Asceticism in Hasidic Thought as a response to the Sabbatean

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Asceticism in Hasidic Thought

Moodiness and the Hashish thinkers agreed to the concept of prohibiting a culture of unbridled licentiousness, reasoning that a life of excessive indulgence in the physical pleasures would not only serve to significantly detract from man’s physical productiveness but would also derogate his spiritual qualities, adversely affecting his ability to understand and properly worship his God. Therefore, both placed considerable constraints on man’s sexual life, ordinances extending far beyond the strict rabbinic decrees governing martial relations.

Only with these guidelines in place did both Moodiness and the Hashish thinkers feel hat man could achieve the proper level of devotion to God and his Torah in the physical world, despite the seemingly ubiquitous pleasures of the flesh. However, while both Moodiness and the Hashish thinkers offer different principles for differing levels of religiosity, they do not follow the same guidelines for determining the requisite levels of devotion to God.

Appropriately, both Moodiness and the Hashish thinkers divide their restrictions, positing two distinct levels of prescribed action: one for a higher spiritual man and another for a lower spiritual man. It appears that the level promulgated by Moodiness for his higher spiritual man is in practice parallel to that of the Hashish lower spiritual man. Thus, while both agree in principle to the utilization of ascetic means in an effort to increase one’s religiosity, they diverge as to where the proper level of asceticism should be for their higher and lower spiritual men.

What is to account for this difference in thought?

I would like to posit that this change in thought came about, in part, due to the licentious sins of the Sabina movement and its inheritors. The ascetic lifestyle advocated by several Hashish leaders and thinkers, cumulating with Rabbi McCann of Burbles, may be viewed as a reactionary response to Sebastian movements, particularly Franking, and their well-known sexual misconduct. Moodiness Approach to Asceticism Moodiness presents a dual approach to asceticism’s interaction with spiritual man’s physical life.

In his philosophical corpus More Invective, Moodiness writes: One should detach his thought from, and abolish his desire for bestial things… The pleasures of eating, drinking, sexual intercourse and in general of the sense of touch… We have it so far as we are animals like other beasts, and nothing that belongs o the notion of humanity pertains to it.

Further on in the More Invective he adds: (Eating, drinking, and copulation) should be reduced to the extent possible: one should do them in secret, should feel sorrowful because one does them…

A man should be in control of all these impulses, (and) restrict his efforts in relation to them.

Moodiness paradigm for the ascetic lifestyle

Here Moodiness describes a paradigm for the ascetic lifestyle. He endorses a pleasure-free existence, advocating for not only “control” and “restriction,” but for “sorrow’ as well. Further, he stresses the inhumanity present within the annalistic shires of man, something which man should “detach his thought from, and abolish his desire for. ” Yet, in his legal code Mishmash Torah, Moodiness adopts an entirely different perspective regarding man’s involvement with and enjoyment of the physical pleasures.

There he states: Possibly a person may say: Since envy, cupids, and ambition are evil qualities to cultivate and lead to a man’s ruin, I will avoid them to the uttermost and seek their contraries. ” A person following this principle, will not eat meat, or drink wine, or marry, or dwell in a descant home, or wear comely apparel, but will clothe himself in sackcloth and coarse wool like the idolaters priests. This too, is the wrong way, not to be followed… Such have the sages said, “Do not the prohibitions of the Torah suffice you that you add other for yourself? And concerning this and similar excess Solomon exhorts us, “Be not over-righteous, nor excessively wise. Wherefore should you be desolate?

The passage from the Mishmash Torah contradicts the previously presented thoughts found in the More Invective. Moodiness writes not only about how one should participate in worldly pleasures, but also that whoever refrains from doing so is mimed a sinner. This suggests that an ideal exists to engage in the physical actions of the world, something which is reflected, no doubt, in the various Halation which demand pleasurable physical activity. Such an idea contrasts sharply with Moodiness’s statement in the More Invective that man should feel “sorrowful” and perform the physical actions of eating and cohabitation “in secret. ” In the next section of Mishmash Torah, Moodiness continues with this formulation, explaining exactly what one should sense when engaged in the physical activities of life: Man would direct his heart and all his actions only for the aim of knowing God, and his sitting, arising, and speaking should all be considered in that light…

When he eats, drinks, and cohabits, he should not intend to do these things only for the sake of pleasure, to the extent that he eats and drinks only that which is sweet to the taste, or engages in sex for the purpose of pleasure. Rather, he should eat and drink only for the purpose of making his body and limbs healthy… He should not engage in intercourse when he desires it, but only when he knows that he must for reasons of lath emit seed, or for the purpose of propagation.

