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Targum Shlishi Supports Arthur Green’s Research on the History of Hasidism: Exploring the Key Ideas and Controversies of the Inner Circle of the Maggid


(March 23, 2014) – Since the late 1960s, the scholar Arthur Green has been studying and publishing works on mystical traditions within Judaism. Dr. Green is a historian of Jewish religion and a leading independent figure in the Jewish Renewal movement. He is the former dean and president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the founding dean and current rector of the Rabbinical School and Irving Brudnick Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Religion at Hebrew College. Targum Shlishi is helping to support research efforts for several related projects that Dr. Green currently has underway. The projects involve the history of the inner circle of early Hasidism, the school of Dov Baer of Mezritch, the group that essentially founded the Hasidic movement.

Among the well-known figures that Dr. Green is studying, in addition to Maggid R. Dov Baer, are R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi (the founder of Chabad Hasidism), Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev, Elimelech of Lizhensk, and Menahem Nahum (Twersky) of Chernobyl. As Dr. Green explains, “these disciples formed a close mystical brotherhood, influenced by intense personal experiences ‘around the Maggid’s table’ and impressed by the profundity of his thought. For forty years following his death in 1772, they continued to develop their ideas, handed down to us in the classics of early Hasidic literature.” Recently, Dr. Green published a two-volume bilingual anthology of their writings, Speaking Torah: Spiritual Teachings from Around the Maggid’s Table. He is now working on producing a book-length study of the key ideas and controversies of that inner circle.

“I have long been an admirer of Art Green’s work. His work is indispensable to anyone interested in understanding the roots of our mystical traditions and contemporary Jewish mystical theology,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “It was Art Green’s book Tormented Master: A Life of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav, that I brought with me when I journeyed to Uman, Ukraine, several years ago for the annual Rosh Hashanah gathering at Rabbi Nahman’s burial site. Art’s book helped me immeasurably to understand the mood, the zeitgeist, and the theological underpinnings of the thirty thousand Jews gathered that Rosh Hashanah. He is well-known as a scholar who is able to make these mystical teachings accessible to an interested, but not necessarily scholarly, audience. Art also has a deep and inspiring optimism about the future of Judaism. It is an honor to help support this important work.”

Dr. Green has devoted the past several decades of his professional life to studying the origins of Hasidism—closely reading the sources, studying the key issues and the divergences of opinion within the group, and developing a body of work that deeply explores early Hasidic thought.

As he explains, the founders of Hasidism, while of a united school of thought, dealt with difficult issues. “Some of these questions parallel those we face today. Hasidism’s founders struggled with questions such as: How do you popularize a profound esoteric truth? Can you do so without watering it down to meaningless pap? Do you cater to your hearer/readers’ needs, or do you seek to bring them closer to the questions that you consider ‘the heart of the matter?’ ”

Among his additional projects are contributing to the collective work A New History of Hasidism, which he conceived; expanding on and republishing his 1981 book Devotion and Commandment: The Faith of Abraham in the Hasidic Imagination, to be re-issued by HUC Press; and continuing to develop and further translate the Hasidic classic Me’or ’Eynayim (The Light of the Eyes) on Sefer Bereshit—he published a translation of a portion of this in 1983 in the Classics of Western Spirituality (Paulist Press). He will translate the rest of the work for a volume to be published by Harvard University/Tel Aviv University press.

About Arthur Green
Arthur Green was the founding dean and is currently rector of the Rabbinical School and Irving Brudnick Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Religion at Hebrew College. He is Professor Emeritus at Brandeis University. He was educated at Brandeis University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he received rabbinic ordination, He has taught Jewish mysticism, Hasidism, and theology to several generations of students at the University of Pennsylvania, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (where he served as both dean and president), Brandeis, and now at Hebrew College. He is author of over a dozen books, including Keter: The Crown of God in Early Jewish Mysticism. Dr. Green is also well known for his translations and interpretations of Hasidic teachings, including the two-volume: Speaking Torah: Spiritual Teachings from Around the Maggid’s Table (2013). Best known of his theological writings is Radical Judaism: Re-thinking God and Tradition, published by Yale University Press in 2010. To learn more about his work, visit his website.

About Targum Shlishi

Targum Shlishi is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website. 


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