Friday, May 11, 2007

The Hasidic Movement And The Gaon Of Vilna

Elijah Judah Schochet, Aronson, 1994

Schochet, who seems to have been named for the Vilna Gaon, presents a rounded and well-documented study of the conflict between the Gaon and the nascent Chassidic movement. In the first half of the book, he presents an interesting study of the ideology of the Gaon, and the huge clash that this engendered with the Chassidim, especially with the Alter Rebbe of Lubavitch. The history and texts of the various bans are particularly useful as are the detailed studies of the infractions, actual and alleged of the new movement. The author considers the challenges posed by Chassidut to the existing rabbinical order and the priority its devotees attributed to charisma and personality, rather than to traditional scholarship. The second half of the book offers a very useful account, again well-documented of the character, scholarly achievements and asceticism of the Gaon himself. His final section ‘evolution out of conflict’ leaves the reader with plenty of food for thought about the lasting, and surprising impact of the conflict.