Tuesday, October 03, 2006

"Others Admitted It Was Lost"

(Painting of the Polonnoye Shul by Isakowitz Yuriy Khodorkovsky)

A Yid commenting on The State of Chassidus Today:

I strongly disagree with Rabbi Tal Zwecker concerning Breslov. I don't like in general the term Chagas as well, as a description of any Chasidus except Chabad. It is totally misleading. Chasidus is much more diverse and multifaceted than this. How would you classify Koretz, Bershad? And what about Linitz and Monistrich? And how would you classify the Zhitomir school of Chasidus (Talmidim of Reb Zeev Volf miZhitomir zy"o)?. Their sforim are amazing with their brilliant depth and intensity, I can write more about them another time maybe. And what about talmidim of Kedushas Levi? Look for example at "Toldoys Aharon" from Reb Aharon miZhitomir zy"o (he was a talmid of Kedushas Levy). His seyfer is fire! And its depth is apparent right away, as well as his strong adherence to the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov (about dveykus, hisboydedus and much more). Those Chasidic groups doesn't exist any more (this may be the reflection of the problem discussed below), but they remind me of Breslov much more than what you call "Galitzianer", and Hungarish. The Satmar Rebbe ztz”l himself noted, that Breslov Chasidus even today is like it was in time of the Baal Shem Tov! I personally think that Hungarish Chasidus turned to be the most distanced from Baal Shem Tov intention, which was confirmed by the Satmar Rebbe himself (in his famous statement). But he wasn't the first to make such a statement. It was made much earlier by Tzanzer Rov. Also see further about such statement in Breslov. To be honest - Galitzianer and Hungarish aren't totally the same, but in this context they are pretty close. Galitzianer Chasidus has few outstanding exceptions though - Dinov, Bluzhev, Munkatch for example. Zhiditchov and Komarno you already mentioned.

"When is the Master coming?" And he replied: "When your teachings will be disseminated and revealed in the world, and your wellsprings will spread to the outside..." (Keser Shem Tov 1:1).

Why is the end of this phrase skipped so often in quotations? The end is not less important! The end is - "and they will be able to make aliyos like you" (i.e. chasidim will be able to make aliyas haneshomo like Baal Shem Tov did). Aren't you amazed about this statement? How far are we from this do you think?

Now about Kabolo, Chasidus and Breslov. First of all:

1. Serious Breslover chasidim hold the learning of Kabolo as high imoprtance (and for understanding Chasidus as well).

2. Serious Breslover chasidim learn ALL sforim of talmidey Baal Shem Tov and talmidey hoMaggid (and their talmidim) in addition to Brelover sforim.

Now, instead of dividing chasidus in Galitzianer/non Galitzianer etc, lets return to this:

This question was debated by none other than the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel zatzal, and the Satmar Rav, Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum zatzal. They disagreed on whether or not we could even really know the path of the Baal Shem Tov today or has it been lost?

As I said, this phenomenon was noticed much earlier. In the forth generation after the Baal Shem Tov (i.e. the next after talmidey hoMaggid) this strange process started to get strong. Rebbe zy”o says in Chayey Moharan (not a literal exact quote, but meaning is the same): "The light of Baal Shem Tov left. But we have to leave talmidim, who would have the light and who will transfer it to their talmidim and so on"). Rebbe himself commented on this phenomenon already in his time! And said that he wants to keep his light for further generations. That what Lubavitcher Rebe meant as I understand about Chabad as well. He held, that Chabad preserved the light as well, while others admitted that it was lost (except Breslov and notably Izhbitz/Radzin). This is a spiritual phenomenon, and not just a social or cultural shift to chitzoynius in Hungarisher Chasidus. This phenomenon is apparent in a strange thing, that sforim until that fourth generations are full with what can be called Baal Shem Tov's Chasidus. After that it rapidly dissapeares from the focus, except few rare exceptions. Even in Chabad in time of the Rashab this crisis was apparent and he writes about it. In even later period, tzadikim (but very few) are almost screaming about this crisis (look in Pyasetchner sforim).

