The Ba'al Shem Tov traveled throughout Eastern Europe, and his reputation spread quickly. Gradually, large numbers of Jews started to depart from their towns to follow him and his disciples. These many followers eventually became the leaders of the Hasidic movement.Not surprisingly, opposition to the Ba'al Shem Tov's teachings grew. The most important criticism of the Hasidic way of life was that it de-emphasized Jewish learning and scholarship. Those who believed that Hasidism was a threat to Jewish life and culture were called Mitnagdim (Meet nog dim). They especially criticized the Hasidic belief in the position of the tzaddik (sah dick), also called Rebbe (Reb eh), short for rabbi — the Ba'al Shem Tov's position within the movement — and the apparent Hasidic belief that he could issue divine blessings independent of the Torah.
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