is similar to Moshe Idel's panoramic typology of magic by ascending and bringing down the power. Yet, the Degel's tone is focused more on the horizontal aspects: One ascends and binds objects above. Then when the object comes to be in the world, the person reciprocates ( hozer) and enjoys taking more vitality from it.53 The emphasis is on causing it to grow and on the horizontal plane, with a transfer of the vitality from the zaddik to the object and back again. There are variations on these ideas of immanent energy in Hasidic texts. Cordovero's Kabbalah has two applicable metaphors for the flow of the immanence of the divine within the world, vessel (keli) and channel (zinnor). The divine essence is either contained in vessels, or streams into the world as a channel. These metaphors are adapted and used in Hasidism, but the essence is now not Cordovero's emanation of an




151a. The passage associates the animals/angelic beings (hayot ) with the vitality (hiyut ).


infinite divine essence,54 but a universal life force -as an almost tangible quality- within everyday objects. This universal life force permeates all things, and all things depend on it for health and life, similar to the Hindu prana, the Chinese chi, or the Japanese ki. The two metaphors of immanence become two different approaches to this life force. A statement that one is a vessel (keli) for the divine vitality is similar to a Taoist statement that the immanence is within the human body as chi. While a statement that one is a channel (zinnor) for the divine is similar to a more shamanic ki of Seiki-Jutsu in which one channels this life force from outside the body. 55 In the Degel, the life force is obtained by desire and awe, which transform the ordinary physical world into an interactive divine energy field. "One cleaves himself in the Holy One Blessed be He and raises everything he sees with thought to the Holy One Blessed be He." This passage describes an extrovert mystical oneness with the vitality that pulsates through the physical world.56
There are also perfect Cordoverean passages of opening channels to bring an influx from above such as 15a, on these see Idel, Hasidism chapter 6. On the internal energy of Chi see Da Liu, Tai Chi Chuan and Meditation (New York: Schocken Books, 1986); On the external energy of Seiki-Jutsu see Ikuko Osumi and Malcolm Ritchie, The Shamanic Healer:The Healing World of Ikuko Osumi and the Traditional Art of Seiki-Jutsu (Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press, 1988); This energy has been called by a variety of names and explained by many theories, some considered scientifically valid and some not, including pneuma by Galen, telesma by the Corpus Hermetica, magnetic fluid by Mesmer, prana (and focused on chakras) in Hinduism, and bioenergy by current Eastern European researchers. The relationship of pneuma, healing, and the soul in Western thought is discussed in Ioan Couliano, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 9 and see his extensive bibliographic references. 56 151a. Similar ideas on the relationship of healing, faith and power in objects are found in R. Nahman of Breslov: Know that each herb has a unique power to heal a particular illness. But all this is only for the person who has failed to guard his faith and morality, and has not been careful to avoid transgressing the prohibition against despising other people (Avot 4:3). But when someone has perfect faith, guards himself morally and lives by the principle of not looking down on anyone at all, his healing does not depend on the specific herbs that have the power to cure his illness. He can be healed with any food and any drink, as it is written, "And He will bless your bread and your water, and I will remove sickness from you (Exodus 23:25). Such a person does not have to wait until the specific remedy for his illness is available.
55 54


Another faith healing trope found in many places in the Degel is the positive imagery of snakes as being able to physically heal or wound, similar to the use of animal powers in shamanic traditions. "Every talmid hakham who does not begrudge and revenge like a snake..."(Yoma 22b.) The explanation is that a snake has two aspects: at first he bites and afterwards he looks to heal and revive. Similarly, the talmid hakham must have these two aspects: one to bite and one to guard and watch. He needs to be able to heal and revive the one that he bites." 57 "A talmid hakham cleaves in God's Torah, the Torah of truth which has these two aspects. The sages write, "if you are worthy, it is an elixir of life; if you are not worthy, it is a poison (Yoma 72b.)" When the talmid hakham studies lishmah, it is an elixir of life to those who cleave to him. One who disgraces a talmid hakham , there is no healing for his wound (Shabbat 119b).58 A talmid hakham who has the divine power and power of the Torah has, in the words of Torah, [the ability] to kill and to revive. Through his hands he fights God's wars. Whether he needs to kill or revive, all is through his hands, as a talmid hakham in his cleaving to the Torah of God.59 The talmid hakham , by means of his Torah, is seen as possessing the powers of the snake to heal and wound. The Degel writes that some can heal with the words of prayer, some with the words of Torah, and some by means a physical act. "One who is continuously fortified in faith and trust in the Blessed Name (Hashem yitborakh) does not require any act of healing." 60
Sefer HaMidot with notes of R. Zadok (Lublin: 1915) refuah #1, p. 243, translated by Moshe Mykoff as The Aleph Bet (Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute, 1986). See also Likkute Moharan II, 1:6-9. On R. Nahman and healing see the traditional Breslov anthology, Sefer HaRefuah (Jerusalem: 1992); Abraham Greenbaum, The Wings of the Sun (Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute, 1995). Nahman did not personally engage in healing and the few stories ascribing a cure due to his power were accomplished solely by faith. 103a The Degel quotes this from the Toldot Yaakov Yosef vol. 1, yitro p. 194; however, the snake image also occurs in Binyamin of Zlotchov, Amtahat Binyamin (Minkovitch: 1796), Kohelet, in the name of the Besht. On the invoking of animal powers in shamanism, see Eliade, Shamanism, 98.
58 57

104a, The talmudic quotes are from the original homily of the Toldot. 105a; also 85a.


273b. See 279a on the healing qualities of the Sabbath. This statement needs to be compared to the views of the Pentacostals who believe that faith will heal them. Pentacostals also believe in speaking in



These healing abilities have generally been relegated, in twentieth century academic scholarship, to the realm of magic and superstition, meaning that they were false, primitive, or deceptive. A more tolerant and less condescending view of these matters has led to a more balanced view of these as literary records of folklore and oral tales. They were and are primarily stories, based on set genres and motifs.61 The anthropological approach to the workings of healing of E. E. Evans-Pritchard presented spiritual healing as an ascription by those healed of a supernatural causality to a natural event and the healing itself is accomplished by means of the faith in the symbolism of the healer.62 Currently, scholars are willing to consider the healing as an actual diagnostic and healing process employing altered states of consciousness.63 This marks a return to the

tongues while in a state of enthusiasm similar to that of Hasidism see Felicia Goodman, Speaking in Tongues:A Cross-cultural Study of Glossolalia (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1972). See In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov eds. Dan Ben-Amos and Jerome R. Mintz (New York: Schocken, 1984), with its index to motifs from Thompson's folklore classifications; G. Nigal, Magic, Mysticism, and Hasidism (Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson, 1994); Joshua Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition 7th ed. (New York: Behrman House, 1984). E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976); Unlike the Azande, The Degel does not seem to have a separate belief in a realm of healing; he expected his healing to work as in the intellectualist approach described by Robin Horton, Patterns of Thought in Africa and the West:Essays on Magic, Religion, and Science (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993). This began as research into transpersonal psychology; the current state of the field can be gauged from Roger Walsh, and Frances Vaughan, Paths Beyond the Ego: The Transpersonal Vision (Los Angeles: Tarcher, 1994). A popular version of this paradigm shift towards the transpersonal occurred with Bill Moyers, Healing and the Mind (New York: Doubleday, 1993). Most current literature on Shamanism accepts its healing power based on first-hand fieldwork with shamans see footnotes 23, 24 above. On fieldwork with contemporary Christian monastic hermits of Ethiopia, showing that ASC (altered states of consciousness) can heal wounds, control the autonomic system, and perform "miracles" of healing which parallel those in patristic desert spirituality, Kabbalah, and Hasidic healing, see William C. Buschell, "Psychophysiological and Comparative Analysis of Ascetico-Meditational Discipline: Toward a New Theory of Asceticism" in Asceticism eds. Vincent L. Wimbush and Richard Valantasis (Oxford: O.U.P., 1995) 553-575; and Buschell's unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Columbia University, 1993). A popular narrative of a contemporary Greek Cypriot spiritual healer similar to the Degel in several respects is found in Kyriacos C.
63 62 61


late nineteenth and early twentieth century American scholarly tradition of an acceptance of psychic healing. The most famous scholar of these phenomena is William James, who, based on his approach of a radical empiricism, took seriously the claims of the mesmerists, faith healers, and hypnotists.64 The best typology of these healing phenomena is still that of Thomas Jay Hudson, written in 1893, that classifies these cures under six rubrics. His six categories include: (1) healing as accomplished by faith alone, as at Lourdes; (2) hypnotism and trances, also studied by Breuer, Freud and Jung, yet, left as applicable only to hysterics until the recent trend towards "healing and the mind,"; (3) mental cures based on positive thinking, which was James' explanation of faith healing; (4) Christian Science, in which the world and its illnesses are illusionary and if one realizes it, one can change it; (5) shamans and spiritual forces (which later anthropologists further divided between ascents and possessions); (6) Mesmerism, auras, and all other healing such as Reiki, Taoist Chi, or Hindu prana exercises based on channeled energy. The Degel's description of healing using the divine vitality seems closest to number six, and that his general approach of cleaving to the divine vitality is closest to numbers two and three.65 The Degel's own explanation of healing is based on this universal life force (hiyut)
Markides, Fire in the Heart: Healers Sages and Mystics (New York: Paragon House, 1990). The spiritual healer Daskalos is a master of metaphysical knowledge, psychic powers, with abilities to fly out of his body, visit the world of descended souls, all in full consciousness.