“Man,” Moodiness says, “Must direct his heart and all his actions only for the aim of knowing God. Thus, according to Moodiness, when man has both the proper intentions as well as the bodily need, there exists no reason to abstain from the physical activities. In fact, it seems that engagement in such acts, when done within the proper religious context, serve to enhance and increase one’s religiosity. Further, in the next section, Moodiness elevates this idea of physical permissibility, suggesting that man’s actions, when fused with the proper intentions, re not only acceptable but even inherently good, as they are intrinsically forms of divine service.

Here he states: Whoever throughout his life follows this course of will be continually serving God, even while engaged in business and even during cohabitation, because his purpose in all that he does will be to satisfy his needs so as to have a sound body with which to serve God. Even when he sleeps and seeks repose, to calm his mind and rest his body, so as not to fall sick and be incapacitated from serving God, his sleep is service of the Almighty.

In this sense our sages charges s, “Let all your deeds be for the sake of God” And Solomon in his wisdom, said, “In all your ways know him… “

The statement “Even when he sleeps… His sleep is service of the Almighty’ stands in sharp contrast to the lowly position of religious value assigned to man’s physical needs by Moodiness in his More Invective. In this section, not only are man’s physical actions warranted and accepted as both natural and seemingly neutral facts of life, but rather they are also imbued with positive religious status.

Man’s actions, when practiced with the proper intentions and requisite control, serve not only as ids to one’s strive for spiritual perfection, but even as genuine forms of serving God in and of themselves. For what reason does such a discrepancy between the thoughts of Moodiness in More Invective and Mishmash Torah exist?

Perhaps, the answer lies in the fundamental difference between More Invective and Mishmash Torah. Mishmash Torah was written for everyone; the intended audience includes both scholar and layman, and Moodiness therefore approached the topic of sexuality from the layman’s perspective.

To be sure, Moodiness did not warrant limitless sexual activity to any degree, yet he did grant man the right to sexual activity when an both desired it (I. E. Bodily needs) and his intentions were properly rooted in the service of God. In More Invective however, Moodiness’s intended audience was of an entirely different nature.

More Invective was written for the spiritually elite,the ones who engrossed themselves in the study of philosophy, what Moodiness himself termed “the zenith of all Torah study.

For these students of philosophy the level of asceticism presented in Mishmash Torah does not suffice. Indeed, they are held to a higher level of religious observance and hence must maintain a holier epistyle, one which includes more stringent ascetic practices than those required of the masses. Sebastian and Frankest Anti-Ascetic Practices Before discussing the particulars of the Sebastian and Frankest sexual practices, it is important to note that there are a number of corollaries between Sebastian and Hashish’s.

I would argue that these similarities were a factor in pushing the Hashish thinkers towards a more ascetic approach. To begin, both movements are ones of renewal while concurrently claiming to be movements of restoration. While undoubtedly new religious sects, each claim that they’re teachings emanate for rotational Judaism. Second, Sabbaticals texts, which had not been central religious sources up to this era, take on a pivotal role in each movement. Third, both movements emerge not from the religious or intellectual elite, but rather from the plebian classes.

This results in attitudes of skepticism and even contempt from the rabbinic authorities. Fourth, as popular movements, they are each shrouded in mystery, with neither program not platform in their nascent stages. Fifth, both movements share a doctrinal characteristic in their need for and reverence of a communal leader. This leader, a Attack for Hashish and Shabbiest Seven for the Sebastian (and later Jacob Frank and Eva Frank for the Franklins), is a key aspect in each movements thought, without whom the movement would collapse.

Lastly, the two movements, particularly Franking and Hashish’s, share geographic-temporal similarities, with the action centering on the area of Podia, Ukraine in the mid-eighteenth century. Claims of sexual libertarianism and anti-ascetic behavior against Shabbiest Seven are well known. Surgeons Schools, in his magna opus on the Sebastian movement, describes Shabbiness strange, paradoxical ascetic behavior saying: When he became master over a large number of enthusiastic followers he loud indulge his fondness of alternating semiotic and semantic rituals… E can easily imagine him clad in phylacteries, singing psalms and surrounded by women and wine. The picture fits the twilight atmosphere of Subtask’s erotic mysticism. “

Choler’s depiction of Shabbiest leaves us with a clear image of a cult-leader, whose frequently vacillating whims and fancies were indulged at will. Indeed, Shabbiest is known to have been “a lewd person,” and several accounts speak of him confiscating betrothed and virgin women for short periods of time in what were allegedly platonic arrangements. When it comes to the Frankest movement, the claims of immorality grow ten-fold, making Shabbiest look like a celibate. Egregious sexual behavior was the norm, with instances of incest and other licentious acts commonplace.

