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Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism is a Jewish religious movement that was started by Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov. It began in Eastern Europe in the middle of the 18th century, and there are now Hasidic communities all over the world. The followers of Hasidism are called Hasidim.
Hasidism teaches about the importance of serving God with happiness and believes in Jewish mysticism. While Hasidim study the same books of Torah as the rest of Judaism, they focus on learning the hidden aspects of the text as well. Hasidic study also includes many of the teachings of Kabbalah.
Hasidism has strict laws about physical contact between the genders, Hasidic men will not even shake hands or make any physical contact with unrelated members of the opposite gender and Hasidic women will not make any physical contact with unrelated members of the opposite gender and also limit conversation.
Each Hasidic group has a leader who is called the Rebbe. The Rebbe is a man who is a Rabbi and is chosen by the hasidim to be their leader. Some of the jobs that he does are giving lectures on Torah and Chassidut and taking part in the different events of his Hasidim, like weddings and bris milahs.
There are hundreds of different Hasidic groups. They all share similar characteristics but they also have individual customs. Some of the larger dynasties are Satmar, Chabad-Lubavitch, Bobov, Viznitz, and Belz.
- "Chasidim". New International Encyclopedia. (1905).
- Lecture on Mitnagdim, Hasidim and Maskilim by Dr. Henry Abramson
Maps of the spread of Hasidism
- Map of the area of activity of the Baal Shem Tov, and the directions of the Maggid's students' dissemination Archived 2009-09-26 at the Wayback Machine
- Map of the spread of Hasidism from 1730 and 1760-75, and its encroachment on the Lithuanian centre of Rabbinic opposition Archived 2009-09-15 at the Wayback Machine
- Information on Orthodox Hasidic Jews