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Footsteps of the Besht

 In the Footsteps of the Besht

​Exhibition marking the 250th Anniversary of the Ba'al Shem Tov's Demise
and the 200th Anniversary of the Demise of Rabbi Nahman of Braslav
Curator: Dr. Esther Liebes
June-October, 2010
The settlements of Jews in Eastern Europe, notably in the disintegrating kingdom of Poland, had become towards the end of the 18th century the largest concentration of Jews in the world. In that period a new movement swept the area, a movement that soon turned into one of the largest and most influential forces in Judaism, until this very day. It is known as the Hassidic movement. Footsteps of the Besht

Hassidim posed at the top of Jewish worship new values. It took the value of devotion and Kabbalistic abstract concepts of out of the closed and quasi-clandestine circles into the public domain. Instead of in-depth study of the Talmud, Hassidim included masses of ordinary Jews who lived in small town and villages experiencing mystical and emotional, sometimes even ecstatic, devotion. At the same time it fostered the belief in the power of the leader, the Zaddik, to forge direct, concrete contact with uppers worlds.
The man who started this remarkable movement that attained within a short period of time huge dimensions was Rabbi Israel, son of Rabbi Eliezer, known as the Ba'al Shem Tov, commonly pronounced by the acronym Besht. On the festival of Shavu'ot 2010 two hundred and fifty years elapsed since his demise. To mark this anniversary, and in recognition of the very important place of the Besht in the Jewish history, the National Library of Israel displays a selection of its treasures that shed light on the personality of the Besht and his world.

Hassidim split into many branches. One of the earliest, non-conformist and fascinating of them was founded by the great-grandson of the Besht, Rabbit Nahman of Braslav. On the festival of Sukkot 2010, two hundred years will have elapses since his demise. The exhibition also features a selection of artifacts from the collection of the Library that are associated with the personality and world of R. Nahum.
Haggai Ben-Shammai
Academic Director of the National Library of Israel 
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