A Trilogy of Chasidic Essays, Some Aspects of Chabad Chasidism, on the Teachings of Chasidus, on Learning Chasidus.
Eastern European Jewry in the eighteenth century had not yet recovered from the ravages of the pogroms of 1648-1649. The people were depressed spiritually and impoverished materially. Ignorance and despondency (the latter caused by the former) deadened the spirit of the people; they had no life in this world and could expect little better in the hereafter.
Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov embarked on the ambitious program of elevating the spirit of the Jews, teaching them, encouraging them to serve G-d with sincerity and joy, emphasizing the homely virtues of the simple folk. His efforts met with conspicuous success. Countless thousands turned to him and Chasidus - as his new movement was called for spiritual sustenance. It was no less than a major renaissance of the Jewish spirit.