A History of Hasidism in Context

By the Grace of G-d 
Copyright © Nathaniel Segal 

Nathaniel Segal

April 2010 - August 2014


1648-9 1683 1682 - 1725 1740 1791 1815 1848
transition from:
to:  modernity
Cossack massacres in Eastern Europe –
Jewish population movement trend reverses.
Formerly from west to eastern Europe.
Now, a tendency to move westward,
away from Slavic lands.
Peace of Westphalia
in Central and Western Europe
Ottoman Turks repulsed from Podolia Province, (left bank of Dniester River in today's Ukraine)

Treaty of Karlowitz ends the Great Turkish War – 1699
Reign of Peter "The Great" in Russia

The Great Northern War – 1700-21

1740 onward: 
The Industrial Revolution

1730 - 1790:  The Enlightenment
Czarina Katherine
"The Great" annexes Poland;
also annexes Ottoman lands along the north shore of the Black Sea.

Russia gains a warm-water port.
End of Napoleonic
aggression –
Confederacy of the Rhine
German Confederation

fully flourishes – primarily in Poland, Ukraine, and Eastern Galicia (eastern Austria-Hungary).
Mass exodus of Jews
from the Russian Pale of Jewish Settlement begins in the wake of the Czar's "May Laws."

A Hasidism Begins
General History

Rabbi Israel, the Ba'al Shem Tov
son of Eliezer and Sarah
  1698 - 1760
Born in Okopy, Podolia Province (Poldil's'ka, today's Ukraine).  Known by Jews as Okup or Okop.
Podolia was then part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  Israel was born in a recently civilianized military outpost overlooking the Dniester (Dnister) River valley from the north near today's Moldova and close to today's northern Romania (then, under Ottoman suzerainty).  The military outpost remained from Jan Sobieski's forces repelling Ottoman Turkish expansionism northward (1683; 1692-99).  Three miles from the then-Polish city Kamieniec Podolski (today's Kam'yanets'-Podil's'kyy, Ukraine).
Because of poverty, R. Israel's parents lived in a below-ground battle emplacement – okop meaning trench in Slavic languages.  Newly named Okop Góry Swiȩty Trojcy (Hill Fortification of the Holy Trinity) as a civilian town;  officially shortened to Swiȩty Trojcy.
Podolia Province.  The left bank of the Dniester (Dnister) River downstream from the Seret River (southeastward) in today's Ukraine.  (Not to be confused with the Siret River in Romania.)  The Carpathian Mountain Range lies to the southwest and west.  Volhynia (Wołiń) lies to the northwest of Podolia.
Ba'al Shem Tov –
"Possessor  [ Owner / Master ]  of a Good Name" –
. . . the crown of a good name surpasses them all  [ Torah scholarship, the priesthood, and royalty ]
– Mishnah, Tractate Avot 4:13
  • a good name = a good reputation
  • honored for good works between Man and his / her Fellow
Judaism has always been orthopractic and "two-dimensional" —
  • Between Man and G-d
  • Between Man and his / her Fellow

Ba'al Shem –
"Possessor  [ Master ]  of a Name";  an appellation for –
  • a good reputation
  • Possessor of a Name – G-d's Hebrew name(s)
  • a Tzadik – someone whose righteousness surpasses that of a Hasid

an appellation - This title had been used for several generations.  The leader of a study group of mystics was called a ba'al shem.  The plural form is ba'alei shem.  His mastery was to know how to use G-d's Hebrew name (or names) to dispel dysfunction from a community.

Such dysfunction included illnesses, both physical and mental as well as the illnesses of domestic animals, difficult childbirths, infertility, weather disasters which interfere with the water or food supply, political and religious oppression from the neighboring Gentiles or their overlords, danger from rampaging gangs of thieves and murderers, and so on.

Jews in their community and the surrounding communities treated the ba'alei shem as professionals.  Clientele was established by the ba'al shem issuing a slip of paper which the client / patient inserted into an amulet.  Common belief was that the ba'al shem had written some permutation(s) of G-d's Hebrew name(s) to effect a remedy.  However, these notes belonged to the ba'al shem, to be returned to him when he wanted.

Rabbis deferred to the judgement of ba'alei shem as far as using G-d's name in ways and situations that a rabbi himself would not do.  Nevertheless, these mystics were secretive about what they actually wrote.

Jews outside the circle of mystics were not supposed to look at the content, the texts, of these slips of paper, and apparently they didn't.  I'm not aware of any surviving notes.  The practice of the mystics has been shrouded in mystery.

