10297 Ashkenazi Hasidism in the History of Jewish Thought 1

Credits: 6 intermediate credits in Jewish Thought or in Medieval History of the Jewish People

Prerequisites: none

Recommended: A course in Judaic Studies that includes readings in the Wisdom of the Sages

Author: Joseph Dan

The Ashkenazi Hasidic movement, which flourished mainly in the 12th and 13th centuries, shaped Jewish thought in the Middle Ages, and laid the foundation for a comprehensive theology with esoteric and mystical overtones, which became the basis for the mystic streams in Ashkenazi Judaism. At the same time, it engendered a popular school of moral philosophy which shaped the religious and moral life of Ashkenazi Judaism. The course surveys the history of this movement, its esoteric and occult aspects, and its extensive moral doctrine.

Topics: Ashkenazi Hasidism in the history of Jewish thought – literary works, relation to Jewish philosophy and Kabbalah; Historical background – the Crusades and their aftermath, Jewish-gentile relations; History of the movement, beginning from 8th century Italy through the end of the 13th century, major figures and works; The Book of the Hasidim – date, authorship, structure, literary composition and redaction; Central concepts – reverence and love, the concept of evil, the ways of Hasidism; The doctrine of repentance; Moral behavior in the social sphere; Fictional literature; Hagiography; The concept of God – the hiding of God and the Divine imminence; Divine presence and revelation; The Creation and the legend of the Golem; Providence and the problem of “Secrets of Prayer.”


1This course is also offered in Russian (42129). Its description is available on the Russian-language website of the Open University (http://www-r.openu.ac.il/).

There is some overlap in the content of this and other courses. For details, see Overlapping Courses.