“New” Book- Lev David & Brit Olam
Book week is in full swing and I am getting my annual sefer fix. While I was perusing the holding at Ahavat Shalom, I came across a new book, Lev David – Brit Olam. Ok so neither are new, however it is the first time to my knowledge that they were published together and they have a new format. They are both works of Musar by the Chida, and in my opinion very valuable works of musar.
Let me start with the Lev David portion of the work. It is 32 chapters, each with a different focus. The first six chapters were not written by the Chida but rather by Chaim Vital and copied over by the Chida from a hand written manuscript. I’m not sure, but I don’t think that this work of the Rav Vital was ever published apart from Lev David. At least they were never published in their entirety and unaltered. Rebbe Nachman seems to have lifted them and given them over as his own discourses. For instance the first Torah of the Likutei Moharanan comprises about a third of the first chapter, with only very minor additions. To head off the criticism that I see coming I am not criticizing Breslov Chassidus with this statement. Rebbe Nachman himself said everything that he wrote(well Rav Nassan I guess) was taken from the Eitz Haim and other writings of the Arizal, so the Musar of the Arizal that Rav Haim Vital wrote down would seem to be fair game. I think it actually speaks volumes to ongoing power of the original work that two brilliant Rabbanim living in very different circumstances and writing for very different audiences saw fit to copy it over.
Lev David is worth it just for those six chapters. However, the Chida’s additional 26 chapters are also an excellent read. You definitely get the feel of a sudden stylistic shift, however he does not fail to deliver some rather compelling musar.
The second work in the book Brit Olam, I am slightly less impressed with. It is a commentary on the work Sefer Chassidim by Rav Yehuda HaChasid. An excellent classical work of musar. My problem with Brit Olam is not the content, which I find faultless, but rather the layout. It would have been much better with a copy of Sefer Chassidim accompanying it, or placed above the commentary so that one can get a feel for what the Chida is actually trying to say. Alas that is not the case so if you want to make full use of this work, you are going to need to have your own copy of Sefer Chassidim.