Somewhere a Master: Hasidic Portraits and Legends

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9780805211870: Somewhere a Master: Hasidic Portraits and Legends

The compassion of Reb Moshe-Leib, the vision of the Seer of Lublin, the wisdom of Reb Pinhas, the warmth of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the humor of Reb Naphtali–to their followers these sages appeared as kings, judges, and prophets. They communicated joy and wonder and fervor to the men and women who came to them in the depths of despair. They brought love and compassion to the persecuted Jews of Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania. For Jews who felt abandoned and forsaken by God, these Hasidic masters incarnated an irresistible call to help and salvation. The Rebbe combats sorrow with exuberance. He defeats resignation by exalting belief. He creates happiness so as not to yield to the sadness around him. He tells stories to escape the temptations of irreducible silence.

It is Elie Wiesel’s unique gift to make the lives and tales of these great teachers as compelling now as they were in a different time and place. In the tradition of Hasidism itself, he leaves others to struggle with questions of justice, mercy, and vengeance, providing us instead with eternal truths and unshakable faith.

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About the Author:

ELIE WIESEL was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. The author of more than fifty internationally acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction, he was Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and University Professor at Boston University for forty years. Wiesel died in 2016.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

PINHAS OF KORETZ
 
One day, a young Hasid came to see Rebbe Pinhas of Koretz, known for his wisdom and compassion.
 
“Help me, Master,” he said. “I need your advice, I need your support. My distress is unbearable; make it disappear. The world around me, the world inside me, are filled with turmoil and sadness. Men are not human, life is not sacred. Words are empty—empty of truth, empty of faith. So strong are my doubts that I no longer know who I am—nor do I care to know. What am I to do, Rebbe? Tell me, what am I to do?”
 
“Go and study,” said Rebbe Pinhas of Koretz. “It’s the only remedy I know. Torah contains all the answers. Torah is the answer.”
 
“Woe unto me,” said the disciple. “I am unable even to study. So shaky are my foundations, so all-pervasive my uncertainties, that my mind finds no anchor, no safety. It wanders and wanders, and leaves me behind. I open the Talmud and contemplate it endlessly, aimlessly. For weeks and weeks I remain riveted to the same page, to the same problem. I cannot go farther, not even by a step, not even by a line. What must I do, Rebbe, what can I do to go on?”
 
When a Jew can provide no answer, he at least has a tale to tell. And so Rebbe Pinhas of Koretz invited the young man to come closer, and then said with a smile, “You must know, my friend, that what is happening to you also happened to me. When I was your age I stumbled over the same obstacles. I, too, was filled with questions and doubts. About man and his fate, creation and its meaning. I was struggling with so many dark forces that I could not advance; I was wallowing in doubt, locked in despair. I tried study, prayer, meditation. In vain. Penitence, silence, solitude. My doubts remained doubts. Worse: they became threats. Impossible to proceed, to project myself into the future. I simply could not go on. Then one day I learned that the Rebbe Israel Baal Shem Tov would be coming to our town. Curiosity led me to the shtibl, where he was receiving his followers. I entered just as he was finishing the Amida prayer. He turned around and saw me, and I was convinced that he was seeing me, me and no one else. The intensity of his gaze overwhelmed me, and I felt less along. And, strangely, I was able to go home, open the Talmud, and plunge into my studies once more. You see,” said Rebbe Pinhas of Koretz, “the questions remained questions. But I was able to go on. . . .”
 
What did Pinhas of Koretz try to teach his young visitor? One: Not to give up. Even if some questions are without answers, go on asking them. Two: Doubts are not necessarily destructive—provided they bring one to a Rebbe. Three: One must not think that one is alone and that one’s tragedy is exclusively one’s own; others have gone through the same sorrow and endured the same anguish. Four: One must know where to look, and to whom. Five: God is everywhere, even in pain, even in the search for faith. Six: A good story in Hasidism is not about miracles, but about friendship and hope—the greatest miracles of all.
 
A variation of the same story: Fearing that his faith would be weakened by doubts, Rebbe Pinhas decided to go to Medzibozh to see Rebbe Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Hasidic movement. By coincidence, that day the Besht, as he was known, happened to be visiting Koretz. Rebbe Pinhas quickly returned to Koretz and ran to the inn where Baal Shem was staying. There he heard the Maser explaining to his followers the passage in Scripture describing how Moses stood with his arms raised in prayer, giving his people the strength to do battle against the Amakekites.
 
“It happens,” said the Master, “that a person can feel troubled; it happens that a person’s faith can waver. What does one do then? One turns to God in prayer and implores God to help one recapture one’s true faith.”
 
And Rebbe Pinhas understood that the Besht had meant him too.

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Book Description Random House USA Inc, United States, 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. The compassion of Reb Moshe-Leib, the vision of the Seer of Lublin, the wisdom of Reb Pinhas, the warmth of the Ba al Shem Tov, the humor of Reb Naphtali-to their followers these sages appeared as kings, judges, and prophets. They communicated joy and wonder and fervor to the men and women who came to them in the depths of despair. They brought love and compassion to the persecuted Jews of Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania. For Jews who felt abandoned and forsaken by God, these Hasidic masters incarnated an irresistible call to help and salvation. The Rebbe combats sorrow with exuberance. He defeats resignation by exalting belief. He creates happiness so as not to yield to the sadness around him. He tells stories to escape the temptations of irreducible silence. It is Elie Wiesel s unique gift to make the lives and tales of these great teachers as compelling now as they were in a different time and place. In the tradition of Hasidism itself, he leaves others to struggle with questions of justice, mercy, and vengeance, providing us instead with eternal truths and unshakable faith. Bookseller Inventory # AAR9780805211870

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