‘MAOR VASHAMESH,’ first edition, Breslau 1842 – false title page; Gershom Scholem Reading Room, National Library of Israel..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When someone wants to embark on the study of hassidic texts, invariably the question arises: Where to begin? Which hassidic works might be considered foundational, introductory or perhaps required reading for initiates? A faithful hassid or scion to a great hassidic dynasty would surely recommend a work from his own school. Thus a Lubavitcher hassid would undoubtedly plug Tanya, the seminal work penned by the founder of Chabad Hassidism, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady (ca. 1745-1812). A Karliner hassid would direct beginners to Beit Aharon, the most important work from that hassidic court, written by Rabbi Aharon Perlow of Karlin-Stolin (1802-1872), the grandson of the founder of the dynasty. Gerrer Hassidim would probably promote Sefat Emet, the posthumously published collection of teachings of Rabbi Yehuda Arye Leib Alter (1847-1905). Recommendations like these might well be on the mark, but there is no denying that there is a risk of partisan loyalty coloring the endorsement.
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