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C. 1700 - 1766 (7 Sivan 5520 second day of Shavuot) ISRAEL BEN ELIEZER (THE BAAL SHEM TOV) (Medzibezh, Poland-Lithuania)

Founder of the Hasidic movement. Orphaned at a young age, he was raised by the Jewish community and spent much of his time alone in the nearby forests. After he married, he moved to the Carpathian Mountains and then to a small town where his wife set up an inn. At age 36, he revealed himself to the community as a healer and a comforter. He received the name "Baal Shem Tov" (Master of the Good Name) and was simply called the "Besht". His major philosophy consisted of worshipping G-d with joy and believing that simple prayers, when uttered in earnest, were more important that extreme intellectualization. The Besht believed that Tzaddikim, or righteous ones, were sent by G-d to guide the people. Though he left no writings of his own, he was immortalized by the often miraculous and magnified stories of his life told by his closest followers. The Baal Shem Tov did not have any children. His closest pupils set up "courts" and established Hassidic dynasties with different variances but in all adhering to the principles of Hassidism he laid down.




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