So I think the difference here is not Chabad/Chagas/Galitzianer etc. It is a qualitatively difference. Before this spiritual decline happened, chasidim with all their differences (different talimdim of Baal Shem Tov, different talmidim of the Maggid, and next generation) had much in common with regards to the pnimius of Chasidus. After that – rapid decline happened. Breslovers believe that Rebbe left his light to counteract this decline. And what about others? I've heared a shiur from Reb Motl Zilber (Stuchiner Rov, one of the biggest teachers of Chasidus and Kabolo in America) about “Derech Baal Shem Tov”. He said their straightforward – the light of the Baal Shem Tov has left. But as known kdusho doesn't go away without leaving a reshimo (look in Ramak for example). The reshimo of the light of Baal Shem Tov is still tremendously great and we have to work with it!

Now I understand his words better. For those who aren't Breslovers (Chabad also believes that they preserved this light, as well as did Izhbitz and Radzin) there is no other way, rather to work with this reshimo, but to really work and not to fall into complete chitzoynius of things. First when I saw about it in Chayey Moharan (that the light of the Baal Shem Tov left somehow) I found it very hard to understand. How is it? But after I've seen and heared more about it I understood it better, even though it is very unpleasant to know.

9 Comments:

At October 3, 2006 at 8:41:00 PM EDT, Anonymous avakesh said...

Interesting, stimulating, educational, thought provoking.

A few points:
1.I don't think that you can discard the CHAGAS analysis so readily. To my (albeit limited knowledge) it was enunciated first by the Rebbe of Piaseczneh in Chovas Hatalmidim (I think Shaar 2).

2.Many years ago (late 80s) I saw an article in Judaism that argued that the then raging conflict between Satmar and Lubavitch reperesented the conflict between the old and Satmar, the new.Despite its relative modernity Lubavitch preserved the original fire of the Baal Shem Tov (belief in the Rebbe as a miraculous and prophetic figure, excitment, messianism) whereas Satmar gave up all those things and aimed for social cohesion, conformity and survival in the modern world. Most Chassidic groups have accepted this adaptation. Isn't it significant that Breslav and Chabad are the only ones who preserved some echoes of the original fire and neither has a live Rebbi?
3.My observation is that Kabbalah underlies a lot of chassidus, but not only Kabbala of the Ari but also of the Ramak and early mekkubolim. Many ideas found in various seforim, aspecially Chabad adn Breslav ( I barely know others) are directly from or in response to these works, something which even erudite Chabadniks and Breslovers are not often aware of.
4. Minor point - I am not aware that the Ramak speaks of Reshimo in the way Rebbe Nachman does. It is the Ari's idea.

I really enjoy your blog. Chazak!

 
At October 3, 2006 at 11:39:00 PM EDT, Blogger Mottel said...

Just to through in my two cents:
-When speaking about the Chabad-Chagas division, the apparent problem that people have with it may stem from the seemingly disproportionate comparison of Lubavitch on one side to a myrad of others . . .
In truth we must keep in mind that Chabad was once not necsearly synonamous with Lubavitch (and in truth it was one of the smallest groups). After the passing of the Alter Rebbe, there was a break away group under his student Reb Aaron Strasheler. After the p'tira of the Tzemach Tzedek, most of his sons became Rebbes (Chabad Kapost/Babroisky, Chabad Nezen, Chabad Liadi etc.) each with it's own derech and style -just as we find in chagas.

-A Yid said: "The Satmar Rebbe ztz”l himself noted, that Breslov Chasidus even today is like it was in time of the Baal Shem Tov!"
I fail to understand this statement . . . Who else besides Reb Nachman (who lived near the time of the Besht) is there to say Breslov Chassidus in order for it to change?

-From the above it seems that there is:
+Chabad Chassidus: (shiach to Lita (i.e. Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus and Eastern Ukraine)
+Chagas Chassidus: Which can be broken up into two groups *Those shiach to [Western] Ukraine (Breslov, Berdichov, Zhitomer) *and those shiach to Galicia (Lezhensk, Lublin etc.) as well Galicia can be broken down into Galicia proper and to perhaps what we'll call Carpathian Chassidus.
+Polish Chassidus: Perhaps located in what we'll call congress Poland (Kotzk, Ger etc.)

 
At October 4, 2006 at 1:40:00 AM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

Avakesh:
1. I'll write a bit more about Chagas/Chabad below (in answer to Mottel).

2. Interesting point, but Chabad had living Rebbes until very recent, and namely after the ptiro of the last Lubavitcher Rebe ztz"l that Chabad became chaotic. While in Breslov even though there were no new Rebbe, there were always outstanding and unique talmidim who had inner Breslover mesoyro and who fulfilled many functions that alive Rebe does (taking pidyoynos, tikuney neshomo and so on), while not being a Rebe! (It is stated how the Rebe explicitly transferred to his different talmidim different responsibilities like tikunim, pidyoynoys etc.) This is unique to Breslov I think.

