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Reading Hasidic Texts: New Perspectives from History to Hermeneutics

Sun, December 16, 10:00 to 11:30am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Commonwealth Complex
Tue, December 18, 8:30 to 10:00am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Waterfront 2 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Seminar


Emerging at the crossroads of modernity, Hasidism has profoundly shaped the course of Jewish history over the past two hundred and fifty years. Although Hasidism was itself transformed by this encounter with new intellectual currents to shifting political realities, the seminar reevaluates commonly-held scholarly narratives by arguing that Hasidic creativity did not draw to a standstill as it encountered modernity. Positing that that the history of Hasidism is reflected in its evolving theological teachings, the assembled papers will present a series of close-readings of Hasidic texts from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. We argue that contextualizing Hasidic theology and its literature more widely—within the broader trends of Jewish thought and history in this period, but also the European intellectual discourse of early modernity—will reveal new ways of thinking about these Hasidic texts while identifying under-appreciated philosophical and historical elements. The papers emphasize (and model) the importance of interdisciplinary connections in studying Hasidism, including critical theory, philosophy of law, the history of Jewish hermeneutics, and intellectual history beyond Jewish thought. Bringing together a team of international scholars—including senior and junior faculty as well as advanced graduate students—this seminar aims to break new intellectual and professional ground through careful readings of Hasidic sources.

Arthur Green – “Reading Two Early Derashot of Levi Yizhak of Berdichev”

Ora Wiskind-Elper – “Facing the Holy One: R. Mordecai Joseph Leiner of Izbica on the Ever-Changing Facets of Religious Experience”

Ariel Evan Mayse -- “The Question of Commandedness: The Sefat Emet, Legal Theory and the Idea of Ritual”

Eli Rubin – “Between Acosmism and the Apotheosis of the Physical: The Ontological Significance of Tsimtsum in the Intellectual History of Habad”

Alexandra Mandelbaum - "Kuntres 'Inyan ha-Hishtahut by R.Nachman of Tshe'erin - a Radical Bratslav Interpretation"

David Maayan – “Self-Creation through Texts: Kalonymous Kalman Shapira’s Individuating Hermeneutics.”

Avinoam J. Stillman – “Hasidic Self-Fashioning and the Kabbalistic Canon: Re-reading Shlomo of Lutzk's Introduction to Maggid Devarav Le'Yaakov”

Sam Berrin Shonkoff - “The Orality of Silence: Mendel of Vurke's Wordless Torah, Textualized”

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