Your Word is Fire: The Hasidic Masters on Contemplative Prayer

(Arthur Green). Jewish Lights Publishing, 2002.

The mystic journey into the presence of the sacred crosses a landscape where, as the title of this work indicates, the only landmarks are metaphors. After the brief but meaty introduction places Hasidic literature in its historical and psychological contexts, the reader encounters carefully selected and thematically arranged excerpts from the masters.

The introduction puts the matter squarely: "Can any studied method really lead one to know that the soul is nothing but an outpouring of God's ever-flowing light?" Even so, we can learn from each other and especially from the holy ones who have come before us. Although the order of our steps may vary, we each must encounter the whole venture of prayer and the sheer temerity of finite being's desire to approach the infinite. Sooner or later each of us must pass through a cacophony of distraction, a period of dryness, and the confusing facets of divine encounter. Step by step, guided by our mystic pioneers and their skillful interpreters, the contemporary seeker is emboldened to venture into the holy presence. There the fire silently unleashes its transforming power, and we glimpse the self-transcendence of which all traditions whisper.

Those who are both within and outside of the Orthodox strains of Judaism will find guidance for the practice of prayer and insights on the power of prayer to transform our lives.