1440 - Gutenberg's printing press

1470s - first printed Hebrew books

1482 - Talmud was printed in Guadalajara, Spain (perhaps only parts)

1485-92 - first printed Mishnah by J. S. Soncino

1488? - first printed complete edition of the Hebrew Bible (Italy)

around 1500 - Gershom Soncino establishes his family's printing press; Constantina (Constantinople?)

1511 - Daniel Bomberg's Hebrew printing press in Venice, Italy

1517 - first printing of Hebrew Bible (Venice)

1519-23 - the Talmud is printed by Daniel Bomberg

1546-49 - Mishnah is printed in Venice

1553-54 - the Pope orders burning of existing printed copies of the Talmud in Rome & Venice.

1558 - The Book of the Zohar - first printed in Italy

1559 - Talmud appears on the first Christian index of forbidden books

Machiavelli 1469 - 1527
Thomas More 1478 - 1535

1540 onward: The Scientific Revolution

Copernicus 1473 - 1543
Martin Luther 1483 - 1546
Johannes Kepler 1571 - 1630
Galileo 1564 - 1642
Isaac Newton 1642 - 1727

1683 - Ottoman Turks repulsed from the left bank of Dniester (Dnister) River in today's Ukraine.
1683 - Maximum extent of the
Ottoman Empire into Europe.
1699 - Treaty of Karlowitz ends the Great Turkish War (January 26, 1699).

1688 - Hebrew printing press in Amsterdam

From age seven, Israel studies for four years with itinerant hidden mystics.  With time, these mystics come to be called tsadikim – "righteous saints" in Hebrew;  singular is tsadik.  Hasidism will crystallize around tsadikim in the next few generations or so.
At 11 years old, Israel is invited to join this elite fraternity of hidden tsadikim.  At 14 years old, as a full-fledged member, he begins to wander incognito on holy errands for the group.
Rabbi Adam Ba'al Shem Tov of Ropshitz (Ropczyce), Galicia, Poland, about 100 miles west of today's L'viv, Ukraine, leads the hidden tsadikim, but never meets Rabbi Israel, then only called a ba'al shem.
R. Adam corresponds through intermediaries such as his son Leib.
Sends R. Israel Kabbalistic manuscripts.
Despite his age, 14 years old, Israel presents 5 ingenious ideas that would change the landscape of Judaism (in the column at right).
Hasidism introduces remedies –
  • Revitalize Jewish life after the Cossack predations
  • Immunize Jewish life to survive the future Russian imperialism
  • Undo the aberration of a Jewish elite exploiting their unfortunate brethren
  • Prepare the world for the coming of the Messiah, descended from the dynasty of King David
1648 - 1649  Cossack Massacres

The Great Northern War – 1700-21

Sweden against Russia, Denmark, and Saxony.

Sweden is defeated.

Most battles are fought on northern Polish territory.
Ropshitz, today's:
Ropczyce, Podkarpacie, Poland - West Galicia

Sometimes, R. Israel signs his name 'from Okup';  sometimes 'from Tlust' (Tłuste in Polish).  He could have run away from Okup to Tłuste before seven years old – he wasn't a well-behaved orphan in the eyes of the community.  He enjoyed solitude in the forests despite how householders considered them dangerous.
Another possibility is that he made Tłuste his home base during his teenage years.  (Some say that he becomes a bahelfer – an assistant teacher there before he settles in Brod.)   Tłuste was a village near Okup.  Wiesel (1972) locates it on left-bank Dnister across the river from Horodenka, Ukraine, about 45 miles (or 70 km) west of Okup.  A Ukrainian village, Tovste, appears there on contemporary maps.
When he is 18, he settles in the town of  Brody (today's Ukraine), one of the larger towns (a city?) in Volhynia.  There he becomes a bahelfer – an assistant teacher, in keeping with promoting Jewish education.
Raising an orphan in his house in Brody, Rabbi Abraham Gershon (usually known as Rabbi Gershon Kitover, R. Israel's future brother-in-law), takes on Israel as a tutor for this boy.
Israel meets R. Gershon's sister, Leah Rachel.  They marry despite strong objections from her brother – Israel is not believed to be a scholar but an ignoramus.
  1. Concern, not condemnation – emphasize innate good instead of portraying punishment for sin
  2. Encourage praises of G-d and the recital of Psalms
  3. Uplift the sincere and simple people
  4. Bolster economic stability
  5. Promote Jewish education for both young and old
Rabbi Israel becomes the personification of these values.
Brody – about 50 miles (80 km) northeast of today's L'viv, Ukraine.

Rabbi Abraham Gershon Kitover, originally from Kutów  (today's Kuty, Ukraine, if I am not mistaken).

