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Hasidism, sometimes spelled Chassidism, and also known as Hasidic Judaism (Hebrew: חסידות‎, romanizedḤăsīdut, [χasiˈdut]; originally, "piety"), is a Jewish religious group that arose as a spiritual revival movement in the territory of contemporary Western Ukraine during the 18th century, and spread rapidly throughout Eastern Europe. Today, most affiliates reside in Israel and the United States.

Israel Ben Eliezer, the "Baal Shem Tov", is regarded as its founding father, and his disciples developed and disseminated it. Present-day Hasidism is a sub-group within ultra-Orthodox ("Haredi") Judaism, and is noted for its religious and social conservatism and social seclusion. Its members adhere closely both to Orthodox Jewish practice – with the movement's own unique emphases – and the traditions of Eastern European Jews. Many of the latter, including various special styles of dress and the use of the Yiddish language, are nowadays associated almost exclusively with Hasidism.

Hasidic thought draws heavily on Lurianic Kabbalah, and, to an extent, is a popularization of it. Teachings emphasize God's immanence in the universe, the need to cleave and be one with him at all times, the devotional aspect of religious practice, and the spiritual dimension of corporeality and mundane acts. Hasidim, the adherents of Hasidism, are organized in independent sects known as "courts" or dynasties, each headed by its own hereditary leader, a Rebbe. Reverence and submission to the Rebbe are key tenets, as he is considered a spiritual authority with whom the follower must bond to gain closeness to God. The various "courts" share basic convictions, but operate apart and possess unique traits and customs. Affiliation is often retained in families for generations, and being Hasidic is as much a sociological factor – entailing, as it does, birth into a specific community and allegiance to a dynasty of Rebbes – as it is a purely religious one. There are several "courts" with many thousands of member households each, and hundreds of smaller ones. As of 2016, there were over 130,000 Hasidic households worldwide, about 5% of the global Jewish population.

Shivchei HaBesht (Praises of the Baal Shem Tov), the first compilation of Hasidic hagiographic storytelling, was printed from manuscripts in 1815

Israel ben Eliezer gathered a considerable following, drawing to himself disciples from far away. They were largely of elitist background, yet adopted the populist approach of their master. The most prominent was Rabbi Dov Ber the Maggid (preacher). He succeeded the former upon his death, though other important acolytes, mainly Jacob Joseph of Polonne, did not accept his leadership. Establishing himself in Mezhirichi, the Maggid turned to greatly elaborate the Besht's rudimentary ideas and institutionalize the nascent circle into an actual movement. Ben Eliezer and his acolytes used the very old and common epithet Hasidim, "pious"; in the latter third of the 18th century, a clear differentiation arose between that sense of the word and what was at first described as "New Hasidism", propagated to a degree by the Maggid and especially his successors.[2]

Doctrine coalesced as Jacob Joseph, Dov Ber, and the latter's disciple, Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, composed the three magna opera of early Hasidism, respectively: the 1780 Toldot Ya'akov Yosef, the 1781 Maggid d'varav le-Ya'akov, and the 1788 No'am Elimelekh. Other books were also published. Their new teaching had many aspects. The importance of devotion in prayer was stressed to such degree that many waited beyond the prescribed time to properly prepare; the Besht's recommendation to "elevate and sanctify" impure thoughts, rather than simply repress them during the service, was expanded by Dov Ber into an entire precept, depicting prayer as a mechanism to transform thoughts and feelings from a primal to a higher state in a manner parallel to the unfolding of the Sephirot. But the most important was the notion of the Tzaddiq – later designated by the general rabbinic honorific Admor (our master, teacher and rabbi) or by the colloquial Rebbe – the Righteous One, the mystic who was able to elate and achieve communion with the divine, but, unlike kabbalists past, did not practice it in secret, but as leader of the masses. He was able to bring down prosperity and guidance from the higher Sephirot, and the common people who could not attain such a state themselves would achieve it by "clinging" to and obeying him. The Tzaddiq served as a bridge between the spiritual realm and the ordinary folk, as well as a simple, understandable embodiment of the esoteric teachings of the sect, which were still beyond the reach of most just as old-style Kabbalah before.

