Critical scholarship in recent years has managed, perhaps for the first time, to locate the legendary Israel Besht within his proper social and historical context in mid-eighteenth-century Poland. However, this fresh contextualisation has had the effect of obliterating much of the individuality and stature that the Hasidic movement had traditionally ascribed to the man it construed as its unique founder. On the basis of skillful selection and analysis of admittedly problematic hagiographical and other Hasidic literary sources, Etkes succeeds in reconstrcuting the reality of the historical personality and impact of the Besht, presenting him afresh as an extraordinary figure and an original spiritual master.