Hasidism

A movement within Judaism founded by Rabbi Israel Eliezer Baal Shem Tov in the second half of the 18th century in Poland. The Hasidic movement stresses the service of God through the mystical and legalistic dimensions of Judaism. Hasidism grew out the desire to replace the overly academic model of Jewish observance with a focus on prayer, spirituality and joy. Hasidic communities are built around and in support of a leader, or zaddik, who is a teacher and provider of spiritual, moral and legalistic advice. The home of the zaddik is generally a central gathering place for the community where holidays, life-cycle events and communal celebrations are held. One of the strongest branches of Hasidic Judaism today is the Chabad-Lubavich movement, which began and whose center remains in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

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