Weiss, Joseph G.

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WEISS, JOSEPH G. (1918–1969), researcher of Ḥasidism and Jewish mysticism. Weiss was born in Budapest, Hungary, to a *Neologist family. In 1939 he immigrated to Palestine and studied medieval Jewish-Spanish literature at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Under the influence of Gershom *Scholem he changed his field of interest to Jewish mysticism and specialized in the doctrines of Rabbi *Naḥman of Bratslav. In 1951 he immigrated to England. He studied and taught in Oxford, Leeds, Manchester, and London, where he stayed for the rest of his life. From 1959 Weiss was the head of the Institute of Jewish Studies and, later on, also a professor at the University College London, as well as editor of the Journal of Jewish Studies. Throughout his life Weiss maintained a close and complex relationship with his teacher Gershom Scholem, and was considered by Scholem as one of his closest and most talented pupils. The results of Weiss' works in the field of research of Bratslav Ḥasidism and the Ḥasidic Movement in general, published in many articles, were innovative and influenced by his unique personality. He had an existential view of the figure and doctrines of Rabbi Naḥman ("Ha-Kushya be-Torat Rabbi Naḥman," in: Alei Ayin (1952)), which changed over time to psychological and mythological analysis ("Iyyunim bi-Tefisato ha-Aẓmit shel R. Nahman," in: Tarbiz (1958)). In this article he emphasized the notion that all the writings of Rabbi Naḥman, especially his stories, are actually a mythological autobiography of Rabbi Naḥman himself, and the figures mentioned in the texts are reflections of his tormented personality. Weiss' work was collected after his death in a Hebrew volume Meḥkarim be-Ḥasidut Braslev (1974), ed. by M. Piekarz, and in Studies in Eastern European Jewish Mysticism (1985, 1997), ed. by D. Goldstein.


G. Scholem, in: jjs, 20 (1969), 25–26; H.H. Ben Sasson, in: Zion, 34 (1969), 261–64; J. Katz, in: A. Rapoport-Albert (ed.), Hasidism Reappraised (1996), 3–9; S.O. Heller Wilensky, in: ibid., 10–41; J. Dan, in: Studies in East European Jewish Mysticism and Hasidism (1997), ix–xx

[Noam Zadoff (2nd ed.)]