The Scroll of Secrets: The Hidden Messianic Vision of R. Nachman of Breslav

The Scroll of Secrets: The Hidden Messianic Vision of R. Nachman of Breslav

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Zvi Mark

Series: Reference Library of Jewish Intellectual History
ISBN: 9781934843932 (hardcover) / 9781934843949 (paper)
Pages: 320 pp.
Publication Date: April 2010

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Concealed for two centuries and known only to a select individual in each generation, the Scroll of Secrets is the hidden Messianic vision of R. Nachman of Breslav. Despite its being written in an encoded language, with acronyms and abbreviations, after a clarification and cautious reconstruction of what can be decoded, the author has prepared a volume that presents the reader with an exalted Messianic vision. The book marks a turning point in our understanding of R. Nachman’s spiritual world and initiates a renewed discussion of an intriguing Hasidism that excites scholars and broad circles within the Jewish and Israeli publics. The reader is presented with a sublime and enticing vision of the eschatological End of Days that contains song and prayer, Torah, melodies, longings, and love and compassion for every person.

Dr. Zvi Mark is a senior lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. His previous publications include Mysticism and Madness: The Religious Thought of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav (Continuum, 2009) and numerous articles examining the esoterica of Bratslav Hasidism.

R. Nachman of Breslav’s Scroll of Secrets is indubitably the most esoteric document in the entire history of Hasidism and arguably the most obscure. For the first time in the scholarship of Breslav Hasidism, Dr. Mark has printed its Hebrew original from manuscripts to which he gained access, decoded the numerous cryptic abbreviations and hints, and treated in detail its major concepts, offering an incisive analysis of its contents, which removes the veil of secrecy. He demonstrates the major role played by R. Nachman’s messianic self-perception in the formulations found not only in the scroll, but also in some other writings, where this issue has been obfuscated. Dr. Mark highlights the innovative self-understanding of R. Nachman and his feeling of being the final revelation of Hasidism, higher even than that of his great-grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov, and the great Maggid of Medzerich. No doubt scholarship of the Breslav Hasidism, and of Hasidism in general, will benefit from the magnificent work of patiently and cautiously revealing the content of this fascinating document. The study of mysticism, too, will be enriched by a better understanding of one of the most original Jewish mystics.
— Moshe Idel, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Zvi Mark interprets and deciphers Rabbi Nachman’s prophecy by placing it within the wider context of the Breslavian writing. His analysis draws on an impressive knowledge and a sensitive, creative, and reasonable reading of this complicated literature. Reading Mark’s fascinating book enriches and deepens our understanding of the inner world of Rabbi Nachman, one of the most original Eastern European Jewish thinkers in the Modern Period.
— Immanuel Etkes, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
This book is one of the most important studies on Hassidism written in the last century. One reason is that Mark has a unique combination of spiritual sensitivity and academic rigorousness that is a model for writing on Chasidism. Not only is this book of crucial significance for the understanding of Breslav Chasidism, it is also fascinating example of eschatological thought that should interest readers of all faiths. For those who think that scholarship is a synonym for dullness, this book will be an eye opener. The scintillating translation is very readable and makes the author’s path-breaking work accessible to those who do not have a deep background in Chasidic thought but without deviating from the high standards the author set for himself. This book deals with fundamental issues in Jewish thought that are still live questions today. While helping understand the Jewish thought in the past, it is equally a contribution to current thought and discussion. There will be a wide readership that is in debt to the Academic Studies Press for making this Hebrew language classic available to English readers.
— Shaul Stampfer, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem