Perle Besserman is a descendant of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism. Her most recent book is Kabbalah: The Way of the Jewish Mystic. In a brief put poetic introduction she writes, "Jewish mystics tread the earth lightly. Steeped in the immediacy of the moment, witness to the blessings of birdsong and bread, they embody their wisdom and teach by the way they live. . . . Their creed is as old as Eden. . . . They are citizens of a borderless country on pilgrimage through the myriad worlds. . . . Their mother is Torah, their map the commandments. . . . 'Come see!' the mystics call to the busy passerby and the dreamer alike, liberating those who would follow from the narrow cage of self."
The stories, teachings, and sayings in this thought-provoking collection come from a variety of sources including the Zohar, Martin Buber, Aryeh Kaplan, and many others. For the Jewish mystics, prayer is important but never must overshadow compassion. A disciple is chided for going off to morning prayers without feeding his chickens. A rabbi trying to summon the Messiah with his prayers abandons the project when a Jew in the synagogue grows faint from fasting.
These spiritual teachers have insightful things to say about the intertwining of good and evil, the meaning of joy, acts of piety toward sacred books, the best time for meditation, and things that delight God and gladden the human soul. Here is a treasure trove of wisdom.