Text & Translation

מועתק בלשונו הק׳

In His Holy Idiom

R. Aaron of Karlin

Translation by Joshua Schwartz


What is it we study when we study Hasidism? While Hasidic homilies (often the main textual grists for the analytic mill) were published in loshn koydesh, their pre-textual life grants them a very different Sitz im Leben. The versions printed in books are post-facto re-presentations, translated in a semitic calque from an original, oral Yiddish text. 1 1 On this process, see Ze’ev Gries, “The Hasidic Managing Editor,” in Hasidism Reappraised, ed. Ada Rapoport-Albert (Londan; Portland, OR: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 1996), 147-48. There, he writes, “[T]he oral traditions of early Hasidism are no longer retrievable in their original form, and … our only access to them is through the literary adaptations and translations within which they have been preserved.” See also Dynner, Men of Silk, 200. While there are, most certainly, within the Hasidic canon, works of literary merit, works intended for the page and featuring creativity and style, our study of this phenomenon may be mistakenly weighted towards the written material, given the classical, textual focus of the scholar.

Our attention has arguably thus been drawn away from a more accurate object of focus, which better represents the phenomenon of Hasidism. In a little-known essay, Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote that Hasidism “ … is essentially an oral movement, one that cannot be preserved in written form. It is ultimately a living movement. It is not contained fully in any of its books.” 2 2 See Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Hasidism,” Jewish Heritage 14:3 (1972), 14-6, quoted in Samuel Dresner, “Introduction: Heschel as a Hasidic Scholar,” in Abraham Joshua Heschel, Circle of the Baal Shem Tov (Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 1985), xiii. I found this quoted in Dynner, Men of Silk, 199. Hasidic writing (and by extension, Hasidism as a movement) has been judged as just that, a literary phenomenon, with its literary products most commonly criticized for their lack of deft skill. There is a tie between language and life, but it is not in its content but rather its enactment. The central site of the Hasidic event was not the publishing press (though it cannot be denied), but rather the giving of the sermon, the dynamic dialogue between master and disciples. As Ze’ev Gries explicates, “[The Hasidic experience] was not essentially literary but rather a direct, immediate, personal experience of relationship with the Hasidic leader and his community of followers.” 3 3 See Gries, “The Hasidic Managing Editor,” 154.

So, how are we to gain access to the oral event, when it has been re-presented in higher-class literary garb and then promulgated in printed form for mass consumption? Here, we should turn our attention to Hasidic material preserved in the original. As Dynner notes, only four Hasidic works were printed in Yiddish before 1850, 4 4 See Dynner, Men of Silk, 208-9. but in the latter half of the nineteenth century, as Hasidism rested in security as the dominant Jewish movement of Poland, an urge to publish as much material as possible opened the previously programmatic gates. Anthologies became more popular, with editors including older, archival material, sometimes ancestral, often previously unpublished, as appendices to the books of more current Hasidic masters. 5 5 This itself is an extension of an already existent trend to include likkutim (miscellany) as an appendix following the section of edited homilies. It is in these tshulent-like collectanea that we can find a whole host of material, less processed than prior publishing efforts, and perhaps granting us a more intimate and accurate view, not merely of what was said, but what it was like to receive.

Below are translated selections from a section of Yiddish sermonic material printed in the back of the Beys Aharon, a collection of homilies largely authored by R’ Aharon (II) Perlow of Karlin. While the bulk of the material was his, since this was the first publication stemming from the Karliner Hasidic community, the book also featured previously unpublished material from R’ Aharon’s predecessors, including the ethical will of R’ Aharon ha-Gadol (the great), as well as homiletical material from R’ Shlomo ha-Levi and R’ Asher Perlow of Karlin, leading disciple and son of the elder Rabbi. The Karliner community 6 6 For a good survey of the history of Karliner Hasidism, see Wolf Ze’ev Rabinowitsch, Lithuanian Hasidism, trans. M. B. Dagut (London: Valentine, Michell; 1970), 8-120. was ground-zero for the polemic and censure emanating from the Lithuanian rabbinic establishment. (Indeed, Hasidim were once generally referred to as “Karliners.”) They were renowned and widely criticized for their ecstatic worshipful practices, turning somersaults in the synagogue aisles, and behaving in (what was deemed) an unseemly fashion with their extremist piety.

Why were these selections preserved in Yiddish? As Dynner has argued above, perhaps this facilitated their circulation and reception. But if that were the case, why only include them in the original, but preserve the Hebrew material in the front? Rather, I believe it is possible that the message influenced the medium. The main theme of these homilies is how one should worship, with particular focus on the affective quality of prayer. Stressed in the recorded speeches below is an immediacy of feeling, which could best be presented not in a rarefied Hebrew calque, but rather in the thick affect contained in the original words. The performative, elastic quality of spoken Yiddish better served to communicate the vitality of the theme. In this way, and through these examples, we may find our way in closer, more intimate contact with the true central text of Hasidic life, neither tale nor sermon, but rather: life itself. 7 7 I want to express my deep appreciation to Ariel Mayse, for guiding me to this text, and to Arun Viswanath, for guiding me through this text. All errors in translation or diction are my own.

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דברי מוסר והתעוררות מאדומו״ר זצללה״ה על דבר עבודה שבלב זו תפלה בשמחה. מועתק בלשונו הק׳ ממש:

במאי דדבוק בר נש בהאי עלמא הכי בההוא עלמא.

