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Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), great-grandson of
Israel Ba’al Shem Tov, founder of the East-European Hasidic movement, is
considered by many the “genius of Hasidism.” His mysteriously allusive
lessons and stories have invited numerous studies, both by his
followers, the Breslov Hasidim, and by academic scholars of various
stripes. Needless to say, modern spiritual teachers such as the late
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan and the contemporary Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz have
written commentaries to Rabbi Nachman’s stories. Somehow, until now, the
one poem from the hand of Rabbi Nachman —ShirNa’im, translated as Song of Delight— has escaped notice.
David Sears’ working hypothesis is that this lone poem, Shir Na’im,
believed composed at the end of the Master’s life, encapsulates all of
the teachings of Breslov Hasidism, spread over the tomes of prose and
fables. What emerges from Sears’ high-powered literary analysis,
supported by outlines, diagrams and copious endnotes, is a book that
promises to be rigorous and scholarly, as well as spiritual and
David Sears is equal to the task he has set before him.
While fiercely faithful to the living tradition of Breslov (the book
comes with the encouragement and input of Rabbi Elazar Kenig, leader of
the Breslov Hasidim of Tsefat), Rabbi David Sears is a man with his
finger on the pulse of contemporary society. His previous book,
published by Orot, was The Vision ofEden: Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism, a work that presaged the entire imbroglio concerning the kosher slaughter industry in this country.
An added feature, sure to pique scholars’ curiosity, is
the appendix contributed by Bezalel Naor, “Shir Na’im as a Reply to
Maimonides,” a lengthy essay that deals with such spicy issues as the
“Non-Existence” of God and the legitimacy of the ancient mystical
doctrine of Shi’ur Komah (the “Body” of God).
This gem of a book is graced with original artwork by
Ann Derman. Her cover painting—a visual delight—portrays many of the
themes of Rabbi Nachman’s poem. The poem itself—Hebrew and English
translation face-`a-face—is surrounded by a decorative border by Ms.
PLEASE LOOK INSIDE