Online | Didn't You Hear That There Is a Baal Shem Tov in the World?

The Polonsky Salon

For the Series >

Thursday | 24.03.22 | 18:00

האם לא שמעתם שיש בעש

Dr. Assaf Tamari in conversation with Prof. Menachem Lorberbaum about his new book |

Prof. Menachem Lorberbaum’s new book, Before Hasidism, provides a profound new frame for one of the most outstanding and fascinating figures in Jewish history, Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov (the Besht, 1699–1760). Although the Besht is one of the most famous figures in modern Jewish history and inspired the establishment of the Hassidic movement, he himself and his direct teachings remain an enigma, because he left hardly any writings. Prof. Lorberbaum’s research adds a unique contribution to the growing scholarship in recent years regarding the character of the Besht. He provides a broad panorama of contexts that shed fresh light on the teachings of the Besht and the meaning of his personality—both as reflected in the lines the Besht draws from the tradition of the Kabbalah and in the shaping of his teachings by the first generation of his disciples, which present the verbal teachings of the Besht. Thus, the book clarifies fundamental issues in the formation of Jewish theology and the life that it shapes. In a conversation of the Polonsky Salon series we will try to clarify with Prof. Lorberbaum the place of the Besht, and of his book about the Besht, in the broad span of his scholarship on Jewish theology from the Middle Ages to our day and ask together how this research may help us formulate a responsible Jewish theology for our time.

The Polonsky Salon

The Polonsky Salon is a new digital public platform at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. Polonsky Fellows and alumni will host inspiring and internationally renowned academics to discuss new ideas and cutting-edge research from various disciplines in the humanities and social sciences.

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