װי אַזױ דער מענטש איז אין גופֿניות אַזױ איז ער אין רוחניות. פֿונדעסטװעגן בײַם דאַװנען דאַרף מען ניט האָבן קיין חשבונות. מע באַדאַרף האָבן התחזקות אין דער עבֿודה. סע זאָל ציִען צוריק פֿון אַנדערע זאַכן. המגיד ה״ק מזלאָטשיבֿ זצוקללה״ה אמר דער יצ[ר] הר[ע] איז איין מאָל געקומען צו אים בשעת דעם דאַװנען, האָט ער אים געהײסן קומען צום עסן. בײַם דאַװנען דאַרף מען קיין חשבונות ניט האָבן. הרב הק׳ ר[ב] ש[למה בן מאיר הלוי] ק[אַרלינער] זצוקללה״ה שאל פּ[עם] א[חד] לא[דוני] א[בי] מ[ורי] ור[בי]זצ״ל װען ביסטו געקומען צום דאַװנען[?] האָט ער אים געענטפֿערט ער איז געקומען אין דער קרעטשמע פֿון רננו צדיקים.והשיב לו הרב רש״ק הנ״ל ביסט גערעכט אַז מע פֿאָרט, פֿאָרט מען. אַז מע שטייט, קוקט מען זיך אַרום טאָמער פֿעלט עפּעס. װאָרעם אַז מע שטעלט זיך אין מיטן װעג בלײַבט מען הינטערשטעליק. אַזױ כּ[ל] ז[מן] מע דאַװנט טאָר מען ניט האָבן קײן חשבון. אין מידות דאַרף מען יאָ האָבן אַ חשבון. אַזױ װי די הײליקע מידות נעמען זיך איינע פֿון דער אַנדערער. דאגה בלב איש ישיחנה. ער זאָל זי אויסדאַװנען. א[דון] א[בי] מ[ורי] ור[בי] ז״ל אמר װילסט מיט מיר רעדן[?] רעד מיט מיר אין דאַװנען. עוד ישיחנה ער זאָל די דאגה נידעריק מאַכן, זאָל זיך ניט צעשפּרייטן אין אַלע אבֿרים חס ושלום. באתרא דליעול ירקא ליעול בשרא וכוורי. אויף דעם אָרט װאָס מע ברעכט דעם קאָפּ אויף נאַרישע חשבונות בעסער זאָל מען דאַװנען און לערנען פֿריש און לעבעדיק. די ערשטע תּפֿילה דאַרף מען מתפּלל זײַן לפֿני השי״ת, מע זאָל פֿאַרגעסן װאָס מע האָט אַ נאַרישקייט אויף זיך. דערהאַלטן אַ מחשבֿה ריין איז נאָר בשׂימחה . מחשבֿה אותיות בשׂמחה׃

Words of moral instruction and spiritual awakening from my master and teacher, whose memory should be for a blessing of life in the world to come, on a matter of the heart’s labor, which is prayer, in joy. Reproduced in his holy idiom, truly.

That to which a person is connected in this world, is what he is connected to in the other world. Just as a person is in physicality, so is he in a spiritual sense. Nevertheless, when it comes to prayer a person need not make [such spiritual] calculations. 8 8 For instance, in the Tanya (I:29) of R’ Shneur Zalman of Liady, founder of Chabad Hasidism and co-regionalist of the Karlin dynasty, a self-accounting is deemed appropriate when as a propaedeutic, when one feels blocked from accessing the full range of one’s spiritual and emotional faculties. However, this is counseled as a preparatory stage for worship, to allow one to truly accomplish the “service of the heart.” To perform such a spiritual accounting during worship would further disturb one’s concentration, being forced to confront all of one’s mistakes and missteps. In worship, one must bolster oneself, drawing [oneself] away from other matters. The holy Maggid of Zlotshiv, whose holy and sainted memory should be for a blessing of life in the world to come, said that the Evil Inclination once came to him at the time of prayer. He called to it to come and eat.
One need not have any spiritual calculations in prayer. The holy rabbi R’ Shlomo (ben Me’ir ha-Levi) Karliner, whose holy and sainted memory should be for a blessing of life in the world to come, once, asked [R’ Asher Perlow of Stolin] my master, my father, our teacher and rabbi, of blessed and sainted memory, “When are you coming to prayers?” He answered him that he was coming in the “tavern” (kretshme) of “Sing joyfully [to G-d], righteous ones!” (Ps. 33). [recited in the Shabbat morning liturgy]. R’ Shlomo Karliner responded, “You’re right! When you move, you move. But when you stand and look about, wondering if you missed something—when you plant yourself in the middle of the road, you get left behind!”

Whenever you pray, do not allow yourself any calculating thought. [But] when it comes to [working on] your [moral] qualities, one must make a [spiritual] accounting, since holy qualities are derived, one from another. “Worry, in the heart, a person should speak it (yasikhena) … ” (BT South 42b) 9 9 The reading in the Talmudic passage is based on a punning re-reading of Prov. 12:25, “Worry, in the heart of man, weighs it down (yashkhena), [but a good word brings joy (yisamkheha)]”. —one must pray it out! [R’ Asher,] my master, my father, my teacher and rabbi, of blessed memory, would say, “If you want to speak with Me, speak with Me in prayer.” Further, one should “subdue it” (yashkhena)—one must tamp down the worry and not [allow] it to spread to all of one’s limbs, G-d forbid. “[Rav Khisda said,] In a place where you bring in a vegetable, bring in meat or fish instead” (BT Shabbat 140b). In place of breaking your head over juvenile concerns, it is better to pray and study fresh and lively. The first prayer one must offer before the Holy One is to forget all the foolishness you have in you. One who keeps a clean consciousness is only ever joyful. “Consciousness” (מחשבה), which has the same letters as “joyous” (בשמחה).

דברי מוסר מאדומו״ר ז״ל ע״ד דבר עבודה שבלב זו תפלה באהבת חברים כלשונו הק׳ ממש:

אז נדברו יראי ה׳ איש אל רעהו וגומר. זײ זײַנען געװאָרן אויפֿגערעדט יראי ה׳. סע האָט זיך אַליין גערעדט. דעמאָלט ויקשב ה׳ נעמט ער אַרײַן גאָט אין האַרצן. אז וישמע (ה׳) ויכתב ספר. אַלע עשׂיות װאָס אַ ייִד טוט אויף דער װעלט װערט אויבן דערפֿון אַ ספֿר זכּרון לפֿניו. כדאיתא בזוה״ק ספר למעלה מרישא דדוד. דוד איז תּשובֿה וייִראה. װי אַזױ קומט מען דערצו. מיט פּירוש המילות. דאָס צעשפּרײטעכץ פֿון דעם װאָרט אין אַלע אבֿרים. עבודה שבלב. עס איז דאָך נאָר בלבֿ פֿונדעסטװעגן איז דאָס פֿאָרט אַן עבֿודה. אַז אַ קיבוץ האַלטן זיך אין איינעם ווערט דערפֿון ניבֿ שׂפֿתים דאָס קװעלן פֿון די לעפֿצן. אַז עס זאָל ניט זײַן קיין פּירוד הלבֿבֿות אין מײַנע קאָמפּאַניעס װאָלט איך זײ ערבֿ געװעזן שלא ישלוט בהם שום אומה ולשון׃

