Hasidic Jews

Hasidic Jews

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Hasidic beliefs and practises

  • Based on ideas from the Tenakh, Talmud and the Mystical tradition
  • Devekut (devotion) - god must be kept constantly in the mind and every thought and action should be an expression of faith
  • Men and women marry young, meet through a Shidduch (matchmaker) and have large families - average is 7.9 "be fruitful and multiply" - Biblical mandate
  • Men - Black hat, Black coat, long beard and Payos (ear locks)
  • Women - high neck dresses that cover both wrists and knees. shave hair for marrigae as to not attract attention from other men (Sheitel - Wigs)
  • Philosophy of Hasidism is the doctrine of the Tsaddik. Their spirtual leader and mentor. Even today the Rebbes are regarded with extraordinary veneration
  • Branch of the Orhtodox movement
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Hasidic philosophy teaches a method of contemplating on God, as well as the inner significance of the Mitzvot (commandments and rituals of Torah law). Hasidic philosophy has four main goals:

1. Revival: At the time when Rabbi Yisrael Ba'al Shem Tov founded Hasidism, the Jews were physically crushed by massacres (in particular, those of the Cossack leader Chmelnitzki in 1648–1649) and poverty, and spiritually crushed by the disappointment engendered by the false messiahs. This unfortunate combination caused religious observance to seriously wane. This was especially true in Eastern Europe, where Hasidism began. Hasidism came to revive the Jews physically and spiritually. It focused on helping Jews establish themselves financially, and then lifting their moral and religious observance through its teachings.

2. Piety: A Hasid, in classic Torah literature, refers to one of piety beyond the letter of the law. Hasidism demands and aims at cultivating this extra degree of piety.

3. Refinement: Hasidism teaches that one should not merely strive to improve one's character by learning new habits and manners. Rather a person should completely change the quality, depth and maturity of one's nature. This change is accomplished by internalizing and integrating the perspective of Hasidic philosophy.

4. Demystification: In Hasidism, it is believed that the esoteric teachings of Kabbalah can be made understandable to everyone. This understanding is meant to help refine a person, as well as adding depth and vigor to one's ritual observation.

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Baal Shem Tov

  • During the first half of the eighteenth century social and religious oppresion of jews greatly increased
  • founder of the hasidic movement - Israel ben Eliezer (Baal Shem Tov - Master of the good name)
  • oral stories about, his life, that were posthumously compiled in writing by his disciples, describe his spiritual powers and knowledge, miracle working, and ability to predict the future. In turn, these notions were passed on to his saintly students and successors, and shaped the Hasidic doctrine of the Tzaddik
  • New type of hasid (pious) - one who advocated not wirthdrawel, but participation; not self-denial, but enjoyment.
  • The Bescht taught that sincere devotion to God was more important than traditional rabbinical learning
  • The followers were known as the Hasidism (pious men). After his death (1760) the movement spread throughout eastern europe.
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In a nut shell - the Baal Shem Tov led European Jewry away from Rabbinism and towards Mysticism. The early Hasidic movement encouraged the poor and oppressed Jews of the 18th century europe to be less academic and more emotional, less focused on executing rituals and more focused on experiencing them, less focused on gaining knowledge and more focused on feeling exalted. The way one prayed became more important than one's knowldege of the prayer's meaning. The Baal Shem Tov did not modify Judasim, but rather suggest the Jews approach Judaism from a different Psychological state.

It invested men and woman with pride, giving purpose to their lives; worship which was enjoable. Helped lift many people out of the feeling that they were no longer God's chosen people, which recent events had led them to believe (Shabbetti Zevi)

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· Mitnagdim is a Hebrew word meaning "opponents".

· Most prominent among the mitnagdim was Rabbi Elijah (Eliyahu) ben Shlomo Zalman (1720 - 1797), commonly known as the Vilna Gaon or GRA.

· The term "mitnagdim" gained a common usage among European Jews as the term that referred to Ashkenazi (german Jews) religious Jews who opposed the rise and spread of early Hasidic Judaism, particularly as embodied by Hasidism's founder, Rabbi Yisroel (Israel) ben Eliezer (1698 -1760), who was known as the Baal Shem Tov or Besht

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· The rapid spread of Hasidism in the second half of the eighteenth century greatly troubled many traditional rabbis; many saw it as a potentially dangerous enemy. They felt that it was another manifestation of the recent false-messiah movement of Sabbatai Zevi (1626 - 1676) that had led many Jews astray from mainstream Judaism.

· Hasidism's founder was Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, known as the Baal Shem Tov "master of a good name" usually applied to a saintly Jew who was also a wonder-worker), or simply "the Besht"; he taught that man's relationship with God depended on immediate religious experience, in addition to knowledge and observance of the details of the Torah and Talmud.

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Vilan gaon

The first attacks on Hasidic Judaism came during the times of the founder of Hasidic thought. Two bans of excommunication (banishing a member of a church from the communion of believers and the privileges of the church) against Hasidic Jews first appeared in 1772, accompanied by the public ripping up of several early Hasidic pamphlets.

Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, galvanized opposition to Hasidic Judaism. He believed that the claims of miracles and visions made by Hasidic Jews were lies and delusions.

A key point of opposition was that the Vilna Gaon maintained that greatness in Torah and observance must come through natural human efforts at Torah study without relying on any external "miracles" and "wonders", whereas the Ba'al Shem Tov was more focused on bringing encouragement and raising the morale of the Jewish people, especially following the Chmelnitzki pogroms (1648 -1654) and the aftermath of disillusionment in the Jewish masses following the millennial excitement heightened by the failed messianic claims of Sabbatai Zevi and Jacob Frank.

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