Friday, February 17, 2012

A chassidic Dream

January 2012: At the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem

Photo: Miriam Woelke

Only chassidic teaching. The entire day Chassidut. 
Isn't that the greatest desire of anyone interested in Chassidut ?
"Interested" in a sense that a Jew is becoming chassidic and wants to study. 

At the beginning of my chassidic "career", I really thought that this would be true. Studying and diving into any chassidic concepts possible. Not that we don't need the Torah, the Talmud or Halachot anymore but getting up in the morning and already thinking about chassidic concepts. Wow.

For beginners / Ba'ale'i Teshuva, especially Chabad may give the impression that everything should be chassidic. One's lifestyle, thoughts, personal life, anything. I sometimes doubt whether it is right bombarding Jews who don't know too much about their own religion with TANYA. Of course, it all depends on the Jew himself, as each of us has a different way of learning. One is able to get to Halachot and Torah by studying TANYA and others simply seemed to be confused by all kinds of kabbalistic concepts mentioned in TANYA. "What ZADDIK and BENONI (Intermediate) ? What do I have to do with that ?"

When I spoke to someone from Mea Shearim I asked if the Chassidim really study Chassidut the whole day ? The answer I got was a bit disappointing: "Not even in the old chassidic Polishe days, the Rabbis only taught Chassidut but mainly Torah and Talmud. The same today although chassidic concepts always find their ways into Torah as well as halachic teachings". 

So, the Vilna Gaon was definitely wrong claiming that Chassidim neglect Torah and Talmudic studies and replace it by praying and dancing wildly.

1 comment:

  1. The Vilna Gaon never once met with any of the leading Chassidic Rebbeim. This whole schism was caused by followers of the Vilna Gaon who felt threatened that "simple Jews" were being given an opportunity to learn not just Chassidus but Talmud and Halacha. It was a threat to the foundation of the elite who kept 90% of Jews locked out of learning. Not to mention no one could afford to not work and learn all day unless your father in law was a big business man.

    Chassidus "Polin" due to the Shoah caused almost all groups to be absorbed into Chassidus Ger. While small groups like Alexander, Amshinov, and Modzitz exist, most went towards Ger. Ger influenced by Kotzk is strongly rooted in Talmud. The Sfas Emes is one of if not the only Chassidus Rebbe to have published commentary on Shas.

    The Rebbeim spoke chassidus but very little of it was published to be learned. Hence why a Baal Teshuvim will not easily succeed in being a member of any Polish or Hungarish group as their Chassidus mesorah is oral from father to son.

    Even the Divrei Yoel questions what makes Chassidim "Chassidim today. And what does? What makes someone a Chassid? Is it being very machmir? Is it the style of dress? Is it make sure that Israeli's do not desecrate the Torah? What is it?

    Chabad seems to get a bad wrap these days as if all we do all day is learn Tanya. While Tanya is the foundation of Chassidus Chabad and the only early Chassidic Sefer that outlines an actual Derech and not just pirush on Torah, it is not all we learn.

    To be admitted into Chabad Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim you had to already be well versed in all tanach, most gemara and halacha for sure BEFORE learning Chassidus. The Previous Rebbe outlines this in a kuntres in the beginning of his fathers (RASHAB) sefer Kuntres HaTefillah.

    The Alter Rebbe complied a Shulchan Aruch
    The Tzemach Tzedek complied Halchic Rulings

    While Chabad and Breslov are in fact the only groups actively learning Chassidus young and old, this is not in place of Halacha. We dont paskim from Chassidus. Chassidus is not a new derech it is a vehicle for revealing the PARDES of Torah in a concise and powerful way.

    Chabad isnt perfect. Because it is so open and anyone is able to claim they are Chabad, things not in line with the Rebbeim and Minhagim occur. It is still a fulfilling way to live life for many many Jews around the world. No group is perfect and it is sad to see posters on your blog like Moshe who bash Chabad on such a level.

    Still, I enjoy learning Chassidus and Chabad Chassidus specifically is a powerful tool to meditate on Hashem and his glory in this world. I left Chabad and tried to connect to other groups and it just didnt work for me. To each is own.

    I recommend reading the Rebbe Rashab's Kuntres HaTefillah. It explains how to connect to prayer and how to use Chassidus to acheive that.

    I have not found any Chassidic Sefer from any group that outlines how to connect to davening. Maybe the Litvish have such a sefer.

    What are your thoughts?