(מבנו הרב הק[דוש] זצוקללה״ה אמר כי פירוד בין החברים היא סכנה חס ושלום כדאיתא בזוה[ר] ק[דוש] כל אילין חבריא דלא רחמין אילין לאילין אסתלקו מעלמא עד לא מטא זמנייהו. וביותר היא סכנה חס ושלום להרב מהחבירים. ואמר בשם אביו אדומו״ר ז״ל כי הנסירה והבנין שנעשה בעשי״ת הכל הוא מאהבת חברים. וכדאיתא במדרש משל למלך שבנה פלטין ע״ג ספינות מקושרות כו׳):

Words of moral instruction from my master and teacher, the holy saint of blessed memory in the world to come, regarding the heart’s labor, which is prayer, amid the love of friends, according to his holy idiom, truly.

Then, those who feared G-d spoke with one another…” (Mal. 3:16) When they spoke [with each other], that’s when they became fearers of G-d. But only when they would speak. Then “G-d attends;” (Ibid) each brings G-d into his heart. Then “(G-d) heard, and it was written in a book [of remembrance].” (Ibid) All of the actions which a Jew does in this world appear [written] in a book of remembrance before Him, as is taught in the Holy Zohar, “there was a book above the head of [King] David.” 10 10 See Zohar I:151a. Thank you to Dr. David Greenstein for pointing out this reference. It can also be found in English in Daniel C. Matt, The Zohar: The Pritzker Edition, Volume 2 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 341. Strikingly, in the original source, the mentioned book is a record of the sins which have suffused the world. Here, however, the deeds mentioned seem to be unspecified, in terms of their moral quality, and maybe even good, considering the religio-social setting that frames this teaching. [King] David signifies repentance and fear. How does one achieve this? With explication of the words. That is, to infuse 11 11 The Hebrew root פ–ר–ש can mean both “to interpret” and “to spread out.” them into all of one’s limbs. “[Prayer is] the labor of the heart.” Of course, it’s only in the heart; but it is still labor! “The lips”—That which springs from the lips. When there is no separation of hearts amongst my companions, I would vouchsafe 12 12 In Yiddish, ערבֿ זײַן is a paraphrastic verb that means “to guarantee,” but in Hebrew, ערב can mean to be mutually responsible, as in the famous teaching found in the Tannaitic Midrash Sifro, Bkhutoysay 7:5, כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה, “All of Israel is responsible, one for another.” The extra resonance, from the loshn koydesh, reinforces the theme of the teaching. them, so that no [other] nation of culture 13 13 The strict translation of loshn is language, but it is used in rabbinic literature and liturgy as a metonymy for a foreign nation. will rule over them.

(From [R’ Asher II,] his son, the holy rabbi, whose memory should be for a blessing of life in the world to come, who said that separation between friends is dangerous, G-d forbid. It is taught in the holy Zohar 14 14 See Zohar II:190b. Here, it is worth noting that, while the love depicted is not explicitly sexual, it would be equally false to neuter it as merely Platonic. Key to the sociality of the Zohar’s mysticism, and further developed in later Kabbalah, perhaps reaching an apotheosis in the khavershaft of Hasidism, is a love that unifies both vertically, with the Godhead, but also horizontally, with one’s fellows, as each axis mirrors the other. On the social eroticism of the Zohar and its ties to esotericism, see Yehuda Liebes, “Zohar and Eros,” Alpayim 9 (1994) 67-119; Elliot R. Wolfson, Language, Eros, Being: Kabbalistic Hermeneutics and Poetic Imagination (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005) 296-332; Idem, “Murmuring Secrets: Eroticism and Esotericism in Medieval Kabbalah,” in Hidden Intercourse: Eros and Sexuality in the History of Western Esotericism, ed. Wouter J. Hanegraaff and Jeffrey J. Kripal (Leiden: Brill, 2008) 65-109. Wolfson, especially, draws attention to the homosocial and homoerotic nature of the situation of Kabbalistic love. that all friends who do not love each other die 15 15 Literally, “are withdrawn from the world.” before their time has come. Further, it is more of a danger [posed] to the rabbi, G-d forbid, than for the compatriots. He said in the name of [R’ Aharon II,] his father, our master and teacher of blessed memory: what is built or undone, 16 16 This dyad is most likely drawn from the lexicon of termini tecnici of Lurianic Kabbalah. There, binyan (re/building) and nesirah (undoing) refer to the state of the Godhead, whether figured as the intimate union of Ze’in Anpin and Nukba, or the shared corporeality of Adam Kadmon (Primordial Adam) and Eve. In both cases, the emergence of the created world was due to the advent of separation. There is a particular state of nesirah during the Days of Repentance, beginning on the eve of the New Year and climaxing at the end of Sukes, in which G-d divests Himself of his majesty so that His people can choose to reinstate Him. Nesirah is a common theme throughout Lurianic theosophical and theurgical literature, but the particular discussion regarding the New Year can be found in Pri ‘Ets Hayyim, Sha’ar Rosh ha-Shanah. during the Ten Days of Repentance, is due to the love of friends. A midrash brings, 17 17 See Midrash ha-Gadol, Devarim 33:5. a parable of a king who built a palace on top of inter-connected boats. [When the boats remain in place, so the palace is steady, but it falls if they break apart]

דברי התחזקות מאדומו״ר ז״ל ע[ל] ד[עת] בעניני תשובה מועתק ממש כלשונו הקדוש:

