Hhasidut, the new approach to Judaism posited by the Baal Shem Tov involved aspects of Kabbalah
, and focused in large part on 'Joy
'. Contrary to popular belief, The Besht was not actually a Rabbi
, the title Ba’al Shem
means that he was a sort of wandering mystic, not necessarily involved in matters of tradition (although the Besht was) and not necessarily ministering to personal problems of the congregants. His teachings revolved around the Kabbalistic idea of the creation of the world.
The Kabbalists believed that the world was created when G-d
(who occupied everything) had to contract inwards to make space for the world. The world was then created, using G-d
's light, which was sent down to earth in vessels, to ensure that the earth was created in an orderly fashion. But the light was too powerful for the vessels, and the vessels shattered on the way down, and the shards of the vessels became part of the creation of the earth, and are the root of evil.
The Kabbalists believed that by good deeds, observing the tradition and, most importantly, praying, they could repair the world (the origin of the phrase 'Tikkun Olam
' - repair the world). The Besht took this further, saying that prayer
was not doing the job well enough, and that a better way to do it would be to tell stories that uplifted the mind, and just by telling the story
, would help repair the world. Whilst the only two Hhasidic Rebbes to undertake this task were the Besht himself, and his grandson, the Nachman of Breslov
, Hhasidim are noted for telling spiritual stories to this day. His philosophy was that every aspect of life was an aspect of Judaism
, and that in order to fully repair the world, every aspect of Judaism should be undertaken with joy, starting the tradition of singing
and all sorts of other activity to raise the soul
After the death of the Baal Shem Tov, one of his disciples, the Maggid of Mezeric, gathered many of the other disciples (roughly a dozen or so) and they then proceeded to shut themselves in his house, discussing, developing and eventually writing down the ideas. After a dozen years, the Maggid died, and the disciples spread throughout the world becoming the 'Tzadikim' or 'Rebbes' of different Hhasidic factions. The Rebbe is not necessarily a Rabbi (although now days almost always is), but acts as a sort of spiritual conduit to offer prayers and joy up, in order to repair the world. Each faction is extremely competitive, always telling stories of their Rebbe, and previous Rebbes in order to outdo each other. The only exceptions to this rule are the Bratslavers (or Breslovians) and the Lubavitchers, neither of whom have a Rebbe any more, because they felt that their Rebbes were irreplaceable after they died (The Nahhman of Bratslav and Menahhem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher
Rebbe), both of whom have been linked to varying degrees to the Messiah
. Very orthodox Jews (Hhareidim) are usually from one of two factions, the Hhasidim and the Mitnagdim. Mitnagdut, the -ism of being a mitnaged, comes from the verb Lehitnaged, to oppose, the opposition being to Hhasidut, which was entirely responsible for the creation of Mitnagdut.