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HasidismKey Questions$
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Marcin Wodzinski

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190631260

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190631260.001.0001

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A Definition

A Definition

Chapter:
(p.1) 1 A Definition
Source:
Hasidism
Author(s):

Marcin Wodziński

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190631260.003.0001

What did it mean for an ordinary Jew to be a Hasid? Although there are dozens of definitions of Hasidism, all of them are built on doctrinal categories. The chapter demonstrates these kinds of ideological definitions are inadequate, given that they turn Hasidism into an abstract doctrine, disconnected from its believers and their daily practices. Instead, this chapter offers a behavioral, or performative, definition of Hasidism as practiced in everyday life, a definition based on low-profile, often folk testimony, i.e. it shows what rank-and-file followers understood being a Hasid meant and how they defined their own distinctive features. It demonstrates that, contrary to a predominant assumption, the self-definition of a Hasidic group was closer to a confraternity than to a sect, which provides entirely new analytical categories and allows for a new view of the history of Hasidism, inter-group boundaries, and more.

Keywords:   Hasidism, East-European Jews, behavioral definition, sect, confraternity, group boundaries, church-sect typology

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