Jewish History

, Volume 27, Issue 2–4, pp 299–317 | Cite as

Modes of Cleaving to the Letters in the Teachings of Israel Baal Shem Tov: A Sample Analysis

  • Moshe IdelEmail author


The present study proposes to understand R. Israel Baal Shem Tov’s approach to cleaving as dealing predominantly with the oral dimension of the letters, namely, with their sounds while they are articulated in recitation of prayer or Torah study. This approach implies a more active type of engagement with the letters than has been assumed in earlier hasidic scholarship, which emphasized cleaving to the visual aspect of the letters. Moreover, according to some teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, a variety of modes of cleaving to letters corresponds to the four cosmic worlds in Kabbalah.


Hasidism Eastern Europe Eighteenth Century Baal Shem Tov Mysticism Religious Ecstasy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

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