תשובה צו מתקן זײַן בעולמות עליונים איז ניט אונדזער ערך. אונדזער תּשובֿה איז צו מתקן זײַן זיך אַליין אלהבא. תּעניתים וסיגופֿים נוצן מיר ניט נאָר מיט ג׳ תּנאָים. אַ געזונטער מענטש. און אַ גראָבע עבֿירה ח[ס] ו[שלום]. און אין די קלײנע טעג. גיבן מיר יאָ אַ מאָל רשות צו כאַפּן איין מאָל אַ תּענית. און דאָס אַז מען זאָל טרינקען װאַרעמס פֿאַר טאָג. און דאָס ניט מיר האַלטן דערפֿון נאָר כּדי ער זאָל ניט אַרײַנפֿאַלן אין עצבֿות ומ[רה] ש[חורה] ח[ס] ו[שלום]. עצבֿות חלילה ברענגט צו אַלץ. איך װיל אַזױ פֿיל ניט זאָגן. הרופא לשבורי לב ומחבש לעצבותם. מיט איין שטיקל פֿרישקײט קאָן מען אַלץ אַריבערגיין. כּי זה מעשה בע[ל] ד[בר] מען זאָל זיך באַרעכענען װאָס מע האָט געטאָן עד עכשיו וסוברים שמתקנים ואדרבה זה מניעת הטוב. איין מאָל אין טאָג אָדער איין מאָל אין דער װאָך אָדער איין מאָל אין חודש זאָל מען זיך באַרעכענען דעם אמת פֿון דער זאַך. װאָרעם מע זאָל װאַרטן ביז מען װעט פֿאַרריכטן איז ניט הײַנטיקע כּוחות און מוחות און מיינסטן װאָס מע טראַכט דערינען בלאָנקעט עס זיך׃

תשובה אין אונדזער ערך טײַטשן מיר סור מרע על ידי ועשה טוב. משכו איז טײַטש אַװעקציִען און צוציִען. אַז מע ציט אַרויף אויף זיך קדושה װערט מען ממילא אַװעקגעצױגן פֿון שלעכטס. מיר טײַטשן והנדחים בארץ מצרים. מע קאָן נידח װערן פֿון דער קדושה ח[ס] ו[שלום] אַז מען איז זיך מיצר מיט תּענית וסיגופֿים. ממ[ה] נ[פֿשך]. גייט מען ניט אויפֿן גלײַכן װעג איז דאָך תּענית וסיגופֿים אויך ניט גלײַך. אלא מע גייט אויף דעם אמתן װעג איז דאָך עסן און שלאָפֿן אויך גוט. מען געהער זיך אויסשלאָפֿן און אויסרוען כּדי עס זאָל דאָס האַרץ זײַן אין גאַנצן. װאָרעם תּשובֿה איז דער עיקר חרטה. און דאָס האַרץ איז די כּלי פֿון חרטה. אַזױ האָבן מיר מקבל געװעזן פֿון אונדזערע עלטערן פֿון גרױסע צדיקים׃

בשם ה[רב] הק[דוש] ר[בי] ש[למה] ק[אַרלינער] זצוקללה״ה. אַז סע קומט צום עסן און מען איז זיך מקרר פֿון תּאוות אַכילה װערט דאָס גערעכנט גילגול שלג׃

Words of self-reinforcement from our master and teacher, of blessed memory, regarding matters of repentance, reproduced according to his holy idiom, truly.

Tshuve, [meaning] to repair the upper worlds, is not in our scope. Our tshuve is to repair oneself alone regarding what is to come. We only utilize these fasts and penitential practices under three conditions: [they work for] a healthy person, an [especially] coarse sin, G-d forbid, and [during the winter,] when the days are short. 18 18 Voluntary fasts, as an element of penitential practices, are traditionally from sunup to sundown. R’ Aharon is willing acknowledge the benefit to such an ascetic choice, but only under conditions in which one is not inhibited or debilitated due to the strenuousness of the self-abnegation. R’ Aharon is skeptical of the value of ascetic practices, only granting them conditional worth, if they can genuinely provide the experiential conditions that enable, rather than inhibit, spiritual work, due to the distracting feelings of hunger, pain, or exhaustion. The practice must match the situation or condition in which one finds oneself. We give permission to take upon oneself a [voluntary] fast once, but this is only if one drinks warm [beverages] before the day [of the fast]. And we only allow this [fasting] if [the faster] will not fall into a depressive or melancholic state, G-d forbid. G-d forbid what such sadness leads to; I do not want to speak on it. [G-d is] “the healer of the broken hearted and binder of their wounds” (Ps. 147:3). With a bit of vim and vigor, one can overcome anything. This is a devilish matter: one [thinks one] should [take on the spiritual labor of] making an account of oneself, 19 19 While באַרעכענען זיך has an attested meaning of “to change one’s mind,” here, from context, the phrase appears to be used as a reflexive form of the normal verb, meaning “to consider.” It seems to be a calc of the common Hebrew pietistic phrase, חשבון הנפֿש, which means an account of one’s soul, psyche, or self. [putatively] to fix what one has done until now, thinking one has brought repair, 20 20 Here, “repair” [tiken] is a technical term drawn from the Jewish mystical lexicon. Engaging in repentance can yield not merely healing within oneself, but a correlate repair in the cosmos as well. but, on the contrary, one has actually detracted from the good! [Maybe,] once a day, or once a week, or once a month, one should take account of oneself, to get to the truth of the matter. 21 21 Ironically, one must perform a kind of meta-kheshbn to see if one is capable of doing a real self-accounting. Because waiting for [the right time] to perform self-repair is not in the capacity of contemporary consciousness, as most of what it’s [trying to] work out within is wandering and lost.

