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Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 10Jews in Early Modern Poland$
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Gershon David Hundert

Print publication date: 1997

Print ISBN-13: 9781874774310

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781874774310.001.0001

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In Praise of the Ba’al Shem Tov: A User’s Guide to the Editions of Shivḥei haBesht

In Praise of the Ba’al Shem Tov: A User’s Guide to the Editions of Shivḥei haBesht

(p.183) In Praise of the Ba’al Shem Tov: A User’s Guide to the Editions of Shivḥei haBesht
Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 10

Moshe Rosman

Liverpool University Press

This chapter provides a critical analysis of the most studied document related to early hasidism known as Shivḥei haBesht (In Praise of the Ba'al Shem Tov): the collection of legends and stories about the putative founder of the movement, Israel Ba'al Shem Tov. While it is an eminently accessible text, it is also a complex one, particularly when used for historiographical purposes, and over the last 150 years or so scholars have been engaged in a seemingly endless spiral of deconstruction, interpretation, and application of it. The question which has been central to historical studies of Shivḥei haBesht has been its reliability as a historical source. Virtually no one accepts the stories at face value. Their obvious mythical content, and the book's very title, proclaim its hagiographic nature, and have induced scepticism among scholars and hasidim alike. The chapter then reviews the historiographical usefulness of the most significant available editions of Shivḥei haBesht.

Keywords:   hasidism, Shivḥei haBesht, Israel Ba'al Shem Tov, hasidim, historical studies, historiography

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