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The Besht: The Light from the Forest

A five-part series of classes on the founder of Chassidus and how the revelation of his Torah teachings impacts the world at large.

The Besht, Part 1: Introducing the Baal Shem Tov
A discussion of the biographical background of the Besht, his historical context, and the process of the dissemination of his teachings by his disciples. Toward the end, the class touches upon the essence of Chassidus, which will be discussed next week.
The Besht, Part 2: What Is Chassidus?
What is the essence of Chassidus? Can the idea of the Ba'al Shem Tov be neatly defined? In this class, we look for answers to this question from scholars and Rebbes, Chassidim and the Besht himself. What was the innovation of the Besht, and why was it so powerful, enduring, and lasting?
The Besht, Part 3: Stories to Wake Us Up
Most of what we know about the life of the Ba'al Shem Tov comes from the stories transmitted by his circle of disciples and their students. What kind of religious value do we ascribe to stories of the righteous in Judaism? What is the function of stories of Tzaddikim in general, and specifically when talking about the Besht?
The Besht, Part 4: Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings (I)
We begin learning the teachings, or Torahs of the Ba'al Shem Tov from the texts. How do these teachings come to us? What are the central ideas of the Ba'al Shem Tov's doctrine as transmitted to his circle of students and beyond? Finally, what makes them such revolutionary ideas, able to change lives and the world as well?
The Besht, Part 5: Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings (II)
We continue learning the Torahs of the Ba'al Shem Tov, emphasizing the somewhat radical nature of their formulation but showing how the teachings are in fact deeply rooted in ancient Jewish traditions. We conclude with a prayer that the life and teachings of the Besht should not simply be left in the realm of the intellectual, but should be transformed into prayer and action as well – changing our service of G-d and the world for the better.
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