Tshuve, in our scope, we can translate 22 22 The verb used, טײַטשן, idiomatically means to translate, especially into Yiddish, but is here utilized in its technical sense, to translate biblical verses, phrase by phrase, from Hebrew to the vernacular. This entire section is an example of just such a homiletic technique, which involves not only translating the sense of the phrase, but also including creative interpretation, in a midrashic style, relying on cross-linguistic puns and the moral themes at play. The popular Yiddish idiom, fartaytsht un farbesert, signifies that translation into Yiddish adds non-trivial benefits. from [the verse] “Turn from evil” by means of “do[ing] good” (Ps. 34:15). [In Hebrew,] “draw” (משכו) can mean both “to draw away” and “to draw to.” When one draws up holiness into the self, one is, as a matter of course, drawn away from wickedness. We interpret, “Those pushed away in the land of Egypt (Mitsrayim)” (Is. 27:13) [to mean] one can be pushed away from holiness, G-d forbid, when one harms oneself (meytsr zikh) with fasts and asceticism. “From either side” 23 23 The phrase ממה נפשך is a common idiom taken from the Babylonian Talmud (viz. Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic Literature [Leipzig: W. Drugulin, 1903], 736, s.v. מה. The author, in his taytsh, may be playing on the common meaning of נפֿש, which can mean soul or self. —[If] one is not on an upright path, one’s fasting and mortifications are also not straight. 24 24 The adjective the author uses, גלײַך, means both (directionally) straight and (morally) upright, as well as comparable. This latter sense is consonant with the equivocation of the Talmudic phrase. Alternatively, [if] one is walking on the true path, then eating and sleeping [well] is also good. One should concern oneself to sleep enough and rest up, so one’s heart is all in. 25 25 Key to R’ Aharon’s concern is that the khosid has full emotional capacity, which would be hampered by the physical distress of fasting. While previous pietistic perspectives appreciated resonance between states of physical difficulty, which would naturally lower one’s mood and induce emotional distress, R’ Aharon is invested in the full exercise of feeling as an activity, which would be constrained if one’s full faculties were not at the ready. For the essence of tshuve is remorse, and the heart is the vessel of remorse, as we have received from our ancestors and great righteous men.

In the name of the holy rabbi Shlomo Karliner, the holy, righteous man of blessed memory in the world to come: when it is time to eat and chills one’s desire for food, this is reckoned as [the equivalent of] rolling around in the snow. 26 26 The mortifying technique of rolling one’s body in the snow is attested in Jewish mystical literature, first prescribed in the Sefer Hasidim of the German Pietists and later further developed within the ascetic traditions of Lurianic Kabbalah, intended to help bring rectification for one’s sins and thus healing to the broken cosmos. Here, the corporal mortification has been internalized and domesticated, now as a control of one’s appetites.

התעוררות מאדו[ני] מור[י] זצוקללה״ה ע[ל] ד[עת] התפלה בהתקשרות לצדיקי[ם] באמונה מועתק כלשונו הק[דוש] ממש.

דער מקור איז אמונה בצדיקים ובפֿרט אין דעם צדיק װאָס מע פֿאָרט צו אים. אין דעם חיות װאָס ער טוט אַרײַן אין דעם דאַװנען און דעם לערנען. אין יו[ם] ט[ובֿ] און ר[אש] ח[ודש]. אָדער ער האָט שױן גענומען אָדער ער דאַרף צונעמען. דברים העומדים ברומו של עולם. דער פּשט איז דברים העומדים ומעמידים את האדם ברומו של עולם. ואשר משרתיו כולם עומדים ברום עולם. אַז מע שטעלט זיך פֿאַר אַ משרת בײַ גאָט ב[רוך] ה[וא] איז שױן עומדים ברום עולם.

לאָמיר קלערן אַז מען האָט ניט קיין חיות, װאָס איז דען. דינט גאָט כּשור לעול וכּחמור למשׂא. קדש לי כל בכור. הייליק צו מיר די מחשבֿה. דאָס הייליקע פֿון די רצועות. און פֿון די בתּים. און פֿון די קשרים. און פֿון די פּרשיות. דאָס נעמט אַלץ אויף זיך אַ יוד. אַ ייִד דאַרף דאַנקען גאָט ב"ה אַלע שעה און אַלע רגע פֿאַר בריאות. פֿאַר גופֿניות װייסט דאָך איטלעכער אַז מע דאַרף מכּיר בטובֿה זײַן. און פֿאַר רוחניות דאַרף מען פּשיטא מכּיר בטובֿה זײַן. דער עיקר איז דער דיבור. עס איז פֿאַראַן אַ העכערע זאַך. מחשבֿה. פֿון דעם דיבור קומט אין דער מחשבֿה. מצר תצרני רני פלט תסובבני. זאָלסט אונדז אָפּהיטן פֿון אַ צרה. פֿונדעסטװעגן װעלן מיר דיר זינגען דאָס געזאַנג פֿון אַנטרינונג׃ והיה כי תבא מיט שׂימחה קאָן מען קומען. װאָס איז די שׂימחה אַז מע איז זוכה צו זאָגן פֿאַר הש[ם] ית[ברך] הייליקע װערטער בהתקשרות לצדיקים. ולקחת מראשית. ראשית איז חכמה. כּל פּרי אַלע מערונג פֿון עשׂיות ודיבורים. אשר תביא מארצך פֿון דײַן ארציות. היום הזה אנכי [ה’ אלקיך] מצוך לעשות. דו זאָלסט מאַכן דעם טאָג אַ מחשבֿה. אַ גאַנצן טאָג זאָל מען זיך באַרעכענען פֿון װאַנען סע נעמט זיך. פֿילט ער עפּעס מיט איר צי האַלט ער דערבײַ צי קער ער זיך אָן דערמיט. פֿון אומגיין במחשבֿה אַליין אָן עשׂיה האַלטן מיר גאָר ניט דערפֿון. דאָס איז ניט לאַנשים כּערכּינו נאָר האָרעװאַניע. ואמר שכלל הדברים כבר אמורים ומפורשים בקדושה בשו״ת הרדב״ז ח[לק] ג׳ סי[מן] תע״ב. ובספר החינוך פ[רשת] בא בפסוק ועצם לא תשברו בו. ואידך פירושא זיל גמור׃

