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Souls on Fire: Portraits and Legends of Hasidic Masters Paperback – October 6, 1982

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Elie Wiesel is the author of more than forty books, including his unforgettable international bestsellers Night and A Beggar in Jerusalem, winner of the Prix Médicis. He has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States Congressional Gold Medal, and the French Legion of Honor with the rank of Grand Cross. In 1986, he received the Nobel Peace Prize. He is Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and University Professor at Boston University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reissue edition (October 6, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067144171X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671441715
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Elie Wiesel is the author of more than forty books, including his unforgettable international best sellers Night and A Beggar in Jerusalem, winner of the Prix Médicis. He has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States Congressional Gold Medal, and the French Legion of Honor with the rank of Grand Cross. In 1986, he received the Nobel Peace Prize. He is Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and University Professor at Boston University.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Loren D. Morrison on January 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Elie Wiesel describes himself as neither philosopher nor historian but "merely" as a "storyteller who transmits what was given to him, as faithfully as possible, yet lending it his own voice and intonation." He does exactly that in SOULS ON FIRE: HASIDIC PORTRAITS AND LEGENDS.
Before reading this book, I only knew what little of Hasidism one can absorb from watching the Habad Lubavitch funding appeals on Public Television and from casual reading of such novels as Potok's THE CHOSEN.I did know that dancing played a part in Hasidic prayer, but hadn't a clue as to why. SOULS ON FIRE didn't make an instant Hasidic expert out of me, but it did give me a feeling for the history and traditions of a movement that, in the years of the holocaust, played a major, if indirect, part in the preservation of Eastern European Jewry and its culture. (It made reference to the dancing, too.)
The modern Hasidic movement seems to have started with the Baal Shem Tov (1700 - 1760). (Baal Shem Tov translates as Master of the Name.) Passed from the Baal Shhem Tov through succeeding generations of disciples, some of whom also became Masters, or Rebbes, in their own generations, the movement survived, and even thrived in a much less than friendly environment. Eventually it had spread to three geographical areas; the Ukraine, White Russia, and Poland. In each area there were individual Rebbes who taught their own brand of Hasidism and who had their own fervent followers.
Since Wiesel's approach to his subject is to let the various tales and parables of the Rebbes speak for themselves, it's my intention, in this review, to do the same but on a very limited scale. A few comments follow:
Baal Shem Tov: "Whoever loves God exclusively . . . .
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Esther Nebenzahl on November 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
Hassidism, its tales, legends, and masters, has always been a source of mystery and confusion. "Souls on Fire" is a journey through Hassidism. Traveling from the source and further development of this unique Jewish religious manifestation is a joy when led by the mind and sould of Elie Wiesel. His personal and emotional input, the tales and legends included throughout the book, and his non-academic but rather humane approach (a typical Hassid) is the most sincere attempt in trying to understand and "speak of the unspeakable," sparkling light into a religious fervor born out of anguish and despair. The purpose is not to agree or understand, but rather to believe.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Leah Suslovich on April 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In this fascinating book, Ellie Weisel gives a personalized history of Hasidism. Using his own memories and insights, plus whatever tales and legends he finds most interesting, he takes us through Hasidism from its beginning through a lot of the Hasidic masters. The subject is interesting by itself, especially since many of the legends are profound or funny, and Mr. Weisel's wonderful writing style is the perfect vehicle for it. Buy and read this book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on May 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Elie Wiesel comes on his mother's side from a Hasidic family. The Hasidic heritage is something he has carried with him from his early childhood. One of its central aspects is the place given to storytelling as central element in the spiritual life. Wiesel who is one of the great poetic storytellers essentially retells the history of the movement through telling the stories of its leading figures. He begins of course with the great founder , the Baal Shem Tov, whose history is bound up with mystery and legend. He relates the story of the greats of the movement. One of his favorite figures is the Berditchever, Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev who was the great defender of the Jewish people. The love of Israel which the Berditcher exemplified involved his relating to God in a deeply personal way. He asked God time and again why Israel was being persecuted when this people, in Levi Berditchev's eyes were righteous. He may get angry with God, shout at Him or grow silent with Him but always maintains a relationship with God. This position is very much like the one Elie Wiesel adopts in the wake of the Shoah.
Wiesel retells the stories of the great teachers of the movement in a devout and yet passionate way. He gives too the very special character and feeling of each of the great Hasidism. He is honest and moving, and this work constitues yet another of those treasured books of Jewish learning and life which he has given to the world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Meola on December 19, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Just re-read this over Shabbat - This book is a compilation of lectures by Prof. Elie Wiesel on the beginnings of modern Chassidism in Central and Eastern Europe starting in the mid 1700's.

Prof. Wiesel starts with the legendary founder, Rebbe Israel Baal Shem Tov, whose whole existence is cloaked in mystery - and progresses through his students to the 2nd and 3rd generations of rebbes and chassids, including such luminaries as Rebbe Nachman of Breslev and Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev.

The author really brings these figures alive with his unique mix of story-telling and teaching - it's a great introduction to the world of early chassidut in 18th-19th century Eastern Europe.
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Format: Paperback
It's amazing how everything Wiesel touches turns to gold, and here, he's done it again.
The Chassidic masters Wiesel portrays were passionate about Judaism in a way any modern reader can relate to. Wiesel deftly brings that message home time and time again, evoking not only the syrupy nostalgia of most volumes of "Rebbe stories", but also a very immediate committment to Jewish life.
A masterpiece, this would also make an excellent gift for anyone interested in Jewish spirituality.
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