Ba'al Shem Tov

Ba'al Shem Tov

biographical name

(born c. 1700, probably Tluste, Podolia, Pol.—died 1760, Medzhibozh) Charismatic founder of Hasidism (c. 1750). An orphan, he worked in synagogues and yeshivas, and when he retired to the Carpathian Mountains to engage in mystical speculation he gained a reputation as a ba'al shem, or healer. From c. 1736 he lived in the village of Medzhibozh and devoted himself to spiritual pursuits. He was widely known as the Besht, an acronym of Ba'al Shem Tov. He rejected the asceticism of older rabbis and focused on communion with God, service of God in everyday tasks, and rescue of the sparks of divinity that, according to the Kabbala, are trapped in the material world. His discourses during Sabbath meals have been preserved; he left no writings of his own. He made a point of conversing with simple working people. Hasidism brought about a social and religious upheaval in Judaism, establishing a mode of worship marked by new rituals and religious ecstasy.

Variants of BA'AL SHEM TOV

Ba'al Shem Tov orig. Israel ben Eliezer

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