By Menahem Mendel, of Kotsk, 1787-1859., Menahem Mendel, of Kotsk, 1787-1859; Heschel, Abraham Joshua; Baʻal Shem Ṭov, approximately 1700-1760., Baʻal Shem Ṭov, approximately 1700-1760; Kierkegaard, Søren
It is relatively effortless to evangelise pleasure and fervor, yet to call for fact is like shaping marble with no instruments. And so [the Kotzker] went trying to find a couple of surging humans and known as loudly upon their souls to bend their conceit and spot the reality underneath the soil....
This used to be now not a philosophical inquiry into the character of fact yet a scrutiny of men’s lives in relation to fact. faith, the Kotzker maintained, was once now not easily an act of adopting a procedure of ideals and likely modes of behavior; try out and trial have been wanted, and one needed to make certain via introspection even if one’s ideals have been actual or now not, and no matter if one acted out fact or lived a lifetime of pretense....
Kierkegaard made it his activity “to reintroduce Christianity into Christendom.” The Kotzker sought to reintroduce authenticity to Jewish existence. Kierkegaard’s posthumous influence has been robust. yet has the Kotzker affected Jewish self-understanding?
―from A ardour for Truth
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Even though he agreed that one could not prevail over the body by self-affiiction, he was convinced that indulgence, even gratification, must stultify the soul. In the thought of the Baal Shem, love was the beginning of all experience. Whoever came to him felt how his reverence for God blended with his affection for all men. He was warmhearted, easily approachable. He sought people out, traveling from town to town, from village to village in order to befriend simple folk. In those days of complete segregation between men and women, when a pious Jew was careful not to enter into conversation with a strange woman, the Baal Shem's behavior was bold indeed.
The Kotzker said the opposite : one must serve despite oneself, not because one wanted to but precisely because one did not want to. Biblical laws for which no reasons were apparent stood higher than laws that had rational explana tions. God commanded Moses to count the daughters of Midian (Numbers 3 r : 35). "Is Moses, our master, ordered to count pagan girls?! Nevertheless, if it is so ordered, so be it! " 30 A pAssI0N F0R TRuTH Immanence and Transcendence To say that God is somewhere comes close to saying that He is nowhere.
Since man's heart was deceitful, his piety often a sham, his inner life a slum, how dared he consider him self worthy of attachment to Him Who was the source of Truth! The shift of emphasis from striving after mystical experience to reflective self-critical discipline was part of the revolution in Hasidism initiated by the Holy Jew. The meaning of living was found in commitment to Truth as the infallible standard for all decisions. The central issue is not Truth in terms of a doctrine, but veracity, honesty, or sincerity in terms of personal existence.