Letters of Light is a translation of over ninety passages from a well-known Hasidic text, Ma’or va-shemesh, consisting of homilies of Kalonymus Kalman Epstein of Kraków, together with a running commentary and analysis by Aryeh Wineman. With remarkable creativity, the Kraków preacher recast biblical episodes and texts through the prism both of the pietistic values of Hasidism, with its accent on the inner life and the Divine innerness of all existence, and of his ongoing wrestling with questions of the primacy of the individual vis-à-vis that of the community.
The commentary traces the route leading from the Torah-text itself through various later sources to the Kraków preacher’s own reading of the biblical text, one that often transforms the very tenor of the text he was expounding. Though composed almost two centuries ago, Ma’or va-shemesh comprises an impressive spiritual statement, many aspects of which can speak to our own time and its spiritual strivings.
List of Abbreviations
1. On the First Book of the Torah (B’rei’shit / Genesis)
2. On the Second Book of the Torah (Sh’mot / Exodus)
3. On the Third Book of the Torah (Vayikra / Leviticus)
4. On the Fourth Book of the Torah (B’midbar / Numbers)
5. On the Fifth Book of the Torah (D’varim / Deuteronomy)
Glossary of terms
Endorsements and Reviews
Kalonymus Kalman provides a rich, mystical, Hasidic interpretation of the Pentateuch through his innovative and nuanced commentary. Aryeh conveys the full texture of the original Hebrew through his accurate and sparkling translations and deepens our understanding with elucidating insightful comments. Our journey is further enriched by Aryeh’s comprehensive scholarly introduction, thorough glossary, and wide-ranging bibliography.
Avraham Holtz, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York
Aryeh Wineman beautifully translates selections from Ma’or va-shemesh that are masterfully chosen for their spiritual significance to contemporary seekers. His characteristically lucid and concentrated commentary illuminates the text’s central messages, displaying an unusual talent for simplifying without reducing. Wineman renders his considerable scholarship impressively accessible to those unfamiliar with reading Hasidic commentary.
Nancy Flam, Institute for Jewish Spirituality, Northampton, Massachusetts