Baal Shem Tov

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Baal Shem Tov
Full name ישראל בן אליעזר Yisroel ben Eliezer
Signature Besht Signature.svg
Main work Keter Shem Tov
Tzavaat HaRivash
Born Circa 1700
Okopy Świętej Trójcy, Podolian Voivodeship, Kingdom of Poland
Died 22 May 1760 (6 Sivan 5520)
Międzybóż, Podolian Voivodeship, Kingdom of Poland
Buried Międzybóż, Kingdom of Poland
Successor Dov Ber of Mezritsh (1704–1772)
Father Eliezer
Mother Sara
Wife Chana
Children Tsvi of Pinsk (1729–1779)
Udel (1720–1787)

Rabbi Yisroel (Israel) ben Eliezer (born circa 1700,[1][2] died: 6 Sivan 5520, 22 May 1760), (Hebrew: רבי ישראל בן אליעזר‎‎) often called Baal Shem Tov (/ˌbɑːl ˈʃɛm ˌtʊv/[3] or /ˌtʊf/) or Besht, was a Jewish mystical rabbi. He is considered to be the founder of Hasidic Judaism[1] (see also Mezhbizh Hasidic dynasty).

The Besht is better known to many religious Jews as “the holy Baal Shem” (der heyliger baal shem in Yiddish), or most commonly, the Baal Shem Tov (בעל שם טוב). The title Baal Shem Tov is usually translated into English as “Master of the Good Name,” but at least two other translations are possible:[4]

  • "Good Master of the Name," taking "Baal Shem" as a unit, meaning one who "owns the [holy] name" therefore has the power or uses Divine names to cure illnesses and perform miracles. I.e., an effective baal shem.
  • "One who has a good reputation in the community," since in Hebrew idiom, "Baal" can mean "one characterized by" and "Shem" can mean "reputation," thus "one characterized by a good reputation."

The name Besht (בעש"ט) — the acronym from the words comprising that name, bet ayin shin tet—is typically used in print rather than speech. The appellation “Baal Shem” was not unique to Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer; however, it is Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer who is most closely identified as "The Baal Shem Tov", as he was the founder of the spiritual movement of Hasidic Judaism.


The little biographical information that is known about Besht comes from oral traditions handed down by his pupils (Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye and others) and the legendary tales about his life and behavior which were collected in Shivḥei ha-Besht (In Praise of the Ba’al Shem Tov; Kapust and Berdichev, 1814–15).[5]

The attitude of the Hasidim towards these legends is a blend of suspicion and belief. The Rebbe Shlomo of Rodomsk pithily declared, "Whoever believes all the miracle stories about the Baal Shem Tov in Shivhei HaBaal Shem Tov is a fool, but whoever denies that he could have done them is an apikoros [a heretic]." Similarly, the Rebbe Mordechai of Neshkiz explains, "Even if a story about him never actually occurred, and there was no such miracle, it was in the power of the Baal Shem Tov, may his memory be a blessing for the life of the World-to-Come, to perform everything."[6]

Nevertheless, from the numerous legends connected with his birth it appears that his parents were poor, upright, and pious. When he was orphaned, his community cared for him, while at school, he distinguished himself only by his frequent disappearances. Many of his disciples believed that he came from the Davidic line tracing its lineage to the royal house of King David, and by extension with the institution of the Jewish Messiah.

Early life and marriage[edit]

Yisroel (Israel) was born to poor parents Eliezer and Sarah in a settlement near Okopy Świętej Trójcy, a newly built fortress close to Kameniec in the West Ukraine, where Zbruch connects with Dniester. Today, Okopy is a village located in the Borschiv Raion (district) of the Ternopil Oblast).

He died in Medzhybizh,[1] (Ukrainian: Меджибіж, Polish: Międzybóż, Yiddish: מעזשביזש‎), which was part of Poland and today is situated in the Khmelnytskyi Oblast (Ukraine) (not to be confused with other cities of the same name).[7]

In 1703, Israel became an orphan, and was adopted by the Jewish community of Tluste (near Zalischyky). It is reported that, after the conclusion of his studies at the local cheder (Jewish elementary school), he would often wander into the fields and forests that surrounded the village. In 1710, he finished cheder and became an assistant to a melamed (instructor in cheder). Sometime in 1712 Israel became a shammash (sexton) of the local synagogue.