William James, Essays in Psychical Research (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986).

Thomas Jay Hudson, The Law of Psychic Phenomena (Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co., 1897), 150. It is interesting to note that Joseph Weiss describes the Maggid of Miezrich as close to number four, Christian Science, by showing how the zaddik returns everything beyond the illusion of this world to its primordial nothingness and can then transmute it. "The Great Maggid's Theory of Contemplative Magic," Hebrew Union College Annual 31 (1960) 137-148.



on which all things depend for health and life. God is immanent in this life force as an active and unpredictable force in the everyday natural physics of the world.66 The energy of this divine vitality is channeled from above into the physical, yet many objects like crystals, food, and living beings have stores of it that can be used. Unfortunately, he never explains the mechanics of channeling the energy, other than by suggesting the use of asceticism and the Torah. An innovative new work on spiritual healing by Thomas J. Csordas gives an explanation of the process that facilitates an understanding of the Degel.67 Csordas observed that spiritual healing orients a person back to his real self and grants healing control through direct divine contact over life. This orientation is accomplished by imagining embodied waking images of the healed spiritual self. Spiritual healing employs religious images that involve the whole psychosomatic person and not just the mind. Memories of traumas held in the body are healed by associating them with divine coincidence and releasing oneself into the hand of God. The process does not return the patient to a preillness state but reconceptualizes the pain and suffering into a healed state. This process creates a sense of intimacy, presence, and wholeness that overcomes many psychosomatic diseases and can give one an ability to struggle with disabilities and pain. When applied to the Degel, Csordas' theory emphasizes that the way to be healed
32b. The Degel does not show familiarity with the medieval Jewish works presenting a fixed view of nature or the need for a doctrine of occasionalism. On the topic in general see Benedicta Ward, Miracles and the Medieval Mind (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982). Thomas J. Csordas, The Sacred Self: A Cultural Phenomenology of Charismatic Healing (Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1994). A work that integrated and applied Csordas's thesis as formulated in an earlier article is Loring M. Danforth, Firewalking and Religious Healing: The Anastenaria of Greece and the American Firewalking Movement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989). Danforth points out that in some situations, when it is not a sign of inclusion to be healed and a sign of exclusion if one is not healed, then even if the healing failed, the reorientation itself is seen as the goal, p. 280.
67 66


from the trauma of this worldly existence is through direct divine contact channeled by the master of awe in his embodied connection with the divine. The zaddik uses stories to create healing images, and teaches a doctrine of openness to the divine providence in life. One is no longer lost in physical existence; instead one is oriented to the light and blessings of the shekhinah. This new healing orientation of a body basking in divine light would integrate the various different elements found in the Degel's spirituality of transcending ordinary life through (1) awe of the shekhinah, asceticism, and finding the divine vitality in all things (2) theosis, (3) pneumatic Torah study and (4) story telling. The Charismatic Catholics, whom Csordas studied, found their healing through direct divine contact, spontaneity, control over one's life, intimacy, and a sense of divine involvement in one's own life. Csordas points out that in contrast, the same effects are achieved in Scientology when the spontaneity, control, and intimacy are found in divine timelessness above the individuals existential concerns.68 The Degels resolution of problems through connection to the timeless shekhinah and divine vitality is more in line with the latter approach. This quest for timelessness combined with its asceticism makes an romantic reading of meeting God in the this-worldly moment difficult to sustain. In the Degel, one does indeed find a sense of intimacy, spontaneity, and organic ties to social group; yet, it is combined with an otherworldly, ascetic, and God fearing piety. An additional point made by Csordas is that the Charismatics show their modern sense of self by favoring controlled, and consciously willed images attained while awake. The images used pertain to a person's life story incorporating his unique experiences and


Csordas, 146-147.


traumas.69 The Degel, however, in line with most traditional approaches, favors images from the universal, timeless world of the symbolic found in the dream, the inspired revelatory image, and the allegorical story.

Awe, Asceticism, and Divine Vitality The main hasidic directive for the Degel is "to continuously cleave to the inner awe"70 of an object by renouncing pleasure, allowing one to experience of the inner light of the shekhinah. The well known Hasidic concepts of "finding God in all things" (bekhol derakhekha daehu), and "cleaving to God" (devekut) are both defined by the Degel as the ability to relate to the hidden divine vitality in all things. This experience of the inner awe is itself neither mystical nor appreciative of this world. While in the world a person should fear the world: Until his soul cleaves unto the shekhinah (as if it were possible),71 as it says in Song of Songs: say to wisdom, you are my sister". When one binds oneself strongly to the shekhinah, one will not fear [the corporeality of the world] anymore.72 A parable: when a person wishes to enter a deep pit he fears that he will not be able to climb up. Therefore, he takes a ladder with him into the pit in order that he can ascend. The moral (nimshal) is that the shekhinah is the ladder, and he is the one that the Holy One, blessed be He, tells not to have fear. The saint who fears the evils of the pit of the physical world cleaves to an inner awe, and [obtains] the conviction that he is literally the shekhinah (as if it were possible).

Csordas, 93, 146-147. 189b.


He usually reserves the phrase as if it were possible (kiveyakol) for identification with tiferet and not with the shekhinah, compare 110a. It is important to note that the reference to wisdom in the quote from the Song of Songs "say to wisdom, you are my sister" is taken as a reference to the mental cleaving to the shekhinah and not a reference to the sefirah of hokhmah as in earlier Kabbalah.



The inner awe and the cleaving to the shekhinah serves as a ladder, which remains connected to a person as a lifeline, when he enters difficult terrain.73 Everyone needs to sense, according to his spiritual level, this inner awe in order to ascend from the world.74 The binding to the shekhinah while engaged in ordinary activities is an inner transformation of the whole person into a state of holiness; one then senses the divine nature of reality. The Degel requires awe and the rejection of physical pleasure in order to cleave to the shekhinah, which then allows the experience of the inner light of the Holy One Blessed, be He (tiferet).75 For most people the world is not a place infused with the divine, rather it is a snare of corporeality leading away from the divine. The doctrine of the Degel is puritanical toward the enjoyment of physicality while simultaneously affirming the world as a divine manifestation.76 This world is like a sea. When a person finds God (HKBH), whose Glory fills all the earth, in physical matters then he has performed (as if it were possible) a unification( yihud). The path toward unification...[is to guard
52a.This parable is translated by Samuel Dresner, who demonstrates the influence on it of R. Menahem Mendel of Bar's view that life in this world is a descent fraught with danger. See Samuel H. Dresner, The Zaddik: The Doctrine of the Zaddik According to the Writings of Rabbi Yakov Yosef of Polnoy (New York: Schocken Books, 1960). 80a-b, 116b. This acute sense of awe, fear and trembling is also characteristic of the Baal Shem Tov; see Dan, Ha-Sippur Ha-Hasidi 91-92. The stories describe the Besht as frozen in a trance of awe. This tradition was alive in the twentieth century Lelover Rebbe R. Moshe Mordekhai Biderman (died 1987), who would fall into a spasmatic seizure of trembling in prayer. This form of mystical ASC (altered state of consciousness) is very different than the portrayal of hasidism as based on the Maggid's cleaving in thought. Sometimes the Degel formulates the influx of divine light of tiferet as coming from wisdom ( hokhmah) and defined as charity, providence (hesed), and the sweetening of the judgement (hamtakat hadinim). 170a. Hokhmah, hesed, and gevurah are treated as metaphors for wisdom, mercy, and judgement respectively and are not given their own independent status in the sefirot. 175a-b;182a. See Louis Jacobs, "Eating as an Act of Worship in Hasidic Thought" In Studies in Jewish Religious and Intellectual History: Festschrift A. Altmann edited Siegfried Stein and Raphael Loewe, ( Alabama:University of Alabama, 1979), 157-166.
76 75 74 73


