Hasidism Beyond Modernity

BookHasidism Beyond Modernity

Hasidism Beyond Modernity

Essays in Habad Thought and History

Littman Library of Jewish Civilization


August 31st, 2019





The Habad school of hasidism is today one of the largest hasidic groups, due to its intriguing synthesis of mysticism and postmodernity and its active engagement in outreach. Hasidism Beyond Modernity provides a critical, thematic study of Habad from its beginnings, showing how its unusual qualities evolved. Naftali Loewenthal combines being a member of Habad, giving him access to intimate knowledge, with maintaining an objective historical perspective. His essays explore the quest for inclusivism in the face of prevailing schismatic processes; the theoretical underpinning of the outreach ethos; new attitudes to non-Jews; the role of the individual in the hasidic collective; spiritual contemplation in the context of modernity; the increasing involvement of women in the twentieth century; messianism in both spiritual and political forms; and the direction of the movement after the passing of its seventh rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902–94). He also considers a variety of contrasts: pre-modern, modern, and postmodern conceptions of Judaism, the clash between enclave versus outreach models of Jewish society, particularist and universalist trends, and the subtle interplay of mystical faith and rationality. Some of the essays are published here for the first time; the others have been updated to take account of recent scholarship.

About The Author

Naftali Loewenthal is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University College London, and the director of the Chabad Research Unit. He is the author of Communicating the Infinite: The Emergence of the Habad School (1990).