He was periodically hired as a teacher's assistant in the cheders of the small villages through which they passed. He would later relate that he took great pleasure in accompanying the children to and from school, using this opportunity to recite prayers with them and tell them Torah stories. The Mezritcher Maggid, the Baal Shem Tov's successor, would later say, "If only we kissed a Torah scroll with the same love that my master [the Baal Shem Tov] kissed the children when he took them to cheder as a teacher's assistant!"[8]

According to Hasidic legend, the Baal Shem Tov would have visions in which the prophet Achiya Hashiloni would appear to him.[9] In 1716 the Baal Shem Tov married, but soon his wife died and he went on traveling throughout the Eastern Galicia. After serving for a long time as helper in various small communities of the West Ukraine, he settled as a melamed at Tluste.

The Besht was introduced to Kabbalah by Rabbi Adam Baal Shem of Ropczyce (Yiddish: ראָפּשיץ‎) who was a disciple of Rabbi Yoel Baal Shem (I) of Zamość (Yiddish: זאמושטש‎), the successor of Rabbi Eliyahu Baal Shem of Worms (Yiddish: ורמיזא, ורמישא‎).[10]

The Besht became the leader of this movement at the age of 18.[11] Caring for the Jewish poor, the group of Tzadikim encouraged Jews to move to agrarian lifestyles as alternatives to the chronic poverty of city Jews. In continuation of this policy they decided that they needed to look after the educational needs of the children living in small farm communities. If a suitable teacher could not be sourced they themselves would provide one, and therefore The Baal Shem Tov became a teacher’s assistant. He later commented "The most joyous time in my life was teaching the small children how to say Modeh Ani, Shema Yisrael and Kametz Alef Ah".[12]

He was chosen by people conducting suits against each other to act as their arbitrator and mediator; and his services were brought into frequent requisition because the Jews had their own civil courts in Poland. He is said to have made such an impression on Ephraim of Brody that the latter promised The Besht his daughter Chana in marriage. The man died, however, without telling his daughter of her betrothal; but when she heard of her father's wishes, she agreed to comply with them.[1]

Variations of this portrait are popularly used to represent Israel Baal Shem Tov. Actually, it depicts Rabbi Falk, the Baal Shem of London.[13]
A well just outside Medzhybizh thought to be hand-dug by the Baal Shem Tov himself. It still produces fresh water.

After their marriage the couple moved to a village in the Carpathians between Kuty and Kassowa,[1] where their only income was from his work digging clay and lime, which his wife delivered to surrounding villages. The couple had two children: Udl (born in 1720) and Zvi Hersh.

Development as leader and challenges[edit]

The Baal Shem Tov’s personal Siddur (now in Chabad library archive #1994).

The Besht later took a position as a shohet (ritual butcher) in Kshilowice, near Iaslowice, which he soon gave up in order to manage a village tavern that his brother-in-law bought for him. During the many years that he lived in the woods and came into contact with the peasants, Israel ben Eliezer had learned how to use plants for healing purposes. In fact, his first appearance in public was that of an “ordinary” Baal Shem. He wrote amulets and prescribed cures.[1]

After many trips in Podolia and Volhynia as a Baal Shem, Besht, considering his following large enough and his authority established, decided (about 1740) to expound his teachings in the shtetl of Medzhybizh and people, mostly from the spiritual elite, came to listen to him. Medzhybizh became the seat of the movement and of the Medzybizh Hasidic dynasty. His following gradually increased, and with it the hostility, of the Talmudists. Nevertheless, Besht was supported at the beginning of his career by two prominent Talmudists, the brothers Meïr (chief rabbi of Lemberg and later Ostroha, and author of Meir Netivim (a work of halachic responsa) and other works) and Isaac Dov Margalios. Later he won over recognized rabbinic authorities who became his disciples and attested to his scholarship. These include Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Hakohen, rabbi of Polnoy; Rabbi Dovid Halperin, rabbi of Ostroha; Rabbi Israel of Satinov, author of Tiferet Yisrael; Rabbi Yoseph Heilperin of Slosowitz; and Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezrich (AKA the Maggid of Mezritch). It is chiefly due to the later that Besht’s doctrines (though in an essentially altered form) were introduced into learned Jewish religious circles.[1]

Israel undertook journeys in which he is recorded as effecting cures, and expelling demons and evil spirits (leẓim). Later ḥasidic tradition, however downplayed the importance of these healing and magical practices, concentrating on his teachings,his charm, magnetism, and ecstatic personality.[14]

Exterior of the Baal Shem Tov’s synagogue in Medzhybizh, circa 1915. This shul no longer exists, having been destroyed by the Nazis. However, an exact replica was erected on its original site as a museum.

