Hasidism, Shneur Zalman, of Lyady, 1745-1813, God and human beings, Mysticism -- Judaism, Soul, Image of God
The subject of this article is the anthropology of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Lyady. After an evaluation of past research into Hasidism and into Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Lyady in particular it is argued that this research possesses a rather reductionistic character. The greater part of these studies deal with either the idea of devekut introduced by Gershom Scholem as the central theme or some kind of social crisis, a line of research initiated by Simon Dubnow. Contrary to these two strands the author proposes to evaluate the emergence of Hasidism as an ideological break with the past caused by the introduction of a new episteme and discourse. This idea the author tries to describe using the texts of Rabbi Shneur Zalman as an example and his understanding of man as a theme, as it is there that this new episteme is most readily illustrated. In the analysis of the central themes in the writing of Rabbi Shneur Zalman it is argued that the point of view of the individual is a major element. His understanding of the relationship between man and God, his accounting for the soul and the value of divine worship are all viewed from this perspective. In all of the central themes of Rabbi Shneur Zalman’s theosophy it is shown that man’s perspective is dominant. And this, the author argues, constitutes a break with the tradition of former Jewish mysticism. It would, however, be premature to conclude on the basis of one author that this is a major characteristic of Hasidism. Therefore, the author closes with a call for more studies into the individualism of Hasidism.