Hassidism (Chassidim) “Serve the Lord with joy” Deuteronomy 28:47
• The Hasidic movement started in the 1700s in Eastern Europe in response to a void felt by many Jews.• They created a way of Jewish life that emphasized the ability of all Jews to grow closer to God via everything that they do, say, and think.• Today, Hasidim are differentiated from other Orthodox Jews by their devotion to a dynastic leader (referred to as a "Rebbe"), their wearing of distinctive clothing and a greater than average study of the inner aspects of Torah.• Hassidic communities are named for the villages and towns in which they originated e.g. Lubavitch
• Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov (Besht) Master of the Good Name.• Born around 1700 in the Ukraine.• While there was no particular element in his teachings that could be viewed as new to Judaism, nevertheless his teachings revolutionized the Jewish world.
• He emphasized the profound importance and significance of prayer, love of God, and love of ones fellow Jews.• He taught that even if one was not blessed with the ability or opportunity to be a Torah scholar, one could still reach great spiritual heights through these channels.
• He emphasized the importance of having a close relationship with a rebbe, a great Torah scholar who would be ones spiritual mentor and leader. This is a feature of Hassidism today.• The Besht was particularly fond of a talmudic statement, "God desires the heart" (Sanhedrin 106b). He interpreted as meaning that for God, a pure religious spirit mattered more than knowledge of the Talmud.• "No child is born except through pleasure and joy, by the same token, if one wishes his prayers to bear fruit, he must offer them with pleasure and joy." - Besht
• ―I came into this world to point a new way, to prevail upon men to live by the light of these three things: love of God, love of Israel, and love of Torah. And there is no need to perform mortifications of the flesh.‖ - Besht
• To outsiders, unaccustomed to the Beshts teachings, Hasidic prayer services sometimes seemed undignified, even chaotic. In fulfillment of the declaration, "All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like You?" (Psalms 35:10), worshipers were capable of performing handstands.
• ―When I would see the Rebbe he touched the depth in me, and that was true of everyone who came to see him. Somehow when people left, they felt that they had lived deeper and higher, on a higher level and with a deeper sense of life, a quest for life and meaning.‖ – Elie Wiesel (Nobel Peace Prize 1986)
• Contribution – Revitalised Jewish worship making it joyful emphasising simcha shel mitzvah — the joy of performing a commandment. – Integrated religion into everyday life so that every activity could be seen as praising God. – Made Torah study available to all regardless of their level of education through Rebbes. – Promoted the study of esoteric Jewish books such as the Kabbalah and examining inner aspects of the Torah.
– Joined forces with the Mitnagdim during the Haskalah to protect orthodox Judaism.– While originally regarded as revolutionary and religiously liberal, after the Haskalah it became more orthodox putting less emphasis on meditation and communing with God, and more on traditional Jewish learning.– Took European orthodox Judaism to other countries, notably USA, and kept it alive during and after the Holocaust.
• Developed a different approach to Judaism that stressed the importance of the Tzaddik (Rebbe) who had a closer relationship to God than the average Jew.• The Besht taught that the Tzaddik should serve as a model of how to lead a religious life. Many Rebbes established dynasties.
– One Hassidic group, the Lubavitch in Brooklyn, operates a Jewish outreach movement called Chabad running seminaries, day camps, schools, and websites etc. worldwide. The Chabad- Lubavitch operates an extensive outreach effort to encourage Jews to return to traditional practices.– The movements major thrust focuses on observing for ones self and transmitting to others the beauty, depth, awareness and joy inherent in the Torah -true way of life. By doing so, it strives to revitalize Jewish life by intensifying the individuals relationship to God, and deep sense of devotion and love towards
Hassidic Jews differ from other Orthodox Jews in:-Their allegiance to a Rebbe-Their style of dress-Their style of praying-Their commitment to the Torah and adherence to the mitzvot-Their customs