As a member of the hidden tsadikim, R. Israel hides his scholarship, at first even from his wife.

They have two children – Tzvi, a boy, and Adel, a girl.

At around age 26, R. Israel and his wife move to Bucovina Province, a region in the northeastern Carpathian Mountains.
There, R. Israel's wife supports them by running an inn.  R. Israel poses as a lime porter who spends his week in the Carpathian Mountains.
Bucovina Province – now split between Ukraine and Romania and populated by ethnic Ukrainians, Romanians, and Russians.  Right bank of the Prut River.
They seem to have relocated between Polish/Ukrainian Kuty and Kosiv – Kitev and Kossov, according to Wiesel (1972), near today's Chernivsti, Ukraine (11 km apart).  It wouldn't surprise me if today's Kuty is the Polish-named Kutów where Rabbi Gershon came from – 'Kitover'.  Okup, where the Ba'al Shem Tov was born, is about 60 miles (100 km) to the east.

R. Israel studies the Torah intensively and meditates while alone, secluded in the Carpathian Mountains, for 10 years.  Among his subjects, he studies the Kabbalistic manuscripts from R. Adam Ba'al Shem.
Prepares himself until he is 36 years old for the role of popularizing Hasidism – the Jewish mystical dimension to be presented to ordinary people.
As his stature grows, Rabbi Israel earns the title "Ba'al Shem Tov" within the circle of hidden tsadikim.
By the time Rabbi Israel reaches the age of 29 (1727), change has swept through many Jewish communities.
1730 - 1790 The Enlightenment

1740 onward: The Industrial Revolution
Rabbi Israel becomes publicly known as the Ba'al Shem Tov from age 36 (1734) when Rabbi Adam Ba'al Shem Tov had just passed away  (also see section E).

B Who is a Hasid? Also spelled 'Chasid'

A Hasid observes the tenets of Judaism above and beyond the letter of the law. "Study is not primary; rather action is."  Mishnah, Tractate Avot 1:17

The term hasid appears in both the Mishnah and Talmud. Especially see the Mishnah, Tractate Avot, Chapter 5.

This word is a derivative of the Hebrew word hesed – kindness (also spelled chesed) Also, Mishnah, Tractate Avot 2:8 – "Rabbi Yosei HaCohen is a Hasid."

"The one who says, 'Mine is yours, but let yours be yours,' is a Hasid." Mishnah, Tractate Avot 5:10 – However, not to the foolish extent of becoming a ward of the community.

"A Gentile who accepts the Seven Commandments [of G-d's Covenant with Noah and his descendants] and is careful to observe them is one of the pious of the people of the world (hasidei umot ha'olam), and he or she has a portion in the World to Come."
Hasidei is a plural form for Hasid.
Maimonides' Code - The Book of Judges, "The Laws of Kings and Their Wars." Chapter 8, ruling 11.

C Hasidic Teachings Earlier Hasidei Ashkenaz * – in contrast

Piety Piety

Altruism Altruism

Concern about people, not condemnation Preoccupied with theory

Optimistic attitude – gladness
Banish sadness and negative thoughts
Asceticism, stoicism  (see Scholem)

Religious and ethical stringency – observance above and beyond the letter of the law Religious and ethical stringency – above and beyond the letter of the law

Heart and feelings are guides
Spontaneous feelings
Experience and intuition
Scholarship and logic

Encourage recital of Psalms and Divine praise
Both common people and elites can serve the Almighty through singing and dancing
Elites must bear the iniquities of the generation by undergoing moral tests and self-induced tribulations

Mindfulness of Divine Providence – learning how to serve the Almighty
  from what one sees and hears
Din Shamayim – Harsh heavenly judgment is just

Promote Jewish education for adults as well as children
Populist movement;  all inclusive
Uplift sincere and simple people
Elitist fellowship of Fearers of the L-rd gathered around a Pietist Sage
Exclusiveness, separatist
Led by members of the Kalonymos dynasty

Seeks to expand the movement to the entire Jewish world Largely confined to the Archdiocese of Mainz, Speyer, and Wörms **

Unconcern toward neighbors' observance of Christianity
But fear of "Russification" –
    the Russian elites' and Russian Church's desire to convert Jews
Fear that the Christian establishment cannot protect Jews as before. ***
Fearful of Christian neighbors
Avoidance of all things Christian

Jews in rural areas are not especially strange to their non-Jewish neighbors. Marginal non-Jews massacre Jews *** on the way "to purify Jerusalem" –
    the Crusades.
Disenfranchised non-Jews begin to believe blood libels. ***

Scholars make mysticism accessible to ordinary Jews. Mysticism is confined to accomplished, older scholars.