The various Hasidic Tzaddiqim, mainly the Maggid's disciples, spread across Eastern Europe with each gathering adherents among the people and learned acolytes who could be initiated as leaders. The Righteous' "courts" in which they resided, attended by their followers to receive blessing and council, became the institutional centers of Hasidism, serving as its branches and organizational core. Slowly, various rites emerged in them, like the Sabbath Tisch or "table", in which the Righteous would hand out food scraps from their meals, considered blessed by the touch of ones imbued with godly Light during their mystical ascensions.[42] Another potent institution was the Shtibel, the private prayer gatherings opened by adherents in every town which served as a recruiting mechanism. The Shtibel differed from the established synagogues and study halls, allowing their members greater freedom to worship when they pleased, and also serving recreational and welfare purposes. Combined with its simplified message, more appealing to the common man, its honed organizational framework accounted for the exponential growth of Hasidic ranks.[43] Having ousted the old communal model, and replaced it with a less-hierarchical structure and more individually-oriented religiosity, Hasidism was, in fact, the first great modern – albeit not modernist; its self-understanding was grounded in a traditional mindset – Jewish movement.[44]

From its original base in The first, and most prominent, was the popularization of the mystical lore of Kabbalah. For several centuries, an esoteric teaching practiced surreptitiously by few, it was transformed into almost household knowledge by a mass of cheap printed pamphlets. The kabbalistic inundation was a major influence behind the rise of the heretical Sabbatean movement, led by Sabbatai Zevi, who declared himself Messiah in 1665. The propagation of Kabbalah made the Jewish masses susceptible to Hasidic ideas, themselves, in essence, a popularized version of the teaching – indeed, Hasidism actually emerged when its founders determined to openly practice it, instead of remaining a secret circle of ascetics, as was the manner of almost all past kabbalists. The correlation between publicizing the lore and Sabbateanism did not escape the rabbinic elite, and caused vehement opposition to the new movement.

Another factor was the decline of the traditional authority structures. Jewish autonomy remained quite secured; later research debunked Simon Dubnow's claim that the Council of Four Lands' demise in 1746 was a culmination of a long process which destroyed judicial independence and paved the way for the Hasidic rebbes to serve as leaders (another long-held explanation for the sect's rise advocated by Raphael Mahler, that the Khmelnytsky Uprising effected economic impoverishment and despair, was also refuted). However, the magnates and nobles held much sway over the nomination of both rabbis and communal elders, to such a degree that the masses often perceived them as mere lackeys of the land owners. Their ability to serve as legitimate arbiters in disputes – especially those concerning t

Another factor was the decline of the traditional authority structures. Jewish autonomy remained quite secured; later research debunked Simon Dubnow's claim that the Council of Four Lands' demise in 1746 was a culmination of a long process which destroyed judicial independence and paved the way for the Hasidic rebbes to serve as leaders (another long-held explanation for the sect's rise advocated by Raphael Mahler, that the Khmelnytsky Uprising effected economic impoverishment and despair, was also refuted). However, the magnates and nobles held much sway over the nomination of both rabbis and communal elders, to such a degree that the masses often perceived them as mere lackeys of the land owners. Their ability to serve as legitimate arbiters in disputes – especially those concerning the regulation of leasehold rights over alcohol distillation and other monopolies in the estates – was severely diminished. The reduced prestige of the establishment, and the need for an alternative source of authority to pass judgement, left a vacuum which Hasidic charismatics eventually filled. They transcended old communal institutions, to which all the Jews of a locality were subordinate, and had groups of followers in each town across vast territories. Often supported by rising strata outside the traditional elite, whether nouveau riche or various low-level religious functionaries, they created a modern form of leadership.

Historians discerned other influences. The formative age of Hasidism coincided with the rise of numerous religious revival movements across the world, including the First Great Awakening in New England, German Pietism, Wahhabism in Arabia, and the Russian Old Believers who opposed the established church. They all rejected the existing order, decrying it as stale and overly hierarchic. They offered what they described as more spiritual, candid, and simple substitutes. Gershon David Hundert noted the considerable similarity between the Hasidic conceptions and this general background, rooting both in the growing importance attributed to the individual's consciousness and choices.[39]

Israel ben Eliezer (ca. 1690–1760), known as the Baal Shem Tov ("Master of the Good Name", acronym: "Besht"), is considered the founder of Hasidism. Born apparently south of the Prut, in the northern frontier of Moldavia, he earned a reputation as a Baal Shem, "Master of the Name". These were common folk healers who employed mysticism, amulets and incantations at their trade. Little is known for certain on ben Eliezer. Though no scholar, he was sufficiently learned to become notable in the communal hall of study and marry into the rabbinic elite, his wife being the divorced sister of a rabbi; in his later years, he was wealthy and famous, as attested by contemporary chronicles. Apart from that, most is derived from Hasidic hagiographic accounts. These claim that as a boy he was recognized by one "Rabbi Adam Baal Shem Tov" who entrusted him with great secrets of the Torah passed in his illustrious family for centuries. The Besht later spent a decade in the Carpathian Mountains as a hermit, where he was visited by the Biblical prophet Ahijah the Shilonite who taught him more. At the age of thirty-six, he was granted heavenly permission to reveal himself as a great kabbalist and miracle worker.

