Many see the mithnagdim as total rationalists. Therefore it has been assumed that R. Hayyim of Volozhin’s approach to Torah study was the same. Although rationalism may be a correct characterization of the method he used in talmudic study, it does not capture how R. Hayyim understood the essence of Torah study. Some have described Nefesh ha-Hayyim as demystifying Kabbalah. I agree that R. Hayyim opposes ecstatic Kabbalah. However, already in 1972 Norman Lamm noticed that R. Hayyim saw Torah study as a form of clinging to God. In my article, I go further and demonstrate how torah lishmah for R. Hayyim is a radical idea that includes a legitimate path to unio mystica, and even a way to divine inspiration.
- RAMBI Publications
- Volozhiner, Ḥayyim ben Isaac -- 1749-1821
- Talmud Torah (Judaism) -- History of doctrines
- Mysticism -- Judaism
- Mitnaggedim -- Philosophy