I have seen several different categorical terms to describe Jewish people, but I'm unclear of the distinctions.

Most notably, are there differences in theory and practice between Chasidic and Lubavitch Jews?

I'm not concerned with Conservative or Reform Judaism. But there are other terms I'm interested in: halachic Jew, Orthodox Jew not otherwise specified, and Chabad.

Can someone explain the differences?

  • There's folks here(like Ezra, no doubt!) that can give you greater detail, as a nicely sourced answer, but I do know some things--Chabad is another name for Lubavitch, and it's a branch of Chassidic Judaism. Chassidic Judaism was started in Eastern Europe by the Baal Shem Tov. His followers and their followers started up the various branches that are still around today. Chassidic sects are considered Orthodox Jews, who are the Jews that follow the halacha(Jewish religious laws) in their daily lives more than Conservative and much more than Reform Jews. View the Wiki pages on all these terms. – Gary Apr 6 '18 at 12:50
  • See also judaism.stackexchange.com/q/7915 – msh210 Apr 7 '18 at 22:47

Orthodox Jews are religious Jews who follow halacha, traditional Jewish law and practice. Hasidic Jews therefore fall under this category as well, as halacha-abiding Jews. I must say, I wasn't familiar with the term "halachic Jew" until you used it, but I'd assume it means exactly the same thing as Orthodox Jew.

(Before the Jewish Reformation in the 1800s, the term "Orthodox Jew" did not exist - you were either an assimilated or converted Jew or a Jew who adheres to halacha.)

In the 1700s, Rabbi Israel b. Eliezer (d. 1760), known as the "Baal Shem Tov" (Heb. "Master of the Good Name"), began teaching from his homestead in Medzhybizh, Ukraine. The followers of the Baal Shem Tov became known as "Hasidim", which means "pious ones" in Hebrew. Hasidic philosophy is not something I can summarize here; it's such a large topic upon which volumes are written. Basically, Hasidim live like normal Orthodox Jews, except that they are extremely particular in their observance of Jewish law, and have incorporated mystical teachings into their daily practice. Rabbi Isaac Luria (d. 1572 in Safed, Israel), known as the Arizal, was a mystic. The Hasidim took his teachings and tried their best to reconcile them with the already familiar practices of Ashkenazic Jewry. Therefore, Hasidic prayer books began to emerge, which were different from the traditional Ashkenazic liturgy, as they brought in kabbalistic additions from the teachings of the Arizal.

When the Baal Shem Tov passed away, his prime disciple, Rabbi Dov-Ber b. Abraham (d. 1772), known as the Mezritcher Maggid (Yid. "Preacher from Velyki Mezhyrichi") sent his disciples to various places in Europe to spread Hasidism. Different "dynasties" of Hasidim arose from the towns the disciples were sent to. This is the origin of many of today's Hasidic dynasties.

Chabad was started in Lithuania by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. A long time ago, there were many dynasties within Chabad, but after the Holocaust only one remained - Chabad-Lubavitch, the branch of Chabad Hasidim from the city of Lubavitch (Yid. "Lyubavichi"). This is the Chabad which exists today.

Other Hasidic dynasties, such as Gur, Satmar, Belz, Vizhnitz, etc. are named after the cities in which their teachers came from. Gur = Góra Kalwaria, Satmar = Satu Mare, Belz = Belz, Vizhnitz = Vyzhnytsia, etc.

Chabad specializes in outreach to unaffiliated Jews and religious Jews in remote areas. This behavior was encouraged by the last Lubavitcher Rebbe (a Rebbe is the leader of a Hasidic dynasty), Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (d. 1994). One obvious reason why Chabad is different from other Hasidic dynasties is its lack of distinct Hasidic garb shared by other dynasties, however, the philosophy of Chabad differs from that of other dynasties. But this is true throughout all dynasties (ie, Gur is different from Satmar). Entire books have been written about Chabad and its philosophy. I'd suggest if you want to learn more, you do some further reading. I've only provided the basics here. If you have any further questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

I didn't know what you knew and didn't know, so I summarized everything here. (To fellow Mi Yodeya users: what do you think of my summary? Comment below.)

  • I suspect the term "halachic Jew" is most likely to be encountered when contrasting with someone who is not a halachic Jew (e.g. the child of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother) – Daniel Apr 8 '18 at 22:06
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    "Basically, Hasidim live like normal Orthodox Jews, except that they are extremely particular in their observance of Jewish law..." that doesn't really seem like a valid contrast. Plenty of non-Hasidic Jews are extremely particular in their observance of Jewish law. – Daniel Apr 8 '18 at 22:08
  • Also, plenty of non-Hasidim have incorporated mystical teachings into their daily observance. In particular, Sefardim have done this a lot. – Daniel Apr 8 '18 at 22:09
  • So, Lubavitch is a subset of Hasidic Judaism? – Stu W Apr 9 '18 at 1:45
  • @StuW Absolutely. – ezra Apr 9 '18 at 2:13

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