By the 1740s, it is verified that he relocated to the town of Medzhybizh and became recognized and popular in all Podolia and beyond. It is well attested that he did emphasize several known kabbalistic concepts, formulating a teaching of his own to some degree. The Besht stressed the immanence of God and his presence in the material world, and that therefore, physical acts, such as eating, have an actual influence on the spiritual sphere and may serve to hasten the achievement of communion with the divine (devekut). He was known to pray ecstatically and with great intention, again in order to provide channels for the divine light to flow into the earthly realm. The Besht stressed the importance of joy and contentment in the worship of God, rather than the abstinence and self-mortification deemed essential to becoming a pious mystic, and of fervent and vigorous prayer as a means of spiritual elation instead of severe aestheticism,[40] but many of his immediate disciples reverted in part to the older doctrines, especially in disavowing sexual pleasure even in marital relations.[41]

In that, the "Besht" laid the foundation for a popular movement, offering a far less rigorous course for the masses to gain a significant religious experience. And yet, he remained the guide of a small society of elitists, in the tradition of former kabbalists, and never led a large public as his successors did. While many later figures cited him as the inspiration behind the full-fledged Hasidic doctrine, the Besht himself did not practice it in his lifetime.[40]

ConsolidationMedzhybizh and became recognized and popular in all Podolia and beyond. It is well attested that he did emphasize several known kabbalistic concepts, formulating a teaching of his own to some degree. The Besht stressed the immanence of God and his presence in the material world, and that therefore, physical acts, such as eating, have an actual influence on the spiritual sphere and may serve to hasten the achievement of communion with the divine (devekut). He was known to pray ecstatically and with great intention, again in order to provide channels for the divine light to flow into the earthly realm. The Besht stressed the importance of joy and contentment in the worship of God, rather than the abstinence and self-mortification deemed essential to becoming a pious mystic, and of fervent and vigorous prayer as a means of spiritual elation instead of severe aestheticism,[40] but many of his immediate disciples reverted in part to the older doctrines, especially in disavowing sexual pleasure even in marital relations.[41]

In that, the "Besht" laid the foundation for a popular movement, offering a far less rigorous course for the masses to gain a significant religious experience. And yet, he remained the guide of a small society of elitists, in the tradition of former kabbalists, and never led a large public as his successors did. While many later figures cited him as the inspiration behind the full-fledged Hasidic doctrine, the Besht himself did not practice it in his lifetime.[40]

Israel ben Eliezer gathered a considerable following, drawing to himself disciples from far away. They were largely of elitist background, yet adopted the populist approach of their master. The most prominent was Rabbi Dov Ber the Maggid (preacher). He succeeded the former upon his death, though other important acolytes, mainly Jacob Joseph of Polonne, did not accept his leadership. Establishing himself in Mezhirichi, the Maggid turned to greatly elaborate the Besht's rudimentary ideas and institutionalize the nascent circle into an actual movement. Ben Eliezer and his acolytes used the very old and common epithet Hasidim, "pious"; in the latter third of the 18th century, a clear differentiation arose between that sense of the word and what was at first described as "New Hasidism", propagated to a degree by the Maggid and especially his successors.[2]

Doctrine coalesced as Jacob Joseph, Dov Ber, and the latter's disciple, Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, composed the three magna opera of early Hasidism, respectively: the 1780 Toldot Ya'akov Yosef, the 1781 Maggid d'varav le-Ya'akov, and the 1788 No'am Elimelekh. Other books were also published. Their new teaching had many aspects. The importance of devotion in prayer was stressed to such degree that many waited beyond the prescribed time to properly prepare; the Besht's recommendation to "elevate and sanctify" impure thoughts, rather than simply repress them during the service, was expanded by Dov Ber into an entire precept, depicting prayer as a mechanism to transform thoughts and feelings from a primal to a higher state in a manner parallel to the unfolding of the Sephirot. But the most important was the notion of the Tzaddiq – later designated by the general rabbinic honorific Admor (our master, teacher and rabbi) or by the colloquial Rebbe – the Righteous One, the mystic who was able to elate and achieve communion with the divine, but, unlike kabbalists past, did not practice it in secret, but as leader of the masses. He was able to bring down prosperity and guidance from the higher Sephirot, and the common people who could not attain such a state themselves would achieve it by "clinging" to and obeying him. The Tzaddiq served as a bridge between the spiritual realm and the ordinary folk, as well as a simple, understandable embodiment of the esoteric teachings of the sect, which were still beyond the reach of most just as old-style Kabbalah before.

