Hasidic Judaism

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Hasidic Judaism is a branch of Orthodox Judaism established in Eastern Europe during the 1800’s that put spirituality and a connection with God through mysticism at the forefront of its beliefs. In order to understand Hasidic Judaism, one must understand that Judaism is not only a religion; it is also a philosophy and a way of life for the Jewish people. One of the oldest monotheistic religions, Judaism has evolved over the years since the time of the founding fathers. Like any culture or religion, however, Jews have never been without conflict or disagreement amongst its people. Schisms amongst Jews over long periods of time have led to a branching out of sects and Jewish institutions. What led to the separation of denominations within was a fundamental disagreement on the interpretation and implementation of Halakah (Jewish religious law). Before the 18th century there was little differentiation between sects of Judaism; Jewry was based on Talmudic and Halakhic study and knowledge. Constructed as an overly legalistic religion before the 18th century, the Hasidic movement popularized by Rabbi Israel Ben Eliezer sought to spread Judaism through the common man’s love of and devotion to God.

Eastern European Jewry had established itself firmly amongst small villages in Poland since the 13th century . Remaining fairly stable, Jews in Poland uniformly followed and studied Rabbinic Judaism based on oral and Talmudic law. The only differences amongst Jewish Orthodox beliefs were between those who studied Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah, and those who saw it as heretical. During the 17th century, the schism was brought into the spotlight by the False-Messianic movement of Shabbatai Tzvi, who was later forced to convert to Islam by the Ot...

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...ity through mysticism allows the common man to feel importance, and to feel importance is one of the universal goals of man. Knowing this, Hasidism was a great fit for the type of communities it attracted, stemming from the psychological insight provided with Hasidism to answer the common person’s struggle with existence and self importance.

Works Cited

Elior, Rachel. The Mystical Origins of Hasidism. Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2006. Print.

Magid, Shaul. Hasidism on the Margin: Reconciliation, Antinomianism, and Messianism in Izbica/Radzin Hasidism. Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin, 2003. Print.

Mintz, Jerome R. Hasidic People: A Place in the New World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1992. Print.

Sears, Dovid. The Path of the Baal Shem Tov: Early Hasidic Teachings and Customs. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1997. Print.

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