Book review

Turn Aside from Evil and Do Good was written by Zevi Hirsch Eichenstein (1763-1831), a hasidic master and renowned adept in Lurianic kabbalah. He wrote it with the intention of providing a guide to would-be hasidic kabbalists on how to live a holy life. Eichenstein was unusual in the hasidic world in that as well as being a kabbalist he was a competent talmudist and was also acquainted both with the science of his day and with medieval Jewish philosophy. His views differ from those of other hasidic masters, principally in the importance he attributes to studying the kabbalah, which he considers an important antidote to unbelief, and in his more positive attitude to the enjoyment of sexual activity and to business activity; he is concerned to show how both can be integrated in a holy life. This lively translation by Louis Jacobs of the second edition (1850), which includes the notes of R. Zevi Elimelekh of Dynow, gives the reader an insight into a highly unconventional hasidic master and the basic ideas of Lurianic kabbalah as he perceived them.

Through hundreds of scholarly annotations, printed at the foot of each page for ease of reference, Louis Jacobs helps the reader to understand the kabbalistic ideas and imagery and other opaque terms, and clarifies the sources to which the author alludes. Turn Aside from Evil and Do Good conveys the full flavour of an original hasidic approach to kabbalism. Immensely readable, it will be of interest to anyone interested in hasidism and Jewish mysticism or the religious way and its social history. Louis Jacobs has added a very accessible introduction to explain the Lurianic system of kabbalah; he also provides biographical details of Eichenstein and his school, and a full bibliography.

Turn Aside from Evil and Do Good by Louis Jacobs

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Louis Jacobs
Littman Library of Jewish Civilization
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Turn Aside from Evil and Do Good

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