"What Is Chassidus?"
(Picture courtesy of Pinchas)
Schneur Zalman commenting on A New Generation Of Chassidim:
I tend to agree with your stand. But frankly I do not know what Chassidus is. I do not like being a cynic, but what is the Derech HaBesht? What is Chassidus? What makes it unique? Does it have a different philosophy of Halacha?
Because I do not know even after years of reading about learning Chassidus and talking to adherents, I am not qualified to comment. In the U.S. most of what is called Chassidus should much more properly be labeled the derech of the Chasam Sofer that is a conservative reactionary religious stance ignoring reality and mitzvoth shel ben adam lechavero. Satmar, Pupa, are Chassidic? But even the other groups are essentially conservative religious sects devoid of the mystic of the Shivisi Hashem...
Chabad stresses outreach and Messianic belief, what's unique about this? Where is the Chabad in Lubavitch? How many shluchim can teach proper Chabad prayer? How many care? The Divrei Chaim's answer to my question was lernen, so in that case the Gra was a Beshtian Chasid too. I just read a wonderful book about Reb Yankele of Husyatin by R. Yehuda Brandes. There I found some definitions of what true Chassidus was. Its one of the best books I have ever read about REAL Chassidus. It should be translated for the US reader. But the key word is WAS. All Chassidic groups except for 2-3 are basically in the path of the Chasam Sofer not the path of the Besht. Perhaps Breslov offers that derech, but even in former years shanim ketikunnom, the vast majority of rebbes were not excited by Breslov either. But that proves nothing, maybe Breslov does have the Toras HaBesht? I have broken bread with groups of Satmar, Bobover, Belzer, etc. and many times they ask me a Modern Orthodox guy to tell them what Chassidus is, they simply do not know, and I agree with them - what is Chassidus?