לשון תשובת הרדב״ז שם. גרסינן בפרק אין עומדין. אין עומדין להתפלל לא מתוך שחוק ולא מתוך קלות ראש ולא מתוך שיחה ולא מתוך מריבה ולא מתוך כעס. ותו גרסינן ר׳ חנינא ביומא דריתחא לא הוה מצלי. פי׳ ביום שהיה כועס. תו גרסינן כל שאין דעתו מיושבת עליו אל יתפלל. תו גרסינן שמואל לא היה מתפלל בביתא דאית ביה שיכרא. מפני הריח שהיה טורדו ומונעו מלהתכוון. למדת מכל הני שלא יתפלל אדם לא במקום שטורד מחשבתו ולא בזמן שמבטל את כוונתו. לכן היחיד או הרבים שיש להם איבה או כעס או שנאה או מריבה עם הצבור אין תפלתם רצויה. ואסור להם להתפלל שם שמחשבתו טרודה ואין יכול לכוין בתפלתו. וכ[ל] ש[כן] אם מכעיסין אותו על פניו תמיד. וכ[ל] ש[כן] אם בכעס הוא עם מנהיגי הקהל. ואי לאו דמסתפינא הוי אמינא דטב ליה להתפלל ביחיד מלהתפלל בתגרת בנ[י] א[דם] שאין דעתו נוחה מהם. עוד יש טעם דאין ראוי לאדם להתפלל אלא במקום שלבו חפץ. כי היכי דאמרינן אין אדם לומד תורה אלא במקום שלבו חפץ. וטעמו של דבר כי בהביט האדם אל מי שדעתו נוחה בו נפשו מתעוררת אל הכונה השלימה. ודעתו מתרחבת ולבו שמח ונחה עליו אז רוח ה׳ כענין שאמרו בנבואה. עוד אמרו בספרי החכמה כי בהיות האדם מתכוין אל רבו ונותן אליו לבו תתקשר נפשו בנפשו ויחול עליו מהשפע אשר עליו ויהיה לו נפש יתירה וזה נקרא אצלם סוד העיבור בחיי שניהם. וזהו שנאמר והיו עיניך רואות את מוריך. וזהו והתיצבו שם עמך[...]ואצלתי מן הרוח וכו׳. וכן התהלל רבינו הקדוש שאם היה ראה את פני הרב היה מגיע למדריגה עליונה וכ[ל] ש[כן] אם הרב מתכוין וקרא זה אל זה להשפיע וזה לקבל. ומ[ן] ה[כי] אמר ר׳ יוסי לא מן הכל אדם זוכה ללמוד תורה. ומכאן התירו שילך אדם למקום אחר ללמוד תורה א[ף] ע[ל] פ[י] שאביו אומר לו שלא ילך ועובר מצות אביו. שלא מן הכל אדם זוכה ללמוד תורה. וזה הטעם עצמו בתפלה כי בהבט האדם אל אוהביו או לקרוביו או לרבו או למי שדעתו נוחה תתעורר נפשו אל הכונה העליונה ונתוסף עליו רוח ממרום. וזה דבר שהשכל מורה עליו וכו׳. ע[ד] כ[אן] ל[שונו] הקדוש:

Words of awakening from my master and teacher, the holy saint of blessed memory in the world to come, regarding prayer in faithful connection with Tsadikim, 27 27 Whereas above, tsadik is translated as a “righteous man,” here the author is stressing the more technical significance of the term, meaning a charismatic, virtuosic, mystical leader of a group of khsidim. In this context, the tsadik is in mystical connection with the Divine, is seen as the axis mundi, and serves in the explicit role as intermediary with the Divine, for his followers. Given the technical significance of the usage, in this discourse, I will transliterate the term rather than translate. A foundational treatment on the tsadik in Jewish mysticism can be found in Gershom Scholem, “Tsaddik: The Righteous One,” in The Mystical Shape of the Godhead (New York: Schocken Books, 1991), 88-139. On the tsadik as axis mundi, see Arthur Green, “The Ẓaddiq as Axis Mundi in Later Judaism,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 45:3 (Sep., 1977), 327-346. On the theme of connecting with the tsadik, in the context of Hasidic prayer, see Rapoport-Albert, “God and the Tsadik as Two Focal Points of Hasidic Worship,” History of Religion 18 (1979), 296-324. reproduced according to his holy idiom, truly.

The source 28 28 It is unclear of what faith in the tsadik is the source, but, from context, we may presume the subject to be faith in the Divine, or piety. And awakening in prayer, as the title of the piece suggests. is faith in tsadikim, particularly in the tsadik to whom you travel 29 29 A main feature of one’s affiliation with a tsadik was to go on pilgrimage and spend regular time by his side, hearing his teachings, soaking up his presence, and being in fellowship with his other disciples. —in the [spiritual] vitality which he invests in worship, in study, and yontif or the [festival of the] New Moon. [The vitality] he has already absorbed or that which he must take in. “Matters of utmost importance [which people treat with contempt].” 30 30 See BT Berachot 6b. There, a question is raised regarding that what is referred to in Ps. 12:9, “When vileness is exalted amongst men.” The answer provided is when matters of import are treated vilely by persons, such as prayer. As the author is about to pun, in its literal sense, the Talmudic answer means, “Matters which stand at the world’s height.” The simple meaning is: matters which stand and establish a person in the world’s heights. “And [G-d’s] ministering [angels] all stand in the heights of the universe” 31 31 Quoted from the weekday morning service, the blessings preceding the recitation of the Shema (doxology), standard in all extant liturgical rites. —As soon as one begins to serve blessed God, one stands already in the heights of the world.

