The Hasidic thought of R. Shneur Zalman ( RSZ) of Lyady ( 1745- 1813), known as Habad Hasidism, has had and continues to have a major influence on Jewish life throughout the world. ("Ḥabad" is an acronym of the initials for the Hebrew words Ḥokhmah, Binah, Da'at -- wisdom, understanding, knowledge). This book, based on all the extant teachings of RSZ, systematically presents that thought and analyzes its underlying theological, philosophical, religious, and ethical concepts. The focus is on axiology and on three broad questions: What were RSZ's criteria for religioethical perfection? What did he want his followers to believe, know, feel, and do in order to aspire toward that perfection? What were the attitudes and values he sought to inculcate with this end in mind? Because RSZ's Hasidism was an outgrowth of the Hasidism of R. Israel Baal Shem Tov and R. Dov Baer of Mezhirech, their teachings and previous scholarly interpretations of these teachings are also examined and analyzed. The preHasidic roots of RSZ's Hasidism are analyzed only on those occasions and to the extent that such analysis appears necessary fully to appreciate RSZ's view.
In examining a passage or group of related passages from RSZ's teachings, my immediate purpose is to answer two questions: Considering, whenever possible and relevant, what and with whom RSZ studied, the men he admired, the audience he was addressing, and the fundamental values he shared with similarly educated contemporaries, what does he mean to say and how does it relate to what he says elsewhere? For the sake of brevity, I have generally refrained from unfolding my analysis of the sources cited in the notes. A conclusion