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Tormented Master: The Life and Spiritual Quest of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav (Jewish Lights Classic Reprint) Paperback – May 1, 1992


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Product Details

  • Series: Jewish Lights Classic Reprint
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights Publishing (May 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1879045117
  • ISBN-13: 978-1879045118
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This major biography of Rabbi Nahman (1772-1810) elucidates the Eastern European Hasidic leader's influence on modern-day Hasidism, while presenting his thought in an accessible fashion.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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A model of clarity and percipience.... --The New York Times Book Review

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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Rabbi Yonassan Gershom VINE VOICE on September 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
This study of the life of the Breslover (Bratzlaver) Rebbe by Rabbi Arthur Green (Reconstructionist) is well-researched and very readable. Although some Breslover Chassidim did not like this academic approach to the life of their master, I found it to be quite good. Sometimes an "outsider" can see perspectives that the disciples have missed, and this is the case with "Tormented Master." It has interesting insights into the life and struggles of Rebbe Nachman, which, in turn, had a big influence on my own decision to become a Breslover. This book is also more accessible to the average non-Hasidic reader than some of the "official" Breslov materials, and can serve as an introduction to Hasidism in general. Rabbi Green (whom I have met in person), has a deep love of the Rebbe's teachings, which shines through in the pages of this book.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By jsa on November 17, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Tormented Master" is an insightful biography of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, an important Hasidic master from the late 18th century, whose stories and teachings are still popular today. The author, Arthur Green, has written a psychological profile of Nachman without which it would be impossible to fully understand Nachman's teachings.

I had read some of Nachman's work prior to picking up "Tormented Master," and noted that many of his teachings address depressed states of mind and offer spiritual advice on how to overcome despair. It was not surprising then, to read in Green's biography that Nachman suffered from protracted bouts of depression that alternated with periods of euphoria. His behavior was often erratic, reflecting a personality that was haunted by chronic indecision and inner turmoil that ranged from low points of extreme self doubt to periods of soaring confidence during which he believed himself to be the Messiah. His shifting moods were inspired (or, depending upon your point of view, rationalized) by his interpretation of sacred and mystical texts. One day might find him ecstatic based on a verse from a particular psalm, only to be launched into despair a few days later after reading a commentary with negative implications.

While one may interpret these reactions as that of a highly sensitive soul, the evidence Green has compiled indicates that Nachman may have been manic depressive even though the author never says this in so many words. At issue is whether Nachman was a victim of psychological processes that may have been largely beyond his control and if so, whether his spiritual drive was mostly fueled by a search for relief from the torments that he felt.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Y. Shulman on November 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
Arthur Green's Tormented Master is a pioneer work that definitely needs another work of its stature to counter some of its deeply flawed statements about R. Nachman of Breslov.

Arthur Green presents a theory that R. Nachman preached a high value of doubt in God, to the point that one should ask God to shake his faith. This is an extraordinary understanding of R. Nachman's position. (And if we are going to speculate about psychological reasons for R. Nachman's teachings, I think that it is fair game to ask whether such statements, which so fly in the face or R. Nachman's explicit teachings as to be perverse, and which appear in the works of various academics, represent something in their personal issues with Breslov Hasidism.)

Yes, with all the hagiography flowing from the pens of Breslov Hasidim about their beloved mentor, it is refreshing to read someone analyze him as a human being of complexity with weaknesses as well as strngths. But Arthur Green writes an anti-hagiography that at times veers on the edge of and even topples into the absurd.

For example: when R. Nachman went to the land of Israel, he met a very strange young Arab who alternated extreme friendship with murderous wrath. R. Nachman stated that he feared this Arab's friendship more than his wrath.

From this, Arthur Green deduces that R. Nachman was homosexually attracted to this Arab.

Just as Gershom Scholem's writings on kabbalah have in recent years received majro substantive criticism (see, for instance, Moshe Idel's New Perspectives), so has the time come for many of the conclusions drawn in Tormented Master to be subjected to serious critique.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Gindin on January 31, 2013
Format: Paperback
I have met Rabbi Arthur Green and found him to be an intelligent, perceptive man with a warm heart. I found this book disappointing, though, as I have most of his writings unfortunately. He has done a great service to Judaism in North America with his many translations from spiritual masters such as Hillel Zeitlin, z"l and the Sfat Emet, z"l. When it comes to his own writings, though, I don't resonate with his perspective. This is a type of secular humanist spirituality focused on the sacredness of Being but dismissive of God, ie. he rejects all traditional ideas of God as well as Halachic Judaism, and I would say, the Judaism of the Tanakh and the Talmud in anything remotely like a literal reading of those texts.
This places him firmly outside the thinking and spiritual sensibilities of every great Jewish mystic I am aware of (though of course they might share many aspects of his ethical sensibilities and his reverence for life). The reason I mention this is that it is important to understand that he writes as someone who not only rejects the beliefs and sensibilities of most Jewish mystics, but is also very dismissive of them, referring in some of his books to their "childishness" and insisting that no educated modern could share such points of view.
The second is that he takes a certain type of academic approach wherein he, in my opinion, overestimates his ability to analyze the lives and thoughts of his subjects. This is certainly true of this book, in my opinion. Rebbe Nachman, z"l, was a profound thinker and mystic whose writings take long and serious study to understand. They express depths of spiritual experience which, in my opinion, are not those of a manic depressive with delusions of grandeur, which is more or less R' Green's opinion of him.
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