Sunday 25 June 2023

434) Why was R. Natan Adler of Frankfurt excommunicated?

The anonymous work entitled Ma'aseh Ta'atuim (Act of Deception).


This article, based extensively on the research by Professor Rachel Elior,[1] explores the little-known story of R. Natan Adler of Frankfurt and his Chassidim, who were excommunicated twice, in 1779 and 1789 respectively. These Chassidim of Frankfurt were in some ways similar, but technically unrelated, to the better-known Chassidim of the Baal Shem Tov. 

Sunday 18 June 2023

433) How the Ethical Will of R. Yehuda heChasid became integrated into Halacha.


Professor Maoz Kahana.

This article, based extensively on the research by Professor Maoz Kahana, examines the long and windy road followed by the various interpreters of the Ethical Will left by R. Yehuda heChasid (1150-1217), the founder of the group of German pietists known as Chassidei Ashkenaz.[1] An Ethical Will is usually a document of moral and ethical teachings a person leaves behind for their children, to encourage them to follow on in the same ways.

Sunday 11 June 2023

432) How three Jewish scholars may have been motivated by personal bias.


Gershom Scholem studying the Zohar in his Sukka in 1925


This article, based extensively on the research by Professor Michael Brenner,[1] shows how three Jewish scholars, Heinrich Graetz (1817-1891), Moriz Friedländer (1844-1919) and Gershom Scholem (1897-1982) developed three different approaches to the emergence of Gnosticism (an early form of mysticism). Brenner shows, however, that each may have been motivated to some degree by personal bias. 

Sunday 4 June 2023

431) The historical and ahistorical R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto


An 1853 commentary on R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, perhaps the first book to be published in Johannesburg, South Africa.


An influential Kabbalist who lived at the same time as the Baal Shem Tov (1700-1760) was R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707-1746). He was born in Padua to a wealthy and cultured Italian family and was exposed to languages, including Latin, by his father. He mastered Talmud and even Kabbalah at an early age and later, went on to study secular subjects (possibly medicine) at Padua University under R. Yitzchak Chaim Cohen Cantarini. It was there that he selected a group of medical students and together they formed a Kabbalistic circle known as Chevra Mevakshei haShem (the Group of Seekers of G-d) intending to bring about “messianic manifestation in global redemption” (Sclar 2017:40). In several of his writings: “Luzzatto identified himself directly as the redeemer" (Carlebach 1987:13).