3. Very true. Ramak and early mekubolim (for example schools focused on Seyfer Yetziro and others) have an integral place in Chasidus and they combine with Ari za"l, look about it in hakdomo to Likutey Amorim from the Mezheritcher Maggid zy"o written by his talmid - Reb Shloyme miLutzk zy"o. This subject is long, and it worth a separate discussion.

4. Correct - Ari za"l also speaks about it. I just remembered a reference to Ramak concerning this matter. (Look in Pardes - shaar 14, perek 1).

Mottel: This exclusive Chabad/Chagas measuring is not adequate. While Avakesh is right, that Pyasetchner Rebe speaks about difference in approach between Chabad and Chagas (he does it at length in Mevoy haSheorim, perek Hey and note there, that Chagas doesn't mean absence of learning Chasidus or Nistar), but he himself also says that there are types of Chasidus that aren't in either of this groups, or combine both (look there for details). And I feel that he held his own approach (Pyasetchno/Kozhnitz/Grodzisk) as somewhere in between. Just take a look at Kozhnitzer sforim - full with Kabolo and great depth.

One shouldn't jump to call Breslov, Koretz or Zhitomir - Chagas. Such title doesn't fit, and I don't think you can put titles so easily. Each of them are unique in their way and have great depth, not at all less than Chabad. Even though few can compare to the length of Chabad maymorim (but original early maymorim of Baal haTania were also shorter by the way). Even though their style is different from Chabad. Koretz and Breslov are often very cryptic. Zhitomir (Reb Zeev Volf zy"o, his talmidim - Reb Meir miKorostchov ztz"l and Reb Eliezer miZhitomir ztz"l) is more straightforward and sharp-clear (like Chabad in a sence), but it still has quite a different feeling and style. And for example Reb Arn miZhitomir ztz"l (Talmid of Kdushas Levy but also from Zhitomir) is very fiery and intense, while very deep as well. So you see - all this classifications like Chabad/Chagas become very fuzzy if you'll seriously try to understand all this different tzadikim and their sforim. Like Reb Dovid Sears once said - it probably depends on the shoyresh haneshomo of the tzadik, and you can't put the neshomo in formal "frames".

About regional nuances - while Chabad was common in Raysn (White Russia) and Belarus, Chagas was common there as well (classical example - Karlin/Lechovitch), so regional divisions are somewhat non solid. Eastern Ukraine was a region where all kind chasidim lived. Though there were most common - Breslov, Lubavitch and Chernobyl. (For example in Krementchug where Reb Avrohom Shternhartz ztz"l was a rov, were a big Breslover and Lubavitcher kehiloys).

By the way many chasidim of Reb Arn Strasheler ztz"l after his ptiro went to Reb Yisroel miVilednik ztz"l (Baal "Sheeyris Yisroel"). There were other types of Chasidus which took both from Chabad and from Chernobyl - for example Hornostaypl.

> I fail to understand this statement . . .
> Who else besides Reb Nachman (who lived near the time of the Besht)
> is there to say Breslov Chassidus in order for it to change?

I also didn't quite understand your remark. What I meant, that Satmar Rebe ztz"l just pointed out that Breslov today is more like Chasidus of old, unlike many others. What was actually stated as a wish from the Rebe ztz"l himself (look in Chayey Moharan) that he wanted Breslover chasidim to be like chasidim of old (Baal Shem Tov's time) with tmimusdik and honest hislahavus in avoydo and etc.

 
At October 4, 2006 at 2:33:00 AM EDT, Blogger Mottel said...

The term for Chagas is used elsewhere as well -when the Rahsab sent out his famous letter from 19 Kislev Samech Beis (which says that Toras Chabad "hi hi toras ha Ba'al shem tov :-) )the Polisher Chassidim in Kremenchug danced with out jackets saying that "Chabad Baruch Hashem Lebt,Un hashem Yisboreich zal geben az Chagas zal zich apleben" -That Baruch Chabad is alive, and G-d should allow Chagas to live as well . . ."

