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Distributed for Brandeis University Press

Untold Tales of the Hasidim

Crisis and Discontent in the History of Hasidism

This fascinating volume reveals some of the dark, dramatic episodes concealed in the folds of the hasidic cloak—shocking events and anomalous figures in the history of Hasidism. Using tools of detection, Assaf extracts historical truth from a variety of sources by examining how the same events are treated in different memory traditions, whether hasidic, maskilic, or modern historical, and tells the stories of individuals from the hasidic elites who found themselves unable to walk the trodden path. By placing these episodes and individuals under his historical lens, Assaf offers a more nuanced historical portrayal of Hasidism in the nineteenth-century context.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the English-language Edition • Translator’s Note • List of Abbreviations • Introduction • “Lies My Teacher Told Me”: Hasidic History as a Battlefield • Orthodox Historiography’s Strategies of Memory and Repression • “I Too Am Not Objective”: History as It Should Have Been • Apostate or Saint? In the Footsteps of Moshe, the Son of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Lyady • “Would That My Parents Had Been Cruel”: Straying Children of Zaddikim and Rabbis • “And to Anger You I Will Convert”: Parent- Child Relations and Conversion • Polemic and Apologetic Memory • “He Has Regained His Former Strength”: Moshe Prior to His Conversion • Leon Yulievich or Piotr Aleksandrovich? The Archival Testimony • “He Had Done So in Sane, Sound Mind”: Maskilic Memory Traditions • “He Was in His Right Mind”: The Apostates’ Testimony • In the Historian’s Workshop • “The Time Has Come for Moshe’s Story to Be Revealed”: Hasidic Memory Traditions • “He First Lost His Mind and Then Left His Faith” • “It Never Happened”? The Ongoing Struggle over Memory Traditions • One Event, Multiple Interpretations: The Fall of the Seer of Lublin • “A Flame Hovering over His Head”: The Seer of Lublin in His Hasidim’s Eyes • “This Was No Simple Matter”: The Fall of the Seer in Hasidic Memory Tradition • “Foolish and Ignorant”: The Seer of Lublin in His Opponents’ Eyes • Ma’asei harav or Sefer nekiyut uferishut: The Satire’s Transmission and Its Author’s Identity • Sefer nekiyut uferishut: Structure and Content • “From Drunkenness and Heavy- headedness I Fell”: Tracing the Maskilic Version of the Fall • The Seer’s Fall: A Suicide Attempt? • “Happy Are the Persecuted”: The Opposition to Bratslav Hasidism • Three Waves of Persecution • “A Fearful, Soul-shaking, Bone-shattering, Dispiriting Scene”: The Maskilic Testimony • “Per the Hooligans’ Code”: The Talne Hasidim’s Anti- Bratslav Campaign • The Rzhishchev Affair and the Edict Forbidding Zaddikim to Travel • “The Bratslav Hasidim Eat Treyf ”: The Teplik Scandal • “They Are Not Beholden to Any of the Leaders of Our Time”: The Clash over Obedience • “God Seeks the Persecuted”: The Refl ection of the Persecutions in Bratslav Historiography • The Persecutions Continue • “Legacy of a Mistake”: An Epilogue? • “Excitement of the Soul”: The World of Rabbi Akiva Shalom Chajes of Tulchin • From Foe to Friend • Chajes’s Literary Legacy • “Out of My House, Impure One!” Rabbi Akiva Chajes in Light of Memoir Literature • Rabbi Akiva Chajes’s Change of Heart • Rabbi Akiva Chajes’s Appointment as Rabbi of Dubova and the Kadavar Controversy • In the Thicket of Memory • “How Times Have Changed”: The World of Rabbi Menahem Nahum Friedman of Itscan • Hasidism and Philosophy • Biography • Literary Legacy • “Religious Zeal Is a Plague Recounted in the Torah”: Between Innovation and Conservatism • Disregard or Polemic? Hatov vehatakhlit • A Humanist among Hasidim? • “What Befell the Rebbes’ Grandchildren Who Left the Fold”? • “It Is Forbidden to Uphold This Book” • “Confession of My Tortured, Affl icted Soul”: The World of Rabbi Yitshak Nahum Twersky of Shpikov • Shpikov Hasidism • Biography • “Freedom, Freedom!” The Twersky Sisters • “A Sacrifice on My Mother’s Altar”: Taking Stock of the Confession • “The Spirit of the Times”: The Confession’s Historical Context • “My Tiny, Ugly World”: The Text of the Confession • Notes • Works Cited • Index

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