Immanuel Etkes has produced a major, highly erudite re-evaluation of the Besht that both clarifies and clearly contextualizes the work of many earlier scholars, and as well presents a well-documented and deeply learned portrait of the still-mysterious Israel Baal Shem Tov. This book is essential reading for those working in the field of East European Judaism, as well as for anyone interested in the origins and early history of Hasidism.