Some direct historical evidence remains of the Besht during the days he lived in Medzhybizh. Rosman discovered numerous legal documents that shed light on this period from the Polish Czartoryski noble family archives. The Besht’s house is mentioned on several tax registers where it is recorded as having tax-free status. Several of the Besht’s colleagues in his stories from Shivhei HaBesht also appear in Polish court records, notably, Ze'ev Wolf Kitzes and Dovid Purkes. Rosman contends that the Polish documents show the Besht and his followers were not outcasts or pariahs, but rather a respected part of mainstream Jewish communal life.

Gravestone of the Baal Shem Tov in Medzhybizh (before restoration in 2006–2008) with the inscription רבי ישראל בעל שם טוב
Example from the 1758 Polish tax census of Medzhybizh showing "Baal Shem" as occupying house #95

Other direct evidence includes the Besht's daily prayer-book (siddur, owned by the Agudas Chabad Library in New York) with his handwritten personal notes in the margins. His grave can be seen today in the old Jewish cemetery in Medzhybizh.

Over the past few years, the "Agudas Ohalei Tzadikim"[15] organization (based in Israel) has restored many graves of Tzadikim (Ohelim) in Ukraine, including Baal Shem Tov's. A new guesthouse and synagogue has been built[when?] next to the Ohel of Baal Shem Tov, and the Baal Shem Tov's synagogue in the village proper has been painstakingly restored. Both synagogues are used by the many visitors from all over the world who come to pray near the Baal Shem Tov's grave.

Disputes with the Frankists and death[edit]

The Besht took sides with the Talmudists in their disputes against the Frankists (Jacob Frank's cultist movement which regarded Frank as the Messiah, modeled after Sabbatai Zevi.) After the mass conversion of the Frankists, the Baal Shem Tov allegedly said that as long as a diseased limb is connected with the body, there is hope that it may be saved; but, once amputated, it is gone, and there is no hope[16] Baal Shem Tov died shortly after the conversion of many Frankists to Christianity.[1]

His legacy[edit]

Israel ben Eliezer left no books; for the Kabbalistic commentary on Ps. cvii., ascribed to him (Zhitomir, 1804), Sefer mi-Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem-tov, may not be genuine. In order to get at his teachings, it is therefore necessary to turn to his utterances as given in the works of his disciples Hasidim. Most are found in the works of Rabbi Jacob Joseph of Polnoy. But since Hasidism, immediately after the death of its founder, was divided into various parties, each claiming for itself the authority of Besht, the utmost of caution is necessary in judging as to the authenticity of utterances ascribed to Besht.[1]

Chapin and Weinstock contend that the Besht was essentially the right person, in the right place, at the right time. Eighteenth century Podolia was an ideal place to foster a sea-change in Jewish thinking. It had been depopulated one generation earlier due to the Khmelnitsky Massacres. A Turkish occupation of Podolia occurred within the Besht’s lifetime and along with it the influence within this frontier territory of Sabbatai Zevi and his latter day spiritual descendants such as Malach and Jacob Frank. Once the Polish Magnates regained control from the Turks, Podolia essentially went through an economic boom. The Magnates were benevolent to the economic benefits the Jews provided and encouraged Jewish resettlement to help protect the frontier from future invasions. Thus, the Jewish community itself was essentially starting over. Within this context, the Jews of Podolia were open to new ideas. The Besht’s refreshing new approaches to Judaism were welcome, expanding with little resistance in a community hungry for change.

Practices[edit]

The Besht was a mystic, and redeemer, as well as a magician. As an expert in defensive magic, he used exorcism, and amulets. He claimed to have achieved devekut (“adhesion”), meaning that his soul had reached the high level where he could speak with the Messiah, and intervene between humans and god. He had the ability to protect the Jewish community from plague, and persecution.[17]


Besht’s doctrines[edit]

Although the teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov derive to some extent from the Kabbalah and frequently employ kabbalistic terminology, he added an emphasis on personal existence and the salvation of the soul of the individual, as a requirement for the redemption of the world: “For before one prays for general redemption one must pray for the personal salvation of one’s own soul” (Toledot Ya’akov Yosef). He emphasised the personal against a previous preoccupation on messianism. In a letter to Abraham Gershon (dated 1751), he describes his dialogue with the Messiah during a spiritual ascent on Rosh Ha-Shanah, 1747: “I asked the Messiah, ‘When will you come, master,’ and he answered me, ‘When your learning will be made known and revealed to the world and its source will spread and all can recite yiḥudim and experience spiritual ascent as you can…’ and I was astonished and deeply grieved by this, and wondered when this would come to pass” (Ben Porat Yosef).

