A fascinating chat with a Hasidic rabbi

by Phil Schneider

Hasidic Rabbis are generally known for singing and soul-inspired living.  This is a rather true stereotype.  But, there is so much more to Hasidism than that.  The Hasidic customs in Judaism do not go back thousands of years, but they do go back hundreds of years.

The Beginning of Hasidism – False Messiah

Two hundred and fifty years ago, the Jews in Poland and West Russia went through a massive emotional whirlwind.  They had lived a generally difficult life for centuries.  Poverty was rampant, but tradition reigned.  The Jewish people always clung to the hopes that one day the Messiah would come and deliver them from their troubles and bring them back to Jerusalem.  A few hundred years ago, like wildfire, the rumor spread that the Messiah had come.  His name was Shabtai Zvi.  The hopes were enormous.  But not all agreed.  In the end, it became clear that he was a hoax, and the time had not yet come.  However, the damage was done.

Baal Shem Tov

The Rabbi who may have made the greatest impact on Judaism following that debacle was the Baal Shem Tov.  He realized that the Jewish people’s spirit was broken.  He infused a super-positive, song-filled attitude into the daily life of the Jewish people.  This was like cold water on a sweltering hot day for the souls of the masses.  In time, his messages spread like wildfire and Hasidism exists and thrives until today throughout the Jewish world.

This small glimpse via this casual interview allows us to understand the way of thinking and feeling that so many have in the Hasidic groups of Judaism.


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