Let us consider: if one is lacking in [spiritual] vitality; what then? Serve G-d like a yoked ox or a laden donkey. “Sanctify for Me every first-born” 32 32 This is one of the passages traditionally recited after the laying of tefillin (phylacteries). The following passage refers to the different components of these ritual objects. Additionally, in Hasidic exegesis, the “first-born” is often seen as a symbolic stand in for consciousness, as it is that which is generated, of the first order, from the mind. In addition, consciousness, much like the first born, is accorded prize of place, given its lofty, spiritual status. The tefillin situated on the head, as if emerging from one’s mind (mokhin), come to stand for one’s mental faculties (versus the manual faculty of the tefillin shel yad), which unites this psycho-ritual nexus, much like the knot on the back of the phylactery. (Ex. 13:2). Sanctify to me consciousness. The holiness of the [tefillin’s] straps, of the boxes, of the knots, and of the [scriptural] portions, all of it is received by one yud/yid. 33 33 The letter yud, in the ineffable, four-letter name of G-d, is associated with the world of thought and the Divine emanation of Wisdom (khokhme). The Divine name spelled out in the material of the tefillin (Shadai) also features a yud, and it seems that is to what the author refers. In addition, the name of the letter is the same as the Germanic (and Yiddish) term for a Jew (Jude). Here, as with many other occasions in Yiddish, especially in the south of Ashkenaz, the Germanic “u” vowel and the sound of the Yiddish “i” have some mixing. Hence, yud can easily be read as referring, as well, to a yid. Martin Buber relates a famous teaching of the Seer of Lublin, drawing on this confluence. He writes, in the voice of R’ Yaakov Yitzchak, “The way it is when two men drink each other’s health and each feels equal to the other and neither of them considers himself superior, that is a matter which I experienced when I began to learn the alphabet. In the book before me I saw the letter Yod, which is so very like a mere point. I asked the teacher: ‘What kind of a little point is that?’ ‘That is the letter Yod,’ said he. ‘And does that little point,’ I asked, ‘always stand alone or can two of them stand together?’ ‘Two of them may stand together,’ said he. ‘But how does one read them then,’ I asked again. ‘When two Yods stand together,’ said he, ‘that signifies the name of God, Blessed be He!’ Soon thereupon I saw that at the end of each verse of Holy Scripture there stand two points, one above the other. I did not yet know that these are the points of separation; I considered each of these two points to be the letter Yod. ‘Here,’ I said to my teacher, ‘there is printed constantly the name of God, Blessed be He.’ ‘Mark my words: when two Yods (Jews) stand beside each other it signifies the name of God; but when one stands above the other it does not signify the name of God.’” See Martin Buber, For the Sake of Heaven: A Chronicle, trans. Ludwig Lewisohn (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1945), 39. This teaching is also associated with the Seer’s disciple, the Holy Jew, and R’ Yisroel of Ruzhin. A Jew (yid) must thank G-d, blessed be He, for existing, each hour and each moment. Regarding bodily existence, everyone knows that one must acknowledge its goodness. And for spiritual existence, we must, all the more so, recognize its goodness. The essence is speech, but there exists a more elevated thing: Thought. [For] speech is derived from thought. “You protect me from pain; [You surround me] with songs of salvation” (Ps. 32:7).—You [i.e. G-d], protect us from this pain! Hence, we will sing this song of refuge to You. “And when you come [to the land, which your G-d has given you as an inheritance] …” (Deut. 26:1)—[only] with joy can one come. And what is that joy? When a person merits to speak holy words in connection with tsadikim before God. “And you shall take from the first [fruit of the land … and bring it to the place G-d has chosen].” (Ibid, 2) The “first” is Wisdom. 34 34 This identification is a common move in Kabbalistic literature, based in the verse Ps. 111:10 (“The beginning of wisdom is the fear of G-d”). Wisdom, here, serves as a terminus technicus, referring to the first distinct emanation in the Godhead, in Hebrew called Khokhme, or, Wisdom, the generative intellect of the Divine. The emanation is consonant with the author’s previous reference to consciousness and thought. “All of the fruit” (Ibid)—all the increase of [one’s] words and actions. “Which you bring from your land (erets)”—from your earthiness (artsiyes). 35 35 Drawing on kabbalistic hermeneutical tradition, the land (erets) is a commonly availed-upon symbol to refer to the feminine aspect of the Divine, Malkhus, or the Shechinah. Especially in Hasidic exegesis, this term is associated with human, embodied, worldly life. To preserve the linguistic connection to the land, but also to gesture toward the coarseness of materiality, I have translated it as “earthiness.” “This day, the Lord your G-d has commanded you to do …” (Ibid, 16) On that day, you must make 36 36 The verb makhn appears here to function as part of a paraphrastic construction, e.g. makhn a rekhenung (make a reckoning), or the above usages in reference to kheshbn. However, I have retained its literal sense in this case to indicate a resonance with the author’s insistence on coupling thought with concrete, physical action. Thoughts must be realized in an actional capacity, not remain strictly theoretical. your thought. All day, reflect on from where it came. Do you feel something regarding it? Have you considered 37 37 Yid. halt, literally “to hold.” This usage of “to hold” is culturally particular to the idiom of the yeshive, the talmudic academy. There, “to hold” meant to be engaged in something, specifically in regards to a rabbinic text (as in, “Where are you holding?”). Additionally, as here, it can be used to signify having an active relation. how you’d take care of it? [However,] dealing with thought alone, without any action, we don’t hold with that. Such is not for our kind of people; it is [mere] exertion. He 38 38 This appears to be a shift to the voice of the editor, commenting on a remark made by R’ Aharon II, regarding the teaching he had just given. said that the whole of his words had already been uttered and explicated in holiness, in the responsa of the Radbaz 39 39 R’ David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra, 1479–1573. Born in Spain but lived most of his life in Palestine and the Maghreb, working as a poysek (legal decisor) and rabbinical scholar. 3:472, 40 40 This responsum was a popular cited text for the Hasidim, since it is a rare example of a pre-Hasidic rabbi grappling with the favored themes of their movement, namely, intentionality and emotionality in prayer. The Radbaz is a strong countervailing push against the tendency of most later rabbis, to minimize the import and (legal) force of intention in prayer. Given the centrality of enthusiastic worship, to the Hasidim, they felt especial affinity for this minority opinion. In addition, the Radbaz establishes an important precedent for the special quality between a spiritual master and his disciple, a dynamic upon which the entirety of Hasidic society was (and is) based. Besides here, this responsum is quoted in full in a number of other Hasidic anthologies, such as Mayim Rabim, a late nineteenth century collection of teachings connected to Yekhiel Mikhl of Zlotshev, edited by Nosn Neta ha-Kohen of Kalbiel.On the Karliner’s citation of the Radbaz, see Mordecai L. Wilensky, “Hasidic-Mitnaggedic Polemics in the Jewish Communities of Eastern Europe: The Hostile Phase,” Essential Papers on Hasidism: Origins to Present, ed. Gershon David Hundert (New York: New York University Press, 1991) 250. and in the Sefer ha-Khinekh (Book of Education), [the] portion of Bo, regarding the verse “A bone shall you not break in [the paschal lamb]” (Ex. 12:46). The rest is commentary, go and learn! 41 41 This is a famous talmudic paraphrase taken from BT Shabbat 31a, in which Hillel is asked to sum up the entire Torah in an essential kernel that encapsulates the whole of the Torah, while the rest is all commentary upon it.