The various Hasidic Tzaddiqim, mainly the Maggid's disciples, spread across Eastern Europe with each gathering adherents among the people and learned acolytes who could be initiated as leaders. The Righteous' "courts" in which they resided, attended by their followers to receive blessing and council, became the institutional centers of Hasidism, serving as its branches and organizational core. Slowly, various rites emerged in them, like the Sabbath Tisch or "table", in which the Righteous would hand out food scraps from their meals, considered blessed by the touch of ones imbued with godly Light during their mystical ascensions.[42] Another potent institution was the Shtibel, the private prayer gatherings opened by adherents in every town which served as a recruiting mechanism. The Shtibel differed from the established synagogues and study halls, allowing their members greater freedom to worship when they pleased, and also serving recreational and welfare purposes. Combined with its simplified message, more appealing to the common man, its honed organizational framework accounted for the exponential growth of Hasidic ranks.[43] Having ousted the old communal model, and replaced it with a less-hierarchical structure and more individually-oriented religiosity, Hasidism was, in fact, the first great modern – albeit not modernist; its self-understanding was grounded in a traditional mindset – Jewish movement.[44]

From its original b

Doctrine coalesced as Jacob Joseph, Dov Ber, and the latter's disciple, Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, composed the three magna opera of early Hasidism, respectively: the 1780 Toldot Ya'akov Yosef, the 1781 Maggid d'varav le-Ya'akov, and the 1788 No'am Elimelekh. Other books were also published. Their new teaching had many aspects. The importance of devotion in prayer was stressed to such degree that many waited beyond the prescribed time to properly prepare; the Besht's recommendation to "elevate and sanctify" impure thoughts, rather than simply repress them during the service, was expanded by Dov Ber into an entire precept, depicting prayer as a mechanism to transform thoughts and feelings from a primal to a higher state in a manner parallel to the unfolding of the Sephirot. But the most important was the notion of the Tzaddiq – later designated by the general rabbinic honorific Admor (our master, teacher and rabbi) or by the colloquial Rebbe – the Righteous One, the mystic who was able to elate and achieve communion with the divine, but, unlike kabbalists past, did not practice it in secret, but as leader of the masses. He was able to bring down prosperity and guidance from the higher Sephirot, and the common people who could not attain such a state themselves would achieve it by "clinging" to and obeying him. The Tzaddiq served as a bridge between the spiritual realm and the ordinary folk, as well as a simple, understandable embodiment of the esoteric teachings of the sect, which were still beyond the reach of most just as old-style Kabbalah before.

The various Hasidic Tzaddiqim, mainly the Maggid's disciples, spread across Eastern Europe with each gathering adherents among the people and learned acolytes who could be initiated as leaders. The Righteous' "courts" in which they resided, attended by their followers to receive blessing and council, became the institutional centers of Hasidism, serving as its branches and organizational core. Slowly, various rites emerged in them, like the Sabbath Tisch or "table", in which the Righteous would hand out food scraps from their meals, considered blessed by the touch of ones imbued with godly Light during their mystical ascensions.[42] Another potent institution was the Shtibel, the private prayer gatherings opened by adherents in every town which served as a recruiting mechanism. The Shtibel differed from the established synagogues and study halls, allowing their members greater freedom to worship when they pleased, and also serving recreational and welfare purposes. Combined with its simplified message, more appealing to the common man, its honed organizational framework accounted for the exponential growth of Hasidic ranks.[43] Having ousted the old communal model, and replaced it with a less-hierarchical structure and more individually-oriented religiosity, Hasidism was, in fact, the first great modern – albeit not modernist; its self-understanding was grounded in a traditional mindset – Jewish movement.[44]

From its original base in Podolia and Volhynia, the movement was rapidly disseminated during the Maggid's lifetime, and after his 1772 death. Twenty or so of Dov Ber's prime disciples each brought it to a different region, and their own successors followed: Aharon of Karlin (I), Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, and Shneur Zalman of Liadi were the emissaries to the former Lithuania in the far north, while Menachem Nachum Twersky headed to Chernobyl in the east, and Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev remained nearby. Elimelech of Lizhensk, his brother Zusha of Hanipol, and Yisroel Hopsztajn established the sect in Poland proper. Vitebsk and Abraham Kalisker later led a small ascension to the Land of Israel, establishing a Hasidic presence in the Galilee.