oneself] from immorality. On weekdays it is difficult to reach this level except for masters of the name (anshei shem or people of renown) 77 and masters of the soul. However, on the Sabbath it is easy for everyone to reach this level. Therefore God commanded to eat, drink and enjoy oneself on the Shabbat.78 Life in this world is seen as being lost at sea, while the ascetic fear of God becomes the path that navigates. The masters of the name can regularly navigate the physical; most people can attempt it only on the Sabbath. Fundamentally, the Degel senses an existential disorientation if one is not steered though the world. If one cultivates a life of awe and devotion then one has a rudder to steer oneself even in physical activities.79 In order to properly fulfill the dictum "in all your ways know him" (bekhol derakhekha daehu), one renounces physical pleasures: If a pleasurable matter comes, attend to the source and origin of all pleasures, the cause of causes which revives all and gives vitality in all things and from there comes the pleasure. When one attends to this and believes it with a total faith, all physical pleasure will be nullified.80 The need to renounce pleasure in order to reach God is presented as a dichotomy between the soul seeking to cleave to the divine and the physical pleasure of the world.81 The dualism of divine soul and corporeal body is overcome by sensing the divine vitality even in the body. This realization can be accomplished by the soul of a talmid hakham
Later in the passage he calls them princes ( nasi) and high priests. See A. Green, "Typologies of Leadership and the Hasidic Zaddiq" in Jewish Spirituality Volume 2, ed. Arthur Green (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1987); There are strong feudal and reactionary aspects of these models, on the most famous case see David Assaf, Derekh Ha-Malkhut: R. Israel Mi-Ryzhin.
78 77

274b-275a. Compare Rav Nahman's outburst that the world is a narrow strait. 56b; 67a.



168a. See 176a-b on sweetening judgement (hamtakat hadim) as the psychological removal of pride, allowing the natural vitality to be sensed.



because "God and the Torah (identified with the soul) are one (Kudsha Berikh Hu ve Oraita Had)." Therefore, the talmid hakham can use the power inherent in his divine soul to transform his body into a vessel of divine light.82 The Degel writes that one who cleaves to God needs to be able to be in that state so as to sense the inner awe while engaged in ordinary activities. "Every person needs to go up and go out" into the world. "Even someone committing a sin, God forbid, who receives pleasure from the sin, does so from the vitality of the shekhinah, without it, he could sin and could not receive pleasure from the sin." 83 This passage shows a faith in an animistic ontology of divine vitality within all things. However, the Degels worldview is not a form of quietistic antinomianism; only mizvot and asceticism leads one to cleave to the inner light. Louis Jacobs writes, "Hasidism utilizes the concept of the holy sparks to a far greater degree than the Lurianic kabbalists themselves. But although on the surface nothing has changed, in effect the whole concept has undergone a radical transformation." Jacobs views the difference as based on contrasting Lurianic asceticism with Hasidic worship through corporeality. Some Hasidic masters did engage in severe denial and mortification of the flesh, their ascetic mode of life belonged to their background as Lurianic kabbalists or to individual temperament. It was only incidental to the Hasidic way of life, which stressed the idea of avodah be-gashmiyyut, "divine worship through the use of material things." This involved a positive embrace of things of this world as means toward the service of God. In the essential Hasidic doctrine, God is worshipped not only by the study of the Torah,
On this dictum, see Isaiah Tishby "God, Torah and Israel are One-The source of the Dictum in Ramhal's Commentary on Idra Rabba." in Kiryat Sefer 50 (1975)480-92, 668-74; Bracha Sack "More on... God, Torah, and Israel are One." Kiryat Sefer. 57 (1982).
83 82



prayer, and the observance of the precepts but also by engaging in worldly pursuits with God in mind. Little is made in the Lurianic Kabbalah of the holy sparks residing in food and drink... abstinence and holy living are the way in which the sparks are rescued.84 The doctrine of worship through corporeality is seen as world affirming, non-ascetic, and involving "a positive embrace of things of this world as means toward the service of God." 85 In contrast to Jacobs' world affirming portrayal of Hasidism, the doctrine of worship through corporeality in the Degel is mildly ascetic, available only to someone who can avoid physical pleasure and thereby see the divine vitality in the world. Rather than a rejection of the Lurianic ethos, the concept of worship through corporeality in the Degel is based on a single-minded use of the ascetic Lurianic intentions of eating, which are then applied to all life. The transformation was from the contemplative mystical ascent of the soul and theurgic spirituality of Luria into a Hasidic enthusiasm and asceticism. An example of this embodied asceticism is the ubiquitous hasidic fear of involuntary seminal emission (keri ) and the corresponding importance attached to regular mikveh immersion. Heschel cites the severity of this sin within most Hasidic texts including the Magid of Miezrich and his followers.86

Louis Jacobs, "The Uplifting of Sparks in Later Jewish Mysticism" in Jewish Spirituality Volume 2 ed. Arthur Green (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1987) pp. 99-126, especially p. 115-116. One of Jacob's examples (121) is the Hasidic fondness for smoking. It is interesting to note that during the same time period Siberian shamans switched from native hallucinogenics to the New World plant, tobacco, as the psychoactive drug of choice. See, V.N. Basilov, "Chosen by the Spirits" in Shamanism: Soviet Studies of Traditional Religion in Siberia and Central Asia ed. Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer, (Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1990), pp. 3-48.


Jacobs, "The uplifting of Sparks" p. 115.

See 236a-b. On involuntary keri as a mortal offense, see Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Circle of the Baal Shem Tov (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1985), 190. Asceticism, worry over sexual sins, and Hasidei Ashkenaz fasting for sins are contained in most Hasidic texts, and not just those of R. Nahman of



The Hasidic approach of the Degel creates a psychophysical theosis that allows an active life as a channel of divine vitality. "Even if a person performs mizvot and actively pursues mizvot, without the fear of heaven it is completely disregarded." 87 The mizvot do not count because they do not fulfill their function of bringing the divine light into the person. The act without the corresponding fear of heaven does not work on the physical level of transforming the person into the divine. Awe and physical asceticism comprise the lower religious consciousness ( katnut) while bringing the infinite Divinity into the physical is called the higher consciousness (gadlut). Abraham kept only the mizvah of circumcision- while equivalent to all the commandments as a curb of lust and physical pleasure- was only able to achieve an ascetic removal from the world. In contrast, the mizvot of the Torah correspond to all 248 limbs and 365 sinews which in turn correspond to the divine name and the divine soul in man. This embodied manifestation in the physical by means of all the limbs is considered a higher consciousness.88 The negative commandments all fight the "other gods" such as lust; the positive commands develop the embodied soul.89 The Degel quotes the Baal Shem Tov's explanation of the meaning of the angels ascending and descending the ladder in Jacob's vision as the secret of lower (katnut) and higher (gadlut) religious consciousness, also called the secret of running to and fro (ratzo
Bratzlav and R. Elimelech of Lyzinck, as stated by I. Tishby, and Y. Dan, in "Hasidut." Encyclopedia HaIvrit vol. 16, 769-821. The penitences of Hasidei Ashkenaz and Luria, remain in effect in the Hasidic world, unlike the Mitnagdim who substituted Torah study. Compare Tanya: Iggeret HaTeshuvah chapter 1 to Nefesh HaHayyim, gate 1.

81a. 87a; 216a.



veshav), and of falling for the sake of rising (yeridah lezorekh aliyah), and "you shall seek God from there." 90 These phrases indicate that from the lower space, into which one regularly has to fall, one can reach out to God and return to higher consciousness. The lower consciousness can be used to ascend to higher consciousness, but it is not an end in itself.91 Similarly, when the messiah comes, there will no longer be a lack of knowledge (daat) and the widespread lower consciousness (katnut). Instead all will be filled with divine knowledge, and people will live a religious life of only higher consciousness ( gadlut), allowing people to gather the sparks by raising them to the higher consciousness of the divine name. Gathering sparks does not bring the messianic age; rather the opposite is true. The messianic age will be a time of corrected consciousness allowing all people to relate the manifestation directly to the divine in all things.92 Raising sparks93 is the definition of living in oneness with the divine vitality in the world, which will continue even


See also 206a. This is radically different than the approach of Polish Hasidism. It was said in the name of R. Simhah Bunim of Przysucha (1765-1827): "And you shall seek God from there" this refers to all the philosophical and intellectual investigations to grasp God and His unity which are call "from there" that is another place. But, in reality the truth is that there [referring to philosophy], is the actual place of the heart. When a person properly purifies his ethical traits as presented by Maimonides in his Laws of Deot, then he will find in his heart the Blessed Divinity." Torat Simhah, (Pitrokov: 1910) sec 133. Compare the rejection of philosophic questioning in the Degel, 18a.



