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Messianism and Hassidism
17th and 18th Centuries
• Receieving, that which is received = tradition =
law that is not in Torah
• Coming of Messiah  liberation of Jews and
their return to the land of Israel
Persecution of Protestants and Jews
Witches hunts
1764 – dissolution of Vaad (The Council of
Four Lands) – the golden age of Jewry and of
Poland was over – Partitions of Poland to
follow since 1772
Messianism, 17th C.
• Sabbatean Movement
– Sabbataï Zvi
• Born in Smyrna (Izmir), Turkey, 1626- 1676
• Nathan of Gaza recognized him as Messiah and became
his prophet – many followers since the1660´s
• Arrested in Istanbul and converted to Islam (Sultan as a
godfather)- with his followers became honoured
members of Sultan´s court
– Nathan of Gaza
• Sabbataï sacrificed himself – his conversion is a step
towards redemption
Messianism, 18th C.
• Frankism
– Jacob Frank
• From Podolia (Ukraina), 1726-1791, Zvi´s succesor
• Sexual ecstasy is a means to relate to G-d
• Converted to catholicism (Polish king as a godfather),
with his close followers rewarded with noble titles, and
was subsequently accused from a heresy – fled to
Germany where he died
• Some ideas from Sabbatean mysticism
Split of Rabbinic Judaism in Poland
• Hassidim: Leaning to
kabbalah and mysticism
– S-E Poland
• Mitnagdim: Antikabbalist orthodox
– Lithuania
Hassidism, 18th C.
• Izrael ben Eliezer Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760)/ BESHT –
founder of East European Chasidism
– Sincere love of G-d, warm faith, believe in the efficacy of
prayer – prayers that come from the heart
– Pantheism – omnipresence of G-d
– „No man is so sinful that he can not be purified by love and
– His saying reported by his disciples
• Magid, Rabbi Dov Bär of Mezritch – his student;
chasidism  religious and spiritual system – Ukraine,
Galicia, Central Poland; sizable groups in Hungary,
Slovakia and Romania
• First
criticised by
the ortodox
rabbis –
became an
movement –
to the USA
in the
There’s a Hasidic tale about a famous rabbi who was on his way to teach a
village that was very interested in his ideas. This was going to be a very big
event, and each Jew in the community made great preparations, pondering
what question he or she might ask the wise man.
The rabbi finally arrived and, after the initial welcome, he was taken into a
large room where people gathered to ask their questions. There was
tremendous anticipation and excitement all around.
The rabbi walked silently around the room and then began to hum a Hasidic
tune. Before long, everyone started humming along with his soft voice. As
people became comfortable with his song, the rabbi started to dance. He
danced everywhere in the room, and, one by one, every person danced with
him. Soon everyone in the whole community was dancing wildly together.
Each person’s soul was healed by the dance, and everyone experienced a
personal transformation.
Later in the night, the rabbi gradually slowed the dance and eventually
brought it to a stop. He looked into everyone’s eyes and said gently, “I trust
that I have answered all of your questions.”
 Tzadik = Righteous One – spiritual
leader and a saint that mediates
the communication between man
and God
 Devekut – leads to the communion
with G-d with the purpose of
uniting with the source of life and
influencing it
 Prayer is not a mechanical duty but
an act of direct communion with
 Dynasties of Rebbes/ Admorim
(Adoneinu- Moreinu- ve
Rabbeinu) who name their
• Vilna Gaon
– Leader of Misnagdim= Opponents
to Hassidism
– Put Hassids temporarily in cherem
• Misnagdim and Hassidim got
closer to each other x Haskala
• The Holocaust brought final
destruction to all chasidic
centers in EE
• Surviving well-known sects
(mainly USA): Belz, Bobov,
Breslov, Ger, Lubavitch, Munkacs,
Puppa, Sanz (Klausenburg),
Satmar, Skver, Spinka, Vizhnitz
• Martin Buber (1878-1965) –
philosopher – wrote popular
books on hasidism
– important cultural Zionist
– promoted Jewish cultural
renewal through his study of
Hasidic Judaism
– recorded and translated Hasidic
legends and anecdotes
– translated the Bible from
Hebrew into German
– numerous religious studies
– advocated a bi-national IsraeliPalestinian state and argued for
the renewal of society through
decentralized, communitarian
When asked which is the right way, that of sorrow or that of
joy, Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev said: “There are two kinds of
sorrow and two kinds of joy. When a person broods over his
misfortunes, when he cowers in a corner and despairs of help
– that is a bad kind of sorrow, concerning which it is said, ‘The
Shechinah does not dwell in a place of dejection.’ The other
kind [of sorrow] is the honest grief of a man who knows what
he lacks. The same is true for joy. One who is devoid of inner
substance and, in the midst of empty pleasures, neither feels
that, nor tries to fill his lack, is a fool. [In contrast,] one who is
truly joyful is like a man whose house has burned down, who
feels his need deep in his soul and begins to build anew. Over
every stone that is laid, his heart rejoices.”