Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Buber, Hasidism and Modern Man, and Sabbatai Sevi The Mystical Messiah

Dear Buber Students,

We 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.

Jennifer Clayman sent the following to her class.

Hi 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, Jen

Context: On Shabbetai Zevi, the False Messiah (from Matt Plen, on myjewishlearning.com)

“...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 Jewish history.

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 and Turkey.

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 audience.

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 mission.

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 followers.”


Thursday, November 10, 2016

New Resources from our teachers

New web links

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


Yosef Rosen, Ph.D. candidate at UCB, shares these resources for the Martin Buber Philosophy Circles (he leads the Berkeley and Downtown San Francisco Buber classes).


Scholem-Buber controversy Oct 1, 1961

Scholem-Buber controversy Sep 1, 1963


Buber Timeline


Tuesday, November 1, 2016


The Wisdom of the Zohar: A Text Study

SUNDAY JANUARY 29 AT 4PM

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.


FREE WITH LIMITED SEATING.




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Monday, August 22, 2016

The Zohar and Martin Buber


Lehrhaus Philosophy Circle - The Zohar continues for a second year under the leadership of Professor Daniel C. Matt and utilizing his epic translation and annotation of The Zohar: Pritzker Edition. We will discuss selections from Volume 4 of this groundbreaking work.

Matt describes the Zohar as "a challenge to the normal workings of consciousness [that] dares one to examine one's assumptions about tradition, God, and self."


Lehrhaus Philosophy Circle: The Zohar in Aramaic

This special section of the Zohar program is led by Prof. Daniel Matt and is for students with the ability to follow the Zohar in the original (facility in either Hebrew or Aramaic). The Aramaic text will be provided (along with a Hebrew translation) and participants should also purchase Vol. 4 of The Zohar: Pritzker Edition. Class size is limited.


Lehrhaus Philosophy Circle: Martin Buber

We celebrate the life of the renowned Jewish philosopher and educator after his 50th yahrzeit with readings and discussions from Hasidism and Modern Man. First published in 1958, this collection of essays examines the life and religious experiences of Hasidic Jews, as well as Buber’s personal response to them.


From the autobiographical “My Way to Hasidism,” to “Hasidism and Modern Man,” and “Love of God and Love of Neighbor,” the essays span nearly half a century and reflect the evolution of Buber’s religious philosophy in relation to the Hasidic movement. Hasidism and Modern Man remains prescient in its portrayal of a spiritual movement that brings God down to earth and makes possible a modern philosophy in which the human being becomes sacred.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Professor Daniel Matt's Introduction To The Study of the Zohar

On Sunday, October 11, 2015, at the Jewish Community Library, Professor Daniel Matt presented a talk, "Introduction To The Study of the Zohar" for participating students of the Lehrhaus Philosophy Circles.  We are very grateful to have been hosted by the Jewish Community Library.

The audio recording is available for download here:

The Talk

The texts Professor Matt refers to in his talk are here:

The Ten Sefirot

How to Look at Torah

Romance of Torah

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Philosophy Circle Webinar with Prof. Daniel Matt



This is the link for the recoded webinar (click on "Recorded Webinar")

Recorded Webinar 

from Monday, May 9 with Daniel Matt.

Please note that in the first four minutes Danny and several participants share the screen, but from that point on the video is the text and Danny Matt alone.

You can download the text here: Moses and Shekinah in the Zohar