History 287:  Hasidism

Professor Marc Saperstein


A study of the history, literature, thought and spirituality of Hasidism from its beginnings in the 18th century to the present.  The relationship between Hasidism and other movements in modern Jewish history (Talmudism, Haskalah, Zionism) will be explored.


 Required Texts (available in bookstore):


Gershon Hundert, ed., Essential Papers on Hasidism: Origins to Present (NYU Press pb., 1991).


Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasidim (Schocken pb, 1991: two volumes in one)


Joseph Dan, ed., The Teachings of Hasidism (Behrman House pb., 1983).


Liz Harris, Holy Days: The World of a Hasidic Family (Collier Books pb., 1986)


Collection of Xeroxed Materials (will be available in Office of Judaic Studies): includes material marked by ** below


Schedule of Meetings:


Tues, Jan. 12

Introduction: What was Hasidism? Readings from Historians

  (selections from Graetz and Buber)


Thurs, Jan 14 and Tues, Jan 19

Background: Pietistic Movements and Mystical Traditions in Jewish History; the Setting in 18th Century Poland


  Dan, pp. 1-19

  Dinur in Papers, pp. 86-134, 159-72 (and notes)

  Buber, 46-48


Thurs, Jan 21, Tues, Jan 26, Thurs, Jan 28, Tues., Feb 2*:

The Baal Shem Tov in history and legend


  Buber, pp. xvii-xxiv, 11-14, 35-86

  Dan, pp. 96-98

  Dubnow in Papers, pp. 25-57

  Dinur in Papers, pp. 134-43

  Rosman in Papers, pp. 209-21


*Due in Class on Tues, Feb 2: written exercise (3-4 pages) analyzing "Of the Baal Shem's Death" (Buber, pp. 83-84) in comparison with In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov, pp. 255-57.


Thurs, Feb 4, Tues, Feb 9: The Maggid of Mezritch

Crystallization and Diffusion of the Besht's Teachings


  Dubnow in Papers, pp. 58-80 (and notes)

  Dinur in Papers, 143-59

  Ettinger in Papers, 226-43

  Dan, pp. 19-27,

  Buber, pp. 15-18, 98-117


Thurs, Feb 11, Tues, Feb 16: The Zaddik: Theory and Practice


  Wertheim in Papers, pp. 372-88 (and notes)

  Dan, pp. 28-32, 73-94

  Buber, pp. 53-54, 121, 164, 172-73, 238-39, 270; vol. 2: pp. 53-54, 288-89, 292


Thurs, Feb 18 and Tues, Feb 23: Hasidic Prayer and Spirituality


  Dan, 104-41

  Scholem in Papers, 275-98

  Rapaport-Albert in Papers, 299-329

  Jacobs in Papers, 330-62

  Wertheim in Papers, pp. 363-72

  Buber, pp. 240-41


Thurs, Feb 25*: Shneur Zalman of Liady and the Beginnings of Habad


  Dan, 94-96

  Buber, pp. 28-30, 265-272

  **selection from Sefer ha-Tanya

*Due in class Thurs, Feb 25: written exercise (3-4 pages) analyzing "Regulations Concerning Visits to the Zaddik," from Dan, The Teachings of Hasidism, pp. 94-96


Tues, March 2:

Conflict with Mitnagdim; Vilna Gaon and Traditionalist Opposition


  **An attack on the Hasidim (1786)

  Wilensky in Papers, 244-71 (review, pp. 236-37)

  Dan, pp. 32-34



Thurs, March 4: Nachman of Bratslav


  Dan, pp. 98-100, 141-43

  Wiesel, pp. 169-202

  **one of the "Tales" of R. Nahman


Tues, March 9: Haskalah (Jewish "Enlightenment") and Hasidism


  Maimon in Papers, 11-24

  Mahler in Papers, 401-29 & notes

  **Selection from Joseph Perl’s The Revealer of Secrets


Thurs, March 11, Tues, March 23, Thurs, March 25: Hasidism in the 19th Century (Pshiskhe, Kotzk, Rizhin)


  Mahler in Papers, 429-77

  Buber, vol. 2: pp. 52-69, pp. 224-89, 303-11


Tues, March 30: Hasidism and Modern Jewish Literature


  **Selections from Modern Jewish Literature

NB: Paper Topics must be approved by this date


Thursday, April 1: No Meeting (First Day of Pesach)

Tues, Apr 6: Hasidism and European Consciousness: Buber, Scholem


  Buber, Tales, vol. 1: pp. vii-xxiv

  Buber in  Papers, 499-510

  **Gershom Scholem, "Martin Buber's Interpretation of Hasidism"

  **Moshe Idel, “Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem on Hasidism”


Thurs, Apr 8, Tues, Apr 13: Hasidism in the 20th Century: Zionism and Holocaust


  **Statements by the Lubavitcher and Gerer Rebbes on Zionism

  **Readings on the Holocaust to be distributed 


Thurs, Apr 15, Tues, Apr 20: Contemporary Hasidic Communities: Sociology


  Sharot in Papers, 511-29

  Harris, Holy Days (complete by end of course)


Thurs, Apr 22: The Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Messiah

**Readings to be distributed


Tues, Apr 27: Student Oral Presentations, Review



Term paper is due in the Judaic Studies or History Department Office by Monday, May 3, at 4:00 P.M.


As indicated above, the work for the course, in addition to faithful reading, regular attendance, and thoughtful participation in class discussion (10%) consists of:


1. a brief exercise on a passage from Tales of the Hasidim (due in class, Feb 2) - 10%


2. a brief exercise on a passage from Dan's The Teachings of Hasidism (due in class, Feb 25 ) - 10%


3. a class presentation on the subject of the term paper (April 27 if not before; other brief, informal presentations may be requested) - 10%


4. a term paper (approx. 15 pages), due Monday, May 3.  A list of possible paper topics will be distributed; students should confer with the instructor well in advance to determine the subject.  (It should be submitted for approval by the instructor no later than Tues, March 30.) - 30%


A final exam. - 30%