93a. This higher consciousness is a state of identity with the Divine vitality. It is not an individualized redemption, as in the thought of the Maggid, nor does it undo the "Lurianic breaking of the vessels," as in Scholem and Tishby. The sparks are always ontologically scattered in the lower physical world, the messianic age allows the ideal religious life of continuously relating the physical directly to the Divine. The Degel here uses the idea of the raising sparks found in the Lurianic writings, and converts it from a Kabbalistic concept into one of spiritual enthusiasm. It is a metaphor for the fallen world and the access to divine vitality. The ideal enthusiastic life of identifying with the shekhinah is seen as undoing this fallen state but the story of the fall itself is not part of his theory.



during the messianic age.94

Theosis of the Talmid Hakham The Degel states that the body and not just the soul are perfected in the keeping of mizvot. This psychosomatic whole is a different experience from the experience of the Neo-Platonic ascent of the soul; it is more of a theosis than an ascent.95 In the Degel, one identifies with the exile of the shekhinah in the physical world. Through prayer and piety the master of awe becomes one with her in order to cleave to the infinite divine light. The shekhinah receives the influx of the infinite divine light from the Holy One, Blessed be He (tiferet), and gives it to the world. Prayer for the shekhinah means that one senses the inner vitality and connects it above for a blessing.96 Therefore, the joining of the divine vitality in the physical to the mental, is a yihud of shekhinah and tiferet, a conduit for divine light.97 One becomes like the shekhinah, both through a unification (yihud) of the physical

99b. Messianism is politically neutralized as a longed for embodied redemption, when people can collectively live in a state of higher consciousness. The Degel is in line with the letter of the Baal Shem Tov in which he spoke to the messiah in an ascent and was told that the Messiah will come when the Besht's teachings are disseminated. Yet, it remains, in an ironic sense, the ever, unfulfilled desire because it is neither actively politically pursued nor spiritualized.


Idel, Hasidism, 246. It is closer to St. Symeon than to Gregory of Nyssa. The combination of activism and enthusiasm as found in both, the Hesychast spirituality of St. Symeon and some Hasidim was noted by Rivka Shatz, Hasidism as Mysticism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993). 15a. Compare Louis Jacobs, Hasidic Prayer (New York: Schocken Books, 1978), who explains the statement of the Baal Shem Tov that prayer should be for the sake of the shekhinah as an expression of the tension between his mystical prayer and ordinary petitionary prayer. Jacobs' work is based on the typology between mystical and petitionary prayer of F. Heiler used by Rivka Shatz in her Mysticism as Quietism. M. Idel, Hasidism sees it as a magical drawing down of the Divine energy. 18a; 27a. The shekhinah has become the symbol of both purity (usually ascribed to yesod) and knowledge (usually ascribed to hokhmah).
97 96


and mental, and by cleaving to wisdom in order to receive the reflected light from tiferet.98 This allows the shekhinah to shine on the person praying and not the sitra ahra.99 The resting of the shekhinah on a zaddik and the identification with the divine effects a theosis of the righteous, who becomes an incarnation of the shekhinah. The Degel writes that in the Zohar "in several places, the shekhinah actually dwells in [the zaddikim's] bodies, and their countenances literally display the shekhinah."100 An excellent example of this physical perfection is the change of Moses' ascent to God from a vertical metaphor of ascent to the embodied one in which by "purifying his materiality he became all form as the vitality of the divine light." 101 The Degel points out that purification involves the body and not just the mind, yet one can transcend his physicality and have a body of divine light.102 Zaddikim literally radiate the lower aspect of divine energies, the shekhinah, but they are not identified with the higher divine image of the king, the Holy One Blessed be He (Hakadosh Baruch Hu) [tiferet]. The tiferet is received as an influx to those in communion


57b; In another passage tiferet speaks through the throat during prayer, not the shekhinah 68b.

191b. There is a real choice between gaining powers from the shekhinah or from the evil side and demons. One wonders if this marriage, while similar to the Kabbalistic theme of marrying the shekhinah, is also a parallel to the shamanic marriage to a female demon to gain its powers, as described in Holgar Kalweit, Dreamtime and Inner Space. The Baal Shem literature warns against binding oneself to demons, yet there are stories of it occurring, see Sarah Zfatman, Nissuei Adam Ve-Sheidah (Jerusalem: Akademon, 1988); G. Nigal, Magic, Mysticism, and Hasidism (Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson, 1994) chapter 5. A twentieth century marriage of a rabbi and a she-demon is recounted in Yoram Bilu, Without Bounds: The Life and Death of Rabbi Yaacov Wazana (Jerusalem: Magnes Press 1993) [Hebrew] 53-60.


110a. 2b-3a. It might literally be an aura or radiance of Divine energy.




with the shekhinah. "He dwells in their midst, as if it were possible." 103 The higher aspects of the Divinity- the infinite divine of the Eyn Sof - are only an influx temporarily dwelling below.104 On a practical level this is done by the contemplation of various combinations (zerufim) of letters of the divine name as found in Brit Menuhah and the Lurianic writings.105 The zaddik resists or elevates the distracting thoughts that come into his mind while contemplating the divine name,106 and thereby attains a complete identification with the shekhinah, the base of the sefirotic hierarchy. A similar description is found in the writings of Eastern Orthodox Hesychast thinkers such as Pseudo-Marcarius, St. Symeon, and Gregory of Palamas. George A. Maloney writes that in their thought "an affective spirituality sought to integrate body, soul, and spirit in prayer to experience God's indwelling presence in the purified Christian as a transforming light." 107 Similarly, the Kabbalah has been recast


One cleaves as a means of access to the attribute of Jacob, tiferet , called truth (emet ) as the source of the divine light.42b; 45b;48; as faith 95a. See Shatz Ha-Hasidut Ke-Mistikah 153; Idel, Hasidism 160. On Brit Menuhah and kavvanot, see R. Moses Cordovero, Pardes Rimonim shaar 27, chap. 1 118; 112, especially on his identification of the final letter heh of the Divine name. The Degel does not downplay the demand to use kavvanot as much as rely on Cordovero and Luria without the need for study of the theosophic tree of emanation or to follow all the details of the kavvanot . He does not give explicit directions or discussion of the Lurianic yihudim.
106 105


83a. On resisting sexual thoughts see the passage quoted by Weiss, Studies, 169.

Pseudo-Marcarius (New York: Paulist Press, 1992), 4, describes the Neoplatonism of the Cappadocians as integrated into the mystic's body as a psycho-somatic wholeness. The physical theosis of St. Symeon may is considered by some scholars a mental Neoplatonic ascent because of his use of the writings of Gregory of Nyssa and the metaphors of the contemplative Neoplatonic tradition, especially his emphasis on the vision of light. On the Neoplatonic reading see B. Fragneau-Julien, Les Sens Spirituels et la Vision de Dieu selon Symeon Le New Theolgien (Paris: Beauchesne, 1985). However, other scholars emphasize that St. Symeon sees the perfected state of man as a purified body in which the Neoplatonic background has been completely recast into a doctrine of psycho-somatic wholeness. For the latter presentation, see Basil Krivocheine, In the Light of Christ, St. Symeon the New Theologian (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1986). G.A. Maloney, The Mystic of Fire and Light: St. Symeon the New Theologian (Denville, N.J.: Dimension Books, 1975). John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology (New York: Fordham U.P., 1974).



into a doctrine that transforms body and mind into the vitality of the divine light. This activist approach of fighting lusts, acquiring awe, and theosis, into the shekhinah is R. Ephraim's definition of the faith healing talmid hakham . The Degel's discussions of Torah study show this pneumatic emphasis on awe and theosis.

Torah Moshe Idel points out that some Jewish mystics held that the text of the Torah was to be interpreted on the basis of one's pneumatic inspiration.108 He quotes R. Moses Hayyim Ephraim that "a person who is righteous is close to the Torah and that the Torah is in him and he is Torah." 109 Idel sees this formulation as linking the text of the Torah and religious experience similar to both Abulafia and R. Shneur Zalman of Habad Hasidism, both of whom use Aristotelian psychology in their intellectual mysticisms. However, R. Moses Hayyim Ephraim's discussion of pneumatic interpretation provides a very non-intellectual definition of Torah. He defines Torah solely as the pneumatic statement of the zaddik based on the indwelling of the divine in his soul, and without a text subject to interpretation. The Torah given on Mount Sinai contained directions for spiritual purity. 110 The Torah is not made up of stories, but rather it teaches "the path to walk in and the action to do." 111 The Torah is literally in the Zaddik and the Zaddik has

M. Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives 234-249. Idel, 245; Degel 284. 112a.



