7. Are there different Kabbalistic schools or sects? Is Chassidus a branch of Kabbalah?
The authority of the The Zohar and the writings of the ARI came be accepted, though not always without a struggle, in Jewish communities dispersed throughout Europe, North Africa and Asia.
Inevitably, teachers and expositors in different communities developed their own styles, emphases and favored practices, which were taken up by their students, sometimes for many generations until today.
Different approaches thus gave rise to a variety of different "schools" of Kabbalah, such as those established by teachers from the Sefardic communities of Morocco, Egypt, Syria and Iraq, who in many cases gave emphasis to the practice of Kabbalistic devotions. Ashkenazic followers of the Kabbalistic giant, Rabbi Elijah the Gaon of Vilna (1720-97), tended to give greater emphasis to study.
The teachings of Chassidism, instituted by Rabbi Israel the Baal Shem Tov (c. 1700-60), are rooted in the Kabbalah. Chassidism presents fundamental Kabbalistic ideas and practices in innovative ways, making them accessible far more widely.
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