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Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760)

Baal Shem Tov was the founder of the Hasidim movement in Poland around 1750. The Hasidim movement evolved because of Baal Shem Tov's opposition to the rationalism of the Talmud. He was born in Poland, and developed no interest in formal education. He would rather roam through the woods rather that learn in a classroom. His teachers considered him dull-witted. But, to their surprise, he became a noted judge, an excellent physician, and father of a profound development of Judaism. The emphasis for Baal Shem Tov was on pure rapture, miracles, an immediate approach to the Messiah, an emotional exaltation in prayer and communion with God through ecstasy was the mystical way to the true life and the wholly God-steeped religion. Although others declared him heretical, his seminal message prevailed and is increasingly influential. A.G.H.

Source: 2, 21.

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