Reasons for suffering are unfathomable Justification of Jewish suffering due to sins

Bolster economic stability

Anticipation of redemption ushering in the Messianic Era –
"When will the Messiah come?"
"When your [ the Ba'al Shem Tov's ] wellsprings spread outward [ reaching the ends of the earth ]."
Lacrimose concept of Jewish history
Martyrdom for the faith is an ideal

De-emphasis of observing the calendar days which commemorate tragedies Commemorate each new tragedy

* Pietism – see Stowe, "Hasidei Ashkenaz," Alienated Minority, Chap 6.
Book of the Devout (Hebrew), Rabbi Judah HaHasid, 1150 -1217
Rokeach (Hebrew), Eleazar of Wörms, 1160?-1237?
(In one source, I saw that
Eleazar is the son of Judah, son of Kalonymos, who received from Judah Hasid, son of Samuel, son of Kalonymos the Elder.)

** Called by Jews "Shum" – Shpeyer, Wörms, Mainz.  (In Hebrew transliteration, Wörms begins with letter vav which also serves as a vowel.  Also, Germans pronounce Speyer as in the Hebrew transliteration.)  For Jews of the region, Wörms was pronounced Virmiza or Virmayza;  Mainz was pronounced Mah'yents.  In Parisian French, they were pronounced Garmayza and Maghentsa.
These three towns were chartered by the royal crown and surrounded by ecclesiastical lands forming one archdiocese in the late 11th and early 12th centuries.  Jews had been granted special privileges.

*** See Stowe, "Crusades," Alienated Minority, Chap 5.

D Socio-Economic General History / General Life

1500s - Polish authorities begin to shape a central Jewish leadership. In 1503, Polish King Alexander appoints Rabbi Jacob Polak as "Rabbi of the Jews." In 1551, Jews in Great Poland themselves choose a chief rabbi and religious judges by the decision of the state. Jewish autonomy expands.
Council of Four Lands

Social stratification - Torah Scholars and the wealthy become aloof from ordinary Jews.
Copernicus 1473 - 1543; born in Toruń (Thorn), Poland, a city off-limits to Jews.
Great Poland: the homeland of the Polish people.
1572 - Jagello dynasty in Poland dies out.  Poland becomes weak and defenseless.
1440 - Gutenberg's printing press
1517 - first printing of Hebrew Bible
1519-23 - the Talmud is printed by Daniel Bomberg

Until the 16th century, about 95% of the world's Jews lived in Muslim lands.

By 1700, the balance would shift.  Increasingly, the majority of Jews are living in Christian Europe.
1540 onward: The Scientific Revolution
1543 - Martin Luther turns against Jews
1559 - the Talmud appears on the first Christian index of forbidden books
1553 - 1603 Elizabethan Age
Johannes Kepler 1571 - 1630
Galileo 1564 - 1642
Descartes 1596 - 1650
1618 - 1648 Thirty Years War

1648 - 1649 Cossacks of Ukraine, under their hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky, rise against their absentee Polish masters, venting their anger especially at Jews.
100,000 Jews perish between 1648 and 1658.
Cossacks slaughter indiscriminately – an untold number of Polish Catholics are also murdered.
1654 - Russian Czar invades Lithuania and White Russia (Belarus);  expels Jews.
1648 - 1649  Cossack Massacres;  Orthodox Ukrainians from the east invite Tatar khanates to attack Catholics in the west.
1642 - 1649 English Civil War
ca. 1654 - Charles X of Sweden invades a weak Poland from the west  (Roth pp. 324-6).

Heresy of Shabbetai Zvi - 1665 onward
Declares himself to be the Messiah  (see section G).
When he was given the choice of either converting to Islam or being executed, he justified himself becoming a Muslim.

