CONCEPTUAL AND HISTORICAL LESSONS
FROM A HASIDIC BOOK
Special importance is attached to Sod Berith Yitzhak, one of the out-of-way Hasidic books, published in 1899, shortly after the death of its author, Rabbi Yitzhak of Kristianopol (eastern Galicia). Two of the most salient spiritual and social characteristics of earliest Beshtian Hasidism are most powerfully emphasized: the sense of radical innovation on one hand, and of socio-religious conservatism on the other. These trends are variously expressed under subject headings such as: alien thoughts, devekuth, the status of Torah study, the polemic against Hasidism, the internal Hasidic criticism against vuilgarization and imitation, etc. This book, like others, clearly contradicts Gershom Soholem's statement that for the earliest Hasidic leaders devekutk and become a point of departure for spiritual development, rather than its ultimate pinnacle; accessible to all men and not only to the precious few. Moreover, the major intellectual lesson to be gained from Sod Berith Yitzhak is on the subject of the service of God through the evil impulse yetzer hara) which was of primary importance for early Hasidic teachers. This theme, in the various treatments it receives throughout the books, reveals with brilliant clarity the pre-Sabbatean sources of its author. This fact lends from to our rejection of an opinion held widely among followers of Scholem, who investigate Hasidism, that the praises for God's service through the Yetzer ha-ra is a survival of Sabbatean influence with the antinomian sting removed. That notion is not based upon a systematic examination of the literature of piety that preceded Hasidism, but is rather an unfounded generalization.
Répertoire bibliographique / Bibliographic Repertory