The language of the Radbaz, ad loc.: We read in the chapter “One should not stand” 42 42 This is the traditional, short-hand reference to the fifth chapter of the talmudic tractate of Brokhes (Blessings), which is mainly concerned with the topic of prayer. In traditional Jewish study, chapters of talmud are referred to by their opening words rather than by numerical citation. The full opening mishne reads, “One should not stand to pray save from a serious demeanor [lit. a heavy head]. The early pietists would wait an hour and [then] pray, so they could direct their hearts to the Omnipresent. Even if a king greeted one [during the standing prayer], they would not answer. Even if a snake coiled around their ankle, they would not interrupt.” (M Berachot 5:1, BT Berachot 30b) —“One should not begin 43 43 Lit. “stand.” to pray from silliness, lightheadedness, 44 44 This is a literal rendering. This phrase often comes with associations of licentiousness. chatter, controversy, or anger.” 45 45 The Radbaz cites this passage as sourced in the Talmud, but the correct citation for this formulation can be found in Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, Laws of Prayer 4:18. A similar passage can be found in the above-cited talmudic chapter, which reads: Our Rabbis taught: One should not begin to pray from sadness, laziness, silliness, chatter, licentiousness, nor meaningless matters but rather from the joy of the commandment.” Further, 46 46 In BT Eruvin 65a. we read: “R’ Chanina would not pray on a day he boiled over. This means a day he became angry. Further, 47 47 Ibid we read, “Anyone whose mind is not settled should not pray.” Further, 48 48 Ibid we read, “Samuel would not pray in a house that had liquor in it,” because of the odor that disturbed him and prevent him from intending [his mind]. You learn from all this that a person should not pray in a place that disturbs his mind, and not at a time that disrupts his intention. Thus, an individual or group who have loathing, anger, hatred, or are in a fight with the community, their prayers are not wanted. It is forbidden for them to pray there [with the community], where their minds are troubled and are not able to concentrate in their prayer. And all the more so if [these factors] always seem to cause him anger. And all the more so if he is irascible with the community’s leadership. If not for his worry, he would say it would be better for him to pray alone than amidst a quarrelsome scrum, for whom his mind is not at ease. There is a further reason that it is only fitting for a person to pray in a place where his heart desires. There are those who say that a person should only study Torah in a place his heart desires, and the rationale is that when a person sees someone with whom he is at ease, his spirit is awakened and expands to full intentionality, and his heart is happy. And then the spirit of G-d can rest 49 49 The Hebrew verb for “rest,” נחה, has the same root as the earlier mentions of being “at ease” with others. The Radbaz seems to imply that there is a correlation between gentleness in interpersonal relationships, and the ease of connection between G-d and humans. on him, as is said regarding prophecy.

It is further said in the books of wisdom: 50 50 This phrase is referring to books of a kabbalistic nature, most likely drawing from the Lurianic tradition of metempsychosis, a spiritual economy in which souls circulate both through generations, in reincarnation, as well as with the souls of those still living. when a person concentrates on his master and gives of his heart, his spirit becomes bound to his [master’s], and, drawing from the [master’s divine] influx, an additional spirit will alight upon him. This is what is called, by them [i.e. the kabbalists] “the secret of [spiritual] impregnation,” 51 51 I follow Elliot Wolfson in translating ibur as “impregnation,” the result of an act, rather than the state of “pregnancy.” Central to Kabbalistic psychology and psychology is the interrelationship between the souls of the living righteous and those of the righteous dead. For a philosophical and phenomenological analysis of this phenomenon within Kabbalah and other religions, see Elliot R. Wolfson, Language, Eros, Being: Kabbalistic Hermeneutics and Poetic Imagination (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005), 457n231. Here, however, the abundant spirit of the tsadik is so expansive and generative, that it is able to spare part of his spiritual substance for his disciple. For more on such spiritual intermingling in Jewish mysticism and magic, see the studies presented in Matt Goldish, Spirit Possession in Judaism: Cases and Contexts from the Middle Ages to the Present (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2003). with the lives of both of them. As it is said, “Your eyes will see your master” (Is. 30:20). And this is [the secret meaning of] “[The elders] stationed themselves with you, [and I will descend and speak with you there], and I will reserve from some of the spirit [on you (Moses) and place it upon them]” (Num. 11:17). Thus our holy master 52 52 Most likely R’ Joseph Saragossi (1460-1507). was glorified, for when he saw the face of his teacher, he would reach a lofty level. This was all the more so when the master would concentrate as well; each would call to the other, one bestowing and the other receiving. As R’ Yossi said, “A person does not merit to learn from everyone.” 53 53 See BT Eruvin 47b. The thrust of this teaching is that a disciple must prioritize studying with his most suitable master, even if one has to travel long distances to study with him. From this, they permitted one to move to a different location to study Torah, even if his father tells him not to go, leading him to transgress his father’s command. For one does not merit to learn from everyone. This reason applies as well in prayer, for when a person sees his loving friend, a close relation, his master, or one with whom his spirit is at ease, his own spirit will awaken to the highest intention, and a spirit from on high is joined to him. This is a matter that one’s intellect indicates. Thus far is his holy idiom.

R. Aaron of Karlin. “In His Holy Idiom.” In geveb, February 2019: Trans. Joshua Schwartz . https://ingeveb.org/texts-and-translations/holy-idiom.
R. Aaron of Karlin. “In His Holy Idiom.” Translated by Joshua Schwartz . In geveb (February 2019): Accessed Mar 20, 2019.


R. Aaron of Karlin


Joshua Schwartz

Joshua Schwartz is a doctoral candidate at New York University, writing on heartbreak in Hasidic mysticism, finishing in 2019.