The Baal Shem Tov

The founder of Hasidism is shrouded in legend and mystery.

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The figure of the Besht became the prototype of the Hasidic Zaddik [wise man] and is treated in every variety of Hasidism with the utmost veneration, although, at the same time, he is seen as caring passionately for the well‑being of the Jewish people as the people of God. In later Hasidism, to tell the story of the Besht is itself a means of bringing down the divine grace from on high. The curious early Hasidic legend that the heavenly mentor of the Besht was Ahijah the Shilonite (I Kings 11:29‑39) is undoubtedly based on the need to link the novel ideas of the Besht to the Torah of Moses (according to rabbinic legend, Ahijah was present at the time of the Exodus as a contemporary of Moses and he lived on for hundreds of years).

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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.