when Eastern Europe--the place of refuge--became a death trap with Cossacks slaughtering JEWS, ISRAEL ben Eliezer Ba'al Shem Tov, "The good master-of-the-name," became spokesman for those who had no learning but a simple PIETY. He taught the love of nature, music, dancing, direct communion with GOD. His followers told each other stories
   the peasant who recognized the alphabet and asked God to order it into the proper prayer and of the boy whose whistling in the synagogue was more important than the scholars learning. Thus Hasidism arose as a mixture of PIETISM, MYSTICISM and ANTINOMIANISM which swept through Polish Jews at a time when the Western religious authority was dying due to the Age of Reason. Hasidism came into its own as the commercial middle class gained power and confidence and there was a lowering of religious and class barriers. The largest Jewish community today is in the United States.

Concise dictionary of Religion. 2012.

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