following is an abridged version of an article which appeared
in the second edition of JHOM (DREAMS);
the article was entitled "Dreaming in question, in color, and
in tears." Author Prof. Moshe Idel is Max Cooper Prof. of Jewish
Thought at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
In many cultures, dreams have been conceived of as channels of communication
with other, spiritual realms, and this is the case also of Jewish mysticism.
On the one hand, divine emissaries were described as invading the human
consciousness during dreams in order to announce important messages; on
the other, someone could induce dreams by resorting to a variety of oneirology
techniques. We will look here at one particular dream-inducing technique
elaborated upon in Jewish mystical texts mystical
weeping: that is, the effort to acquire, as the direct result of self-induced
weeping, some paranormal consciousness or vision with information therein
about some secret. We find several examples in the apocalyptic literature,
where praying, weeping and fasting are used to induce the Word of God
in a dream.
The connection between weeping and paranormal perceptions taking place
in dreams is also evident in a midrashic story:
One of the students
of R. Simeon bar Yohai had forgotten what he learned. In tears he went
to the cemetery. Because of his great weeping, he [R. Simeon] came to
him in a dream and told him: 'When you wail, throw three bundles, and
I shall come.' The student went to a dream interpreter and told him what
had happened. The latter said to him: 'Repeat your chapter [that is, whatever
you learn] three times, and it will come back to you.' The student did
so, and so indeed it happened.
correlation between weeping and visiting a grave seems to hint at a practice
intended to induce a vision. This was, to be sure, part of a larger context
in which graveyards were sites where one might receive a vision. Falling
asleep weeping, which is mentioned here, also seems part of the sequence:
visiting a cemetery, weeping, falling asleep weeping, revelatory dream.
The weeping technique for attaining "wisdom" is powerfully expounded by
R. Abraham ha-Levi Berukhim, one of Isaac Luria's
disciples. In one of his programs, after specifying "silence" as the first
condition, he names "the second condition: in all your prayers, and in
every hours of study, in a place which one finds difficult, in which you
cannot understand and comprehend the introductory sciences or some secret,
stir yourself to bitter weeping until your eyes shed tears, and the more
you can weepdo so. And increase your weeping, as the gates of tears were
not closed and the supernal gates will be opened to you.
For Luria and Berukhim, weeping is an aid to overcoming intellectual difficulties
and receiving secrets. Akin to the story of R. Abraham Berukhim is the
autobiographical confession of his friend, R. Hayyim Vital:
"In 1566, on the Sabbath
eve, the eight of Tevet, I said Kiddush and sat down to eat; and my eyes
were shedding tears, and I was signing and grieving since... I was bound
by witchcraft...and I likewise wept for [my] neglect of Torah during the
last two years...and because of my worry I did not eat at all, and I lay
down on my bed on my face, weeping, and I fell asleep out of much weeping,
and I dreamed a wondrous dream."
We see also among
the early Hasidim and in the practice of their opponents, the Mitnaggedim,
weeping was employed as a component of mystical technique, and is alluded
to in mystical literature and commentary as late as the second half of
the 19th century.
Mystical weeping, like many other mystical techniques, assumes that the
mystic can take initiative in order to establish contact with other realms,
and that he can induce certain experiences by resorting to these techniques.
Thus, Jewish mysticism should be described as an activistic spirituality,
one that assumes that it is within the power of the mystic to ensure the
emergence of articulated experiences.
oneirology is the science or subject of dreams, or of their interpretation
(óneiros, Greek for dream) [Back]
 Enoch, in II Enoch; Ezra, in IV Ezra; Baruch and
Jeremiah, in the Apocalypse of Baruch. [Back]
 Isaac Luria (1534-1572), Kabbalist and one of
the most influential figures in the history of Jewish spirituality;
born in Jerusalem, brought up in Egypt, he settled in Safed where
he laid the foundation for "Lurianism"; known also by the name Ari
(lion) which is an acrostic of his Hebrew names. [Back]
 Kohelet (Eccelsiastes) Rabbah 10:10 [Back]
 MS Oxford 1706, fol. 494b. [Back]
 Sefer Ha-Hezyonot (Book of Visions), ed. A.Z.
Aeshcoli (Jerusalem 1954), p. 42. [Back]
Moshe Idel is Max Cooper Prof. of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University,
Jerusalem. Prof. Idel was born in Romania and has been living in
Israel since 1963. He has authored: Author of Kabbalah: New Perspectives;
Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic; Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical
traditions; The Mystical Experience in Abraham Abulafia.
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