53b. Citing the famous Zohar passage "How to view the Torah," usually read as showing the theosophic levels to the text. Daniel Chanan Matt, Zohar: The Book of Enlightenment (New York: Paulist Press, 1983), 43-45.



bound himself to the Torah by purification.112 A spiritualist reading of the Torah as the revelation of ineffable secrets on the soul is shown in the following passage: The innovations in Torah made by the wise of the generation come through God's revealing His secret to His servants. [The wise] shine from the light of His Torah, its midpoint and innerness. However, [the Torah] is still not concretized in words, because something taken from the divine wisdom (hokhmah)... is a non-confinable divine power... it is inconceivable, and an ineffable nothing (efes veAyin)... When the Zaddik finds clear knowledge, how can he clothe the matter [in words]? 113 He defines this ineffable Torah knowledge, based on inspiration, as the Torah of truth (Torat emet). The application to life, in which the ineffable is clothed in words, content, and form, is the Torah of mercy (Torat hesed). The passage continues: God gives knowledge to the wise only as an essence and pith of the matter (nekudah vetokhen). Afterwards the zaddik builds on it based on his grasps of it. This manifestation (hitpashtut) of the Torah... in language... in expanded consciousness (gadlut)... is called the Torah of mercy. [The zaddik] needs to see and understand the need to do mercy with the Torah according to the needs of the era and generation. The enlightened will understand.114 The following passage shows that the reading of Torah is itself a pneumatic experience. I heard in the name of my brother the famous holy rabbi, R. Baruch, explain the [reason] that the end of the Torah "to the eyes of all Israel" is joined [during the Torah reading on Simhat Torah] to Genesis. When the eyes of Israel are gazing into the Torah, their gaze into the Torah is the renewal of the


p. 284a.

278b. This is close to the position of Bernard of Clairvaux who in his commentary on Song of Songs 3:1 writes that: "today the text we are to study is the book of our own experience." See Kilian Walsh, The Works of Bernard Of Clairvaux Vol. II (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1979) 16. The experience of the Degel is a more submissive one, and involves identification with the text itself.




work of creation, which is renewed on each day. 115 The spiritualist approach to textual reading-, which is also found in the writings of other Hasidim-, is here linked to the continuous renewal of the work of creation. The Degel created a single concept in which the Torah is the source of wisdom, is defined as the experiential life of awe, and is identified with the shekhinah. One senses the divine vitality of the shekhinah, which flows through all creation in order to provide the knowledge to heal and to relate to the natural world as divine (gathering sparks, doing acts of tikkun, and yihud). Healing and communion with the divine in nature is the very essence of Torah and the life of the zaddik transformed by the divine light and his healing ability is Torah itself.116 The Torah itself which Moses received on Mt. Sinai regulates the earthly natural life, and contains "all natural things and events." 117 The letters of the Psalms have the power to perform wondrous acts of healing.118 When one learns Torah for its own sake (lishmah), one becomes purified from ones physical needs. If one cleaves in thought (davak bemahshavah) to the heavenly wisdom, the Torah of truth (Torat Emet), then everyday statements become Torah (Torat



In 43b he quotes the Zohar Hadash in which torah lishmah gives knowledge of the language of birds, plants, and angels. On the Baal Shem Tov's use of this knowledge see In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov eds. Dan Ben-Amos & Jerome R. Mintz (New York: Schocken, 1984) 49, 198.



283b. The five books of Psalms are an earthy application -oral Torah- of the five books of the written Torah. "I heard that daily King David would daily record as a Psalm everything that occurred to him. He would infuse the events into the letters, which have permutations and vitality allowing sweetening... Similarly, when one prays, i.e. [due to] a sickness, and clothes the matter in letters, sometimes a great event [occurs]. One needs understanding of this far-reaching explanation."



hesed).119 The Psalms and their powers are equated with both the Oral law as the Torah of mercy (Torat hesed), the application of the Torah of truth (Torat Emet) to this world.120 In common with other hasidic texts, the written Torah is considered a spiritual experience of devekut and not merely intellectual knowledge. The letters of the Torah consist of divine names and a channelable divine vitality. 121 Even the functional content of the Torah is viewed as incarnate in the zaddik: "Mizvot and hukkim are the zaddikim themselves." 122 This statement has several implications: zaddikim bring the light through performance of the mizvot, mizvot correspond to the limbs of the body, and the body engaged in a divine act is itself a mizvah incarnate. The zaddik has usurped the role of rabbinic interpretation; and R. Moshe Hayyim view involves a breakdown of traditional legal authority, based on interpretation, in favor of a pneumatic and charismatic form of leadership. It is well known that the written Torah and the oral Torah are all one, not to be separated from one another at all... In interpreting the Torah and revealing its secrets, the sages at times uprooted something from the text... All this they did by the power of the Holy Spirit that appeared in their midst, so that the very wholeness of the written Torah depends on the oral tradition... Such is the case for each generation and its leaders; they complete the Torah. The Torah is interpreted in each generation according to that generation's needs, and according to the soul-root of those who live at that time. God enlightens the sages of the generation in His Holy Torah. He who denies this is as one who denies the Torah itself, God forbid.123

5a. 278b; 5a;47a-b;83a. On 105a he explains that this vitality heals and wounds, and gives life and death as din and rahamim.



29b. This definition shortens the extension made within Yiddish culture to consider any good deed or meritorious act as a mizvah, see Moshe Waldoks, "Mizveh" in Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought eds. A. Cohen and P. Mendes-Flohr (New York: Charles Scriber's Sons, 1987), 587-588.


6a; On 12a he gives an alternate formulation in which the eternal Torah is seen to differ with each time


While the Degel certainly followed the Shulkhan Aruch in his role as rabbi and legal decisor, for him, to some extent, the text of the Torah was no longer simply subject to legal analysis and intellectual understanding. Torah is now incarnated as the zaddik himself; the text serves as a pneumatic source of divine light able to perfect the 613 body parts, and to be applied to real life situations through its healing light.124 In his response to the anti-hasidic criticism that "learners ( lomdim) study while hasidim do not," the Degel shows that he himself knows that Hasidic learning consists only of the pietistic and homiletical works. As a response he returns a criticism of the learners: Whatever the learners study it increases their haughtiness, and they consider themselves as having learned much about every situation. While Hasidim, the more that they learn the greater humility. And this is the entire purpose, that they learn to be humble and modest.125 This study involves not just learning halakhah for devotional reasons, but learning is rather defined as the study of pietistic literature. He gives a similar response in another place; he asserts that those who study much practical law and look down on those who study pietistically are wrong: those that study for the sake of devotion have truthfulness in their
and person. I used Green's translation pp. 149-150 however, I omit his insertion of the words [the interpretation of] before "His holy Torah" because I wish to emphasis that, according to the Degel, God enlightens the zaddik directly. Green "Typologies of Leadership," pp. 151-152. On Hasidic halakhah, see Izhak Englard, "Mysticism and Law: Reflections on Liqutei Halakhot from the School of Rabbi Nahman of Bratzlav[Hebrew] Shanaton ha-Mishpat ha-Ivri vol. VI-VII, (1979-80) 29-44; Samuel Eisenstadt, Zion Bemishpat (Tel Aviv: 1967) 251-259. On some of the extremes of Hasidic halakhah, see Yitzhak Zev Kahane ( Kahan), Mehkarim be-Sifrut haTeshuvot (Jerusalem: Mosad haRav Kuk, 1973). He cites cases such as riding a horse on the Shabbat to bring a kvit to a rebbe, allowed as an act of saving a life. There has been little research into the role of the traditional folkways within Hasidic piety and their influence on Eastern European Halakhah. 149b. This is the opposite of the strictures of R. Hayyim of Volozhin, Nefesh Hahayim,shaar 4. More complex is the relationship of early Hasidim to the kabbalistic klois in Brody which studied Talmudic texts and not pietistic works. See Elhanan Reiner, "Wealth, Social Position, and the Study of Torah: The Status of the Kloiz in Eastern European Jewish Society in the Early Modern Period" in Zion vol 58 #3 1993, 287328. He sees the early Hasidim as emphasizing charisma over the organized social elite of the kloiz while still holding the kloiz in respect.
125 124


hearts, and the shekhinah dwells with them.126 The talmid hakham engages in "learning for its own sake" (lishmah), 127 defined as a selfless form of worship, in love and fear, as a yihud, and to reach the divine.128 Study for its own sake provides wisdom (hokhmah) for consecrating one's limbs to be holy by fighting lust.129 And the very purpose of the giving of the Torah was to provide wisdom for removing lust.130 The hasidic zaddik is a walking persona of this wisdom; therefore, his ordinary talk can change nature, give awe, perform yihudim, and channel divine influx. 131 The Degel sees a social tension between the talmid hakham as a member of the spiritual elite following this path of awe and the common Jewish peasant: The masses hate the talmid hakham because the talmid hakham busies himself in Torah, worship and holiness, and they [the masses] are undisciplined [or left abandoned (hefkara)]. This is fitting for them because they also despise the Torah that was given to Moses.132

16b; 43a.

