Posted by: admiralfrum | October 19, 2009

Sefer HaChezyonos – Rabbeinu Chaim Vital

I brought a copy of this into Shul this past Shabbos. Few people seem to have heard of it but it’s a gevaldike sefer.Sefer HaChezyonos I showed it to a friend of mine named Lazar. Lazar is one of those Young Israel types who has gone fruity in his old age. He is a psychologist, and loves to sit at the back of shul and hum funny songs, make jokes about people and women and life.

He read the book and was absolutely gripped by it. Every few pages he would laugh out loud or show me some incredible statement. The sefer really is incredible – it is a sort of spiritual autobiography, describing things the Ari said to R’ Vital about his own significance. I suppose it is kind of like the Reshimos in that way – contains autobiographical statements that ‘blow your socks off’. It has gilgulim and palm-reading, witchcraft and flying; but best of all it contains Chaim Vital’s visions and dreams, which contain some very powerful imagery (mountains, heavens, etc.). Lazar said it shows you the kind of kooks who were writing our halocho (בדרך צחות, referring partly to Yosef Karo, their contemporary). I retorted that that’s how yiddishkeit works, you find stuff just as kooky in the Tanach, Gemora, etc. Our religion is full of kooks.

He wants to do a translation of it with me. It seems that it has great potential for work within academia because it contains candid accounts of dreams from such a pivotal character Judaism. It would be a field of gold for Freudian or Jungian readings, and that would just be as a starting point. I can’t figure out why no-one has heard of it. The language is very simple and it reads smoothly in narrative form. Perhaps because it wasn’t fully published until 1866. I’ll update if anything gets underway.

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