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.
1700 - 1721 THE GREAT NORTHERN WAR
Was fought between a coalition of Russia, Denmark-Norway and Saxony-Poland (from 1715 also Prussia and Hanover) vs. Sweden. Czar Peter I and King Augustus eventually defeated Charles II of Sweden and Stanislaus Leszczynski (the Pretender). Jews were forced by both sides to pay heavy taxes, especially in the cities occupied by the Swedes. In Poznan (1704), Jews were forced to defend the city by catching firebombs with their hands.
1700 June 23, SOLOMON DE MEDINA (c. 1650-1730) (England)
Was knighted by William III of England. Medina was the first professing Jew to receive a knighthood. Medina had helped finance what became known as the "glorious revolution" which installed William of Orange and Mary (the daughter of James II) on the throne. Their rule ended any hope for a restoration of catholic rule in England.
1703 August 28, ALEINU PRAYER BANNED (Brandenberg, Germany)
The Aleinu prayer was prohibited in much of Germany. The Aleinu, composed by Rav, one of the great Talmudists (d. 247), had been part of the ritual prayer for almost 1500 years. It served as a focal point for anti-Jewish attacks. Although the wording "For they bow down to emptiness and vanity and to a God that cannot save" was taken from Isaiah (45:20) and referred to idol worshipers, some Christian leaders claimed it was an attack on Christianity. The prayer was eventually entirely eradicated from the Ashkenazi siddur and only reprinted recently.
The first Hebrew printing press in England was opened.
After a plague which impoverished much of the Jewish community, the local ruler decided that the plague was the fault of the Jews and ordered their expulsion and the confiscation of the synagogues. Only the payment of a huge bribe saved the community from expulsion, but it left them destitute.
1707 PETER THE GREAT (Russia)
Conquered Vilna and the Grodno province. Jews were forced to pay a fine for "not supporting" the Russians. When Karl XII "The Great" of Sweden liberated it from the Russians, the Jews again had to pay a heavy fine for not having supported the Swedes.
1707 - 1747 (26 Iyar 5507) MOSES HAYIM LUZZATTO (Padua, Italy)
A great poet, dramatist, and above all, mystic. He became an unfortunate victim of the reaction to Sabbatianism.
Under pressure from local Italian Jewish Authorities he was forced to deliver most of his writings to his teacher Isaiah Bassan and refrain from teaching Kabbala. Much of these were eventually destroyed . Luzzatto moved to the relative freedom of Amsterdam for a number of years and tragically died soon after his arrival in Eretz Israel. His most lasting achievements were his use of Hebrew in secular poetry and his ethical work, Mesilat Yesharim (Path of Righteous). Luzzatto also wrote two Hebrew dramas, Migdal Oz (Tower of Strength) and La-Yesharim (Praise to the Righteous) and a collection of 150 hymns.