Before 1648 - 10,000 inhabitants live in Miȩdzybóż, Podolia (Medzhybizh in today's Ukraine), where the Ba'al Shem Tov would live the last two decades of his life.  (Pronounced by Jews as Mezhbizh, Mezhbuzh, or Mezhəbuzh.)  An important commercial and population center in Podolia, about 160 miles (260 km) east of Lwów (L'viv) and a similar distance southwest of Kiev (Kyyiv).  About 25 km east of Khmel'nyts'kyy at the juncture of the Boh and Buźek Rivers (in Ukrainian, Buh and Buzhok).
A fortress town, the last line of defense against Cossacks and Tatars from the east.  Destroyed in the Cossack Massacres.  Returns to Polish hands in 1686 in the face of a Polish offensive against the Turks.
Miȩdzybóż is a town chartered by landowners, the Czartoryski family.  This family's archive is in Kraków, Poland  (Rosman).
In Miȩdzybóż, the non-Jewish population availed themselves of the Ba'al Shem Tov's services, calling him kabalista and doktor  (Rosman, p. 57 n.59).
Pronounced Miendzhybi in Polish.
By 1740, a Polish administrative center and one of the largest towns in Ukraine.  Population is then about 5,000, one-third Jewish.
1700 - 1,000 Jews emigrate from Europe to the Holy Land.
1648 - the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth contains ten million inhabitants.  40% are ethnic Poles;  others are Kievan, White, Black, and Red (Ruthenian) Rus'; Lithuanians; Estonians; Germans; Armenians; and Jews.  A large majority of Jews live in small towns and cities.  90% of the non-Jewish population lives on the land as peasants.  The Polish government maintains a laissez-faire policy toward Jews and non-Christian minorities, but not so to Orthodox Christians or Protestants  (Rosman).
1681 - 1,500 Jews live under Turkish rule in the entirety of Podolia.
1683 - Ottoman Turks repulsed from part of Podolia (left bank of Dnister River in today's Ukraine)
Turkish War of 1672 ends in 1686 in Miȩdzybóż.
1682 - 1725  Reign of Peter "The Great" in Russia;  Jews are victimized.
1700 - 1721 The Great Northern War.  Russia defeats Sweden.  Most battles are fought on northern Polish territory.  Central authority in Poland weakens even with economic improvement.
John Locke 1632 - 1704
Isaac Newton 1642 - 1727
Alexander Pope 1688 - 1744
Jonathan Swift 1667 - 1745

In Miȩdzybóż, intergroup friction occurs, but not frequently.  On occasion, the Church is in conflict with the Jewish community.  Occasional fights break out between Christians and Jews.  Nevertheless, Jews and Christians cooperate when their interests coincide.  Strife within the Jewish community is not uncommon, usually between the Jewish elites and the rest of the community  (Rosman). 1701 - 1740 War of Spanish Succession

1733 - 1735 War of the Polish Succession

1741 - The minor commercial center Tłuste, having been a home for Rabbi Israel before he arrives in Brody, suffers from passing Muskovite troops.  This town does not appear on contemporary maps.  The Ba'al Shem Tov is already living in Miȩdzybóż in 1741. 1740 - 1748 War of the Austrian Succession

Glückel of Hameln - relative prosperity for Jews in Western Europe
1645 - 1724
1730 - 1790 The Enlightenment
1740 onward: The Industrial Revolution

Hasidism Consolidates
General History

1734 - Rabbi Adam Ba'al Shem from Ropshitz (Ropczyce), Poland, dies. 1683 - Ottoman Turks repulsed from Podolia (left bank of Dniester River (Dnister) in today's Ukraine)

1682 - 1725  Reign of Peter "The Great" in Russia;  Jews are victimized.

1734 - R. Israel Ba'al Shem Tov makes himself known by visiting Jewish settlements in Podolia and Volhynia Provinces.  This region is north of the Dniester (Dnister) River in today's Ukraine.  The Ba'al Shem Tov had grown up in this region.  His wife was from Brody, one of the larger towns (a city?) in Volhynia.

Previous to 1734, he had passed himself off as ignorant of Torah learning.  Only his wife – sister of a Rabbi in Brody – was eventually aware of his scholarly attainments.  Also, it seems that before 1734, the Ba'al Shem Tov worked for awhile as a lime porter from up in the Carpathian Mountains, in the Province of Bucovina, across the Dniester and Prut Rivers, so that he could be alone to study and meditate.
The name Volhynia harkens back to an older time, before the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had incorporated the territories of the Kievan Rus' and the Red Rus' (Ruś Czerwona).  Galicia is a more recent regional name which corresponds to the older province of Volhynia around the town Halycz (now Halych in Ukraine) inhabited originally by the Red Rus'.  Polish names for this region have been Ruś Halicko Wołyńska / Ruś Czerwona.
When Jews began to emigrate to America from this region in the late 1800s, Galizien (German spelling) was a far-flung region of the Kingdom of Austria (House of Hapsburg), a northern buffer between the Kingdom of Hungary and the Russian Empire.  Jews made up 5-10% of the population.  Galicia, as a Jewish cultural region, extended from where the Ba'al Shem Tov had been born northeast to Krakau (German spelling).
It remains a cultural region of Ukrainians - latinized as Ruthenians.  The name Volhynia now has only been used as the name of a Russian / Soviet guberniya / oblast.