The spread of Hasidism also incurred organized opposition. Rabbi Elijah of Vilnius, one of the greatest authorities of the generation and a hasid and secret kabbalist of the old style, was deeply suspicious of their emphasis on mysticism, rather than mundane Torah study, threat to established communal authority, resemblance to the Sabbatean movement, and other details he considered infractions. In April 1772, he and the Vilnius community wardens launched a systematic campaign against the sect, placing an anathema upon them, banishing their leaders, and sending letters denouncing the movement. Further excommunication followed in Brody and other cities. In 1781, during a second round of hostilities, the books of Jacob Joseph were burned in Vilnius. Another cause for strife emerged when the Hasidim adopted the Lurianic prayer rite, which they revised somewhat to Nusach Sefard; the first edition in Eastern Europe was printed in 1781 and received approbation from the anti-Hasidic scholars of Brody, but the sect quickly embraced the Kabbalah-infused tome and popularized it, making it their symbol. Their rivals, named Misnagdim, "opponents" (a generic term which acquired an independent meaning as Hasidism grew stronger), soon accused them of abandoning the traditional Nusach Ashkenaz.

In 1798, Opponents made accusations of espionage against Shneur Zalman of Liadi, and he was imprisoned by the Russian government for two months. Excoriatory polemics were printed and anathemas declared in the entire region. But Elijah's death in 1797 denied the Misnagdim their powerful leader. In 1804, Alexander I of Russia allowed independent prayer groups to operate, the chief vessel through which the movement spread from town to town. The failure to eradicate Hasidism, which acquired a clear self-identity in the struggle and greatly expanded throughout it, convinced its adversaries to adopt a more passive method of resistance, as exemplified by Chaim of Volozhin. The growing conservatism of the new movement – which at some occasions drew close to Kabbalah-based antinomian phraseology, as did the Sabbateans, but never crossed the threshold and remained thoroughly observant – and the rise of common enemies slowly brought a rapprochement, and by the second half of the 19th century, both sides basically considered each other legitimate.

The turn of the century saw several prominent new, fourth-generation tzaddiqim. Upon Elimelech's death in the now-partitioned Poland, his place in Habsburg Galicia was assumed by Menachem Mendel of Rimanov, who was deeply hostile to the modernization the Austrian rulers attempted to force on the traditional Jewish society (though this same process also allowed his sect to flourish, as communal authority was severely weakened). The rabbi of Rimanov hearkened the alliance the Hasidim would form with the most conservative elements of the Jewish public. In Central Poland, the new leader was Jacob Isaac Horowiz, the "Seer of Lublin", who was of a particularly populist bent and appealed to the common folk with miracle working and little strenuous spiritual demands. The Seer's senior acolyte, Jacob Isaac Rabinovitz, the "Holy Jew" of Przysucha, gradually dismissed his mentor's approach as overly vulgar, and adopted a more aesthetic and scholarly approach, virtually without theurgy to the masses. The Holy Jew's "Przysucha School" was continued by his successor Simcha Bunim, and especially the reclusive, morose Menachem Mendel of Kotzk. The most controversial fourth-generation tzaddiq was the Podolia-based Nachman of Breslov, who denounced his peers for becoming too institutionalized, much like the old establishment their predecessors challenged decades before, and espoused an anti-rationalist, pessimistic spiritual teaching, very different from the prevalent stress on joy.

Napoleon's Invasion of Russia in 1812 promised to bring the first Jewish emancipation to the Pale of Settlement. Hasidic Rebbes in Poland and Russia were divided on the issue, between supporting western freedom from imperial anti-Semitic decrees, to regarding Napoleon as the opening to heresy and agnosticism. According to Hasidic legend, the fate of Napoleon was decided not on the battlefields, but between the theurgic prayers and deeds of the Hasidic Rebbes.

