This chapter includes a wide-ranging preface to Heschel's posthumous book, The Circle of the Baal Shem Tov. Few people are aware of Heschel's monographs on Hasidic masters, published in Hebrew or in Yiddish. The discussion suggests how Heschel, had he lived longer, might have absorbed these meticulous studies into a scholarly biography of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidim. Published in Hebrew and Yiddish and in various stages of completeness, the essays that make up The Circle should be understood as preliminary studies that constitute the work on the Besht that Heschel had planned. Descendant of a Hasidic dynasty and heir of the living tradition at its most vital source, master of the philosophical and historical-critical method of the West, and possessing unusual creative gifts, the chapter argues that Heschel was the scholar who might have given a definite work on Hasidism.
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