The Origins of Hasidism

Rachel Elior


The present article reviews the historical background that had generated the devastation of the Jewish community in the Ukraine in the second half of the 17th century and the rising of Sabbatianism in this period that was followed by the emergence of Hasidism in the second third of the 18th century. The literary evidence, dating from 1650 onward until the end of the 18th century, reveals that the Jewish writers were concerned with the documentation of the tragic devastation that followed the Chmielnizki revolt as well as expressing profound hopes for divine vengeance and a profound hope for messianic redemption.
The discussion is focused on two spiritual responses to the tragic circumstances: Sabbatianism and Hasidism, describing the uniqueness of each one of the two major mystical-messianic-charismatic movements in the Jewish community of the modern era. The discussion includes an analysis of the inner social reality of the Jewish community, where leaders were often chosen among the members of the wealthiest families. The economical-intellectual alliance created a situation where an alternative charismatic leadership was chosen by many members of the Jewish community, who were disappointed with the rabbinic leadership and its social responsibility.
The article presents also the 12 principles of the Hasidic thought and describes the unique circumstances that affected the activity of the Baal Shem Tov in relation to the thirty five blood libels that were recorded in his life time in the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth.

Słowa kluczowe: Hasidism, the Sabbatianism, the Polish-Lithuanian commonwelth, Israel Ba’al Shem Tov

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