At the core of the Besht's teaching is the principle of devekut, and he demanded that devekut exist in all daily acts and in social contacts. Man must worship God not only when practicing religious acts and holy deeds, but also in his daily affairs, in his business, and in social contacts, for when a “man is occupied with material needs, and his thought cleaves to God, he will be blessed” (Ketonet Passim (1866), 28a). This belief is linked with the Lurianic doctrine of the raising of the holy sparks (niẓoẓot), though he limited this concept to the salvation of the individual soul. Because of his emphasis on devekut, he did not advocate withdrawal from daily life and society, and he vigorously opposed fasts and asceticism.

He believed that physical pleasure can give rise to spiritual pleasure. A physical act can become a religious act if it is performed as worship of God and the act is performed in a state of devekut.

The study of Torah is of prime importance in Israel’s teachings, although he interpreted the traditional ideal of “Torah for its own sake” as “for the sake of the letter.” Through contemplation of the letters of the text man can open the divine worlds before him. He based this belief on the assumption that the letters of the Torah evolved and descended from a heavenly source, and therefore by contemplating the letters, one can restore them to their spiritual, and divine source. The student thus becomes joined to their higher forms and receives mystical revelations.

Similarly, through prayer, a man can reach devekut and contact with the divine, by concentrating on the mystical meaning of the letters:

″According to what I learned from my master and teacher, the main occupation of Torah and prayer is that one should attach oneself to the spirituality of the light of the Ein Sof found in the letters of the Torah and prayer, which is called study for its own sake” (Toledot Ya’akov Yosef, p. 25).″

The Behst's concept of the doctrine of the zaddik is the recognition of the existence of superior individuals whose spiritual qualities are greater than those of other human beings and who are outstanding in their higher level of devekut. These individuals influence society, and their task is to teach the people to worship God by means of devekut and to lead sinners to repent.[18]

Influence on Hasidism[edit]

The later developments of Hasidism are unintelligible without consideration of Besht’s opinion concerning man’s proper relation with the universe. True worship of God, consists in the cleaving to, and the unification with, God. To use his own words, “the ideal of man is to be a revelation himself, clearly to recognize himself as a manifestation of God.” Mysticism, he said, is not the Kabbalah, which everyone may learn; but that sense of true oneness, which is usually as strange, unintelligible, and incomprehensible to mankind as dancing is to a dove. However, the man who is capable of this feeling is endowed with a genuine intuition, and it is the perception of such a man which is called prophecy, according to the degree of his insight. From this it results, in the first place, that the ideal man may lay claim to authority equal, in a certain sense, to the authority of the Prophets.[1] This focus on oneness and personal revelation helps earn his mystical interpretation of Judaism the title of panentheism.

A second and more important result of the doctrine is that through his oneness with God, man forms a connecting link between the Creator and creation. Thus, slightly modifying the Bible verse, Hab. 2:4, Besht said, “The righteous can vivify by his faith.“ Besht’s followers enlarged upon this idea and consistently deduced from it the source of divine mercy, of blessings, of life; and that therefore, if one love him, one may partake of God’s mercy.[1]

On the opposite side of the coin, the Baal Shem Tov warned the Hasidim:

Amalek is still alive today … Every time you experience a worry or doubt about how God is running the world—that’s Amalek launching an attack against your soul. We must wipe Amalek out of our hearts whenever—and wherever—he attacks so that we can serve God with complete joy.

