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The Hasidic Tale as a Historical Source: Historiography and Methodology

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Abstract

A review of the discourse on Hasidic tales reveals a persistent vagueness on the crucial question of how, precisely, historians should read hagiography. Can elements of certain tales stand on their own as historical sources? After a review of the current debates about the historicity of Hasidic tales, this paper introduces several historically oriented redactors whose collections constitute a rich repository of information about events, phenomena, personalities, and what most scholars would consider historical reality. Historians can mine these texts for solid information about Hasidism during its vital phase of growth, expansion, and crystallization.

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