Hasidic Judaism

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Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism, from the Hebrew חסידות -Chasidut in Sephardi Chasidus in Ashkenazi, meaning "piety" (literally "loving kindness",[1] IPA: [χɑsiduθ], [χɑsidus]), is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality and joy through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspects of the Jewish faith. It was founded in 18th Century Eastern Europe by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov as a reaction against overly legalistic Judaism. His example began the characteristic veneration of leadership in Hasidism as embodiments and intercessors of Divinity for the followers. Opposite to this, Hasidic teachings cherished the sincerity and concealed holiness of the unlettered common folk, and their equality with the scholarly elite. The emphasis on the Divine presence in everything gave new value to prayer and deeds of kindness, alongside Rabbinic supremacy of study, and replaced historical mystical (kabbalistic) and ethical (musar) asceticism and admonishment with optimism, encouragement and fervour. It sought to add to required standards of ritual observance, while relaxing others where inspiration predominated. Its communal gatherings celebrated soulful song and storytelling as forms of mystical devotion.

Hasidism comprises part of contemporary Ultra-Orthodox Judaism, alongside the previous Talmudic Lithuanian-Yeshiva approach and the Oriental Sephardi tradition. Its charismatic mysticism has inspired non-Orthodox Neo-Hasidic thinkers and influenced wider modern Jewish denominations, while its scholarly thought has interested contemporary academic study. Each Hasidic dynasty follows its own principles; thus Hasidic Judaism is not one movement, but a collection of separate individual groups with some commonality. There are approximately 30 larger Hasidic groups, and several hundred minor groups. Though there is no one version of Hasidism, individual Hasidic groups often share with each other underlying philosophy, worship practices, dress and songs.

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