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Document Details :

Title: Joseph Karo and Israel Ba'al Shem Tov
Subtitle: Mystical Metamorphosis - Kabbalistic Inspiration, Spiritual Internalization
Author(s): ELIOR, Rachel
Journal: Studies in Spirituality
Volume: 17    Date: 2007   
Pages: 267-319
DOI: 10.2143/SIS.17.0.2024652

Abstract :
The autobiographical-mystical notes of R. Joseph Karo (1488-1575), a leading Halakhic authority in the Jewish world of the 16th century and an inspired mystic who had experienced profound spiritual revival in a form of direct angelic revelation, printed in the book Maggid Meisharim (1646) were a major source of inspiration to the founder of Hasidism, R. Israel Ba’al Shem Tov (the Besht 1700-1760). Karo’s private extraordinary mystical experience, written by him between 1535-1575 and printed posthumously in 1646, was internalized by the Best and relived in his mind. The spiritual world that was consolidated in Maggid Meisharim in the wake of Karo’s mystical experience was adopted by the Besht and re-shaped as binding directives/instructions of the followers of the Hasidic movements. The major Hasidic themes of deveiqut (communion with God), hishtavut (indifference), mashavah (ongoing contemplative thought on the divine being), and avodah begashmiut (worship through corporeality or through physicality) were inspired by Karo’s mystical records, that were perceived by the Besht as resuming of divine revelation. The present article studies the complex nature of the mystical transformation: the extraordinary individual angelic experience of Karo in the 16th century – committed into the printing press in the 17th century – became the foundation of the communal Hasidic mysticism through Israel Ba’al Shem Tov renewed experience in the 18th century.

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