The opening of the 19th century saw the Hasidic sect transformed. Once a rising force outside the establishment, the tzaddiqim now became an important and often dominant power in most of Eastern Europe. The slow process of encroachment, which mostly begun with forming an independent Shtibel and culminated in the Righteous becoming an authority figure (either alongside or above the official rabbinate) for the entire community, overwhelmed many towns even in Misnagdic stronghold of Lithuania, far more so in Congress Poland and the vast majority in Podolia, Volhynia and Galicia. It began to make inroads into Bukovina, Bessarabia and the westernmost frontier of autochthonic pre-WWII Hasidism, in northeastern Hungary, where the Seer's disciple Moses Teitelbaum (I) was appointed in Ujhely.

Less than three generations after the Besht's death, the sect grew to encompass hundreds of thousands by 1830. As a mass movement, a clear stratification emerged between the court's functionaries and permanent residents (yoshvim, "sitters"), the devoted followers who would often visit the Righteous on Sabbath, and the large public which prayed at Sefard Rite synagogues and was minimally affiliated.

All this was followed by a more conservative approach and power bickering among the Righteous. Since the Maggid's death, none could claim the overall leadership. Among the several dozens active, each ruled over his own turf, and local traditions and customs began to emerge in the various courts which developed their own identity. The high mystical tension typical of a new movement subsided, and was soon replaced by more hierarchical, orderly atmosphere.

The most important aspect of the routinization Hasidism underwent was the adoption of dynasticism. The first to claim legitimacy by right of descent from the Besht was his grandson, Boruch of Medzhybizh, appointed 1782. He held a lavish court with Hershel of Ostropol as jester, and demanded the other Righteous acknowledge his supremacy. Upon the death of Menachem Nachum Twersky of Chernobyl, his son Mordechai Twersky succeeded him. The principle was conclusively affirmed in the great dispute after Liadi's demise in 1813: his senior acolyte Aharon HaLevi of Strashelye was defeated by his son, Dovber Schneuri, whose offspring retained the title for 181 years.

By the 1860s, virtually all courts were dynastic. Rather than single tzaddiqim with followings of their own, each sect would command a base of rank-and-file Hasidim attached not just to the individual leader, but to the bloodline and the court's unique attributes. Israel Friedman of Ruzhyn insisted on royal splendour, resided in a palace and his six sons all inherited some of his followers. With the constraints of maintaining their gains replacing the dynamism of the past, the Righteous or Rebbes/Admorim also silently retreated from the overt, radical mysticism of their predecessors. While populist miracle working for the masses remained a key theme in many dynasties, a new type of "Rebbe-Rabbi" emerged, one who was both a completely traditional halakhic authority as well as a spiritualist. The tension with the Misnagdim subsided significantly.[17][45]

But it was an external threat, more than anything else, that mended relations. While traditional Jewish society remained well entrenched in backward Eastern Europe, reports of the rapid accultu

Less than three generations after the Besht's death, the sect grew to encompass hundreds of thousands by 1830. As a mass movement, a clear stratification emerged between the court's functionaries and permanent residents (yoshvim, "sitters"), the devoted followers who would often visit the Righteous on Sabbath, and the large public which prayed at Sefard Rite synagogues and was minimally affiliated.

All this was followed by a more conservative approach and power bickering among the Righteous. Since the Maggid's death, none could claim the overall leadership. Among the several dozens active, each ruled over his own turf, and local traditions and customs began to emerge in the various courts which developed their own identity. The high mystical tension typical of a new movement subsided, and was soon replaced by more hierarchical, orderly atmosphere.

The most important aspect of the routinization Hasidism underwent was the adoption of dynasticism. The first to claim legitimacy by right of descent from the Besht was his grandson, Boruch of Medzhybizh, appointed 1782. He held a lavish court with Hershel of Ostropol as jester, and demanded the other Righteous acknowledge his supremacy. Upon the death of Menachem Nachum Twersky of Chernobyl, his son Mordechai Twersky succeeded him. The principle was conclusively affirmed in the great dispute after Liadi's demise in 1813: his senior acolyte Aharon HaLevi of Strashelye was defeated by his son, Dovber Schneuri, whose offspring retained the title for 181 years.