1740 - R. Israel Ba'al Shem Tov settles in Mezhbuzh, Podolia  (Medzhybizh in today's Ukraine).  (Polish spelling is Miȩdzybóż;  pronounced Miendzhybi by Poles.)  Jews also call the town Mezhbizh and Mezhəbuzh.
He selects a circle of 60 disciples.  They will live in select Jewish communities, but convene in Mezhbuzh from time to time.

1759, summer - Archbishop Sekulski and Bishop Tikulski of L'vov (L'viv), § Ukraine, sponsor a debate between Jacob Frank (1726-1791) and three Hasidic rabbis.  The rabbis are victorious.  The debate takes place one year before the death of R. Israel Ba'al Shem Tov.  (Is a text of the debate extant?)  The date, 26 Tammuz, is made a holiday.  (See section G.)
After Frank's death, his followers are called Frankists.

1760 - R. Israel Ba'al Shem Tov passes away during the summer in Mezhbuzh (Miȩdzybóż in Polish), Podolia, Ukraine, where he had settled as leader of the nascent Hasidic movement. 1730 - 1790 The Enlightenment

1740 onward: The Industrial Revolution

End of an era, birth of a new one.
The Ba'al Shem Tov becomes legendary.

1760 - Rabbi Tzvi, the Ba'al Shem Tov's son, takes his father's seat.
References to ba'alei shem become fewer.  Rabbi Tzvi is a tsadik.

Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezritch (Velyki Mezhirichi, Ukraine) is a senior disciple of the Ba'al Shem Tov.  He has been a preacher, a maggid.  As a maggid from the town of Mezritch, he is called, in Yiddish usage, "the Mezritcher Maggid," instead of being referred to by name.  (born 1710 in Volhynia - d. 1770) The town of Mezritch is about 135 miles (220 km) northeast of L'viv and 180 miles (300 km) west of Kyyiv (Kiev), and about 40 km east of Rivne on the road to Kyyiv.  Highway E40 across Ukraine (from west to east) connects the cities L'viv, Rivne, Zhytomyr, and Kyyiv (Kiev).  Mezritch is off the highway to the north about 8 km.  Mezritch is about 90 miles (145 km) north of Mezhbuzh.

1761 - The Ba'al Shem Tov's inner circle of tsadikim elect Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezritch to become the next leader of the Hasidic movement instead of the the Ba'al Shem Tov's son, Rabbi Tzvi.  R. Tzvi steps down.
Leadership of the Hasidic movement as a whole will not be inherited.
Place names in Crown Poland within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth –
Lwów (L'viv), Równe (Rivne), Zytomierz (Zhytomyr), Kijów (Kyyiv), Miȩdzybóż (Mezhbuzh).
Yiddish speakers may call Lwów by its German name, Lemberg.

R. Dov Ber has 300 disciples which include most of the Ba'al Shem Tov's inner circle.

R. Dov Ber disperses the Ba'al Shem Tov's inner circle, as well as his new disciples, to promote Hasidism throughout Eastern Europe.  Among his disciples are 39 who lead and found their own dynasties.  Each tsadik develops his own style.
R. Dov Ber himself does not travel, although the Ba'al Shem Tov did.

1770 - R. Dov Ber, the Maggid, passes away in the late autumn of 1770 in Mezritch. 1776 - The U.S. Declaration of Independence

Jews in Eastern Europe are now calling leaders of Hasidism "Rebbe."  A rebbe is a tsadik, but not all tsadikim are rebbes. 1791 - Czarina Katherine "The Great" annexes the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Ottoman lands along the north shore of the Black Sea.  The nascent Hasidic movement is now mostly within the Russian Empire.

F Opposition – Mitnagdim
General History

Social stratification – Torah Scholars and the wealthy are aloof from ordinary Jews.  This elite feels threatened by how Hasidic doctrine enables ordinary Jews. 1682 - 1725  Reign of Peter "The Great" in Russia;  Jews are victimized.

