On Sunday afternoon, January 29, Lehrhaus and the JCCSF presented a study session with two of America's greatest scholars in Zohar and Kabbalah: Rabbi Arthur Green and Professor Daniel Matt. In an intimate setting these two friends and fellow travelers taught and discussed a selection from the Zohar and took questions from the participants and the moderator, Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan.
Lehrhaus Judaica and the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco are grateful that this free program is made possible by the continuing support of the Lehrhaus Philosophy Circles by The Laszlo N. Tauber Family Foundation and the Koret Foundation.
This is a Hanukkah gift from Lehrhaus to all Philosophy Circle Students: "Arthur Green's 'Guide' Delves into Kabbalah," recorded December 13, 2004, on NPR's "Fresh Air."
You may recall that the Presidential election between George W Bush and John Kerry was won by Bush, however Bush's margin of victory in the popular vote was the smallest ever for a re-elected incumbent president. Green addresses one of the campaign's accusations: that the moral high ground is held only by conservatives. How that discussions emerges from the Zohar and leads into Hanukkah is yours to discover.
"rapture," enthusiasm," or "ecstasy." It generally
a state reached within prayer, though Hasidic masters sometimes report that it can happen outside prayer as well.
The root "lamed-hey-vav" means "flame." Hitlahavut means
that the soul catches fire and is itself
turned into flame. In such moments all obstacles to perceiving God everywhere are consumed in an instant;
consciousness and the ecstatic flame are one.
Nowhere in Jewish spiritual
literature is hitlohavut proclaimed as the goal of devotional life. It is a rare and
precious moment that happens in the life of those
who give themselves wholly to prayer. Usually it comes and goes almost in a
flash. But no matter: the real impact of hitlahavut is in the memory of
such moments. They are stored in the contemplative mind and become impportant steps on the road toward the much cooler but
longer lasting goal fo d'veikut, an attachment to God in which
one may live and act.
The great masters of Jewish prayer
within Hasidism depated the value of ecstasy, and especially of its display in
public worship. In circles where religious devotion was taught to be the
highest good, it was natural for novices (especially young boys) to
"show off" the intensity of their worship and the "heights"
of loud and
passionate prayer they could reach. Many older and more sophisticated
worshippers found such behavior annoying and disturbing to the community at prayer. Others,
however, felt a distinction should be made between such childish excesses and true
expressions of hitlahavut, which should always be welcome in the community and
never be deemed a cause for embarrassment.
are sharing two parallel approaches supporting the world of Hasidism and
Martin Buber. CLICK HERE to see a slide show
presentation on Shabbatai Sevi prepared by Peretz Wolf-Prusan, referencing
"Shabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah," by Gershom Scholem.
Clayman sent the following to her class.
friends, in class this week we'll be discussing the first chapter of our book,
whose title is the same as that of the book: Hasidism and Modern Man. As
we attempt to understand Buber's views on Hasidism, it will be helpful to have
a sense of how Buber viewed the rise of Hasidism in the context of Jewish
history. In particular, he saw Hasidism as a response to the failed
messianic movement of Shabbetai Zevi and other false Jewish messiahs of the
17th and 18th centuries. Below you'll find some information about
Shabbetai Zevi, excerpted from an article by Matt Plen on myjewishlearning.com.
If you have a chance, please read this before class on Thursday. Thanks,
“...in the mid-17th century, belief in the false
messiah Shabbetai Zevi spread like wildfire throughout the Jewish world,
sweeping up entire communities and creating a crisis of faith unprecedented in
Shabbetai Tzvi was said to be born on the 9th of Av in
1626, to a wealthy family of merchants in Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey).
In 1648, Shabbetai Tzvi declared himself to be the
messiah but did not make much of an impression on the Smyrna community which
had become accustomed to his eccentricities. Nonetheless, the rabbis banished
him from his hometown, and he spent much of the 1650s traveling through Greece
The turning point in his messianic career came in 1665
as the result of a meeting with his self-appointed prophet, Nathan of Gaza.
Nathan...initiated a mass movement of repentance,
fasting and ascetic acts to prepare the way for the coming redemption. In
September 1665, he announced that a fundamental cosmic shift had taken place
and that within the year, without war, Shabbetai Tzvi would take the Turkish
Sultan’s crown and make the Sultan his servant.
What made the Jewish world so receptive to the false
messianism of Shabbetai Tzvi? In 1648-49, Cossack bands led by Bogdan
Chmielnicki massacred 300,000 Jews in the Ukraine amid unprecedented acts of
cruelty. Many communities that escaped were then devastated in the
Russian-Swedish war of 1655. In this context, the Jewish people’s historical
dream of redemption from the bondage of exile took on a new degree of urgency
and desperation. In these communities, Shabbetai Tzvi found a receptive
In 1666 Shabbetai Tzvi was arrested in Constantinople.
After a period of imprisonment — during which he held court as messiah,
replaced the fast of the 9th of Av with a festival celebrating his birthday and
began to sign his letters “I am the Lord your God Shabbetai Tzvi”–he was
denounced for fomenting sedition and brought before the Sultan. Now in a
depressive state, he denied ever having made messianic claims. Offered the
choice of apostasy or death, he chose to convert to Islam. Shabbetai Tzvi
became Aziz Mehmed Effendi, and, with a royal pension, lived until 1676,
outwardly a Muslim but secretly participating in Jewish ritual. His letters
reveal that at the time of his death, he still believed in his messianic
The movement survived into the early 18th century,
when the Shabbateans divided into two camps: moderates who combined their
secret messianic faith with adherence to Jewish law, and radicals who set about
covertly spreading the heretical doctrine that the “nullification of the Torah
was its true fulfillment.” This radical wing of the Shabbatean movement
achieved a short-lived revival under Jacob Frank, a Polish Jew who, in 1756,
was heralded as the reincarnation of Shabbetai Tzvi.
Shabbateanism subsequently died out as a significant feature of Jewish
life, but its long-term impact was far-reaching. Its most immediate influence
was in the formulation of a new version of Jewish mysticism–the Hasidic
movement, born in late 18th century Poland. The quietistic, inwardly spiritual
tone of early Hasidism was a conscious reaction against the messianic excesses
of the Shabbeteans, while the Hasidim’s unconditional faith in their rebbe or
tzaddik had as its precedent the dynamic between Shabbetai Tzvi and his
Jeremy Phillip Brown, Ph.D. who by day is at the University of San Francisco’s Department of Theology & Religious Studies / Swig Program in Jewish Studies & Social Justice and by night leads the Zohar Philosophy Circle in Marin is sharing a new source sheet.
Brown - Sources and Parallels to Zohar on Birth of Prophet
Take a deep dive in to the Zohar with two of its leading authorities. Daniel Matt, a leading authority on Kabbalah, is joined by Rabbi Arthur Green, a preeminent authority on Jewish thought and spirituality. This mystical study session will distill some of the unique wisdom of the Zohar and discover why it’s an important and alluring work for our time.
Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan moderates.
Presented in partnership with Lehrhaus Judaica and made possible by the continuing support of the Lehrhaus Philosophy Circles by the Ingrid D. Tauber Philanthropic Fund of the JCF and the Koret Foundation.