The Hasidic movement dates from the eighteenth century, when a traveling healer and storyteller named Israel ben Eliezer began to preach in Eastern Europe to the common Jewish people. Preaching a Judaism that relied less on books and more on personal experiences, he perceived that Jewish practices of the day, with their overemphasis on fine scholarly issues and complicated ways of studying Jewish texts, were alienating the common Jew. Given the name Ba'al Shem Tov, which means Master of the Good Name , he began to preach that God accepts prayer not only through scholarship and study but also through piety, love, prayer, and worship full of song and dance. He emphasized the mystical presence of God in everything. It was very important, he said, to be cheerful. Serving God cannot be done in an atmosphere of gloom. A Jew who is conscious of God's closeness is automatically happy. In addition, the Ba'al Shem Tov decreed that excessive fasting and self-denial are worthless goals. It
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