G Mystical Antecedents False Mysticism General History

"Ba'alei Shem" – Folk healers, diagnosticians, scholars, and teachers of Kabbalah (the Jewish Esoteric Tradition) in small circles of students.
"Masters of G-d's Name(s)" (or "Possessors of a [Good] Reputation")
  (See Mishnah, Tractate Avot 4:13, section A above)
1590 onwards:
Ba'alei shem from the Rhine River Valley on the west to east of the Dnieper River (Dnipr)
(Russia's western extent)

[ Germanic, Slavic, and Hungarian Europe ]

1453 - Constantinople falls to the Ottomans
   Moscow becomes the "Third Rome"

through about 1550 - the Italian Renaissance

Machiavelli 1469 - 1527
Copernicus 1473 - 1543
Thomas More 1478 - 1535
Martin Luther 1483 - 1546

Rabbi Elijah Ba'al Shem
ca. 1533 - ca. 1638  (born in Kraków)

1590 – appears in Wörms as a Ba'al Shem
1624-5 – relocates to Prague

The phenomenon of wandering mystics begins under the direction of Rabbi Elijah Ba'al Shem.  To a one, these men study the Kabbalah (the Jewish Esoteric Tradition), but as a society their mission is to elevate the spiritual level of the Jewish people.

Halachist rabbis have been openly studying the Kabbalah since the Zohar was printed in 1558.

1540 - 1700 The Scientific Revolution

1553 - 1603 Elizabethan Age

Johannes Kepler 1571 - 1630

Galileo 1564 - 1642

1607 - Jamestown

1611 - King James Bible published

1629 - Massachusetts Bay Company

Rabbi Joel Ba'al Shem
1613 - ?
1633-38 – studies with Elijah Ba'al Shem in Prague
1638 – becomes a Ba'al Shem in Zamoshtch (Zamość), Poland, about 70 miles (110km) northwest of today's L'viv, Ukraine.
Shabbetai Zvi - 1626 - 1676, Smyrna, Turkey
False Messiah
1665 - travels to the Holy Land
Nathan of Gaza (1643-80) claims to be
the herald of the false messiah.
Descartes 1596 - 1650

1618 - 1648 Thirty Years War

1648 - 1649  Cossack Massacres
Rabbi Adam Ba'al Shem Tov of Ropshitz (Ropczyce), Galicia, Poland, about 110 miles (175 km) west of today's L'viv, Ukraine. §

fl. 1709 - d. 1734

R. Adam never meets R. Israel, then only called a ba'al shem, but R. Adam corresponds through intermediaries such as his son Leib.
Sends R. Israel Kabbalistic manuscripts.
'Adam' may be an abbreviation for A'braham D'avid M'oses.
Jacob Frank 1726 - 1791, Podolia Province, today's Ukraine
A primary 18th century successor of Shabbetai Zvi

1759 - L'vov (L'viv), § Ukraine, summer;
Hasidic Rabbis defeat Frank
in a debate.
26 Tammuz is made a holiday.
John Locke 1632 - 1704
Isaac Newton 1642 - 1727

1730 - 1790 The Enlightenment

1740 onward: The Industrial Revolution

§  Known to German speakers as Lemberg;  Lwów in Polish.

H Kabbalah / Cabala
(the Jewish Esoteric Tradition)

General History

1492 - Expulsion of Jews from Spain

1496 - Expulsion of Jews from Portugal

Many refugees establish themselves in the lands of the Ottoman Empire, including the Holy Land.
Scholars are especially attracted to Safed (see below).
1488? - First printed complete edition of
the Hebrew Bible - Italy

around 1500 - Gershon Soncino establishes his family's printing press; Constantina (Constantinople?)

1511 - Daniel Bomberg's Hebrew printing press in Venice, Italy
1453 - Constantinople falls to the Ottomans
   Moscow becomes the "Third Rome"
1457 - Gutenberg Bible
1492 - Reconquista complete
1499 - Vasco Da Gama reaches India for Portugal
1500s - Spain begins to acquire a New World empire

Jewish community of Safed, Galilee, Israel, flourishes.

Center of both Jewish mysticism and Talmud scholarship.

Rivals Jerusalem.
Rabbi Joseph Karo, known as the Beit Yosef, 1488 - 1575
   (Beit Yosef is the name of his first composition.)
R. Joseph Karo's Ways of Jewish Life: Shulchan Arukh Code, 1563 in Safed, Galilee, Israel

Rabbi Moses Isserles, known as the Ram"aw, 1520 - 1572
Glosses on Ways of Jewish Life Code for Ashkenazic Jewry, which includes among them codification of Kabbalistic customs
1517 - Martin Luther's "rebellion"
1530 - John Calvin's debates
1530s - England's King Henry VIII breaks with Rome
1533 - 1592: Michel de Montaigne – his mother was an Iberian Jew; his father a French Catholic

The Book of the Zohar 1558 - First printed in Italy 1559 - Talmud appears on the first Christian index of forbidden books

