Hasidism Reappraised

BookHasidism Reappraised

Hasidism Reappraised

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization


January 1st, 1998



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Hasidism has been a seminal force and source of controversy in the Jewish world since its inception in the second half of the eighteenth century. Indeed, almost every ideological trend that has made itself felt among Jews since that time-from Zionism and Orthodoxy to contemporary Jewish feminism and movements within the yeshiva world-has claimed to have derived some inspiration from this vibrant movement. While this is sure testimony to its vitality and originality, it has also given rise to many misconceptions as to what hasidism is about. This major work, the first comprehensive critical study of hasidism in English, offers a wide-ranging treatment of the subject in all its aspects by what is effectively the entire present generation of scholars working in the field. With contributions ranging from the history of theology and of ideas through social and economic history to contemporary sociology, Hasidism Reappraised encompasses a complete field of modern scholarship in a discipline that is central to the understanding of modern Jewish history and the contemporary Jewish world. The twenty-eight authors who have contributed to the main body of the book are almost without exception established scholars with international reputations. The volume as a whole is dedicated to the memory of Joseph Weiss, and its opening section assesses his contribution to the study of hasidism in the context of his relationship with Gershom Scholem and Scholem's long-standing influence on the field. The remaining contributions are arranged thematically under seven headings: the social history of hasidism; the social functions of mystical ideals in the hasidic movement; distinctive outlooks and schools of thought within hasidism; the hasidic tale; the history of hasidic historiography; contemporary hasidism; and the present state of research on hasidism. The book also incorporates an extensive introduction that places the various articles in their intellectual context, as well as a bibliography of hasidic sources and contemporary scholarly literature. Hasidism Reappraised shows an intellectual world at an important juncture in its development and points to the direction in which scholarly study of hasidism is likely to develop in the years to come.
CONTRIBUTORS: Jacob Barnai, Israel Bartal, Joseph Dan, Rachel Elior, Immanuel Etkes, Shmuel Ettinger, Morris M. Faierstein, Roland Goetschel, Arthur Green, Zeev Gries, Karl Erich GROZINGER, Moshe Hallamish, Gershon David Hundert, Moshe Idel, Louis Jacobs, Jacob Katz, Naftali Loewenthal, Daniel Meijers, Yehoshua Mondshine, Gedaliah Nigal, Mendel Piekarz, Ada Rapoport-Albert, Moshe J. Rosman, Bracha Sack, Yoseph Salmon, Chone Shmeruk, Sara Ora Heller Wilensky, Elliot R. Wolfson.

'Ce fort volume ... Cet ouvrage represente sans conteste une etape importante pour la connaissance du hasidisme.'
- Jacques Gutwirth, Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions

'A magnificent account of that phenomenon from the Jewish past-Hasidism. Not only is it a consummate work of scholarship, but the editor has drawn together some of the personal relationships between scholars to show how this has also been the yeast in the splendid lekakh. Before all else, a word of praise for the editor ... to be read as well as to be dipped into and also to have as a major reference work. Trawling the index alone kept me fascinated for many evenings. Some wealthy Jews build synagogues, Jewish centres, but Louis Thomas Sidney Littman, who founded the Littman Library for the love of God and in memory of his father, gave us the wisest gift of all. Our richest past. His memory for a blessing. Ada Rapoport-Albert is an Israeli lecturer at University College, London. She is a considerable editor, writer, and scholar, and by all personal accounts an inspired teacher.'
- Alex Auswaks, Jerusalem Post
'Probably the most important analytical study of the Hasidic movement to have appeared in the English language, and it can be read with profit by anyone seriously interested in Jewish history.'
- Edgar Samuel, Jewish Historical Studies
'Undoubtedly of great value for our knowledge of hasidism.'
- Jacques Gutwirth, Jewish Journal of Sociology
'An opportunity to encounter virtually all the most important trends in the study of Hasidism and to move beyond the approaches and theories that have until now constituted conventional wisdom ... It is a volume that will be essential for anyone with a serious interest in Hasidism and indeed for any Judaica collection.'
- Miles Krassen, Journal of Jewish Studies
'Handsome collection of twenty-eight essays by world-ranking scholars ... comprehensive indeed, and profound, articulate, often gripping, and frequently counter to conventional wisdom ... amply rewarded by the superb job of translating, editing and reducing to easily readable length ... a reflection of major watersheds in the study of Hasidism.'
- Lewis Glinert, Le'ela


Author Information

Ada Rapoport-Albert, who died in 2020, was Professor of Jewish Studies and head of the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Half Title2
Title Page4
Notes on Contributors14
Part I: Joseph G. Weiss as a Student of Hasidism26
1: Joseph G. Weiss: A Personal Appraisal28
2: Joseph Weiss: Letters to Ora35
Part II: Towards A New Social History of Hasidism68
3: The Conditions in Jewish Society in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the Middle Decades of the Eighteenth Century 70
4: Social Conflicts in Międzybóz in the Generation of the Besht76
5: Hasidism and the Kahal in Eastern Europe 88
6: Hasidism after 1772: Structural Continuity and Change101
7: The Hasidic Managing Editor as an Agent of Culture166
Part III: The Social Function of Mystical Ideals in Hasidism182
8: The Zaddik: The Interrelationship between Religious Doctrine and Social Organization 184
9: The Paradigms of Yesh and Ayin in Hasidic Thought193
10: Walking as a Sacred Duty: Theological Transformation of Social Reality in Early Hasidism205
11: Hasidism and the Dogma of the Decline of the Generations233
12: Personal Redemption in Hasidism239
13: Hasidism as a Socio-religious Movement on the Evidence of Devekut 250
Part IV: Distinctive Outlooks and Schools of thought within Hasidism274
14: The Influence of Reshit hokhmah on the Teachings of the Maggid of Mezhirech276
15: Torah Lishmah as a Central Concept in the Degel Mahaneh Efrayim of Moses Hayyim Ephraim of Sudylkow283
16: The Teachings of R. Menahem Mendel of Vitebsk293
17: Habad Approaches to Contemplative Prayer, 1790–1920313
18: The Fluidity of Categories in Hasidism: Averah Lishmah in the Teachings of R. Zevi Elimelekh of Dynow 326
19: R. Naphtali Zevi of Ropczyce ('the Ropshitser') as a Hasidic Leader346
Part V: The Hasidic Tale368
20: New Light on the Hasidic Tale and its Sources370
21: The Source Value of the Basic Recensions of Shivhei haBesht 379
Part VI: The History of Hasidic Historiography390
22: The Imprint of Haskalah Literature on the Historiography of Hasidism392
23: The Historiography of the Hasidic Immigration to Erets Yisrael401
24: Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem on Hasidism: A Critical Appraisal414
25: Yitzhak Schiper's Study of Hasidism in Poland429
Part VII: Contemporary Hasidism438
26: Hasidism: The Third Century440
27: Differences in Attitudes to Study and Work between Present-day Hasidim and Mitnaggedim: A Sociological View452
Part VIII: The Present State of Research on Hasidism: An Overview464
28: Early Hasidism: Some Old/New Questions466
29: The Study of Hasidism: Past Trends and New Directions472