Idiocy Imagination Mysticism (Elliot Wolfson, A Dream Interpreted Within a Dream)

A special thanks to Zachary Breiterman and Jewish Philosophy Place for thinking of Schlemiel-in-Theory! I’m very interested in Elliot’s new turn to mysticism and madness (or as CHABAD Lubavitch would say ruah shtuth d’kedushah – “the spirit of holy foolishness”). Schlemiel-in-Theory will, in the very near future, be blogging on Elliot Wolfson’s work.

jewish philosophy place


An interesting and maybe surprising moment in Elliot Wolfson’s recent A Dream Interpreted Within A Dream, it’s story related by Menachem Mendel Schneerson about a group of hasidim talking about the nullification (annihilation) (Hebrew: biytul) of self. A Russian officer calls out kto idyot, which in Russian means “Who goes?” But in Yiddish, idyot means what it means in English, namely idiot. The hasidim reply, “biytul idyot,” which can be taken to mean “nobody, idiot.”

So okay, maybe not the funniest joke ever. But I can’t recall offhand Elliot ever making a joke in print, and I’m sharing this particular piece because I thought Menachem Feuer at Home of Schlemiel Theory would like it for his archive. Elliot’s takeaway has to do with how in mysticism, how in what perhaps we can now call it dream-mysticism, “the stripping away of physicality is…an embodiment that…

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