Deciphering the Baal shem tov’s legacy as crafted by his disciple Jacob Joseph using distant reading digital tools

Leore Sachs-Shmueli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article aims to decipher distinctive conceptual characteristics attributed to the legendary founder of asidism, Israel Baal Shem ov, as documented by his faithful disciple, Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye (1710–1784). I endeavor to demonstrate how a quantitative analysis of the earliest testimonies of Beshtian teachings can improve our understanding of the interplay between major concepts within these teachings. To achieve this objective, I apply a combination of statistical tools of distant reading with textual analysis of close reading. It will reveal singular characteristics of the reported teachings of the Besh, while distinguishing them from the textual corpus into which they were integrated, Jacob Joseph’s writings: Sefer Toldot Yaaqov Yosef (1780), Ben Porat Yosef (1781), and Safnat Paneah (1782). The results indicate a significant focus on negativity—moral, emotional, and conditional—as well as verbs that offer followers guidance regarding how to overcome these negative aspects of the human experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-54
Number of pages28
JournalEuropean Journal of Jewish Studies
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Leore Sachs-Shmueli, 2024.

Keywords

  • Asidism
  • Baal Shem ov
  • Computational analysis
  • Distant reading
  • Evil
  • Fear of sin
  • Mysticism

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