Maggid - Hasidic Maggidim

Hasidic Maggidim

The founder of the Hasidic movement, Israel ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov (Besht)(1698-1760), awakened a new stage and revival in Jewish mysticism. Hasidic philosophy internalised the abstract theological system of the earlier Kabbalah, by relating it to man's inner psychological awareness. This saw Divine omnipresence in everything, and brought this into personal dveikus (cleaving) through joyful fervour in daily life. This new teaching had popular appeal to the common folk, but also attracted great scholars who saw its deeper significances and philosophical depths. The Baal Shem Tov opposed the admonishing methods of the "musar" maggidim, which criticised and demoralised, as well as motivated, the community. His mysticism saw the inner holiness of each person. He would often illustrate to his disciples the preciousness in God's eyes of the simple sincerity of the unlearned Jewish folk. In the biographical hagiography of stories about the Baal Shem Tov, his encounters and "conversions" of admonishing preachers are recounted, as well as his encounters with the isolated, ascetic scholars, whose practices he also opposed.

His personal model of the Hasidic Master Rebbe was passed to the subsequent Hasidic Masters in the new Hasidic interpretation of the Tzaddik (saintly leader), who channels Divine blessing to the world. The microcosmic Messianic redemption offered by a Hasidic Rebbe, gave a new form of teacher and leader to the Jewish community, combining public mystic and redeemer, along with the traditional notions of darshan and maggid. Some Hasidic leaders are known with the name of "maggid", sometimes gained from before their adherence to Hasidism. The continual regard of this title to them, indicates a new interpretation of the traditional notion of a maggid, incorporated into the Hasidic role of Rebbe. The mystical revival of Hasidism elevated hagiographic storytelling about the Masters to a new degree in Judaism, reflecting the importance of the mystical adherence to a Tzaddik. The popular titles of each Master therefore reflect personal endearment and reverence.

Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezeritch (דוב בער ממזריטש) (1704/1710?-1772) is known as the Maggid ("Preacher" or literally "Sayer") of Mezritsh after being the Maggid of the town of Rovne. After initially being opposed to the Baal Shem Tov's new ideas, he became a disciple and member of the Baal Shem Tov's close inner circle. After the death of his Master, the disciples appointed Dov Ber to become his successor, leading the new Hasidic movement in the early years of its establishment. Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch or "Great Maggid", is regarded as the first exponent of the philosophical system within the Baal Shem Tov's new teachings and doctrines, and one of its most important propagators. He became the architect of the new movement, devoting his attention to developing an academy of leading scholars and future leaders (the "Chevra Kaddisha"-Holy Society) to spread Hasidism across each of the regions of Eastern Europe after his death. His teachings appear in the volume Magid Devarav L'Yaakov. His inner circle of disciples included Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev, Rabbi Aharon (HaGadol) of Karlin, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, and Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi.

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