Though Besht may not be held responsible for the later conceptions, there is no doubt that his self-reliance was an important factor in winning adherents. It may be said of Hasidism that there is no other Jewish sect in which the founder is as important as his doctrines. Besht himself is still the real center for the Hasidim; his teachings have almost sunk into oblivion. As Schechter (“Studies in Judaism,” p. 4) observes: “To the Hasidim, Baal-Shem [Besht] ... was the incarnation of a theory, and his whole life the revelation of a system.”[1]

Characteristics[edit]

Besht did not combat the practice of rabbinical Judaism, but the spirit of its practice. His teachings being the result of a deep, religious temperament, he stressed the spirit, and not the forms of religion. Though he considered the Law to be holy and inviolable, and he emphasized the importance of Torah-study, he held that one’s entire life should be a service of God.[1]

Besht tried to realize his ideal in his own career. Hasidic legend tells of a woman whom her relatives sought to kill on account of her shameful life, but who was saved in body and soul by Besht. The story is said to be characteristic of Besht’s activity in healing those in need of relief. More important to him than prayer was a friendly relationship with sinners. The story of Besht’s career affords many examples of unselfishness and high-minded benevolence.[1]

Moreover, Besht’s methods of teaching differed essentially from those of his opponents. He directed many satirical remarks at them, a characteristic one being his designation of the typical Talmudist of his day as “a man who through sheer study of the Law has no time to think about God”. Besht is reported to have illustrated his views of asceticism by the following parable:[1]

A thief once tried to break into a house, the owner of which, crying out, frightened the thief away. The same thief soon afterward broke into the house of a very strong man, who, on seeing him enter, kept quite still. When the thief had come near enough, the man caught him and put him in prison, thus depriving him of all opportunity to do further harm.[1]

Much of Besht’s success was also due to his firm conviction that God had entrusted him with a special mission to spread his doctrines. In his enthusiasm and ecstasy he believed that he often had heavenly visions revealing his mission to him. For him every intuition was a divine revelation; and divine messages were daily occurrences.[1] An example of the power of his spiritual vision is found in the beginning of his grandson's work, Degel, where he writes that his grandfather wrote to Gershon Kitover who lived in Israel, asking him why he was not in Israel that particular Shabbos.

In legend[edit]

In Hasidic tradition, there’s a saying, “Someone who believes in all the stories of the Baal Shem Tov and the other mystics and holy men is a fool; someone who looks at any single story and says “That one could not be true” is a heretic.”[19]

According to the Encyclopaedia Judaica the number of legends that are told relating to the Ba’al Shem Tov have 'distorted his historical character.'[18] An anthology of legends about him was first compiled by Dov Baer b. Samuel of Linits, who was the son-in-law of Alexander Shoḥat, who had acted for several years as the Besht's scribe. The collection was copied many times and over time it became filled with errors. It was printed with the title, Shivḥei ha-Besht after Dov Baer's death. It was published by Israel Jaffe who rewrote the first chapter, and removed what he considered to be the distortions caused by copyists.

This edition, printed in Kopys (Kapust) in 1814, contains some 230 stories, grouped by common themes, characters, and motifs. Two editions also appeared in Yiddish, however these differ markedly from the Hebrew edition.

In the 19th century several further collections of legends about the Ba’al Shem Tov, and his followers appeared, in Hebrew and Yiddish, some of which repeated stories found in Shivḥei ha-Besht and some of which contained new stories. According to the Encyclopaedia Judaica only a few of these stories can actually be regarded as true.[20]

One legend tells that his father, Eliezer, was seized during an attack, carried from his home in Wallachia, and sold as a slave to a prince. On account of his wisdom, he found favor with the prince, who gave him to the king to be his minister. During an expedition undertaken by the king, when other counsel failed, and all were disheartened, Eliezer’s advice was accepted; and the result was a successful battle of decisive importance. Eliezer was made a general and afterward prime minister, and the king gave him the daughter of the viceroy in marriage. But, being mindful of his duty as a Jew and as he was already married, he married the princess only in name. After being questioned for a long time as to his strange conduct, he confessed to the princess that he was a Jew, who loaded him with costly presents and helped him escape to his own country.[1]

On the way, the prophet Elijah is said to have appeared to Eliezer and said: “On account of thy piety and steadfastness, thou wilt have a son who will lighten the eyes of all Israel; and Israel shall be his name, because in him shall be fulfilled the verse (Isaiah 49:3): ’Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’” Eliezer and his wife Sarah, however, reached old age childless and had given up all hope of ever having a child. But when they were nearly a hundred years old, the promised son (Besht) was born.[1]

Scholarly biography[edit]

Founder of Hasidism: A Quest for the Historical Ba'al Shem Tov by Moshe Rosman. Reprint with new introduction. London: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2013. ISBN 978-1-906764-44-9.

