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Hasidism

Hasidism or Chassidism (both: hăs´ĬdĬz´əm, khă–) [Heb.,=the pious], Jewish religious movement founded in Poland in the 18th cent. by Baal-Shem-Tov. Its name derives from Hasidim. Hasidism, which stressed the mercy of God and encouraged joyous religious expression through music and dance, spread rapidly. Baal-shem-tov taught that purity of heart is more pleasing to God than learning. He drew his teaching chiefly from Jewish legend and aroused much opposition among Talmudists, who in 1772, pronounced the movement heretical. Hasidism shows the influence of the Lurianic kabbalah (see kabbalah; Luria, Isaac ben Solomon). After the death of the Baal-shem-tov, the single most important characteristic of the movement—the leadership role of the zaddik—developed. The zaddik, the charismatic leader around whom various Hasidic groups gather, serves as an intermediary between his followers and God. Leadership is passed from father to son (or in some cases to son-in-law). By the 1830s the majority of Jews in Ukraine, Galicia, and central Poland were Hasidic, as were substantial minorities in Belarus and Hungary. In the 20th cent., Hasidim are the staunchest defenders of tradition against increasing secularism in Jewish life. Since the Holocaust, the main centers of Hasidism are in the United States and Israel. The most notable Hasidic community in the United States is composed of the followers of the Lubavitcher rebbe, who are noted for their outreach to other Jews as well as for their messianic fervor. Romantic reworkings of Hasidic doctrine by Yiddish writer I. L. Peretz, theologian Martin Buber, and others have become popular outside traditional Hasidic circles.

See G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (1946, repr. 1961); M. Buber, Hasidism and Modern Man (tr., 1958, repr. 1966) and The Origin and Meaning of Hasidism (tr., 1960); E. Wiesel, Souls on Fire (1972); H. Rabinowicz, Hasidism and the State of Israel (1982) and Hasidism: The Movement and Its Masters (1988); G. D. Hundert, ed., Essential Papers on Hasidism (1991).

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Hasidism

Hasidism (Heb., ḥasidut). Jewish religious movement which emerged in the late 18th cent. Hasidism first arose in S. Poland and Lithuania, with such charismatic leaders as Israel b. Eliezer (Baʿal Shem Tov, the Besht), Dov Baer of Mezhirech and Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye. These leaders drew groups of disciples around them, characterized by popular traditions of ecstasy, mass enthusiasm, and intense devotion to the leader, the Zaddik. Hasidic groups travelled as far as Erez Israel, and hasidic centres were to be found throughout E. Europe. With the great waves of immigration of the 1880s, Hasidism spread to the USA.

Initially there was considerable opposition to the movement from such figures as Elijah b. Solomon Zalman, the Vilna Gaon. Early Hasidism was thought by opponents to be tainted with Shabbateanism and Frankism (see FRANK, JACOB). Its mystical enthusiasm was also thought to detract from the sober study of Torah. However, by the mid-19th cent., despite the different practices and rituals of the movement, the Orthodox acknowledged Hasidism as a legitimate branch of Judaism.

Hasidic social life is centred on the court of the zaddik who is seen as the source of all spiritual illumination (e.g. devekut). Stories of past and present zaddikim are circulated as part of the mythology of the group. As in the root source, Ḥabad, worship is characterized by joy, and is expressed in song and dance as well as prayer. A major goal is the individual bittul ha-yesh (the annihilation of selfhood) in which the worshipper is absorbed into the divine light. The best-known modern expositor of Hasidism is Martin Buber whose Tales of Rabbi Nachman (Eng. 1962), Tales of the Hasidim (1947–8), and Legend of the Baal Shem (Eng. 1969) interpreted the movement in the light of existentialism.

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Hasidism

Hasidism a mystical Jewish movement founded in Poland in the 18th century in reaction to the rigid academicism of rabbinical Judaism. The movement, which emphasized the importance of religious enthusiasm, had a strong popular following. Denounced in 1781 as heretical, the movement declined sharply in the 19th century, but fundamentalist communities developed from it, and Hasidism is still influential in Jewish life, particularly in Israel and New York.

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Hasidism

Hasidism Popular pietist movement within Judaism founded by Israel ben Eliezer (c.1699–c.1761), known as the Baal Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name). The movement, centred in e Europe until World War II, strongly supports Orthodox Judaism. Its main centres are now in Israel and the USA.

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