Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Chabad and Acosmism

Aaron of Sarosseljeis a little known member of  the Chabad Hasidic sect who lived from 1766-1828.

He broke away from the main bulk of Chabad after Schneor Zalman, the founder of the movement, died.  Since this is the case, his works are seldom translated by Chabad, as he is viewed as a less than orthodox member of the sect.  Most of his work remains un-translated in Hasidic Hebrew, and therefore inaccessible to all but scholars and religious Jews.

Louis Jacob’s Seeker of Unity: The Life and Work of Aaron of Starosselje, therefore becomes important as it is one of the only English language works that contains biographical information on Rabbi Aaron, and also extended quotations in English of his works.

As the title suggests, Rabbi Aaron was a radical non-dualist, believing there is no separation between God and the world, and in a sense, God is the world and the world is God.  In fact, his pantheism comes close to the concept of acosmism: the denial of reality as we seem to know and perceive it.

Jacob is an excellent guide of Rabbi Aaron’s life and work (if not a bit repetitive in his themes and topics).  In a sense, this is the only show in town for those who want to see a glimpse of Reb Aaron’s life and work; and despite its flaws we are lucky to have this book.

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