By the 1860s, virtually all courts were dynastic. Rather than single tzaddiqim with followings of their own, each sect would command a base of rank-and-file Hasidim attached not just to the individual leader, but to the bloodline and the court's unique attributes. Israel Friedman of Ruzhyn insisted on royal splendour, resided in a palace and his six sons all inherited some of his followers. With the constraints of maintaining their gains replacing the dynamism of the past, the Righteous or Rebbes/Admorim also silently retreated from the overt, radical mysticism of their predecessors. While populist miracle working for the masses remained a key theme in many dynasties, a new type of "Rebbe-Rabbi" emerged, one who was both a completely traditional halakhic authority as well as a spiritualist. The tension with the Misnagdim subsided significantly.[17][45]

But it was an external threat, more than anything else, that mended relations. While traditional Jewish society remained well entrenched in backward Eastern Europe, reports of the rapid acculturation and religious laxity in the West troubled both camps. When the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment, appeared in Galicia and Congress Poland in the 1810s, it was soon perceived as a dire threat. The maskilim themselves detested Hasidism as an anti-rationalist and barbaric phenomenon, as did Western Jews of all shades, including the most right-wing Orthodox such as Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer.[46] In Galicia especially, hostility towards it defined the Haskalah to a large extent, from the staunchly observant Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Chajes and Joseph Perl to the radical anti-Talmudists like Osias Schorr. The Enlightened, who revived Hebrew grammar, often mocked their rivals' lack of eloquence in the language. While a considerable proportion of the Misnagdim were not adverse to at least some of the Haskala's goals, the Rebbes were unremittingly hostile.

The most distinguished Hasidic leader in Galicia in the era was Chaim Halberstam, who combined Talmudic erudition and the status of a major decisor with his function as tzaddiq. He symbolized the new era, brokering peace between the small Hasidic sect in Hungary to its opponents. In that country, where modernization and assimilation were much more prevalent than in the East, the local Righteous joined forces with those now termed Orthodox against the rising liberals. Rabbi Moses Sofer of Pressburg, while no friend to Hasidism, tolerated it as he combated the forces which sought modernization of the Jews; a generation later, in the 1860s, the Rebbes and the zealot ultra-Orthodox Hillel Lichtenstein allied closely.

Around the mid-19th century, over a hundred dynastic courts related by marriage were the main religious power in the territory enclosed between Hungary, former Lithuania, Prussia and inner Russia, with considerable presence in the former two. In Central Poland, the pragmatist, rationalist Przysucha school thrived: Yitzchak Meir Alter founded the court of Ger in 1859, and in 1876 Jechiel Danziger established Alexander. In Galicia and Hungary, apart from Halberstam's House of Sanz, Tzvi Hirsh of Zidichov's descendants each pursued a mystical approach in the dynasties of Zidichov, Komarno and so forth. In 1817, Sholom Rokeach became the first Rebbe of Belz. At Bukovina, the Hager line of Kosov-Vizhnitz was the largest court.

The Haskalah was always a minor force, but the Jewish national movements which emerged in the 1880s, as well as Socialism, proved much more appealing to the young. Progressive strata condemned Hasidism as a primitive relic, strong, but doomed to disappear, as Eastern European Jewry underwent slow yet steady secularization. The gravity of the situation was attested to by the foundation of Hasidic yeshivas (in the modern, boarding school-equivalent sense) to enculturate the young and preserve their loyalty: The first was established at Nowy Wiśnicz by Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam (I) in 1881. These institutions were originally utilized by the Misnagdim to protect their youth from Hasidic influence, but now, the latter faced a similar crisis. One of the most contentious issues in this respect was Zionism; the Ruzhin dynasties were quite favourably disposed toward it, while Hungarian and Galician courts reviled it.

Outside pressure was mounting in the early 20th century. In 1912, many Hasidic leaders partook in the creation of the Agudas Israel party, a political instrument intended to safeguard what was now named Orthodox Judaism even in the relatively traditional East; the more hard-line dynasties, mainly Galician and Hungarian, opposed the Aguda as "too lenient". Mass immigration to America, urbanization, World War I, and the subsequent Russian Civil War uprooted the shtetls in which the local Jews had lived for centuries, and which were the bedrock of Hasidism. In the new Soviet Union, civil equality first achieved and a harsh repression of religion caused a rapid secularization. Few remaining Hasidim, especially of Chabad, continued to practice underground for decades. In the new states of the Interbellum era, the process was only somewhat slower. On the eve of World War II, strictly observant Jews were estimated to constitute no more than a third of the total Jewish population in Poland, the world's most Orthodox country.[47] While the Rebbes still had a vast base of support, it was aging and declining.

