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Rabbi, Mystic, or Impostor?The Eighteenth-Century Ba'al Shem of London$
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Michal Oron

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781904113034

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781904113034.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 29 June 2022

Introduction to the English Edition

Introduction to the English Edition

(p.1) Introduction to the English Edition
Rabbi, Mystic, or Impostor?

Todd M. Endelman

Liverpool University Press

This chapter mentions Michal Oron's account of Samuel Falk, the Ba'al Shem of London, which complicates the conventional characterization of eighteenth-century Britain as the cradle of toleration, reason, liberty, science, and enlightenment. It discusses rational religion and Enlightenment science that discredited magic, superstition, prophecy, and wonders, along with ghosts, spirits, demons, and the like. It also describes well-born Christians and wealthy Jews who turned to Falk to answer questions and solve problems that resisted conventional approaches. The chapter talks about Falk as a charismatic religious figure, a ba'al shem, whose authority flowed from his virtuosity in employing divine names for magical ends rather than expounding Jewish law. It highlights London as the westernmost outpost of European Jewry in the eighteenth century.

Keywords:   Michal Oron, Ba'al Shem, Samuel Falk, rational religion, Enlightenment science, European Jewry

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