Issue 9.4: Hassidut

Hassidism was founded in the eighteenth century by Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer of Medzhibozh - better known as the Ba’al Shem Tov, or “Besht” - in the wake of the Khmelnitsky Massacres and Sabbateanism. Preaching the fundamental value of emotional religious fervor, appreciation of Godliness in the mundane, and the profundity of simple piety, Hassidism quickly took European Jewry by storm, attracting thousands of followers even as it became the subject of significant controversy.  Read more →

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Hassidism was founded in the eighteenth century by Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer of Medzhibozh – better known as the Ba’al Shem Tov, or “Besht” – in the wake of the Khmelnitsky Massacres and Sabbateanism. Preaching the fundamental value of emotional religious fervor, appreciation ... Read more →

Tearing Water: A Hassidic-Halakhic Vort

Many Torah commentators relating to the episode of Keri’at Yam Suf (the splitting of the Reed Sea) overlook a simple, yet significant question: why do Hazal, the Jewish Sages,[1] refer to the miracle as a keri’ah – tearing – whereas the Torah describes it as a beki’ah, splitting? God ... Read more →

The Leipzig Manuscript (MS Leipzig 1) & Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson’s Rules of Rashi’s Usage of Targum

I. Introduction The Leipzig Manuscript, or MS Leipzig 1, is a manuscript of the commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Yitzḥaki (known as Rashi) to the Pentateuch and five Megillot, stored in the Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig (Leipzig University Library), which is currently in the process of being ... Read more →

Sof Ma’aseh be-Mah’savha Tehilah: Torah Study and Actional Mitzvot in the Philosophy of Ḥabad Hassidism

Human beings are blessed with many remarkable faculties.  We experience and interact with the world through our five senses and develop an internal intellectual and emotional structure through our minds and hearts.  We often intuitively know which faculty to use for particular purposes.  We ... Read more →

The Fifth Maggid: Elie Wiesel and Hassidic Storytelling

In the aftermath of the passing of literary luminary Elie Wiesel, there has been no shortage of obituaries offered and lamentations lamented. In the 75 years following the Holocaust, the world has embraced Wiesel as the unofficial mouthpiece of a sometimes silent generation, but one region of ... Read more →

Elucidating a Selection from Tanya: What it Means to Educate a Child ‘According to His Way’

Tanya is a philosophical treatise on some of the most important and fundamental principles of Hassidut. It was written by the founder of Habad Hassidut, R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi, also known as the Alter Rebbe (or ‘elder teacher’). Though the study of Tanya is generally attributed to those ... Read more →

Tzimtzum, Divine and Human Constriction: A Meeting-Place Between the Divine and Human

“Whenever I think about God, I am at first saddened, because I realize that in thinking about Him, I distance myself from Him. But then I remember that since He is all, He is also my thought and my distance, and I am consoled,” said the 19th Century Hassidic thinker, Rabbi Nahman of ... Read more →

Making a Mikdash: Classical Understanding With Hassidic Illumination

Immediately following Moshe’s forty-day and forty-night stay atop Mount Sinai, Hashem instructs him to command Benei Yisrael to make a Mishkan. Hashem first tells Moshe that he should take Terumah, a monetary donation that is set aside for Hashem,[1] from anyone in Benei Yisrael “whose ... Read more →

A Perspective of Habad Hassidut Towards Music

The [Rebbe] noticed an old man among his listeners who obviously did not comprehend the meaning of his discourse. He summoned him to his side and said, “I perceive that my sermon is unclear to you. Listen to this melody and it will teach you how to cleave unto the Lord.” The [Rebbe] began ... Read more →

Neo-Hassidism and Modern Orthodox Spirituality: A Reappraisal

Part I: Spiritual Climate at Yeshiva University Last year, I wrote an article[1] for this magazine that attempted to unearth, in sweeping, largely utilitarian terms, the philosophical anatomy of Modern Orthodox Neo-Hassidism. While I was fortunate to receive mostly positive feedback on the ... Read more →

Of Obligation, Brotherhood, and Confusion: Why Did Yonah Run?

In the waning hours of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, the book of Yonah is read. A standard explanation for this practice is that Nineveh’s repentance and subsequent redemption following God’s decree serve as both a critical and timely reminder of the opportunity for ... Read more →

Morning After Memo to Religious Conservatives

The views expressed in the following article are solely those of the author, and are not intended to reflect or represent the views of Kol Hamevaser and its editors. For a while nearly everyone I met, mostly students and colleagues, looked and talked depressed and disappointed, whether because ... Read more →

Letter from the Editor

The history of mankind is made up of our stories. Jewish history is no exception; our collective narrative is comprised of a great meddling of stories, from the histories of Philo of Alexandria to the folk tales of Chelm. The stories we were told as children, the stories we tell others, the ... Read more →

Remembering and Reremembering the Menorah: Reflections of a Jewish Historian

Recently I concluded The Menorah: from the Bible to Modern Israel (Harvard University Press, 2016). This volume is a personal history, my own “take” on the biblical menorah and its place in western civilization. The Menorah was written with both the scholar and the lay reader in mind. My ... Read more →