I don't see the depth of the chissidus to be what separates Chabad from 'Chagas' -but rather the breadth . . . Perhaps I'm wrong, but the utter arichus of biur that's found by chabad is what makes it unique . . .
The shorter ma'amorim of the Alter Rebbe were when his chassidus was still being developed (Compare even those after Petreburg to those of his son . . .)
I think the distinction between Chabad and Chagas, however, is a greet deal more in the derech rather then the actual teachings . . .
The focus, avodah, relationship with a Rebbe (that being how the Rebbe expressed the difference on Yud Shvat 5711)
I wasn't clear in my original post -but I saw the Ukrainian Chassidim to be a sort of an intermediary between Chabad and Galicia.
The regional differences are there to some degree though -Though Karlin, Slonim etc. are from Belarus davka the 'kup' of Chabad was able to make major inroads with the Litvishe Yidden . . .

I had misunderstood your remark about Breslov chassidus, thinking that it referred to the teachings rather then the group.

 
At October 4, 2006 at 11:32:00 AM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

Still I don't agree that there are only Chabad and Chagas or combination of both. There are defintetely other types as well, and I never agreed with this sort of "black and white" approach to this classification as it commonly presented in Chabad itself.

Breadth and biur - this is truly the master point of Chabad. Reb Gedalya Kenig ztz"l once noted - Chabad is a biur, and Breslov needs a biur! Before he became a Breslover he was very seriously involved with Baal haTania's sforim (and other Chabad, probably Mittler Rebe ztz"l). After he became a talmid of Reb Avrohom Shternhartz ztz"l, he said it took him quite a long time to be able to learn Breslov without rephrasing it in "Chabad format" so to say. But as you see he held Chabad very helpful as a clear biur of Chasidus anyway.

About Karlin - it was very big in Belarus. Probably not as big as Chabad, but not less noticable. Really I thinkg one shouldn't measure differences by region. Even within one region there culd be pretty diffrent approaches.

 
At October 4, 2006 at 4:10:00 PM EDT, Blogger Bob Miller said...

Putting aside for a moment the long history behind each group or broad category, how can we group Chassidim today according to the ways their most committed role models pray/learn/live?

 
At October 4, 2006 at 5:16:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

I would say - those who are interested in the Derech haBaal Shem Tov, and those who are not.

 
At October 11, 2006 at 2:23:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Dovid Sears said...

I agree with most of A Yid's analysis. However, there may be something to the "ChaGaS" rubric if we understand it as applying to the external, social formula of Chassidus instead of the internal, individual-oriented derakhim in 'avodas Hashem.

Most Chassidic communities after the period of the talmidei ha-Maggid and even more so after the Tzanzer Rov relegated the deeper parts of Chassidus and pnimiyus 'avodah to their Rebbes and certain yechidei segulah, while ChaBaD sought to use the intellect as a vehicle for hasagas Elokus, and to involve as many kinds of people as possible in this lofty enterprise. (As A Yid pointed out, Breslev, Ziditchov-Komarno, Izhbitz-Radzyn, and Piacetzno are among the several major exceptions to these classifications.)

However, the derakhim of the great Rebbes and "baalei machshavah" as individuals speaking to other searching souls are very complex and diverse, and can't be simply peged as "CHaBaD," or "ChAGaS," or "NHYM," either. Ultimately, each tzaddik "hears the music" of pnimiyus ha-Torah his own way and tries to communicate it to those who share his shoresh ha-neshamah.

 
At July 8, 2007 at 9:03:00 AM EDT, Blogger Winter Solutions said...

"The Satmar Rebbe ztz”l himself noted, that Breslov Chasidus even today is like it was in time of the Baal Shem Tov! I personally think that Hungarish Chasidus turned to be the most distanced from Baal Shem Tov intention, which was confirmed by the Satmar Rebbe himself (in his famous statement). But he wasn't the first to make such a statement. It was made much earlier by Tzanzer Rov. Also see further about such statement in Breslov."

I have always had this sense, but I have never heard this as stated by the Satmer Ruv ZTZ”l or Tzanzer ZTz”l. Do you have these references?

"To be honest - Galitzianer and Hungarish aren't totally the same, but in this context they are pretty close. Galitzianer Chasidus has few outstanding exceptions though - Dinov, Bluzhev, Munkatch for example. Zhiditchov and Komarno you already mentioned."

I’m not sure what this means: “Galitzianer Chasidus has few outstanding exceptions though - Dinov, Bluzhev, Munkatch for example.” Are Dinov, Bluzhev, and Munkatch similar to or differentiated from the Hungarish? (I thought that Toldoys Aharon was also from the Bnei Yissochor.) How would you describe/categorize the chassidus of Dinov, Bluzhev, and Munkatch?

 

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