The Holocaust hit the Hasidim, easily identifiable and almost unable to disguise themselves among the larger populace due to cultural insularity, particularly hard. Hundreds of leaders perished with their flock, while the flight of many notable ones as their followers were being exterminated – especially Aharon Rokeach of Belz and Joel Teitelbaum of Satmar – elicited bitter recrimination. In the immediate post-war years, the entire movement seemed to teeter on the precipice of oblivion. In Israel, the United States, and Western Europe, the survivors' children were at best becoming Modern Orthodox. While a century earlier, the Haskalah depicted it as a medieval, malicious power, now, it was so weakened that the popular cultural image was sentimental and romantic, what Joseph Dan termed "Frumkinian Hasidism", for it began with the short stories of Michael Levi Rodkinson (Frumkin). Martin Buber was the major contributor to this trend, portraying the sect as a model of a healthy folk consciousness. "Frumkinian" style was very influential, later inspiring the so-called "Neo-Hasidism", and also utterly ahistorical.[48]

Yet, the movement proved more resilient than expected. Talented and charismatic Hasidic masters emerged, who re-invigorated their following and drew new crowds. In New York, the Satmar Rebbe Joel Teitelbaum formulated a fiercely anti-Zionist Holocaust theology and founded an insular, self-sufficient community which attracted many immigrants from Greater Hungary; already by 1961, 40% of families were newcomers.[49] Yisrael Alter of Ger created robust institutions, fortified his court's standing in Agudas Israel, and held tisch every week for 29 years. He halted the hemorrhage of his followers, and retrieved many Litvaks (the contemporary, less adverse epithet for Misnagdim) and Religious Zionists whose parents were

The Holocaust hit the Hasidim, easily identifiable and almost unable to disguise themselves among the larger populace due to cultural insularity, particularly hard. Hundreds of leaders perished with their flock, while the flight of many notable ones as their followers were being exterminated – especially Aharon Rokeach of Belz and Joel Teitelbaum of Satmar – elicited bitter recrimination. In the immediate post-war years, the entire movement seemed to teeter on the precipice of oblivion. In Israel, the United States, and Western Europe, the survivors' children were at best becoming Modern Orthodox. While a century earlier, the Haskalah depicted it as a medieval, malicious power, now, it was so weakened that the popular cultural image was sentimental and romantic, what Joseph Dan termed "Frumkinian Hasidism", for it began with the short stories of Michael Levi Rodkinson (Frumkin). Martin Buber was the major contributor to this trend, portraying the sect as a model of a healthy folk consciousness. "Frumkinian" style was very influential, later inspiring the so-called "Neo-Hasidism", and also utterly ahistorical.[48]

Yet, the movement proved more resilient than expected. Talented and charismatic Hasidic masters emerged, who re-invigorated their following and drew new crowds. In New York, the Satmar Rebbe Joel Teitelbaum formulated a fiercely anti-Zionist Holocaust theology and founded an insular, self-sufficient community which attracted many immigrants from Greater Hungary; already by 1961, 40% of families were newcomers.[49] Yisrael Alter of Ger created robust institutions, fortified his court's standing in Agudas Israel, and held tisch every week for 29 years. He halted the hemorrhage of his followers, and retrieved many Litvaks (the contemporary, less adverse epithet for Misnagdim) and Religious Zionists whose parents were Gerrer Hasidim before the war. Chaim Meir Hager similarly restored Vizhnitz. Moses Isaac Gewirtzman founded the new Pshevorsk (Hasidic dynasty) in Antwerp.

The most explosive growth was experienced in Chabad-Lubavitch, whose head, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, adopted a modern (he and his disciples ceased wearing the customary Shtreimel) and outreach-centered orientation. At a time when most Orthodox Jews, and Hasidim in particular, rejected proselytization, he turned his sect into a mechanism devoted almost solely to it, blurring the difference between actual Hasidim and loosely affiliated supporters until researchers could scarcely define it as a regular Hasidic group. Another phenomenon was the revival of Breslov, which remained without an acting Tzaddiq since the rebellious Rebbe Nachman's 1810 death. Its complex, existentialist philosophy drew many to it.

High fertility rates, increasing tolerance and multiculturalism on behalf of surrounding society, and the great wave of newcomers to Orthodox Judaism which began in the 1970s all cemented the movement's status as very much alive and thriving. The clearest indication for that, noted Joseph Dan, was the disappearance of the "Frumkinian" narrative which inspired much sympathy towards it from non-Orthodox Jews and others, as actual Hasidism returned to the fore. It was replaced by apprehension and concern due to the growing presence of the reclusive, strictly religious Hasidic lifestyle in the public sphere, especially in Israel.[48] As numbers grew, "courts" were again torn apart by schisms between Rebbes' sons vying for power, a common occurrence during the golden age of the 19th century.