Roman A. Foxbrunner, Habad (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1992), 143, summarizes hasidic study well when he writes, "The phrase Torah li-shemah became a catchall that was defined almost every way, but literally. The word li-shemah (meaning for its own sake) was turned on its head and was generally interpreted as referring to everything but Torah itself: for the sake of devekut , yihudim, love, fear, purification, mystical enlightenment, redemption of the shekhinah and even for the sake of spiritual power." On the differences between Hasidic and Mitnaged definitions of lishmah see Norman Lamm, Torah Lishmah (N.Y.: Ktav, 1988).


16b; 43a. On Torah lishmah in the Degel see Roland Goetschel, "Torah lishmah as a Central Concept in the Degel Mahaneh Ephraim of Moses Hayyim Ephraim of Sudylkow" Hasidism Reappraised ed. Ada Rapoport-Albert (London-Portland, OR: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 1996), 258-267.

3b-4a. 94a; 106a. 28b.



127a. The average Ukrainian Jew was not particularly observant or studious, despite his folk piety. On the lack of observance of the Sabbath and tefillin, see H.H. Ben Sasson, "Sabbath Observance Laws in Poland and their Economic and Social Context" Zion 21 (1956), 183-206. The Hasidic leader was not a champion of the common man, though they were sometimes lenient in their halakhic stance. See Dubnow,



This social distinction is seen as based on the people not striving to avoid physical pleasure and to observe the commandments. There is a distinction between the masses and the zaddikim who cleave to the secret of thought. [Zaddikim] see the origin and source of things, and through this, elevate all levels to their source. But, the masses and the wicked do pursue nothing but the materiality of things. They do not recognize the secret of thought at all, and do not contemplate the source of things.133 The Degel gives a segulah for a "society of Torah" (hevrah be-divrei Torah) to avoid the clutches of the ever threatening physicality by studying Torah right after prayer.134 A complete zaddik and hakham in the awe-inspiring secrets, and also one who has a tradition from his teacher, ... can partially relate to the source of his soul and to his [path] of worship. Every Jew is required to contemplate, seek, and pray for God to illuminate his eyes in this matter, even slightly. He shall find the [shekhinah], our bride according to his soul and to the extent that he seeks. More than a calf wants to suck a cow wants to give suck. Therefore, it was engraved on the tablets for every Jew to innovate in Torah, as long as he intends his heart to heaven. If it is fit (kosher), then it is fitting and he will enlighten our eyes with Torah." 135 One binds the lower world to its source in the upper world in order to nullify the kelipot. In general, all Israel must bind itself to Torah or to a talmid hakham in order not to drown in this world.136 The Biblical verse "Man and beast Thou preserveth O Lord" (Psalms 36:7) is explained in a rabbinic homily as comparing those who live only a sensory life to naked beasts (Hullin 5b). Here the Degel presents three spiritual levels in the community: the first
Toldot HaHasidut, 23 on Ukrainian non-observance where he quotes Gorland-Kahane, Le-Korot ha-Gezerot (Odessa: 1892) p. 87ff.

144a. 146a. 147a. 47a; 129a.





level includes persons oblivious to anything except the physical, like an animal. The second level includes those fighting their physical lust through Torah. While the third level includes those on the level of the talmid hakham who can come close to the Creator, through performing the yihud of Hakadosh Baruch Hu and the shekhinah.137 If one makes oneself a chariot for wisdom (hokhmah) and his thought cleaves in it continuously, as it is written, "And to Him shall thou cleave"(Deut. 10:20), then Hakadosh Baruch Hu sends to him the words that are needed to rectify the person, to rectify the world, to raise them and to sweeten them. One should notice the absence of the mention of specific mizvot and the equation of the talmid hakham with Hasidic piety. The talmid hakham is connected to the divine, raised to a new plane, and sweetened by the integration of this divine energy. His successful prayers lead him to what Csordas called imaginal sacred self, which provides "life, mercy, and healing." 138

Stories The spiritual healing element is also found in the Degel's telling of hasidic stories. The Degel quotes the Baal Shem Tov on the utility of telling stories in order to raise the level of ordinary people with parables or as theurgic acts designated by the zaddik's intention (kavanah) able to raise the souls and places mentioned in the stories.139 In addition, the Degel endorses the approach of the Magid of Bar in which stories effect the world by bringing blessing into the void of this world, drawing an influx from above and

150a. 5a; 168a.


14a; 19b mentions secular songs (lieder) of love and fear 55b 271a. See Joseph Dan, Ha-Sippur HaHasidi (Jerusalem: Keter, 1975) 40-52.



changing his listeners.140 The Degel considers stories as a performance of yihudim, defined as achieving an influx of higher consciousness (mohin). The Degel heard from the Magid of Bar of a hierarchy of yihudim leading from those optimally performed during prayer, those performed in thought, and those done in stories. There are several types of yihudim with which a person is able to unify God in all the levels. When one cannot speak or pray, one unifies in thought... [These are performed] all in joy because there is no yihud in consternation; understand this. Similarly, in activities and stories with other people, there is a yihud, by means of speaking to them he is [able to] draw them close... and after he draws them close to him, he is able to raise them a level. This is the secret of female waters.141 The Magid of Bar states that when the theurgic yihudim of prayer cannot be done, one may still achieve theurgic effects through performing ordinary activities. Even ordinary conversation and stories can have the ability to raise people to allow an influx of blessing from above. The zaddik has this talent to transform ordinary life into theurgy. It is possible that the intention of the verse "see the life with a women you love (Ecclesiastics 9:9), concerns the matters of this world and the stories of events, which are called woman. The hakham who is called her husband is bound to make from her female waters to draw minds (mohin), called life; understand this. This is the meaning of "a zaddik shall live by his faith," (Habakuk 2:4). This is also the secret of the verses of the priestly blessing; understand this. Occasionally there is a yihud in a lower level with the common people... by means of prayer or a sermon If one intends (titkaven) this in all stories of physical things it fulfills the verse "in all your ways know him" (Proverbs 3:6) (bekhol derakhekha daehu); it is easy to understand.142

On the Maggid of Bar and his doctrine of descent into the physical world, see Joseph Weiss, "On the Beginnings of Hasidism" in Zion 16 (1951), 46-105; On his commentary to Psalm 107 see Rivka Shatz, "The Commentary of the Besht on Psalm 107," Tarbiz 42 (1972), 154-184; Roman A. Foxbrunner, Habad (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1992), 206-207. 283a. On female waters ( mayyin nukvin) see R. Moses Cordovero, Pardes Rimmonim 8:19; Ronit Meroz, Redemption in the Lurianic Doctrine (Ph.D. Dissertation, Hebrew University, 1988).
142 141




The zaddik's stories are literally like the priest's blessing, able to open the conduits of divine blessing. His consciousness is a simultaneous communion with the hidden vitality of the world and the higher sources of divine power. The theurgic acts of stories are a lower level (katnut), while Torah is a higher level (gadlut).143 One should view the stories as part of a faith healer's creation of a new healthy vision, Csordas' model of an embodied "sacred self." 144 This telling of stories is a means through which the zaddik can therapeutically raise the people.

Dreams Many shamans and mystics cultivate a spiritual dream life. R. Ephraim recorded seventeen of his dreams, which he deemed to be auspicious, in a dream diary appended to the Degel Mahaneh Ephraim.145 However, he gives no indication that the dreams were incubated or shamanic dreams, nor are they predictive of the future or involved in healing. They also do not appear to be visions of a maggid or brought about by a special prophetic technique.146 In eight of them, the Baal Shem Tov appears to him, giving him blessings and love. The rest envision the synagogue, or relate to prayer and blessing. They are ordinary

On Hasidic stories in addition to Dan, see the popular work of Yitzhak Buxbaum, Storytelling and Spirituality in Judaism (Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson, 1994).


