Noteworthy Historical Book About The Baal Shem Tov

Moshe Rosman is the historian of the founder of Hasidism who dug into the tax rolls of the 18th century Międzyboż to find that

Międzyboż tax registers list a certain “Balszem” as residing tax-exempt in a kahal-owned house from the 1740s through 1760, the year of the Besht’s death.  While tax registers may not be the sexiest of sources, they are reliable.  Rosman held a smoking gun: the Besht was a real, historical figure, firmly ensconced in the local elite, enjoying a tax-free and rent-free existence.

A new edition of Rosman’s  Founder of Hasidism, was just published by the Littman Library and there is an informative review (from which I quoted above) by Glenn Dynner on the  Jewish Ideas Daily website. The new edition is titled, A Quest for the Historical Ba’al Shem Tov.



One thought on “Noteworthy Historical Book About The Baal Shem Tov

  1. Fascinating. The tax free, rent free status. WHY? Both my maternal grandmother (d. 1927) at 40, and maternal grandfather were from Proskurov (today Khmelnitzki) which was adjacent to Medzibozh The largest pogrom, by far, in the entire region, as of that date, was in 1919 and Yizkor book, about that pogrom, called Churban Proskurov was published in 1924, and is discussed in the Jewish Encyclopedia. It was written in half Yiddish, half very archaic Hebrew.
    (i.e. quite challenging to read). Full list of the Harugim with their hometowns listed, showed a fair number from Medzibozh. The book also has pictures of the children in the various Batei Yetumim. aleph beit, etc. after the pogrom. One does not usually think of Yizkor books outside of the Shoah era.
    I have been told that the husband of my grandmother’s third sister, the only one who remained in Proskurov, was listed on the tax roles, and that that in fact indicated that he had some substantial trade/profession.. I learned this from a genealogist also interested in Proskurov. Grandparents came separately in 1902-1904, I do not believe that they were in any way frum. However, I found a letter written from my great great grandfather, who was a “state” Rabbi which I believe was a political position, written in HEBREW NOT in YIDDISH, to my grandfather (d. 1945) in NJ prior to his marrying my grandmother. Great great grandfather was living in ROVNO, not Proskurov. Grandmother did not read Hebrew, (in Yiddish letter to her prospective chatan she requested a translation), she was living with an aunt in Boston prior to their marriage in 1904. It was very interesting to me that they were corresponding in HEBREW back in 1904.
    The remainder of the letters from others in proskurov were written in a “Russian” Yiddish. I was also shocked to learn that her grandfather was still alive, as her father was then already deceased. Hope this isn’t too off topic. Well, it is. but I tend to doubt that this particular post will receive many comments. I never knew my grandparents. Geneological efforts are in vain, family was very not very prolific. Finally was able to obtain the Yizkor Book several years ago when the national Yiddish book center in the Berkshires digitized them all..

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