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Baal Shem Tov

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Israel ben Eliezer (born circa 1698, died 21 May 1760), known as the Baal Shem Tov (Hebrew: בעל שם טוב, ) or as the BeShT, was a Jewish mystic and healer from Poland, who is regarded as the founder of Hasidic Judaism. “Besht” is the acronym for Baal Shem Tov, which means “Master of the Good Name” or “one with a good reputation”.The little biographical information about the Besht comes from oral traditions handed down by his students (Jacob Joseph of Polonne and others) and from the legendary tales about his life and behavior collected in Shivḥei ha-Besht (In Praise of the Ba’al Shem Tov; Kapust and Berdychiv, 1814–15).A central tenet in the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching is the direct connection with the divine, “dvekut”, which is infused in every human activity and every waking hour. Prayer is of supreme importance, along with the mystical significance of Hebrew letters and words. His innovation lies in “encouraging worshipers to follow their distracting thoughts to their roots in the divine”. Those who follow his teachings regard him as descended from the Davidic line that traces its lineage to the royal house of David.