Csordas, The Sacred Self, see footnote 69 above.

284-285, and one dream interpretation on 143a. The last two dreams are out of sequence, indicating that they may be from a different manuscript. On paranormal dreams, see Rachel Elior, "Nathan Adler and the Frankfort Pietists: Pietist Groups in Eastern and Central Europe During the Eighteenth Century" Zion LIX 1 (1994) 31- 64, especially 60-61 where she cites the dreams of Karo, Vital, and Luzzatto.



dreams in which one sees a deceased relative or one is given a message.147 All of the dreams are optimistic and encouraging, indicating a positive evaluation of his own growth.148 In 1780, the Degel dreamt that his head was shaved at a priest's consecration, which he interpreted in the dream itself "as a sign that he will be raised, God willing, to prominence." The dream then flows into an image of his taking a walnut, cracking open the shell and eating the hatred in its midst. The Degel explains it himself as a promise that: God will break from me all the husks both spiritual and physical, and will give me all spiritual and physical benefits. He will raise all the holy sparks from the husks and we will see wonders from the Holy Torah, and other similar things, Amen.149 This dream reiterates his ideology of needing to break the hated husks of this life, of raising the sparks from this world, and performing wonders from the Torah's power. The dream together with the following dream, both of which occurred eight years after the Magid of Miedzyrec's death, shows that the Degel expected to gain leadership status among Podolia Hasidim. The Degel dreamt that his grandfather singled him and his brother Barukh out for leadership: I saw my grandfather in a dream. He gave me a hand full of money. In it were several quarter rubles, a half ruble, white coins, old coins, and copper coins like the old guilden. And to my brother Barukh Leib he gave two or three old
It is interesting to note that only one of his dreams concerns Torah and he writes that he forgot its content remembering only its beginning. His dreams are about his identification with the Besht or the shekhinah, indicating something of the nature of his mystical experience. When the Baal Shem Tov teaches him wisdom, it is not Torah but the letters of the aleph-bet , 284b. Compare R. Zadok HaKohen of Lublin, whose dreams concern interpretations of Torah, "Dream Notebook" printed with Resisei Laylah (Lublin: 1903). Compare the stern superego reproach given by Karo's maggid, R.J. Zwi Werblowsky, Joseph Karo: Lawyer and Mystic (Philadelphia: J.P.S., 1980) 279-280.
149 148 147

284a. He has a repeat the dream of eating the insides of nuts the following year, 285a.


[guilden]. This was during our journey towards Medziebuz. 150 The giving of the old money shows that they are the inheritors of the old path possibly in contrast to new innovations that came from Miedzyrec, it seems that they are to inherit the Besht's position in Medziebuz. The following year, 1781, he dreamt that the Baal Shem Tov gave him a baby to circumcise while the Besht was sitting on Elijah's chair. In another dream in 1781 he saw the Besht again: I brought myself close, literally face to face. In a oneness he cleaved and hugged me with both hands. He said in these words to me: Your nature and my nature came to the world, I as master of the name (baal shem ) and your good name as a servant of God (eved Hashem ) to learn and to tell Torah to Israel. A man was standing there, one of the regular important visitors coming to hear from zaddikim. My grandfather nodded to him and shook his head, meaning, this will certainly be. I stood on the bench and saw his head shake.151 In these dreams several important points about the Degel's conception of Hasidism shall be noted. The Baal Shem is portrayed as a grandfatherly Elijah figure who functions as a Baal Shem, in contrast to his grandson the Degel, who has a good name as a servant of God (eved Hashem ).152 The Degel explains this dream on the manifest level as acknowledging that he is his grandfather's successor, and that the Hasidim (the important visitor) know this, as well as himself. Yet, this knowledge is only known through the allusive sign of a head nod; thus the masses of the Hasidim would not know it. This is possibly an

285a-b. Podolia had been recently transferred from Poland to Russia, therefore, the old coins were possibly still in use.



On servants of God see Yaakov Hisdai, The Emergence of Hasidism and Mitnagdim in the Light of the Homiletic Literature (Dissertation, Hebrew U., 1984).



allusion to his lack of eminence compared to the Magid of Miedzyrec's disciples. In 1781, he dreamt that the Besht came to him and blessed him, and in another dream the Besht hugged and kissed him. His identification with and love of the Besht reaches its peak when: I cleaved my body to his holy body and in the midst of his beard of his holy face. Afterwards I heard that the congregation was reciting the thirteen attributes [of mercy]... I also started to recite in my mouth (throat) without articulation of the lips. Because I said 'Is this not literally the thirteen attributes, that I am in the midst of his holy countenance'.153 This dream deserves special attention for it shows the actual theosis of the Baal Shem Tov into the body of God. The perfection of both the Degel and the Besht is seen as an hypostisized or incarnate body. The body imagery is reminiscent of St. Symeon's body mysticism, yet it also clearly draws on the Idrot of the Zohar, where God's body, and specifically his beard, are discussed.154 In general, the Degel identifies this world with the feminine, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, and his insemination of mercy (hesed) as masculine.155 In this dream of cleaving to the Besht's body, the Degel is male in his identification with the Besht, and his personification of the divine mercy, while the people are the female. In respect to the Besht, the Degel's passion for self-perfection are "feminine waters" in order to merge with the male.156 The dream also shows three levels of reality, the divine as personified by the Baal


On the thirteen attributes as God's beard see Yehudah Liebes, "How was the Zohar Written" Studies in the Zohar (Albany: Suny Press, 1993), 85-132.


168a and see Idel, Hasidism, 134.

On feminine waters see note 142. The Degel writes that while living the Besht hugged and kissed him, 282b. One should be careful not to read these passages anachronisticly in light of late twentieth century ideas of sexuality.



Shem Tov, the divine mercy as personified by the Degel, and the earthly people in need of the mercy. The congregation is clearly below him spiritually; he is their source of divine mercy, and it seems he is no longer in need of it himself because he now personifies it, and now cleaves to the Torah itself. In the same year 1781, when in his dream the Besht was assuring him of his status, the Degel also dreamt that he ascended twice on a staircase while wearing three sets of tefilin. In following years he had two dreams of frustration symbolized by a non-climbable staircase. In the first he writes that I am climbing a staircase, which had steps very close to one another. Because of this I was not able to expand my consciousness (leharhiv daati ) and my walking path. I pressed the first step of the stairs with my foot and fell to the ground, to a place of dung and mud. In order to increase my step I went under with my steps.157 This dream finds him unable to leave the confines of his narrow life. He wants to climb the stairs as well as, he explains himself, to expand his consciousness. He falls, back to his unfortunate current state, a place of dung and mud. His solution to go under may refer either to go under the stairs in order to increase his domain laterally, to descend further still, or possibly to go under on his toes carefully. His longest dream, in 1785, was one, in which he saw the Baal Shem Tov blowing shofar and announcing his own notes (tekiot) before blowing them. He then put the shofar next to his mouth while blowing slightly: Afterwards he grabbed it with both hands held near his body while the sound
285a. An alternate version of this dream finds him in his late uncle's house R. Zvi Hirsh, in which the stairs contains lulavim and etrogim. Etrogim are symbolic of Torah for the Degel see 176b, so it means that he cannot reach the proper level of Torah. The Besht was present in the dream performing the Passover Seder and Purim festivities. In this dream he was distant from the Besht and did not have direct contact.


came from the shofar. I was astounded. What am I do to when the Besht himself announces the tekiot and blows himself? Then the congregation called out arise (ya'amod) as if they were reading the Torah. I went up and stood by with the shofar. I recited a blessing as if I had ascended to an aliyah, and I [saw myself] standing literally inside the shofar as the sound issued from the shofar. Afterwards I took the shofar home myself and blew in it tekiah, shevarim teruah, tekiah myself.158 Here, the Degel sees the Baal Shem Tov as not relinquishing authority; and performing each action himself. The shofar is the manifestation of God's mercy, occurring at the side of the Baal Shem Tov's body. The Degel goes up and becomes part of the conduit of this mercy, which he can then, despite his subsidiary role, reproduce at home. The Degel interprets his own dream: This is our interpretation: [this dream] is better and greater than other [dreams]. Certainly, all these things are to sweeten the judgement from me, and to humble all adversaries, and to illuminate (the whole world and) me with the great shofar, which is the holy countenance, higher mother etc.159 He acknowledges that his interpretation is only an interpretation, not necessarily better than others are. Thus implying that he discussed the dream with other people or had thought about other options.160 This discussion shows that he did not consider his dreams as healing, nor as containing mystical insights, but as ordinary (possibly precognitive) dreams.161 In general, the Degel is emblematic of those Hasidic writers not strongly influenced by the Maggid, who do not require a nullification of the ego and therefore show

285b. 285b.


