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Update: 2013.09.18

One who practices khësëd is a (Khâ•sid; one who is lovingkind), pl. (Kha•sid•im, Hellenized to "hasidim" and even "chasidim").

Modern "Hasidim," which Sheim-Tov began in the 18th century C.E., was apparently an attempt to imbue the iy-ra•tzᵊyon•âlim (popular during the lifetime of Ram•ba"m and led ultimately to the 13th century mysticism of Qa•bâl•âh) with the authenticity, reputation and imprimatur of the ancient Kha•sid•im, who are documented at least as early as the time of Dâ•wid ha-lëkh (click "further info" icon for documentation). Thus, today's Kha•sid•im, primarily represented by ", are iy-ra•tzᵊyon•âlim—opposite to both Ram•ba"m and the ancient Kha•sid•im.

Opponents of the 18th century C.E. Kha•sid•im are called the . With the exception of ", who are (modern) Kha•sid•im, most of today's Ash•kᵊnazi Jews are Lithuanian (Litvak) ; while Teimân•im and other Mi•zᵊrakhim tend to follow Halâkh•âh as taught by Ram•ba"m. Sᵊphârâd•im Jews, torn between their European roots and their greatest Sage (Ram•ba"m), suffer the greatest division as a result of the overbearing dominance in Yi•sᵊ•râ•eil of the Lithuanian Ash•kᵊnazim.

Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT suggests that up until the 2nd century B.C.E., the Kha•sid•im′  were synonymous with an original sect from which the three major first-century sects splintered. The original Kha•sid•im′  appear to have first fractured into Tzᵊdoq•im′  and Pᵊrush•im′ . Subsequently, the Tzᵊdoq•im′  split internally—between two Ko•han•im′  brothers when the Hellenist brother (who became known as the Ko•hein′  hâ-Rësh′ a) ousted his righteous brother (who became known as Mor′ eih Tzë′ dëq; see also 4Q MMT, Kha•sid•im′  & Kha•nuk•âh′ )—the last Tor•âh′ -faithful Ko•hein′  ha-Jâ•dol′ —over the issue of Hellenist assimilation.

This internal split resulted in two sects of Tzᵊdoq•im′ : a new Hellenist faux-Tzᵊdoq•im′  and the earlier pristine Tzᵊdoq•im′ . For clarity, we will distinguish between the Qum•rân′ -Tzᵊdoq•im′  as distinguished from the new, Hellenist and (not long after) Roman-sympathizing, Pseudo-Tzᵊdoq•im′ . Under the rule of the new Ko•hein′  hâ-Rësh′ a, the latter ejected the former from the Beit ha-Mi•qᵊdâsh′  ha-Shein•i′ , thereafter occupying and controlling the Beit ha-Mi•qᵊdâsh′  ha-Shein•i′ . Thus, the first-century "priests" of the "Second Temple"—the ones who instigated and incited for the death of the Khâ•sid′  (by definition anti-Hellenist) threat: Rib′ i Yᵊho•shu′ a—were viewed by the rest of the Judaic community as Ko•han•ei′  hâ-Rësh′ a.

All three min•im′  contributed to the literature of the Kha•sid•im′  (cf. "Hasidim," EJ 7:1385-6 and Tᵊhil•im′  12:2, 30:5; 31:24; 38:28; et al. and Shᵊmu•eil′  Âl′ ëph 2:9). However, the Pᵊrush•im′  and Qum•rân′ -Tzᵊdoq•im′  are both far more closely identified than the Pseudo-Tzᵊdoq•im′  with the original Kha•sid•im′  (cf. The Nᵊtzâr•im′  Newsletter, 1994.09; Tᵊhil•im′  12:2; 30:5; 31:24; 38:28; 50.5; 52.11; 79.2; 85.9; 89.20; 97.10; 116.15; 132.9, 16; 145.10; 148.14; 149.1, 5 & 9; Shᵊmu•eil′  Âl′ ëph 2.9; Mi•shᵊl•ei′  Shᵊlom′ oh 2.9 and Di•vᵊr•ei′  ha-Yâm•im′  Beit 6.41. See also I Macc. 4 and "Hassideans," EJ, 7.1468.)

