Thursday, January 19, 2017

Somewhere a Master: Hasidic Portraits and Legends

It would be easy and lazy to label Elie Wiesel’s Somewhere a Master: Hasidic Portraits and Legends as mere hagiography: simple stories of saintly man without human flaws.  But this collection of stories and tales belies hagiography.  

Wiesel takes these figures, brings them to life, and maintains their human complexity. Hasidic rebbes were public figures. They had followers and students. This came with a great cost.  The need for solitude and connection to G-d was strong, and often stymied because of their functions as rebbes.

Wiesel observes that nearly every master died in some state of despair.  Often, it is not clear why, but Wiesel seems to be telling us that these men, who gave so much to their people, lost things in life through their service; this brought some measure of despair at the end.

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