Rabbi Isaac Luria of Safed, Galilee, Israel, 1534 - 1572
"The Holy Ari Zal" -  Eloki Rabbi Isaac, za"l
       [ za"l = of blessed memory ]
   (The first Hebrew letter of Eloki is Alef.  In an abbreviation it may receive a different vowel.)
Taught Jewish mysticism only orally,
  and only for the last 2 or 3 years of his life.
"Lurianic School of Kabbalah" derives from him
1542 - 1563 Council of Trent, reform of the Catholic Church
1543 - Martin Luther turns against Jews
1553 - 1603 Elizabethan Age

Rabbi Chaim Vital - Student of the Ari Zal,  1542 - 1620

Committed Lurianic Kabbalah to writing

Galileo 1564 - 1642
Johannes Kepler 1571 - 1630
1607 - Jamestown
1611 - King James Bible published
1629 - Massachusetts Bay Company
Descartes 1596 - 1650
John Locke 1632 - 1704

I Bibliography
Abramsky, Chimen; Maciej Jachimczyk; Antony Polonsky; eds. 1986. The Jews in Poland. Oxford, U.K.: Basil Blackwell. Papers presented at the International Conference on Polish-Jewish Studies, Oxford, Sept. 1984.
Ben-Sasson, H. H., ed. 1969. A History of the Jewish People. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Birnbaum, Salomo, compiler; Irene Birnbaum, tr. from German; Maximilian Hurwitz, ed. 1933. New York: Hebrew Publishing Company. This book seems to have been compiled from the book Shivchei HaBesht. As such, biographical information is unreliable.
Cartographia. 2006. "European Road Map: Ukraine, Moldova, Belorussia." Hungary: Budapest.
Friedman, Rabbi Eli, compiler; Rabbi Elchonon Lesches, tr. from Hebrew. 2004. The Great Mission: the Life and Story of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov. Brooklyn: Kehot Publication Society.
Gilbert, Martin. 2007. The Routledge Atlas of Russian History. New York; Oxon, UK: Routledge.
Grayzel, Solomon. 1968. A History of the Jews: from the Babylonian Exile to 1968. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, and New York: New American Library (paperback 1984).
Hilsenrad, Zalman Aryeh, compiler and translator. 1999. The Baal Shem Tov: a Short Biography of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the Founder of Chasidus. Brooklyn: Kehot Publication Society. This book seems to have been compiled from the book Shivchei HaBesht. As such, biographical information is unreliable.
Jacobs, Louis. 1999. A Concise Companion to the Jewish Religion. Oxford Paperback Reference series. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jotischky, Andrew and Caroline Hull. 2005. The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World. London: Penguin Books.
Meyer, Marc Anthony, ed. 1994. Landmarks of World Civilizations: from 1500 to the Present. The Search for Order, series, vol. 2. Guilford, Connecticut: Dushkin Publishing Group.
Miské, Karim et. al., writers; Jean Labib and Anne Labro, producers. 2013. Jews and Muslims: Intimate Strangers. Series, episode 2. "The Place of the Other (721-1789)." DVD. ARTE France. Released in English and French with English subtitles. Wheeling, Illinois: Film Ideas, 2014. www.filmideas.com, www.fichannels.com.
National Geographic. 2005. Atlas of the World: Eighth Edition. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.
Rosman, Moshe. 1996. Founder of Hasidism: a Quest for the Historical Ba'al Shem Tov. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Roth, Cecil. 1953. A Short History of the Jewish People. London: East and West Library.
Schneersohn, Joseph I. 1944. Kuntres Chai Elul 5703. Yiddish and Hebrew. Series booklet 45. Brooklyn: Kehot Publication Society.
Schneersohn, Joseph I., Nissan Mindel, trans. 1960. Lubavitcher Rabbi's Memoirs: the Memoirs of Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn, the Late Lubavitcher Rebbe. Vol. 2. Brooklyn: Kehot Publication Society.
Scholem, Gershon. 1995. Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. New York : Schocken Books.
Stow, Kenneth R. 1992. Alienated Minority: the Jews of Medieval Latin Europe. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Tanner, J. R., et al., eds. 1964. The Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. V. "Contest of Empire and Papacy." Cambridge University Press.
Wiesel, Elie; Marion Wiesel, tr. 1972. Souls on Fire: Portraits and Legends of Hasidic Masters. New York: Random House. Content about the Ba'al Shem Tov seems to have been compiled from the book Shivchei HaBesht. As such, biographical information is unreliable.
Zalmanov, Shmuel, et. al., eds. 1971. "Kovetz HaTamim." Hebrew and Yiddish. 8 issues. Warsaw: Igud Talmidei HaT'mimim. Reprints from 1935-1937 in a single volume.