Cover

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Frontmatter

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Title Page

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Contents

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiii

This book was originally published in Hebrew by the Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History in 2000. The work on the various chapters took several years, during which I had . . .

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Introduction

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pp. 1-6

Why another book on the Besht, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov? What does this book seek to add to all that has already been written and published on . . .

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1 | Magic and Miracle Workers in the Days of the Baal Shem Tov

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pp. 7-45

Blocking the way forward for the historian who seeks to examine the place and role played by magic in the figure of the Baal Shem Tov, is the distorted picture . . .

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2 | Israel Baal Shem

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pp. 46-78

The professional designation, baal shem, does not bring out the special qualities of the Besht’s personality or suggest the scope of his activity; still less . . .

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3 | A Leader of the Jewish People

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pp. 79-112

The Besht did not view himself as the leader of a movement, not only because in his day the Hasidic movement did not yet exist, or because it had never . . .

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4 | The Besht as Mystic and Pioneer in Divine Worship

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pp. 113-151

It was his mystical experience, more than anything else, that was at the core of the Besht’s spiritual world. This experience was also what gave shape to the new form . . .

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5 | The Besht and His Circle

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pp. 152-202

Being an original mystic and a pioneer in divine worship, the Besht also viewed himself as imbued with a spiritual message to be conveyed to others. Who were . . .

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6 | The Historicity of Shivhei Habesht

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pp. 203-248

Do the sources available to us provide an adequate basis for forming a historical reconstruction of the Besht? This question has preoccupied scholars of Hasidism . . .

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Conclusion | The Besht and the Founding of Hasidism

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pp. 249-258

At the close of this book, I return to the question with which I opened it: Can the Besht be considered the “founder of . . .

Appendix I | Magic and Miracle Workers in the Literature of the Haskalah

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pp. 259-271

Appendix II | The Besht's Epistle

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pp. 272-281

Appendix III | The Versions of the Besht's Epistle

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pp. 282-288

Notes

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pp. 289-325

Bibliography

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pp. 327-337

Index

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pp. 339-342