As described by Dad Rapport-Albert: There is evidence to suggest that the discipline of sexual abstinence was broken intermittently by orgiastic ceremonies conducted at precisely those times? The holiest days on the Jewish calendar? At which the Sebastian had traditionally engaged in antinomian activity.

Ruches Frank, for example, is said to have summoned to his private chamber three nouns women whom he forced to carry out “shameful acts,” “abominations” and “wherefrom and other forbidden acts” on the Day of Atonement of 1800, and Jacob Frank himself was reported early in his career to have presided over a secret ceremony at which all the “brothers” and “sisters” were to Join him and his wife in a darkened room where partners were exchanged in a collective sex-act.

The coexistence of sexual abstinence and profligate rites of illicit sexuality, which is by no means unusual in the history of sectarian religion, was a characteristic feature of Sebastian from the start… The Frankest approach to unbridled sexual ecstasy, whose rationale was based upon Sabbaticals scatological teachings of removing the yoke of Halvah in preparation for the redemption, found itself in these acts of extreme sexual perversion.

Indeed, as Pale Emaciate describes, the Frankest truly believed that these acts were correct and sanctioned by God: Samuel of Buss states that “it is permissible to have children and to have sexual intercourse with someone else’s wife or one’s own sister, or even?though only in secret?with one’s own mother… ‘ had carnal relations with the wife of my son… And I believe that all this is permitted because God commanded us to do thus. Other testimonies described the breaking of the prohibition of incest, having sexual relations with menstruating women, masturbation (also in public) as well as the practice of sexual hospitality whereby a host offered his wife or daughter to a stranger coming as a guest to his house… The women interrogated by the Station belt din reported that they slept with strangers “upon the wish of their husbands,” who “told them it was a positive commandment. ” According to the above, Frankest Hashish Judaism Approach to Asceticism.

The interaction between man’s sexuality and his strive for spirituality

Regarding the interaction between man’s sexuality and his strive for spirituality, Hashish literature does not leave us wanting. The Maggie of Mechanize spoke of converting oneself into an “main” or “state of nothingness” during the act of intercourse. In an obviously physical act it is quite telling that the Maggie calls for the absolute negation of one’s physical self. Essentially, the Maggie states that sex, while both an important and necessary part of life, is not an act which should induce Joy or pleasure. The Magic’s foremost pupil Rabbi Eliminate of Lichens (1717-1786) rived this teaching from a verse in Genesis 4:1 which states: “And the man knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said: ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD. ‘ The question asked on this verse was why the Biblical author used the word ‘know for intercourse instead of a more descriptive word for the action. The answer given was that Adam did not act correctly during intercourse.

Instead of directing all his thought to concentrate on God in heaven, he focused on his wife and her physicality, as well as his personal sexual enjoyment, thus “knowing” err. As David Bible explained, “Dam’s sin was not sexuality itself but the desire and physical enjoyment that was aroused in him while having intercourse. “

Perhaps then, this is speaking of not only the prerequisite negation of one’s physical interaction and enjoyment, but also of the necessity to shun one’s mental involvement with the act of intercourse.

This idea is quite analogous to Moodiness’s remarks in More Invective, namely that “one should detach his thought from, and abolish his desire for, bestial things. “

Just as the Hashish thinkers discussed the actions and emotions associated with the act of intercourse, so too did they instruct regarding the proper times when the sexual act is permitted. Such an idea is found in the writing of Menace Mendel of Katz (1787-1859), who is considered to be one of the strongest advocates for asceticism among first generation Hashish’s.

He writes in his work Meet Vehemence about how the biblical infraction of illicit sexual relations may be applied to unnecessary relations with one’s wife, even those outside of the prohibited Indian period.

Such a view essentially prohibits one to engage in elation’s with his wife unless there exists a valid Halfback reason (such as the Matzoth of Noah or Pre Reeve) for doing so. This idea is quite similar to the guidelines which Moodiness prescribes for the spiritually elite in More Invective, that one should “reduce to the extent possible” engagement in the physical pleasures of the world.

