Review of David Assaf, The Regal Way: The Life and Times of R. Israel of Ruzhin
Near and Middle Eastern Studies
Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion
Hagiography and history tell their stories at cross-purposes. While hagiography glorifies, even sanctifies its heroes, history strips them of their traditional greatness, seeking to bare the factual truth to which documents and testimonies attest. Nowhere is this contrast more evident than in the history and study of Hasidism. Legends (shevahim) are the building blocks of the Hasidic tradition, in which the rabbi is a leader, a miracle worker and a storyteller. He is the narrating subject, who, in turn, becomes the object of stories subsequent generations tell.