Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"Cross-Pollination"

(Painting by Talko)

Excerpt from "Forks in the Road: Old Divisions, Modern Ramifications" by Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer: (via Yitz)

"Contemporary Chassidus lacks the component that was once at its core: Avodas Hashem with dveykus. All that remains is the external form of Chassidus, something that appears like hislahavus. There is nigun, but the soul of nigun is no longer. Hitlahavus in davening is almost a thing of the past.

For today's era, there remain only one alternative: To take up everything and anything that can be of aid to Yahadus; the wisdom of both Mussar and Chassidus together. Perhaps together they can inspire us to great understandings and illuminations. Perhaps together they might open within us reverence and appreciation of our holy Torah. Perhaps the arousal of Mussar can bring us to a little Chassidic hislahavus. And perhaps the hislahavus will somewhat fortify one for a Cheshbon HaNefesh. Perhaps through all these means together we may merit to ascend in spirituality and strengthen our position as Bnei Torah [adherents of a Torah centered lifestyle] with an intensified Judaism."

22 Comments:

At October 24, 2006 at 10:57:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Michoel said...

Rabbi Bechhofer is great talmid chacham but the entire piece is written from a Litvish perspective. I write that as a Litvak. I don't agree with some of his hanachas.

 
At October 24, 2006 at 11:19:00 AM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

I though that as well, but it was well written (and he quotes the Piazeczna and Rav Dessler, two of my favorites).
As an 'orphaned generation',I believe that paragraph posted speaks to those of us without a clear mesorah and minhag.

 
At October 24, 2006 at 11:30:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Michoel said...

Yes, I agree with the segment ASJ posted.

 
At October 24, 2006 at 11:31:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Michoel said...

Mening, I agree with the eitzah, if not the analysis.

 
At October 24, 2006 at 11:57:00 AM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

I think I saw this words verbation from Rabbi Eliyohu Dessler za"l (these are his words). Which reflect the matzev, but as was said before - from a view of a litvak. Chasidim would say something else about it (see long discussions below).

 
At October 24, 2006 at 11:58:00 AM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

I mean - I saw these words verbatim... etc.

 
At October 24, 2006 at 12:17:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

I heard from an alter talmud of Rav Dessler's that he kept a Tanya in his shtender in Gateshead.

 
At October 24, 2006 at 12:41:00 PM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

A Yid, Neil: Rav Bechhofer indeed says he's quoting Rav Dessler.

I do agree with Michoel that his viewpoint is somewhat slanted, and is obviously not coming from a Chassidic orientation. His use of the Satmar Rebbe's take, as in the first paragraph that ASJ quoted, is but one example. It would indeed be helpful to include this quote, also from the Satmar Rav:
It is said that the Satmar Rebbe explained the devolution of both Chassidus and Misnagdus with the following parable: Once there was a woman whose husband would only eat fleishig (meat dishes), which she dutifully prepared for him. Their daughter came to marry a man who would only eat milchig (dairy dishes). Not wanting to deprive her son-in-law, the mother-in-law prepared for him, as well, the food he craved. For several years this practice continued, with father and son-in-law eating in separate rooms.
Now, it came to pass that the family became impoverished and could afford neither fleishig nor milchig. The woman was compelled to cook potatoes for both her husband and son-in-law. Nevertheless, the two continued their custom to eat in separate rooms. After several years elapsed in this manner, the two realized that there was, indeed, no point in their remaining separated and finally came to dine together.

 
At October 24, 2006 at 12:44:00 PM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

Contemporary Chassidus lacks the component that was once at its core: Avodas Hashem with dveykus. All that remains is the external form of Chassidus, something that appears like hislahavus. There is nigun, but the soul of nigun is no longer. Hitlahavus in davening is almost a thing of the past.
Again, the Satmar Rebbe expressed this view, but I think many would disagree. Perhaps it's harder to find, but it certainly exists in many places in the Chassidic world, both in Chabad and "neutralish" Chassidic groups -- both the dveykus in Tefilla, and the soul in the Niggunim.

 
At October 24, 2006 at 12:53:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

We had lengthy discussions about it, where these moments were thoroughly described. This quote just falls into the picture, but if someone didn't see them - look in archive (may be ASJ can provide some links for those who are interested). It is really an imoprtant topic.

Neil: For sure, Rabbi Dessler had a warm relation with Chasidus, and wasn't at all a misnaged. But he didn't think that Chasidus retained it's light anywhere seemingly, or he was just describing the situation in general, not going into exceptions. As you see, he proposed fusing Chasidus into the life of litvaks who didn't want to benefit from it, which is a very good thing.

 
At October 24, 2006 at 1:06:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

Does anyone have a complete enough picture of davening by Chassidic groups around the world today to be able to say anything for or against the claim made in this article?

