(English Index)

(Original Index)




Hasidic Judaism is an Orthodox Jewish religious movement. Some refer to Hasidic Judaism as Hasidism, and the adjective hasidic applies. The movement originated in Eastern Europe (Belarus and Ukraine) in the 18th century.

Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer (1698 – 1760), also known as the Ba'al Shem Tov ("Master of the Good Name" abbreviated as the Besht), founded Hasidic Judaism. It originated in a time of persecution of the Jewish people, when European Jews had turned inward to Talmud study; many felt that most expressions of Jewish life had become too "academic", and that they no longer had any emphasis on spirituality or joy. The Ba'al Shem Tov (Besht) set out to improve the situation.

To the common people, the Besht appeared wholly admirable. Characterized by an extraordinary sincerity and simplicity, he knew how to gain an insight into the spiritual needs of the masses. He taught them that true religion consisted not only of religious scholarship, but also of a sincere love of God combined with warm faith and belief in the efficacy of prayer; that the ordinary person filled with a sincere belief in God, and whose prayers come from the heart, is more acceptable to God than someone versed in and fully observant of Jewish law who lacks inspiration in his divine service.