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The Religious Thought of Hasidism

Text and Commentary

By Norman Lamm

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"The academic study of Hasidism has in comparatively recent years begun to take seriously the primary sources of the movement, especially the books, essays, and other literature of its major exponents. Much like the popular views of Hasidism-which both romanticized and demonized it beyond recognition, identifying it with the 'shtetl' experience which it either glamorized or scorned - too many students of religion have fallen prey to reductionist tendencies.... Whatever their views, too many have failed to appreciate the intellectual power ad theological importance of the leaders of the movement over the last two centuries and more. These have been overlooked partly because of the reductionist inclination mentioned above and part because of a language problem: some hasidic thinkers created their own vocabulary; others were regrettably inarticulate; while others delivered their discourses orally....""""
~ From the Preface to The Religious Thought of Hasidism
Praise for The Religious Thought of Hasidism
Lamm... offers a monumental and magisterial history of Hasidism. When it emerged in the 18th century under the leadership of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (usually referred to as the Besht), Hasidism combined the mystical elements of Kabbalah with scrupulous observance of Torah and halakah. Because Hasidism was a strongly messianic movement, many critics accused it of not taking seriously enough halakic regulations concerning prayer and worship. Lamm's invaluable collection of primary documents narrates Hasidism's theological development. Each of the book's 18 chapters focuses on intellectual topics ranging from """"God and Providence"""" and """"The Soul"""" to """"Evil and Suffering"""" and """"Exile and Redemption."""" Lamm introduces each chapter with a brief historical and theological essay, then gathers the writings of various Hasidic teachers, from the 18th to the 20th centuries, on these topics. For example, the section on the soul opens with reflections on the """"ten sefirot of the Jewish soul,"""" by Rabbi Shneur Zalman (1745–1813), and includes a meditation on the soul by Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav (1772–1811), a grandson of the Besht, concluding with Rabbi Elimelekh of Lizhensk's (1717–1787) reflections on """"the soul as wife."""" Included here are also the writings of the Besht and his successor, the Maggid of Mezeritch (1710–1772), who continued his teacher's emphases on asceticism and mysticism. Lamm's collection opens the pages on a fascinating chapter in religious history and practice. Presents annotated translations of selected passages, arranged according to topic. Introductory sections provide an overview and a context for the material in each chapter, and a general introduction does the same for the volume as a whole. It sketches the historical background of the early Hasidic movement, charts its central ideas in their intellectual and historical context - the wider range of Jewish and mystical thought. Hasidic Thought is an encyclopedia of hasidic religious thought, covering all of the major topics and major hasidic thinkers of the first three generations.
~ Publishers Weekly
This immense anthology of the wisdom of the Hasidic teachers and sages, with extended commentary and relevant scholarly material, is almost unprecedented as a resource in English, with the possible exception of Louis Newman's Hasidic Anthology (1934). Readers not already familiar with these teachings in Hebrew should benefit tremendously from this carefully annotated collection of advice on every subject, from the nature of the godhead to the body. Recommended for most collections.
~ Library Journal

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Additional Info

Additional Info

Format Hardcover
SKU ktav1754
Publisher Ktav Publishing House