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


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 is realized through the idiocy of the unfettered imagination, the psychic faculty that juxtaposed what apparently does not belong together..” (p.215).

About Elliot’s book, I’m going to post later, and, at some point though will  have to sit down and sort out my thoughts in a longer, more careful sort of way. Thoroughly indebted, I come to these things relating to the imagination from the opposite side of the same coin as Elliot’s. But for now just this little bit, a joke which I found charming, and a little surprising.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
This entry was posted in uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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

  1. mfeuer2012 says:

    I do like it, Zachary! Thanks for thinking of me. I’ve been discussing this topic with Elliot and need to return to it. You’ve spurred me!

  2. mfeuer2012 says:

    Reblogged this on The Home of Schlemiel Theory and commented:
    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.

Leave a Reply