In contrast to the tradition of symbolic dream interpretation contained in works such as Solomon Almoli, Pitron Halomot (Venice: 1623), the Degel interprets dreams on the manifest level. The Degel's views on dreams employs the Or Hayyim, who writes that dreams are images and metaphors that reveal higher and future knowledge, see Genesis 4:1; Numbers 12:6. Shamanic dreams enter the realm of the dead or of the spirits and bring back information for the community as in the ascents of the Baal Shem Tov. See footnotes 21 and 22 above.



greater introspection and interest in dreams.162 In the Degels theoretical discussion of dreams, they are indicative of the nonconsciousness of sleep. Dreams create a false reality; "dreams are illusionary and not true." He parallels the falseness of dreams to the non-connection to divinity found in this world exiled from the divine. Torah study while awake is the reconnection of the sleeping mind to the divine, and is the redemption from exile of the world. If one is purified and connected to Torah, then amidst the falseness of dreams one may find truth and prophecy. As a result, "All dreams are true and all seen is true, and all true is seen. One has left exile and falsehood; instead, all of one's actions are true." 163 This is not a shamanic theory of dreams to heal, enter other realms, or commune with spirits. It is, again, an ordinary psychological process to purify the mind, leading to true knowledge. An example of the ordinariness of his dreams is his ability to continue them as a waking dream the next day. One night he sees that he will overcome his political adversaries and that he will be illuminated by the Shekhinah and Holy One, blessed be He, allowing him to illuminate the world. The next day this theme continues in his thoughts, creating a waking dream, which confirms the defeat of his adversaries and his achieving prominence. He saw himself walking "in a kittel with embroidered rows of silver and gold, literally a royal garment." That night the theme continued, and he dreamt that he saw the

An example is R. Pinhas of Koretz, Midrash Pinhas (Bilgorai: 1931), p.10b paragraph 72, "Dreams are the refuse of the mind". Compare the charismatics whom Csordas, Sacred Self studied p. 93; they reject the use of dreams because of their lack of conscious control and existential spontaneity. The Degel is looking for a connection to the shekhinah and a timeless illumination of the everyday. 42b; 41a-42b. In contrast, for the school of the Maggid, as typified by Zaavat HaRivash 4a, Torah and sleep are both evaluated as negative, in comparison to the true reality of devekut . In the Degel, reality is Torah and purification, while sleep is the impurity of this world.



Baal Shem Tov rejoicing on Simhat Torah. He interprets this as implying that God will sweeten the judgement for him and all Israel.164

Conclusions The Degel, whose theoretical writings are about the process by which one becomes a zaddik, closes the alleged chasm between Hasidic theoretical literature and Hasidic stories. His theoretical discussions about the wonder working zaddik show that Buber and Scholem may have created a false dichotomy between the stories and the theoretical works. Buber was correct in comparing Hasidism to the ecstatic, embodied mystics such as St. Symeon. Yet, he was phenomenologically wrong in romanticizing it into a this-worldly meeting of the moment. Conversely, Scholem was correct to emphasize the theoretical literature, yet wrong not to link Hasidism to the wonder working literature giving usable techniques for inner work and paranormal experiences. The Degel represents a world that reads for guidance Hayyim Vital's Shaar HaYihudim, and Shaarei Kedushah, Shlomel Dresnitz's, Shivhei Ha-Ari, Yosef Karo's, Magid Mesharim, and the anonymous Brit Menuhah.165 The parallels of wonder working saints bringing a life of ascetic holiness to the physical world also include Talmudic rabbis such as R. Haninah ben Dosa,


and the

285b, the image of the Baal Shem Tov is a positive sign similar to the incubated dream images of the R. Shimon Bar Yohai, see Yorum Bilu, "Dreams and the Wishes of the Saint" in H. Goldberg (ed.) Judaism Viewed from Within and From Without (Albany: Suny, 1987). On waking dreams, see Mary Watkins, Waking Dreams (Dallas: Spring, 3rd ed. 1984). Similarly, Idel, Hasidism writes that Hasidism is magic and ecstatic mysticism and Piekarz, Between Ideology and Reality writes that it is a continuity of Safed pietistic literature. Both are correct if these paranormal magical manuals of Safad are seen as the model for the Hasidic zaddik.
166 165

On wonder working rabbis in Rabbinic texts, see Jack N. Lightstone, "Magicians, Holy Men, and Rabbi:


Sefardic R. Hayyim Ben Attar (1696-1743) and R. Israel Abuhazera (1890-1984).167 Moshe Rosman writes: "The spread of mystical-ascetic hasidism from Safed to Europe from the sixteenth century onward put the Moroccan, Hayyim ben Attar, the Ukrainians, Gershon of Kutow, and the Besht, and the sages of Jerusalem in the same universe of discourse." 168 This model of mystical-ascetic hasidism in various communities reconceptualizes the nature of Ukrainian Hasidism away from a specific uniqueness into general trends of magic, lay prophecy, veneration of saints, hagiography, and wonder working that have yet to be explored. It can also explain women as healers and counselors outside the Hasidic court.169 The Degel did not see himself as a theoretical Kabbalist. He was a Talmid
Patterns of the Sacred in Late Antiquity," in ed. William Green, Approaches to Ancient Judaism, vol. 1 (Missoula, Mont: Brown Judaic Studies, 1985). On the Besht's appreciation for Ben Attar and his aborted attempt to meet him see, G. Nigal, "The Praises of Rabbi Hayim Ben Attar" in Kav LeKav: Studies in Maghreb Jewry in Memory of Shaul Ziv (Jerusalem: 1983); Dan Manor, "R. Hayyim ben Attar in Hasidic Tradition" Pe'amim 20 (1984), 88-110. On Morrocan saint veneration including Abuhazera see Isachar Ben-Ami, Saint Veneration Among the Jews in Morocco (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1984). This is currently a sociological phenomena of closeness of the saint reverence among Moroccan and Hasidic Jews in Israel. The influence of the Ottoman Empire on Hasidism is a still unresearched topic: Lurianic and other Kabbalistic works traveled North, traders traveled South to Constantinople, and Podoloia was under the Ottoman Empire at the end of the seventeenth century. M. Rosman, Founder of Hasidism, 130. Compare Scholem's dichotomy between Hasidism and the Sefardic Kabbalists of Bet-El, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism 328-330. I.M. Lewis, Ecstatic Religions: An Anthropology of Spirit Possession and Shamanism (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin, 1971) wrote that ecstatic religions give a sense of empowerment to women. While his theory has received criticism, it can be applied to Hasidism in a modified form. The approach of the Degel, when learned and ascetically practiced, could offer some women the possibility of being known as healers, wonder-workers, and saints. Nevertheless, they were excluded from the religious public realm of synagogue and public lecturing and relegated to the "private" realm of healing and counseling. On women in Hasidism, see Nehemia Polen, "Miriam's Dance: Radical Egalitarianism in Hasidic Thought" Modern Judaism 12 (1992) 1-21; Ada Rapoport-Albert, "On Women in Hasidism: S.A. Horodesky and the Maid of Ludmir Tradition," in Jewish History:Essays in honor of Chimen Abramsky, ed. A. Rapoport-Albert, S.J. Zipperstein (London:1988), 508-525. On the importance of not overlooking study done by women in non-formal institutions, outside the rabbinic high culture, see Shaul Stampfer, "Gender Differentiation and Education of Jewish Women in Nineteenth-Century Eastern Europe" Polin 7 (1992) 63-87.
169 168 167


Hakham who thought that rabbis could heal, reach the inner light of the text, pneumatically interpret the text, and find religion by cultivating awe and practicing yihudim in everyday embodied life. Only an exceptional religious leader such as the Baal Shem Tov could shamanicly ascend to heaven, communicate with the dead, and have a theosis to become identified with the divine. In the Degel's psychic life, he was emotionally wedded to the shekhinah, the Baal Shem Tov, and the divine vitality. A rabbi was to be ascetic, devotional, and concerned with connecting this world to the higher divine vitality. The true act of faith was to see the sparks of divine vitality in this physical world, and to gather the sparks meant to harness that spiritual energy into mastery over the physical, in order to heal by creating a physical, emotional, and imaginal sacred self.