The Ba'al Shem Tov is an elusive subject for historians because documentary evidence about his life is scanty and equivocal. The portrait provided in this book is drawn from life instead of from myth. Based on innovative critical analysis of familiar and previously unexplored archival sources, and concentrating on accounts that can be attributed to the Besht or to contemporary eyewitnesses, the book goes further than any previous work in uncovering the historical Ba'al Shem Tov. Founder of Hasidism supplies the history behind the legend. It presents the best, most convincing description that can be drawn from the existing documentary evidence, changing our understanding of the Besht and, with it, the master-narrative of hasidism. A substantial new Introduction considers what has changed in the study of Hasidism since the influential first edition was published, these changes being in part due to the influence of the book. There are new approaches, new sources, and new interpretations, and these are reviewed and critically assessed. Criticisms of the original edition are answered and key issues are reconsidered, including the authenticity of the various versions of the Holy Epistle, the ways in which Jacob Joseph's books can be utilized as historical sources, and the relationship between the Maggid of Mezhirech and Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye. The first edition of Founder of Hasidism won the 1996 National Jewish Book Award for Jewish History and the 2000 Zalman Shazar Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Jewish Historical Research.[21]

Legacy[edit]

The Baal Shem Tov directly imparted his teachings to his students, some of whom founded their own respective Hasidic dynasties. These students include:

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "BA'AL SHEM-ṬOB, ISRAEL B. ELIEZER". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company. 
  2. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica
  3. ^ Jones, Daniel (2003) [1917], Peter Roach, James Hartmann and Jane Setter, eds., English Pronouncing Dictionary, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 3-12-539683-2 
  4. ^ p. 409, The Light and Fire of the Baal Shem Tov, by Yitzhak Buxbaum. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006.
  5. ^ ENCYCLOPAEDIA JUDAICA, Second Edition, Volume 10, pg 743, Avraham Rubinstein
  6. ^ p. 5, The Light and Fire of the Baal Shem Tov, by Yitzhak Buxbaum. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006.
  7. ^ "Medzhybizh". Wumag.kiev.ua. Retrieved 2013-03-27. 
  8. ^ Hayom Yom, Tammuz 16.
  9. ^ Golding, Peretz. "The Baal Shem Tov—A Brief Biography – Jewish History". Chabad.org. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  10. ^ "לקוטי דבורים – חלק ג – שניאורסון, יוסף יצחק, 1880–1950 (page 39 of 405)". hebrewbooks.org. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  11. ^ http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=39166&st=%D7%99%D7%95%D7%90%D7%9C+%D7%91%D7%A2%D7%9C+%D7%A9%D7%9D&pgnum=42&hilite=e38977fb-dc8d-4e65-80bb-20ee1d6178cf
  12. ^ http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=39166&st=%D7%99%D7%95%D7%90%D7%9C+%D7%91%D7%A2%D7%9C+%D7%A9%D7%9D&pgnum=43&hilite=e38977fb-dc8d-4e65-80bb-20ee1d6178cf
  13. ^ "Ba'al Shem Tov". tovste.info. Retrieved October 28, 2014; 
    "The Ba'al Shem Tov". onthemainline. March 15, 2006. Retrieved October 28, 2014. 
  14. ^ ENCYCLOPAEDIA JUDAICA, Second Edition, Volume 10, pg 744, Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson]
  15. ^ http://www.otzadikim.com/AboutUs.aspx
  16. ^ The Besht: Magician, Mystic, and Leader, Immanuel Etke, UPNE, 2012 - Biography & Autobiography, pg 95
  17. ^ Comparative Perspectives on Judaisms and Jewish Identities, Stephen Sharot, Wayne State University Press, 2011, pg 59
  18. ^ a b ENCYCLOPAEDIA JUDAICA, Second Edition, Volume 10, pg 746, Avraham Rubinstein
  19. ^ "Meaningful Life Center". Meaningfullife.com. 2000-07-23. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  20. ^ ENCYCLOPAEDIA JUDAICA, Second Edition, Volume 10, pg 747, Avraham Rubinstein
  21. ^ Founder of Hasidism, distributor's description

References[edit]

The chief source for the Besht’s biography is Ber (Dov) ben Shmuel’s Shivchei ha-Besht, Kopys, 1814, and frequently republished, and traditions recorded in the works of various Hasidic dynasties — especially by the leaders of the Chabad movement.