We hear many generalities today about the things we supposedly lack, but I wonder if we just haven't been sensitive enough or well-traveled enough to have seen the counterexamples.

 
At October 24, 2006 at 1:07:00 PM EDT, Blogger avakesh said...

The real difference between now and then is that then avodah was the province of the many and now only of a few. Communities versus individuals, that's the differences. Communities need a derech. Individuals will anyhow match and mix and find their unique path to the Ribbono Shel Olam.

 
At October 24, 2006 at 1:12:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Some of the postings A Yid referred to can be found here here here and here

 
At October 24, 2006 at 1:38:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Smashed Hat said...

Bob Miller:

Davening is such a subjective thing -- who can say who's experiencing deveykus?

But to judge from outer appearances, there are still a number of Chassidic groups and smaller chaburas that stress intense davening: Breslov, Toldos Aharon, Toldos Avraham Yitzchok, Slonim, Karlin-Stolin, Stutchin (54th St Borough Park), Emunas Yisrael (16th Ave Borough Park), Rav Zilberger's chaburah (Yerushalayim), Rav Ehrlanger's chaburah (Yerushalayim), etc.

The Rebbes and roshei ha'chaburos of these groups do speak about deveykus, at least much more than in the broader "frummer velt."

But the emes is I davenned in Chaim Berlin on Simchas Torah morning and found it to be a high quality davening, too. This probably reflected the fusion of Mussar and Chassidus that Rav Dessler was recommending.

In the final analysis, it really depends on the individual, not so much on the group, just as long as the group situation is congenial to davening more deeply.

Maybe the criticism of contemporary Chassidus was not so strictly centered on davenning but in general on the de-emphasis of individual avodah, involving hisbodedus / hisbonenus / cheshbon ha'nefesh / limud pnimiyus ha'Torah in depth, and the dominance of the kehillah aspects of Chassidus, keeping away from secularism, and emphasis on kedushah.

All of this existed in the past, too, but maybe the emphasis has shifted. Especially after the Tzanzer Rov and other great Rebbes of the mid-1800s decided that "mysticism for the masses" was not succeeding, and began to put this stuff under wraps for those who were real mevakshim and who prepared themselves properly.

As for niggunim, it is true that Jewish music took a nose-dive here in America. I think the niggunim are still sung with hislahavus in Chassidishe shuls, and Borough Park is much better off than Flatbush in this department. But who is creating new niggunim in the traditional styles that are as deep as the old ones? This worries me.

 
At October 24, 2006 at 1:42:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

A Yid (and everyone else)...
a better example of the fusing of between Litvish and Chassidus might be Rav Y Hutner (Chaim Berlin). He learned in Slabodka, but after starting Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn he took on externally and (from what I've read/learned) philosphically a more chassidic approach. Sadly, there isn't much of his work that's been tranlated into English (with the exception of the current publications by Rabbi Pinchas Stolper.

 
At October 24, 2006 at 3:03:00 PM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

Neil, et alleh,
I believe HaRav Hutner ztvk"l may have gotten this from HaRav Kook, who also fused Ishbitz-Lublin-Radzin Chassidus, with a Litvish Yeshivish background [was it also Slobodka?]. Rav Hutner learned from him in Eretz Yisrael.

Regarding 'smashed hat's" comments, see the separate post & my comment thereon.

 
At October 24, 2006 at 3:29:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Yitz..then there's the whole "my neshama is the same as that of Rav Kook" deal w/ R Hutner. He was, I believe the first European-American RY to give shiur in English, yet sported the classic chassidusha garb.
R Hillel Goldberg give a pretty good examination of him (along with Rav Soloveitchik and others) in BETWEEN BERLIN AND SLABDOKA.

 
At October 24, 2006 at 4:16:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Yitz, IIRC, Rav Kook learned in Volozhin with the Netziv.

 
At October 24, 2006 at 6:06:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

Rav Hutner was close with Lubavitcher Rebe, being his chevrusa for a while. While he tried to solve many probles for his yeshiva using chasidic methods, he still didn't bring in hiskashrus letzadikim, which makes Chasidus what it is.

 
At October 25, 2006 at 9:22:00 AM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Good point, thanks.

 
At October 30, 2006 at 11:54:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Rav Hutner was close with Lubavitcher Rebe"
Is there any way you can substantiate this claim?

 
At October 31, 2006 at 11:34:00 AM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

I've heard it from a talmid of Chaim Berlin. I you want I can find more, where you can look this up. What I've heared was like this:

Rav Hutner once came to Raya"tz and asked to find a chevruso for him for learning Chasidus and Kabolo. Raya"tz set him a chevruso, but Rav Hutner was too fast for him. Then Raya"tz set him up with his known son in law. And they learned together for their mutual satisfaction.

 

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