THE course of Jewish mysticism subsequent to the Zohar consists, in the main, of developments and elaborations, by Jews in many lands, of the doctrines taught in that unique work. There is an enormous fund of originality in many of these elaborations. Their writers were men engrained with the deepest of mystical sentiments, men whose lives accorded with the high strain of their teachings, and whose writings constitute a material addition, for all time, to the body of Jewish spiritual literature. But limits of space prevent the consideration of this subject. At the beginning of the eighteenth century there arose, among the Jews of Poland, a great religious movement known as 'Ḥasidism' (from Hebrew ḥasid = pious). Its aim was to revive the spiritual element in Judaism which had been largely crushed out of existence by the dead-weight of Rabbinical formalism. Ḥasidism was invented in order to show that Judaism meant not merely law and commandment, ritual and dogma, but denoted also the emotions of love and aspiration and faith felt towards
a Father who was eternally near, and whose heart overflowed with a father's compassion for his children. Ḥasidism strove to effect for Judaism the supremacy of inward 'first-hand' religion over the dogmatism of outward traditionalism. Judaism needed this corrective. And although Ḥasidism is often flouted as a failure, and its adherents depreciated as the devotees of excess and extravagance in religious exercise, it nevertheless was a force, and deserves an abiding place in the history of Jewish theology, if only on the ground that it tried to do for Judaism what the general mystical tendencies of our own day are more and more doing for it, viz. to make it conscious of how dominating a part is played in it by the inner impulse urging us to seek and to find a pathway to the realised Presence of God.