Personal Excerpts from Silence and Voice

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…for I may be the sole Jew now amongst the generation who, following many years wandering the pathways of thought and life, following frightful torments and restlessness, has acquired the faith which they call “primitive”…

The following brief excerpts are taken from Hillel Zeitlin’s apocalyptic work Silence and Voice, published in 1936 as the threatening shadow of Nazi Germany loomed over European Jewry. Interweaving prophetic calls for repentance alongside practical solutions for the organization and resettlement of European Jewry, Zeitlin’s thunderous and at times exasperated voice expresses great frustration with the religious corruption and spiritual apathy of his peers. Indeed, at times it sounds as though he stands utterly alone in confronting an impending doom which only he perceives.  Continue reading “Personal Excerpts from Silence and Voice”

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The Degel Maḥane Ephraim on Jacob and Torah Study

The following Ḥasidic homily, of Rabbi Moshe ayim Ephraim of Sudylkiv (1748-1800), explicates the vow taken by Jacob on his journey to Ḥaran. Rabbi Moshe ayim Ephraim was a grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Ḥasidic movement, and his teachings, collected in Degel Maḥane Ephraim (Korets 1810), record many traditions received from his grandfather and his disciples. Like many collections of Ḥasidic homilies, the work consists of Hebrew summaries of discourses originally delivered in Yiddish. Reflecting this process of transmission, the rudimentary Hebrew is constructed according to Yiddish syntax. The translator must take these characteristics into consideration.

In chapter 28 of Genesis, Jacob travels to Ḥaran to escape the wrath of his brother Esau, stopping to sleep at the place which would become known as Beit El. There he experiences a wondrous dream of a ladder ascending to heaven, and an assurance from God that he would be protected and ultimately return home. Following his dream, Jacob issues a vow, which is the subject of the homily.  Continue reading “The Degel Maḥane Ephraim on Jacob and Torah Study”