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Founder of Hasidism : a quest for the historical Baʼal Shem Tov

Author: Murray Jay Rosman
Publisher: Berkeley : University of California Press, ©1996.
Series: Contraversions, 5.
Edition/Format:   Print book : Biography : State or province government publication : EnglishView all editions and formats
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
The eighteenth-century Polish-Jewish mystic, Israel ben Eliezer - known as the Ba'al Shem Tov, or the Besht - is one of the key figures in Jewish history. As the progenitor of Hasidism and the perceived spokesman for the warm, humane side of Jewish religious observance, he profoundly influenced the shape of modern Judaism. To understand the Besht is to understand an essential element in the making of modern Jewish
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Genre/Form: Biography
History
Named Person: Baʻal Shem Ṭov; Ba'al Shem Tov; Baʻal Shem Ṭov; Yiśrāʼēl BenElîʻezer Baʻal Šēm-Ṭôv; Israel ben Eliezer baal sem Tov; Yiśrā·ēl BenElîʻezer Baʻal Šēm-Ṭôv.
Material Type: Biography, Government publication, State or province government publication, Internet resource
Document Type: Book, Internet Resource
All Authors / Contributors: Murray Jay Rosman
ISBN: 0520201914 9780520201910
OCLC Number: 32891142
Description: xi, 303 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm.
Contents: Ba'al Shem Tov --
Hasidism before Hasidism --
A country in decline? --
Miedzyboz : a place in time and space --
The contentions of life --
The Holy Epistle --
More Besht correspondence --
Testimonies --
Life stories --
Light from the archives --
A person of his time --
From the historical Besht to the usable Besht : the image of the Ba'al Shem Tov in early Habad.
Series Title: Contraversions, 5.
Responsibility: Moshe Rosman.
More information:

Abstract:

The eighteenth-century Polish-Jewish mystic, Israel ben Eliezer - known as the Ba'al Shem Tov, or the Besht - is one of the key figures in Jewish history. As the progenitor of Hasidism and the perceived spokesman for the warm, humane side of Jewish religious observance, he profoundly influenced the shape of modern Judaism. To understand the Besht is to understand an essential element in the making of modern Jewish life. The Ba'al Shem Tov is an elusive subject for historians because documentary evidence about his life is scanty and equivocal. Much of what is believed about him is based on stories that were compiled in Shivhei Ha-Besht (In Praise of the Besht) more than a generation after his death. Human forgetfulness and the hagiographic objectives of the storytellers and the editors have assured that many of these stories serve more to mythologize than to describe the Besht.

Rosman's study casts a bright new light on the traditional stories about the Besht, confirming and augmenting some, challenging others. Most important, it overturns the widespread belief that the Ba'al Shem Tov was a religious revolutionary and a rebel against the clerical and communal establishment. Rosman finds, on the contrary, that the Besht was quite representative of the existing social, religious, and political order, a holy man who conformed to expected patterns of behavior. The evidence indicates that he made moderate changes, which led eventually to the development of Hasidism's mature institutions.

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