For the Besht’s teachings, the following works are especially valuable:

  • Jacob Joseph ha-Kohen, Toldot Yaakov Yosef
  • Likutim Yekarim (Likut) — a collection of Hasidic doctrines
  • The works of Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezeritch
  • Tzava’at HaRivash, guidelines, doctrines and instructions for religio-ethical conduct
  • Keter Shem Tov, an anthology of his teachings, compiled mainly from the works of Jacob Joseph of Polonne and Likutim Yekarim.
  • Sefer Baal Shem Tov, a two-volume anthology of his teachings compiled from over 200 Hasidic texts, and constituting the most comprehensive collection.

Tzava’at HaRivash and Keter Shem Tov are the most popular anthologies and have been reprinted numerous times. All editions until recently, however, are corrupt, with numerous omissions, printing errors and confused citations. Both texts have now appeared in critical annotated editions with extensive corrections of the texts. (Tzva’at HaRivash 1975, fifth revised edition 1998; Keter Shem Tov - Hashalem 2004, second print 2008.) These new authoritative editions were edited by Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet who also added analytical introductions, copious notes of sources and cross-references, commentaries, numerous supplements and detailed indices, and were published by the Chabad publishing house Kehot in Brooklyn NY...

Further reading[edit]

  • Buxbaum, Yitzhak, Light and Fire of the Baal Shem Tov, ISBN 978-0826417725, Bloomsbury Academic, NY, 2005 (420 pp).
  • Etkes, Immanuel, The Besht: Magician, Mystic, and Leader (The Tauber Institute Series for the Study of European Jewry) Hardcover – December 21, 2004
  • Dubnow, Yevreiskaya Istoria, ii. 426–431
  • idem, in Voskhod, viii. Nos. 5–10
  • Heinrich Grätz, Gesch. der Juden, 2d ed., xi. 94–98, 546–554
  • Jost, Gesch. des Judenthums und Seiner Sekten, iii. 185 et seq.
  • A. Kahana, Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem, Jitomir, 1900
  • D. Kohan, in Ha-Sh. ;ar, v. 500–504, 553–554
  • Rodkinson, Toledot Baale Shem-Tov;ob, Königsberg, 1876
  • Schechter, Studies in Judaism, 1896, pp. 1–45
  • Zweifel, Shalom ’al-Yisrael, i.–iii.
  • Zederbaum, Keter Kehunah, pp. 80–103
  • Frumkin, ’Adat Ẓaddiḳim, Lemberg, 1860, 1865 (?)
  • Israel Zangwill, Dreamers of the Ghetto, pp. 221–288 (fiction).
  • Chapin, David A. and Weinstock, Ben, The Road from Letichev: The history and culture of a forgotten Jewish community in Eastern Europe, Volume 1. ISBN 0-595-00666-3 iUniverse, Lincoln, NE, 2000.
  • Rabinowicz, Tzvi M. The Encyclopedia of Hasidism: ISBN 1-56821-123-6 Jason Aronson, Inc., 1996.
  • Rosman, Moshe, Founder of Hasidism: ISBN 0-520-20191-4 Univ. of Calif. Press, 1996. (Founder of Hasidism by Moshe Rosman)
  • Rosman, Moshe, “Miedzyboz and Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov”, Zion, Vol. 52, No. 2, 1987, p. 177-89. Reprinted within Essential Papers on Hasidism ed, G.D. Hundert ISBN 0-8147-3470-7, New York, 1991.
  • Schochet, Jacob Immanuel, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, Liebermann, Toronto 1961
  • Schochet, Jacob Immanuel, Tzava’at Harivash — The Testament of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (annotated English translation with an introduction on the history and impact of this work and the controversy it evoked in the battle between Hasidism and its opponents), Kehot, Brooklyn NY 1998. Full text provided online
  • Schochet, Jacob Immanuel, The Mystical Dimension, 3 volumes, Kehot, Brooklyn NY 1990 (2nd ed. 1995)
  • Sears, David, The Path of the Baal Shem Tov: Early Chasidic Teachings and Customs Jason Aronson, Queens NY 1997 ISBN 1-56821-972-5
  • Singer, Isaac Bashevis, "Reaches of Heaven: A Story of the Baal Shem Tov", Faber, 1982

External links[edit]

Baal Shem Tov stories[edit]