The article has two distinct parts. The first reviews the current state of scholarship on Hasidism and its history, especially the changes that have taken place over the course of the past two decades. The second is a discussion of theological reflections on change and creativity found in the early sources of Hasidism. The movement’s creators were willing to make far-reaching assertions about the legitimacy of generational change, even considering it an obligatory undertaking. This call is a familiar part of youth culture in many diverse settings. The author suggests that early Hasidism was indeed largely led by young men shaping a revivalist religious movement that called for throwing off the shackles of mere traditionalist behavior. At the same time, it is notable that this potentially powerful radically revisionist claim was in fact used to make only minor changes in the actual patterns of religious behavior, setting the stage for the ultra-conservative wave that was to overtake Hasidism after 1800 and the beginning of its battle with modernity.
KeywordsHasidism Eastern Europe Eighteenth century Religious radicalism Youth culture
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