Literature of and on Hasidism

The Hasidim wrote and told stories about their leaders.

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In addition to the expository and hagiographical works, letters of the rebbes and accounts of their lives have been published. These have been used extensively, but with caution by the historians of Hasidism in their attempts to reconstruct Hasidic life in the past. The literature on the Hasidic movement is similarly vast. The Maskilim Isaac Erter and Joseph Perl published satires, often biased and unfair, on Hasidic life. S. M. Dubnow’s History of Hasidism is the only complete history of the movement. Dubnow’s study has to be supplemented by the scholarly researches of Scholem and his school. There are numerous studies, in Hebrew and English, of individual masters and their teachings.

Two helpful anthologies of Hasidic sayings [and teachings] are: The Hasidic Anthology by Louis I. Newman (New York, 1944) and the two volumes by Martin Buber: Tales of the Hasidim: The Early Masters (New York, 1947) and Tales of the Hasidim: The Later Masters (New York, 1948). Buber is the founder of neo‑Hasidism, the attempt to apply Hasidic teachings to the religious life of Western man. It has to be noted, however, that Buber largely ignores the Hasidic works of doctrine and relies mainly on the Hasidic tales, which he retells to suit his own I and Thou philosophy.

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Rabbi Louis Jacobs

Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.