The Song of the Soul

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She is ever filled with fierce longings, singing her songs of love, suffused with yearning and desire.

She ceaselessly hungers and thirsts for God, for the living God, and pours forth her utterances in rhyme, in inner song.

The following text is taken from a lengthy lyrical essay by Hillel Zeitlin titled “Heavenly Beauty — Poetic Compositions from the Aggada and Kabbalah”. Published in 1908 in the literary journal Safrut, the essay comprises eight chapters portraying, in Zeitlin’s unique pathos-laden prose, the creation of the world, the Garden of Eden, Kabbalistic cosmology, the revelation at Mount Sinai, a study of the soul, the nature of women, and the Messianic era. As indicated by the title, Zeitlin draws heavily from the Aggada, the non-legalistic sections of the Talmud, as well as later Kabbalistic teachings.

“Heavenly Beauty” was written during a particularly productive period of Zeitlin’s literary career. Over the course of 1908 and 1909, he published “Shekhina”, “Heavenly Beauty”, and “The Thirst”, all in Safrut. These three essays are noteworthy for their exemplary poetic quality, as well as the powerful religious longings they express. Indeed, in an autobiographical essay published in 1928, Zeitlin marked the writing of these three essays as a turning point in his religious life, as he furthered his return to traditional Jewish observance. Continue reading “The Song of the Soul”

Paradoxical Faith: Ḥasidic Masters on Closeness to God in Moments of Distance

אבינו אבינו איך נלך כי השומר עומד בשער המלך

Our Father, Our father! How can we come to you? The guard stands watch at the royal gate!

—Niggun Kol BeYa’ar (Attributed to the Shpoler Zeide (1725-1812))

So often in our lives we seek a sense of emotional closeness to God, yet we feel so far away. In times of need or inner pain we wish to feel God’s presence, but it is not to be found. Numerous Ḥasidic masters have sought to ameliorate this sense of distance, articulating a model of what may be called “Paradoxical Faith”.  Through internalizing their teachings one may strengthen their faith, finding comfort in times of religious crisis. Continue reading “Paradoxical Faith: Ḥasidic Masters on Closeness to God in Moments of Distance”