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Midrash UnboundTransformations and Innovations$
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Michael A. Fishbane and Joanna Weinberg

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781904113713

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781904113713.001.0001

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Midrash in Habad Hasidism

Midrash in Habad Hasidism

(p.429) Twenty Midrash in Habad Hasidism
Midrash Unbound

Naftali Loewenthal

Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines the continuum joining Midrash, ethos, and spirituality in the Habad school of hasidism, both in terms of the development of theoretical structures linking the midrashic process with personal spiritual quest, and the use of Midrash to impart traditionalist, hasidic, and sometimes eschatological ideas. This relates to the striking interplay of esoteric and exoteric elements in hasidic teaching. For though there are overtly esoteric themes, discussing sefirot (divine emanations), spiritual ‘worlds’, and other aspects of the corpus of Jewish mystical thought, a long tradition in Judaism reserves such teachings for a spiritual elite. Midrash, by contrast, is ostensibly accessible to all, whether as a written text for study or as an oral and popular exposition. Hence it is notable that hasidic teachers in general, and those of the Habad school in particular, use Midrash in order to communicate spiritual teachings in the society at large. Moreover, the particular mode of instruction that hasidism evolved, the hasidic derush (exposition), sometimes called torah (teaching) or ma'amar (discourse), can itself be seen as an extended form of latter-day Midrash.

Keywords:   Midrash, Habad school, hasidism, midrashic process, hasidic teaching, sefirot, Jewish mystical thought, Judaism, hasidic teachers, spiritual teachings

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