In Making Connections, David Kaetz introduces friends, teachers and students of the Feldenkrais Method® to a vanished world. There you will find a culture of passionate inquiry, paradoxical teaching, and warm-hearted storytelling. You will meet Feldenkrais’ Hasidic ancestors, for whom he has the greatest reverence.
While much is known of his innovative mastery of the martial arts, his erudition in the sciences, and his interest in certain esoteric paths, Feldenkrais’ own intellectual, spiritual and cultural roots have remained largely unexplored. At the same time, there are aspects of his gift that defy our understanding.
Moshe-Pinchas Feldenkrais, the founder of the Feldenkrais Method, was a student of life in its depth, a fierce and gentle warrior, a teacher of uncommon brilliance. His teachings move far beyond the usual divisions of science, religion and art, and into a realm where grace, health and effectiveness are one.
Author’s Comment: Making Connections began to write itself when I started my Feldenkrais training and developed over 8 years of study and research. The first edition came out in 2007; this 2nd, expanded edition (2014) contains new material and many updates. My intention in this work has been to communicate to my colleagues some of the basic assumptions and circumstances of the culture into which Moshe Feldenkrais was born, and in which he was raised. Some elements of this background, as well as Moshe’s response to it, appear to be implicit in his teaching. Making Connections has just been published in a French edition, under the title of La Réparation du monde. – David Kaetz
- Introduction to the Second Edition
Section One: Roots
1. The Lost World of Ashkenaz
2. Spiritual and Intellectual Foundations I
3. Spiritual and Intellectual Foundations II
5. The Advent of Hasidism
6. Pinchas of Koretz
7. Healing and Teaching of Pinchas of Koretz
9. Family of Origin
Section Two: Resonance
1. Listening for Connections
3. Organization, Awareness, and the Work of Unification
4. Further Resonances
6. Moshe Speaks
7. A Tale of Two Engineers
8. Where Worlds Meet: The Should and the Brain
9. Embracing Paradox
- Appendix I: Storytelling as Teaching
- Appendix II: A Hasidic Story from Moshe Feldenkrais
- Appendix III: Moshe’s Ten Commandments
- Appendix IV: A Note on the Spelling & Punctuation of Hebrew and Yiddish Terms
Prologue to Making Connections
The world into which Moshe Feldenkrais was born is quickly passing from living memory, though it has left an indelible imprint on the modern world. I speak here of the lost world of Eastern European Jewry. When Moshe was teaching in Tel Aviv, there were many people around who remembered it, and much of what is written here would have been taken for granted. Now, however, when Moshe’s teachings have gone out all around the world, there are fewer and fewer around who remember where Moshe came from, and what that might tell us about the man and his teachings.
Moshe was born in the so-called Pale of Settlement, the western border regions of the old Russian Empire, which is today made up of the countries of Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Ukraine, Moldova and some parts of Russia itself. In this region, stretching from the Baltic Sea in the northwest to the Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea in the southeast, there developed, over the course of nine centuries, the most thoroughly idiosyncratic Jewish culture that the Diaspora has produced. In the words of the late Hasidic scholar, poet, and civil rights activist Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, it was in that place and time that the Jewish people attained it’s “highest degree of inwardness.” Not unrelatedly, in the same place and time, it experienced its lowest degree of integration with the surrounding cultures.1
This was a culture with not one but three of its own languages — two sacred and one secular — a culture that placed the highest value on scholarship and intellectual ingenuity. Though most of its people were very poor, literacy, if not in Hebrew and Aramaic, then in Yiddish, was close to universal. It was a world, writes Heschel, where “the sense of a man’s life lies in his perfecting the world.”2 These were Moshe’s people, and this — despite all the transformations he experienced — was the sense of Moshe’s life.
The Hasidic movement, a spiritual and social impulse that emerged in what is now Ukraine and went on to change the face of Judaism, is one of the most remarkable creations of that culture. Charismatic and warm-hearted, Hasidism brought back to European Judaism an appreciation of the sensual universe, of music and dance, of joyous camaraderie, and of one’s personal responsibility for one’s own improvement.
On his mother’s side, Moshe’s lineage is said to go back to one of the major figures of the movement, the legendary and beloved Hasidic rabbi-teacher-leader-healer-counsellor — (it’s a lot easier to use the Hebrew word, tzaddik) — Rabbi Pinchas Shapiro of Koretz. Moshe spoke often, and with pride, of this connection. On his father’s side, there was another luminary who also figured prominently in Moshe’s sense of himself. In his autobiographical video (1983),3 he goes on at length about Rabbi Yona, “the good and the beneficent.”
Who were these Hasidic forebears, why were they so revered, and what was their teaching? And what, you may ask, does this lineage have to do with what Moshe taught? I trust that these connections will become apparent as you read. Meanwhile, let us get our bearings in another world.
1. Abraham Joshua Heschel, “The Eastern European Era in Jewish History,” in Deborah Dash Moore, ed., East European Jews in Two Worlds: Studies from the YIVO Annual (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1990) 2.
2. Heschel, 13.
3. Moshe Feldenkrais, autobiographical interview, unpublished video recording (Paris: International Feldenkrais Federation, 1981). The IFF Archive of the Feldenkrais Method was established in 2002 with the generous support of the Feldenkrais family.
© David Kaetz 2014 www.davidkaetz.com