Rabbi McCann of Burbles

Rabbi McCann of Burbles (1772-1810) took ascetic practice a step further than others, to a level which has no parallel in Moodiness’s writings. Rabbi McCann is known for his famous claim of “for me men and woman are the name,” meaning that not only had he restrained his physical actions, but that he had also completely conquered his innate sexual drive. Yet, in the Hay Maharani, Rabbi McCann seems to vacillate between intense euphoria on his supposed overcoming of sexual desire and deep depression at the realization that such a desire had yet again returned to tempt him.

Perhaps such a state of mind drove Rabbi McCann to the extreme edge of the ascetic spectrum. Rabbi McCann, in several of the works ascribed to him, describes the idea of sexual lusts as the root of all human sin and desire. Thus, it may be said that Rabbi McCann strives to not only curb his sexual passions and avoid all forms of illicit sexuality (such as lascivious thoughts), but also to uproot and eradicate the innate human sexual drive from his conscience.

Such an audacious endeavor was not intended for the masses; rather, it was reserved for the elite few, and quite possibly for Rabbi McCann alone, of whom it was said, “was keen on asserting that he, the true Addict,’ had achieved the supreme indifference to sexuality that the earlier masters had only preached. “The idea of guarding oneself to the extent of not attaining pleasure in the act of intercourse may be found in the ascetic practices of Rabbi McCann.

True, Rabbi McCann recognized the significance of the act of intercourse in its role as facilitator of the fulfillment of Halfback obligations, yet he did not find anything attractive or pleasurable in the act itself. Rather, for him the act took on a feeling of actual physical pain: Copulation is difficult for the true Addict. Not only does he have no desire for it at all, but he experiences real suffering which is like that which the infant undergoes when he is circumcised. This very same suffering, to an even greater degree, is felt by the Addict during intercourse. The infant has no awareness; thus his suffering is not so great.

But the Addict, because he is aware of the pain, suffers more greatly than does the infant. Rabbi Manama’s concept of experiencing the pain of circumcision during the sexual act finds itself on the extreme outskirts of Hashish thought. While, as mentioned above, some advocate for a connection to God as opposed to one’s partner during intercourse, and some like Moodiness discuss denying oneself pleasure in the act itself, very few go so far as to assert that one should have negative, painful feelings during intercourse in an effort to facilitate a parietal, as opposed to a physical, nexus.

Rabbi McCann however, stresses that only through the negation of physical pleasure could the Addict consecrate the act of intercourse; only with the physical pain of circumcision could the Addict raise the coarse annalistic nature of the sexual act to a sanctified performance, one which beholds divine partnership within the process of procreation. Manama’s call for a prerequisite asceticism to facilitate a proper spiritual cleaving to God places him far beyond anything previously advocated by normative or Hashish Judaism. Yet, Rabbi McCann clearly states that this is the level of the Addict, and not that of the ordinary man. Several authors quote him as saying that “every man can be worthy of achieving this level” and indeed on a theoretical plane this may be true. Practically though, Rabbi McCann never demanded this of his followers, rather reserving these ascetic ideals for the true Addict, the elite core of the Hashish community, someone like Rabbi McCann himself.


Sexuality poses a unique challenge to the religious man: how can one synthesize the pleasures of the flesh with his spiritual beliefs?

The answer, according to Moodiness and several Hashish thinkers, is found in individuals acts of asceticism, actions which go beyond the raw restrictions and requirements of Halvah, deeds which serve to redeem the religious man from his bestial and perhaps even sinful instincts. While the need for such actions is agreed upon by both Moodiness and the Hashish thinkers, the extent to which they must permeate man’s existence is a matter of controversy. Moodiness ‘s higher spiritual man is placed on par with the average spiritual man in Hashish thought, while the Hashish Addict, according to Rabbi McCann, takes upon himself ascetic measures far beyond those advocated for by Moodiness. As discussed above, I believe that this Hashish tendency towards asceticism came about, in part, due to its many shared factors with the Sebastian movement and desire to distance itself from the sexual immortality found among the Sebastian and Franklins. Whereas normative Maidenhead Judaism advanced two set forms of ascetic behavior, the Hashish movement saw it necessary to expand on these ascetic guidelines in an effort to distance itself from its wayward, licentious neighbors.

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