Contributions by: Morris Hoffman
Moses Hayim Luzzatto (1707-1746), rabbi,mystic, teacher, poet, playwright, and writer of ethical works, gathered around him in his 'house of study' in Padua an inner circle of devout Jews who shared his belief in the imminent arrival of the~messianic age and who privately identified members of their circle as divinely ordained to usher in the Redemption. To the rabbis of Venice and Frankfurt, however, Luzzatto was a heretic, whose claims to have written works at the dictation of a messenger from Heaven could not be genuine. Under pressure from them he was obliged to withdraw a number of~such works, and the manuscripts were either lost or destroyed. Yet his known works came to earn him admiration: as a literary figure among the adherents of the Enlightenment, as a great kabbalist and profound mystic by hasidim and even by some of their leading opponents, and as a great ethical teacher by all religious streams. Isaiah Tishby spent many years in the study of Luzzatto and his group, and succeeded in tracing a number of the lost manuscripts. In essays translated in this volume he described and annotated the manuscripts which he found, giving the full text of some of the prose works and of all the poems. From these manuscripts and Luzzatto's published works, he was able to correct and add detail to the incomplete picture of Luzzatto and his mystical world which had been current among scholars. He showed how far the views of earlier kabbalists and messianists had been accepted or modified by Luzzatto, and found evidence that he had influenced the early hasidic movement, so lending weight to Hayim Nahman Bialik's description of~Luzzatto as 'the father and first begetter' of the three main streams of Judaism in modern times. Tishby also clarified the messianic role for which, as the Padua group believed, certain of their members were destined under the leadership of~Luzzatto.
Publication Date: 2/1/2008