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H asidism. Mysticism and Joy. H asidism. Mystical movement of devout Jews Chasid = devout, religious, pious 12th & 13th c. – Jehuda Chasid: Sefer Chasidim Best known is though the chasidism that was formed in the Eastern Europe in the 18th c. Ukraine, Poland

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H asidism


Mysticism and Joy

H asidism1

  • Mystical movement of devout Jews

    • Chasid = devout, religious, pious

    • 12th & 13th c. – Jehuda Chasid: Sefer Chasidim

  • Best known is though the chasidism that was formed in the Eastern Europe in the 18th c.

    • Ukraine, Poland

    • 1648 – Bogdan Chmelnicky massacres

    • Izrael ben Eliezer Baal Shem Tov – founder of East European Chasidism

    • Dov Bär – his student; chasidism  religious and spiritual system

    • First criticised by the ortodox rabbis – later became an ortodox movement

H asidism2

  • Optimistic movement, underline the role of happiness

  • Traces of goodness are everywhere

  • Tzadik = Just – spiritual leader and a saint that mediates the communication between man and God


There’s a Hasidic tale about a famous rabbi who was on his way to teach a village that was very interested in his ideas. This was going to be a very big event, and each Jew in the community made great preparations, pondering what question he or she might ask the wise man.

The rabbi finally arrived and, after the initial welcome, he was taken into a large room where people gathered to ask their questions. There was tremendous anticipation and excitement all around.

The rabbi walked silently around the room and then began to hum a Hasidic tune. Before long, everyone started humming along with his soft voice. As people became comfortable with his song, the rabbi started to dance. He danced everywhere in the room, and, one by one, every person danced with him. Soon everyone in the whole community was dancing wildly together. Each person’s soul was healed by the dance, and everyone experienced a personal transformation.

Later in the night, the rabbi gradually slowed the dance and eventually brought it to a stop. He looked into everyone’s eyes and said gently, “I trust that I have answered all of your questions.” 


  • Martin Buber (1878-1965) – philosopher – wrote popular books on chasidism

    • important cultural Zionist

    • promoted Jewish cultural renewal through his study of Hasidic Judaism

    • recorded and translated Hasidic legends and anecdotes

    • translated the Bible from Hebrew into German

    • numerous religious studies

    • advocated a bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state and argued for the renewal of society through decentralized, communitarian socialism


When asked which is the right way, that of sorrow or that of joy, Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev said: “There are two kinds of sorrow and two kinds of joy. When a person broods over his misfortunes, when he cowers in a corner and despairs of help – that is a bad kind of sorrow, concerning which it is said, ‘The Shechinah does not dwell in a place of dejection.’ The other kind [of sorrow] is the honest grief of a man who knows what he lacks. The same is true for joy. One who is devoid of inner substance and, in the midst of empty pleasures, neither feels that, nor tries to fill his lack, is a fool. [In contrast,] one who is truly joyful is like a man whose house has burned down, who feels his need deep in his soul and begins to build anew. Over every stone that is laid, his heart rejoices.”



Jewish Enlightment

Haskala enlightment
Haskala - Enlightment

  • Sceptical about chasidic mysticism

  • The end of the 18th and the 1st half of the 19th c.

    • Feudal system in Europe collapses

    • Joseph II, Edict of Tolerance and the following edicts

      • Jews became almost equal and were allowed to study at public schools

      • Banned from using hebrew and „Jewish language“ in their public and commercial records

      • Germanization: names to be chosen from a government-prepared list

      • Jews are liable for military service

      • Abolished rabbinical juridical autonomy

      • Did not gain the right of citizenship


Moses Mendelsohn, 18th c., Berlin

  • Son of a poor scribe

  • Studied in Berlin where he developed friendships with Kant and Lessing (main character of Lessing´s Nathan the Wise, spokesman for love of humanity)

  • philosophical treatises

  • "the world results from a creative act through which the divine will seeks to realize the highest good."

  • accepted the existence of miracles and revelation as long as belief in God did not depend on them

  • revelation can not contradict reason

  • reason can discover the reality of God, divine providence and immortality of the soul

  • The first to speak out against the use of excommunication as a religious threat.

  • He recognized the necessity of multiple religions and respected each one : call for religious tolerance and pluralism

  • Wanted to take the Jews out of a ghetto lifestyle and into secular society.

  • Translated Tanakh into German

  • Systematic demonstration of the compatibility of traditional Judaism with the precepts of the Enlightment


  • Importance of education

    • New Jewish schools

  • New rationalistic interpretation of traditional religious values  often conflicts with ortodox Jews

  • Reform of Judaism

Reform of judaism
Reform of Judaism

1) Reform movement in Germany

Organ music and quires introduced into the service

Service more in the national langugage

Skipping of some controversial parts (against assimilation) of the prayers

2) Conservative Judaism

New ortodoxy against reform judaism

Unity of the jewish people, continuity of the jewish tradition, importance of jewish science

3) Reconstructionism

Developed from the conservative judaism in North America since 1920´s

Judaism = a type of civilisation

Halakha is not considered binding, but is treated as a valuable cultural remnant that should be upheld unless there is reason for the contrary.

Secular morality has precedence over Jewish law and theology. It does not ask that its adherents hold to any particular beliefs, nor does it ask that Jewish law be accepted as normative.

Jewish personalities of the 19th century

Jewish Personalities of the 19th Century

Emancipation liberated exceptional intellectual capacities

Albert einstein
Albert Einstein

  • 1879-1955

  • Sojourned in Prague repeatedly (1911-12)

  • Gave here lectures on his Theory of Relativity (1921)

    •  “Soon I'll be fed up with the relativity. Even such a thing fades away when one is too involved with it.“ From a letter to his wife Elsa

  • 1933 has to emigrate from Germany to the USA - Princeton

Sigmund freud
Sigmund Freud

  • 1856-1939

  • Born in Moravia (Příbor/ Freiberg)

  • Lived in Vienna

  • Psychanalysis

  • Fled Nazis to London in 1938 where he died (euthanasis)

Edmund husserl
Edmund Husserl

  • 1859 - 1938

  • Born in Prostějov in Moravia

  • Founder of modern phenomenology

  • Got baptized (protestant)

  • Forced by Nazis to leave the university where he taught and in 1936 he had to move out of his appartment;

Gustav mahler
Gustav Mahler

  • 1860-1911

  • Born in Czech-Moravian highlands

  • Lived in Vienna and New York

  • Monumental symphonies

Franz kafka
Franz Kafka

  • 1883-1924

  • Born and lived in Prague

  • All his sisters murdered by Nazis in concentration camps

  • Convinced sionist – was fluent in hebrew and dreamt about the life in the land of Israel

  • Burried at the New Jewish Cemetery at Prague 3, Žižkov (Želivského metro stop)

Joseph roth
Joseph Roth

  • 1894-1939

  • Born in Galicia

  • Studied in Lvov and Vienna – felt lost after the dissipation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire

  • 1933 fled to Paris; his wife was killed by Hitler in frame of „euthanasy of mentally ill people“

Stephan zweig
Stephan Zweig

  • 1881-1942

  • Born Moritz Zweig in Vienna

  • World famous writer in 1920´s

  • Emigrated in 1938 and he and his wife suicided themselves near Rio de Janeiro when he learnt about the Nazi rampage

Lion feuchtwanger
Lion Feuchtwanger

  • 1884-1958

  • Born in Munich

  • Emigrated to Los Angeles

  • Active anti-fascist writer

  • Romans, historical romans, theatre plays...

  • Josephus Flavius, The Jewess from Toledo