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Chasidim of Braclaw (Bratslav)

[Yiddish, Breslover Chasidim, Bratslav Chasidim] - Also known as the "toyte chasidim" [Yiddish, "dead Chasidim"], a Chasidic group founded in Braclaw [Bratslav, in Podole, in present-day Ukraine], by Rebe Nahman of Bratslav (1772-1810), the grandson of Baal Shem Tov. His teachings take the form of parables, which demonstrate his literary talent and are among the most valued works of Chasidic folklore. They were published posthumously in Sichot ha-Ran [Hebrew, R[ebe] N[ahman]'s Stories, 1816]. In them, he expressed the hope that the Messiah would soon arrive-an idea that was criticized by other tzaddikim, who feared the rebellion against authority that often accompanies such expectations.
In 1800, Rebe Nahman went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in an effort to hasten the Messiah's coming. He did not found a dynasty, however, because all his sons preceded him in death; they had fallen ill with tuberculosis, as did his entire family.

After Nahman's death, his supporters did not scatter, decided instead that he had himself been the Messiah incarnate, and began to expect his second coming, which prompted other Chasidim to call them the toyte Chasidim in derision.
The group has survived as a Chasidic faction down to the present. During the Second World War, the Chasidim of Bratslav managed to smuggle Rebe Nahman's carved chair, disassembled into pieces, to Jerusalem, where it became their most revered relic. They subsequently founded a community in Jerusalem.
(A.C./CM)

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