Ba'al Schem Tow (1698/1700-1760)

  • “... and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh”

    Numerous legends surround the life of Israel ben Eliezer, known as Ba'al Shem Tow (Master of the Good Name). It is certain that he came from eastern Galicia and lived for a considerable time until his death in the schtetl of Medzhybizh in today's Ukraine. His disciples regarded him as the founder of Hassidism.

    Not dry scholarship, not endless study of holy scriptures, but a popular kabbalistic, mystical approach seems to have marked the piety of Ba'al Shem Tow. The “Besht”, as he was also called, emphasised the importance of prayer and rejected unduly high ascetic aspirations. One was not to deny the needs of the flesh. Joy, not sadness, should guide the believers in their quest for knowledge of God.

    With this he breaks with the strictly ascetic tradition. He was venerated not only as a religious model but also as a healer and advisor, and a man with miraculous ability which allowed him to foresee future events.

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    Audio (German): Stories of The Besht