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Chayei Nefesh: Prayer, Prophecy & the Role of the Tzaddik
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Reb Gedaliah Aharon Kenig, zt”l
Originally written as a letter in the early 1960s, Chayei Nefesh was a detailed in-depth response to a yeshiva student who had written to Reb Gedaliah for advice on how to respond to those who claimed that attachment to tzaddikim, as stressed by the Chassidim, was a form of idolatry. To prove their case, they would brandish sections from the famous holy work, Nefesh HaChaim, authored by R’ Chaim of Volozhin, foremost disciple of the Vilna Gaon.
Reb Gedaliah published his response in book form, in part due to the urging of leading Torah sages of the time. They advised him that his letter should be studied over and over again, since its clarifications would end an ongoing controversy among the Jewish people. Presented in English translation for the first time, Chayei Nefesh speaks about the anatomy of prayer, prophecy, and the role of the tzaddik, from the time of Adam until Mashiach.
For your consideration…
is attachment to tzaddikim idolatry?
This is the question answered in the book Chayei Nefesh, presented here in English translation for the first time. Bringing over 100 traditional sources, Reb Gedaliah Aharon Kenig refutes the claim that attachment to tzaddikim makes them an intermediary between us and God. Bringing over 100 traditional Jewish sources, he shows that not only is binding oneself to tzaddikim a mainstream Jewish practice throughout history, but it is a vital task incumbent upon every Jew in preparation for the arrival of Mashiach. Among other points, he discusses:
- Attachment to the tzaddikim during prayer and mitzvah observance.
- Benefit of binding our prayers to the tzaddikim, their role in elevating prayers, and how this is more critical today than ever.
- Discussion of the power of tzaddikim and their holy resting places after their death, and how this is a fundamental concept in Judaism.
- Prophecy and the knowledge of past, present & future by the tzaddikim, and how this relates to the mystical concept of “The Hand.”
In addition, a short biography on Reb Gedaliah’s life is featured at the beginning of the book, as well as on the life of his teacher and mentor, Reb Avraham Sternhartz, zt”l, who led the previous generation of Breslev Chassidim in the Ukraine and Eretz Yisrael.