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1) Chasidus is not a "movement" - the phrase "chasidic movement" was not made by the Baal Shem Tov but by observers - not very scholarly ones at that - who interpreted it to be so.

And, I suspect, that even they did not mean the phrase literally, or in the sense that your protagonist means it.

In reality, Chasidus is (are) teachings. Simple as that.

It is no more a "movement" that the "Brisker movement" of Rav Chaim, or the "Kabbalah movement" of the Arizal, or, of course, the "Mussar movement" of Rav Yisroel Salanter.

Any of these can be called a "movement" if you like, but of course all it means is "teachings".

As far as its "newness" in concerned, there is little "new" about the teachings of chasidus, in the same sense that there is little new about mussar, which, like chasidus, is based on chazal and rishonim.

Chasidus also adds a large chunk of kabalah-based teaching as well.

The "newness" of chasidus is that it emphasizes teachings of Torah -- established, already known parts -- because the generation needed emphasis on those aspects of Avodas Hashem.

This itself is nothing new. The idea that different teachings apply to different people based on their needs is itself an ancient Torah principle.

Check out the Gemora at the beginning of Kiddushin where the Gemora asks a contradiction: One place it says its better for a person to get married early and learn Torah afterwards; another place it says the opposite -- better to first learn then get married.

The Gemora answers "ha lan veha lehu" -- each one was true for the group of people to whom it was said. In other words, something was taught by Chazal generically, without any conditions or specifications, just the opposite can be true for another group of people with different needs.

Sometimes, a Rebbi will emphasize simcha a lot with his talmidim because they may need it; other times, or in other places humility will be the teaching; still others will work to instill a sense of pride and Gadlus HaAdam in their students. Whatever is needed.

Chasidus - meaning, the Chasidishe Rebbe - will teach his group of Talmidim what is needed according to the "roots of their souls", and according to the needs - both in terms of personal growth and the individual's "mission in this world" (which he himself may not even know) of their students, and their generations. It is the Rebbi's job to know this.

The Satmar Rebbe ZTL once said that all the approaches of all the Talmidei HaBaal Shem Tov can be found in the Chovos Halevovos!

The question is merely, if you had a Rebbi who could peer into the depths of your soul and teach you specifically the approach that you need to grow, as well as to fulfill your particular existential mission here on this world, and to "fix" whatever it is that you are here to fix, he would be your "Rebbe" and you would be his "Chosid".

The Kabbalists -- way before the Chasidim -- also taught that Hashem Himself sometimes helps this process by revealing to the leaders of certain generations, certain teachings that were not previously available even to perhaps greater leaders in greater generations, because those teachings are revealed only when they are needed by the specific generation.

This, they have said, is why the Zohar and Kabbalah was made available when it was, and not before. The Rambam (at least for most of his life) and Rav Saadiah Gaon did not have the Kabbalah, because they did not need it for their Avodah.

The Ramchal writes this in response to the claims that were leveled against him that he must be a faker because the supernatural revelations that he had were not had even by the Arizal himself. The Ramchal answers (in his letters, Ramchal Ubnei Doro) that although he does not compare in the slightest to the Arizal, since his (the Ramchal's) generation was in need of those revelations, someone is chosen, in this case the Ramchal, to be the recipient of those revelations, to be used for the needs of the generation.

And so, when you see such an idea in Chasidishe Seforim regarding Chasidus, it is neither new no Chasidic in origin.

In fact, the teaching that you mention --- that G-d is in everything -- does not originate in Chasidus, but is clearly and in detail found in the writings of the Ramak, way before the baal shem tov was born. The GRA clearly disagreed, which he is entitled to do, but the teaching is old school Kabblaah - before both the GRA or the Baal Shem Tov -- and not of chasidic origin.

And the "proof" that your Zionist rabbi cites from "kedusha" -- kvodo malei olam -- well, the posuk (Devarim 4:35) says "Hashem is G-d, there is nothing besides Him". Explains the Rambam (Yesodei Hatorah 1:4): "There is no real existence except His."

The Ramchal - a contemporary, NOT a talmid - of the Bal Shem Tov - writes that the entire world is made out of "will of G-d" (not that it is the result of the will of g-d; rather it is composed of it). The Medrash says that the world is made of the "word of G-d", and the Rambam adds that G'ds "word" and "will" are one and the same.

In any case, if the world is the will of G-d then it has no existence outside of G-d, just as a person's will is not separate from him, so too is the world not separate from G-d.

You get the idea.

And as far as the sin being "good", it doesn’t mean that people - including tzadikim - should sin on purpose. Oy. What it means is, invariably, people do sin. And one must use the experience to learn from, and even better, to channel those energies and the enthusiasm you sinned with - into service of G-d.

"Seven times the Tzadik falls and then rises." (Mishle 24:16). There is a machlokes bet the GRA and Baal Shem Tov in pshat:

GRA: Even though the Tzadik falls 7 times, still, he rises.

BESHT: Because The tzadik falls seven times, that’s why he rises.

This doesn’t mean that the Tzadik falls on purpose - that’s not a "fall" - rather, he learns from his falls and gets stronger and because of them he rises.

Its not much diff from Chazal: "tov" - this is the Yetzer Tov; "meod" - this is the Yetzer Rah"

A far cry from the misunderstanding that your Zionist rabbi has.

Its interesting - in that famous letter of Rav Hutner's that is quoted all over these boards - the letter of chizuk to a talmid - he quotes this posuk and writes "idiots think that the posuk means 'despite the seven falls the tzadik rises', but wise men know it means that the rising of the tzadik is through his falls".

Now not only does the GRA use the "despite" explanation, but the Maharal does as well. The explanation that Rav Hutner is using is that of the Besht.

But really there is no disagreement in principle; the explanation that Rav Hutner says is that of the "idiots" is not the same as the explanation of the GRA and Maharal. Everyone agrees that sinning is bad. And everyone agrees that the Tzadik's rise is despite his sin. Sin brings you DOWN - and the Tzadik's rise is up. Simple as that. Yet the Baal Shem Tov is saying that the Tzadik's rise is because of what he learned from the sin, and the strength he gained from channeling the energy that the sin generated, into avodas hashem. They’re both true - the machlokes is just what the posuk means; but the Besht agrees in principle that a sin is a sin.

And if anyone says that you cant learn form the sin, that you don’t NEED the falls in order to rise, that the falls do not teach you anything and do not strengthen you -- then he is an idiot. But that’s not what the GRA or the Maharal were saying.

Rav Chaim Shmueleveitz ZTL tells a story about a student in the Mirrer Yeshiva who reputedly knew every Tosfos in shas. One day during lunch, his friends were "testing" him, and they caught him at a Tosfost that he didn’t know. He got so frustrated that he got up on the spot, went into a room, and from that moment on didn’t stop learning till he knew every tosfos in shas for sure.

The only problem is...he forgot to bentch!

Had he paused to bentch, said Rav Chaim, and not "seized the moment" when he was burning with energy, he never would have locked himself in that room and finished shas the way he did. This of course does not mean he was allowed not to bentch. But it does mean that sometimes only through a sin a person does - even though he was not allowed to do it (and would not be allowed to do it on purpose, even with this intent) - can a person get the energy to accomplish something great.

And Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz ZTL was far from a chosid.

1 comment:

frum said...

That is a great story!