The ancient Kha•sid•im′  were characterized by the orientation and teaching that a true and meaningful relationship with -- can only flow from the wellspring of a spiritual connection, which, in turn, cannot be achieved through ritual observance alone but only through the complementary pairing of BOTH essentials:

  1. A fervent love of -- that inspires an overwhelming desire to serve Him as discerned through logic and study in His Tor•âh′  coupled with

  2. Tᵊphil•ot′  from the heart that focus not on self, one's own wishes or material gain; but, rather, Tᵊphil•ot′  focused laser-like on the desire to properly understand Tor•âh′  and on the necessary health, financial resources and other tools needed to carry out His Will as set forth in His Tor•âh′ . Think of yourself as an executive assistant. Your boss would grant you the necessary tools to accomplish the work for which he or she is paying you, but would frown on requests for frivolous non-essentials.

Notice that one cannot focus tᵊphil•âh′  on acceptable objectives (meaning one cannot get answers to prayer) without first discerning these acceptable objectives from Tor•âh′ .

The inescapable premise and conclusion of Kha•sid•im′  are encapsulated in Ho•shei′ a 6.6: "For I yearn for khës′ ëd, not sacrifice; and knowledge of Ël•oh•im′  more than ascendance (fire) offerings." khës′ ëd, not infinitely detailed ritual based on illogical (unscientific) misconceptions, is the ONLY valid Ha•lâkh•âh′ , the ONLY true and acceptable Way of Tor•âh′  and the defining attribute of a Khâ•sid′ . Ritual observance alone—no matter how complete, detailed or "religious"—is as vain as Christian "faith without works." Both elements are essential.

Throughout mainstream Judaism today, the leader of a sect of Kha•sid•im′  is bestowed with the honorific title "ha-Tza•diq′ ," appended to their first name. The earliest extant precedent for this tradition is found in the first-century Nᵊtzâr•im′ , whose revolutionary teachings (hâ-o•lâm′  ha-bâ′  is an eternal kingdom not of this world), first espoused by Rib′ i Yᵊho•shu′ a, were clearly Kha•sid•im′  and whose first Pâ•qid′  is documented to have been widely recognized by the title characterizing the Kha•sid•im′ : Pâ•qid′  Ya•a•qov′  "ha-Tza•diq′ ".

Modern "Hasidim" are a mere shadow of the early Kha•sid•im′ , significantly diluted from the spiritually complete Khâ•sid′  of the ancient Kha•sid•im′ . Today's "Hasidim" are distinguished by their more limited and comparatively superficial emphasis upon the spiritual (though their emphasis on tᵊphil•âh′  is a proper and commendable aspect) and the emotional (manifesting itself in music, not playing musical instruments on Shab•ât′ , of course). Unfortunately, their superficial anthropomorphic dimensioning of the undimensionable spiritual realm descends into the human designs of mysticism, superstition and magic of Qa•bâl•âh′ .

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Click to enlargeRav Yitzkhaq Kaduri, z"l
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Click to enlargeNote left by Rav Yitzkhaq Kaduri, z"l

In fairness, the fine distinction between spirituality and emotion-mysticism is extremely difficult to discern, tease apart and communicate. Indeed, the most famous modern Qabâlist, the late Rav Kaduri—an admirer of Ram•ba"m (penning a letter entitled "The Greatness of Ram•ba"m"), was able to peer through, or around, Qa•bâl•âh′  enough to perceive a greater degree of spirituality than most, revealing the name of the Mâ•shi′ akh in a note to be opened after his death: Yᵊho•shu′ a! (See also The 1993 Covenant Live-Link )

Kha•sid•im′  emphasize spirituality and emotion over Talmudic study—though the latter is by no means neglected. This priority of spirituality over study of Tal•mud′  (invariably mingled homogenously with infinitely detailed rote ritual), rather than giving top priority to the study of Tal•mud′  (invariably mingled homogenously with infinitely detailed rote ritual), sparked the rise of the mit•na•gᵊd•im′  (anti-Kha•sid•im′  "opponents" or "opposers") in Orthodox Judaism… the European counterparts of the I•qᵊsh•im′  in Yemen.

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