Israel Baal Shem Tov, the Founder of Chasidism
Date: May 11, 2008 01:19AM
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov was the founder of Chasidism. He lived in Okupy, Europe some 300 years ago.
The term Baal Shem Tov means, “Master of the Good Name” and refers to the so-called Shem Hamepheresh or “Ineffable Name of G-d” the 72-letter name that the High Priest used to say on Yom Kippur (“The Day of Atonement”) in the Holy of Holies.
Israel was originally a schoolteacher and on his 36th birthday, he came out and declared himself to be a hidden mystic, (“a lamed vavnick” or 36 as in the 36 hidden holy people for whose sake God doesn’t destroy the world). According to legend a Rabbi Adam Baal Shem educated him.
He launched a career as a spiritual teacher and became a roving missionary of sorts. He traveled around teaching and attracted some followers.
In the second generation, the movement was taken over by the Magid of Mezritch or “Preacher from the town of Mezritch”. In the 3rd generation, quite a few Chasidic masters arose.