The Smoothest Way Is Full of Stones Historical Context

Julie Orringer
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In the story, the Adelsteins appear to be Hasidic Jews. The Hebrew word “hasid” (or “chasid”) means “pious.” Hasidism is a subdivision of Orthodox Judaism and was founded by Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, known as Bal Shem Tov (1700-60) in Ukraine. The epithet Bal Shem Tov means “master of the good name.” Rabbi Israel wrote no books but promoted the ideal of simple piety by the use of parables and stories told to the uneducated masses. He believed that sincere devotion to God was preferable to scholarly knowledge of the Talmud (the authoritative body of Jewish teachings on civil and religious law, dating from in the early centuries of the Christian era).

Hasidism quickly spread throughout Eastern Europe, and its leaders developed the doctrine of the zaddik (the Righteous One), who was believed to be the intermediary between God and man. Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav (1772-...

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This section contains 667 words
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Buy The Smoothest Way Is Full of Stones Study Guide
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