The words 'hasid' and 'hasidism' have become so familiar to people interested in the Jewish world that little thought is given to understanding exactly what hasidism is or considering its spiritual and social consequences. What, for example, are the distinguishing features of hasidism? What innovations does it embody? How did its founders see it? Why did it arouse opposition? What is the essential nature of hasidic thought? What is its spiritual essence? What does its literature consist of? What typifies its leadership? What is the secret of its persistence through the centuries? How have scholars explained its origins? Is hasidism an expression of mystical ideas, or a response to changing social circumstances? What is its connection to kabbalah? To Shabateanism? To messianism? What is its relationship to the traditional structures of authority in the Jewish world? This book aims to answer all these questions in a lucid and accessible manner.
Rachel Elior focuses on the fundamental positions and the factors of primary importance: the substantial issues that recur in the hasidic texts, including how hasidim have seen themselves over the centuries, how they have constructed a new spiritual and social ideal, and how that ideal has stood the test of reality. The goal is to present the main characteristics of the hasidic movement and to examine the social implications of its mystical ideas. The text is fully supported by references to the relevant hasidic sources and academic literature. The book concludes with a list of the hasidic texts on which the discussion is based and a comprehensive bibliography of scholarly works on kabbalah and hasidism.
Table of Contents
Publisher's Note on the Translation and Transliteration 1 The Origins of Hasidism 2 The Hasidic Library 3Mystical Societies and the Spread of Hasidism: Internalizing and Reviving the Kabbalistic Myth 4 The Hasidic Concept of Language: The Window in the Word 5 Israel Ba'al Shem Tov's Uniqueness: Myth, Bibliography, Facts, and Image 6 The Hasidic Revolution 7 Hasidism in the Context of its Time 8 The Unity of Opposites: Being and Nothingness 9 'For indeed all is null and void': The Transcendence from Being to Nothingness 10 The Doctrine of the Tsadik 11 Mystical Spirituality and Autonomous Leadership 12 Israel Ba'al Shem Tov and Jacob Frank: Hasidism and Shabateanism 13 Scholarship on Hasidism: Changing Perspectives 14 Summary Glossary Recommended Reading Bibliography Index
Rachel Elior is John and Golda Cohen Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Jewish Mystical Thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has been a research fellow and visiting professor at University College London, the University of Amsterdam, Oberlin College, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Case Western University, Yeshiva University, Tokyo University, and Princeton University. She is the author of numerous works on Jewish mysticism and hasidism, two of which are also published by the Littman Library: The Three Temples: On the Emergence of Jewish Mysticism (2004), and Jewish Mysticism: The Infinite Expression of Freedom (2007). The recipient of many honours, she was awarded the 2006 Gershom Scholem Prize for the Study of Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.