Q. Is it true that the father of the Chasidic movement, the Baal Shem Tov, was a pantheist?
A. Pantheism identifies God and the forces of nature. A more traditional view is that God is both within the world and beyond it – both immanent and transcendent.
The Baal Shem Tov was not a systematic philosopher but an intuitive believer, whose homely principle was, as it were, “Look around and you will see God everywhere”. In his own words, “Let man realise that when he looks at material things he beholds in reality the Divine Countenance which is present everywhere. Keeping this in mind, man can serve the Lord at all times, even in trifles”.
Further, “A human being should always be conscious that everything in the world is filled with godliness and that the Creator and man face each other eye to eye.” An additional statement: “All that exists in the world contains the holy spark of God, even in wood and stone as well as in all human activities.”
But Chassidism is not consistent in its pantheism and there is also evidence of a God concept that cannot limit Him in any way but stresses His exalted power – above and beyond and not only within the world.