Becoming Smaller: Notes on Smallness in Kabbalah, Hasidic Thought, and Kafka

smallness is a big Jewish theme –more indispensable reading from Menachem Feuer:

Schlemiel Theory


Small people can be found throughout the folklore, religion, and literature of the west.   But what is more interesting is not that there are small people but why or how they become small and what this becoming means. One may be made small by reality (which crushes one to a pulp), one can make oneself small, or one can be made and make oneself small.

Smallness is a persistent theme in the Torah and in the literature of Franz Kafka, Paul Celan, Shalom Aliechem, I.B. Singer, and even modern Jewish American writers like Gary Shteyngart, Shalom Auslander, Cynthia Ozick, and Dara Horn (to name just a handful of Jewish writers who span continents, time periods, and languages).   There is also a deep meditation on smallness in Hasidic, mystical thought and in the Kabbalah of the Ari (Rabbi Isaac Luria).   Despite the fact that some…

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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.
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