In 1913, just before the outbreak of the First World War, a 19-year-old Czech Jew named Jiri Langer left his assimilated family to live in the remote village of Belz, Galicia (now Ukraine). He had gone to live under the Chassidic (or Hasidic) Rokeach dynasty, a line of Rabbis that survives to this day. Nine Gates is the record of Langer’s time amongst these isolated Chassidic mystics of Eastern Galicia, and a window into their world. Langer tells of their enthusiasm, their simple faith, their ecstasies, their austerities, their feasts, their wonder-working Holy Rabbis and their esoteric wisdom. Most of all, he recounts a collection of shrewd and earthy folk tales told by the holy men who ruled these little spiritual kingdoms for generation after generation.
Over 80 years since its original publication in Czech, this translation by Stephen Jolly remains the definitive English version of this towering work of Jewish introspection. Nine Gates is a document from another time and place, and yet it captures the same spirit of religious longing and exploration that attracts a growing number of seekers today.
About the Author
Jiri Langer was born in 1894 to a Jewish assimilated family in Prague. Attracted to the mysticism of the Chassidim, he became a devotee and assiduous chronicler of their way of life. His writings were banned and destroyed when the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia but his legacy has subsequently been reaffirmed, and he has been recognised for teaching his friend Franz Kafka Hebrew. He was able to escape the Nazi invasion and fled to Palestine in 1939, but died in 1943 of illnesses brought on by the hardships of the journey.
Foreword by František Langer
Introduction – A Youth from Prague among the Chassidim
Gate I – Of diamonds in the Lord’s crown the costliest, the holy Reb Sholem of Belz
Gate II – Child of God, our dearest, the holy Mayerl of Przemysl
Gate III – Heart of our mirth, the holy Reb Naftali of Ropshitz
Gate IV – Blazing lion of the heavenly Academy, the holy Reb Urele of Strelisk (also the holy Reb Jude Hersch of Stretena)
Gate V – Two golden trambones in the angelic choir, the holy Rebe Reb Meshulem Sussya of Anipol and the holy Rebe Reb Melech of Lizensk
Gate VI – Mystic twain, the holy Rebe Reb Schmelke of Mikulov and the holy Rebe Reb Pinchas of Frankfurt
Gate VII – Three tall tamarisks in the broad plain, the holy Yismach Moyshe of Ihel – the holy Ohev Yisroel of Apta – and the Saint of Kalev
Gate VIII – Mystic shining mirror, the holy Reb Jacob Yitzhak, the Seer of Lublin (also the holy Dyvre Chayyim of Sanz)
Gate IX – Most secret brain of Greatness and Wisdom, the holy Reb Pinchas of Koritz (ah! the saints at Slavuta)
The City of Wisdom – Gold and silver and pearls and all the precious stones of Kotsk – or the holy Reb Moyshe Yide Lieb of Sassov – Reb Simche Binem of Pzhysha – the Holy Jew – Mendele of Kotsk – and the wise Rim of Gora Kalwariye
Endorsements and Reviews
‘Lo! As he reached the roof, an unknown hand gave him a light’ Nine Gates is not primarily for those whose approach to Hasidism is detached and analytical, although it would even be interesting to them. It is a book for the reader who wants to breathe Hasidic air. … Like the Rebbe Reb Shmelke, the reader of the Nine Gates is given the light without realizing from whence it comes.
Isaac Bashevis Singer, in Commentary Magazine, September 1961