Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Kotzker rebbe

Tomb of Menachem Mendl of Kotzk

"While the Kotzker rebbe (d. 1859) is a relatively unknown figure in the history of Western civilization, he is often compared to the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.  They lived worlds apart (the Kotzer in Guray, Poland, and Kierkegaard in Cophenhagen, Denmark) and never met.  By the time Kierkegaard (1813-1855) had published his first book, Either/Or, in 1843, the Kotzker had removed himself from the world and lived in virtual isolation (perhaps a psychotic break).  While their ways of life were worlds apart, their theological concerns express a remarkable similarity.  They both searched for ways to determine how to live one's life in accordance with a personal religious creed and committment.  Niether left their students answers, only limitless challenge.  For the Kotzker, the one who thinks he is finished is finished.  Hence, their struggle urges us on in our struggle."

Kushner & Olitzky, Sparks Beneath the Surface

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