Compelling legends

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article contributes to recent discussions regarding the reliability and modes of historical usability of Shivhei ha-Besht—the earliest Hasidic hagiography about the Baal Shem Tov, the alleged founder of Hasidism, and his circle. It considers the biographical portrayal of one of the members of the Besht’s circle as an example for the narrative construction of early Hasidism. An unknown text is then presented as external evidence for one of the legends, enabling insight into the prolonged formation of this hagiographical compendium from the recounted events until its publication in 1814. This test case contributes to inquiries such as the place of historical events in sacred narratives, the cultural contexts for the composition of such legends, and the significance of their apparent reliability as the narrator’s agendas towards audience’s appreciation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-78
Number of pages24
JournalEuropean Journal of Jewish Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Uriel Gellman, 2024.


  • Hagiography
  • Hasidism
  • Legends
  • Shivhei ha-Besht


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