Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic

By Moshe Idel | Go to book overview

Appendix C : On Intentional
Transmission of Power

R. Qalonimus Qalman ha-Levi Epstein of Crakow, a late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Hasidic master, authored Ma ʾor va-Shemesh, one of the most widely read Hasidic books of the time. For the general thesis of this book regarding the importance of the nexus between mysticism and talismatic magic, we shall examine in some detail a passage that represents a significant illuustration of the mystico-magical model. We will show that this master accorded an important role to this model and thus support our methodological assumption that the awareness of the importance and preexistence of one of the models (the mystico-magical one, as proposed in the present study) is shared also by a Hasidic text. Commenting upon the verse, "Behold I set before you this day a blessing and a curse," 1 R. Qalonimus Qalman wrote:

This issue is very famous, as [it is known] from the mouths of books and from the mouths of writers 2 that the addiqim, who follow the path of the prophets, 3 are able to draw down blessings from the supernal worlds 4 to whomever they like. Likewise they are able to draw curses onto the foes of Israel, as we found in the case of the Tannaim and Amoraim, especially the companions, who were the sages of the Zohar, the disciples of Rabbi Shimeon bar Yoḥai. There are addiqim. generation after generation, who are wonder-makers, 5 and who possess the power, [zeh ha-koa], as it is known and famous in our generation. And the addiq is likewise able to transmit it to his disciple and also to a man who directs his attention, every minute and moment, 6 so that divinity will he dwelling in him 7. He [the addiq] transmits this power [zeh ha-koa] so that he [the recipient] will be able to draw the blessings to whom-ever he likes and vice versa. This is the meaning of the issue of Semikhah, 8 when Moses our master, may he rest in peace, put his hands upon Joshuʿa, the son of Nun, and so also generation after generation. However it is impor-tant to declare that notwithstanding the fact that the Zaddiq is able to bless [every man], it is paramount that he do so [only] to an Israelite whom he knows wishes to worship God. 9

The transmission of the magical power is conditional, according to this author, on one's being either the disciple of a righteous man or being aware of the divine dwelling within oneself. One must assume that this awareness is also required in the case of the disciple. Thus, mystical consciousness is a prerequisite for the magical drawing down of supernal power, which may be activated either for good or bad purposes. Initiation in matters of magical power

-245-

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