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Lecture 8

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McGill University
HIST 219
Dan Heller

Lecture 8: 30 September 2013 Last Lecture: • Political rulers felt that if Jews were granted rights, Jews would have to give up their autonomy. o This belief that Jews aren’t loyal does not end even when citizenship is granted. • For example, is France, fear still lingers o Napoleon stages a coup d’état and grants Jews citizenship in Holland, Western Germans o Hears that peasants are suffering under Jews o Once peasants were granted rights, they were able to buy land, but couldn’t afford it, so they went to Jews to borrow money, then defaulted on their loans, and Jews took the land o Riots break out o Napoleon Response: Calls Jewish notables to gather and respond to different questions:  Marry more than one woman?  Whether or not Jews can see Frenchmen as brothers or strangers o 1808 Consistory System – One chief rabbi associated with the government, then other rabbis  Expected that the rabbis enforce that Jews are patriotic and Jewish Eastern Europe • Jewish life is undergoing profound change • Early 18 500,00; Early 19 , 700,000 • Hasidic Jews – strict observance of Judaism, protest the excesses of modernity • Hasidic movement expanding in eastern Europe • Opponents of Hasidim – Yeshiva Emergence of Hasidim • Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth • 1700s, Jews make up ¾ of all Jews worldwide • living in small towns and villages • Enjoy protection of noblemen • Religious autonomy • Kehilla – communal governing system that is responsible for social, political and economic upkeep of Jewry o Civil disputes o Taxes o Allotting residential rights o Tremendous social power –aim to control the lives of Jews in their midst  EX - Join council of the four lands – discuss the pressing issues of the time; decide to close any printing press that publishes a book without their approval Setting the Stage for Religious Transformation 1. Weakening of the Kehilla Structure a. Stanistaw August Poniatowski – last king and grand duke of Polish Lithunanian Commonwealth – takes aim at the Kehillot, especially the council of the four lands b. 1764 – disbands the council c. rampant corruption within the local kehillot i. bribery to become a rabbi in the community ii. 18 century – Polish noblemen manipulate the way in which the kehillot elections go – demand that the rabbi serves as a policeman for any particular issue/person they want to target 1. Jews can be prisons in kehillot for things that had nothing to do with Jewish system a. Stopped using the kehillot system for problems b. Move to non-Jewish apparatuses 2. The popularization and spread of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) a. Rabbinic Elites – used to be the only ones that had access to mystical manuscripts b. With the rise of the printing press, popular mystical manuscripts are printed for anyone who was literate c. Prior to the spread of these works, a person would go to a rabbi with a religious questions i. Jews now have access to this information ii. Problem for the rabbis who are the head of the kehillot d. New group of people who derive power – Ba’alei Shem; “Masters of the Name” i. Create magical techniques that have healing power ii. Use powers to provide health and protection to people Ba’al Shem Tov • Struggle to decipher myth from historical fact • Information about them happens after their death – generation after he passes • Israel Ben Eliezer – born outside of Ukraine; spends childhood there; works various jobs; marries and has 2 children; practices Kaballah • According to legends, he spends a decade wandering the hills in isolation o Begins the reveal mystical powers o Uses the name Ba’al Shem Tov o Devotes himself to working as a healer and intermediary between world and divine spheres o Travels throughout Ukraine as a healer o Medzibozh – city for commerce; invited to go to this community and serve as a leader and healer there  Given house that is rent and tax free  Serves as resident Kaballist • Says that he can actually speak with the Messiah • Has reputation for defending all Jews • A group of disciples gather around him and create new spiritual movement • Takes an interest in teaching others, but little evidence that he wanted to create a mass movement • In the decade following him death (1760s), a group of charismatic leaders that claim to be intermediaries and call themselves Hasidim • Gather and gain supports outside of Medzibozh spreads throughout Ukraine • By 1820s, hundreds of thousands of followers of this movement • Challenge the local governing structure and overturn them What is Hasidim? • Set them apart from traditional Judaism • Goal: Dvekut: A mystical state in which individuals achieve an extreme closeness to God. o Attempt to achieve mystical communion; lessen distance between humans and the cosmos • What makes them unique is who they say can achieve the dvekut • Belief System: 1. Everyone can achieve dvekut; everyone can experience direct communion
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