Hasidism

The Messianic Secret of Hasidism

The Messianic Secret of Hasidism integrates  theoretical observations and historical events to recount the beginning of Hasidism as a story of a messianic movement. Opposing Gershom Scholem’s assertion that Hasidism was the “neutralization of the messianic Element,” the study examines the years 1740 – 1781 and explores the messianic secrets of the movement’s founding fathers. First, the messianic episode in the life of Rabbi Israel Ba'al Shem Tov (‘Master of the Good Name’), the legendary founder of Hasidism, is analyzed. Then, the messianic plan of his disciple, R. Yehiel Mikhal, The Zlotchover Maggid, is revealed and the first Hasidic court is described.
The original study was published in Hebrew by Haifa University Press/ Zmora-Bitan Publishing House Ltd in 2002, and was welcomed by scholarly  complements as well as an intellectual polemic. The updated English version was published by Brill Academic Publishers in 2006, with general editor  Prof. David. S. Katz (Tel Aviv University) and translator Joel Linsider.

Brill Academic Publishers, Leiden - Boston 2006.

In Response: Hasidism's Messianic Matrix

Mendel Piekarz is the only scholar today who still holds the view that Hasidism is an anti-messianic movement, and that the messianic excitement around the Lubavitcher Rebbe has erupted because the members of the Lubavitcher Hasidic movement simply did not read his learned articles.
Including: Guilty of Inaccuracy by Shmuel Krauss.
Ha'aretz, Arts and Letters (29.8.2003).
 

The First Tzaddik of Hasidism: The Zlotchover Maggid and His Circle

The mystery enveloping the identity of the first Hasidic Tzaddik has never been completely elucidated; The Besht, known as the legendary founder of Hasidim, was not crowned a Tzaddik and did not conduct a Hasidic court. Hence, the picture of R. Dov Ber the Maggid (Preacher) of Mezeritch, as his successor, is pure anachronism.
The title “The First Tzaddik of Hasidism” belongs to R. Yehiel Mikhal, known as the Zlotchover Maggid, who established an esoteric circle of messianic Kabbalists in 1772-1781 that formed the first Hasidic court.
Jewish Studies Quarterly 11 (2004), eds. Leora Batnitzky and Peter Schäfer , pp. 127-193.
   

 

Messianic Strains in Rabbi Israel Ba’al Shem Tov’s ‘Holy Epistle

Rabbi Israel Ba’al Shem Tov, the legendary founder of Hasidim, had performed a mystical practice called “the ascent of the soul” on New Year's Day, 5507 (1746). His account of his meeting with the Messiah in Heaven reveals the messianic chapter in his biography: his messianic hopes surrounding the year 5500 (1740) and his disappointment when this anticipation failed to materialize.
Jewish Studies Quarterly 6 (1999), eds. Joseph Dan and Peter Schäfer, pp. 55-70.