Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Guest Posting From Aharon Benjamin - Transition

(Picture by Ian Loxley)

Let's see, the question that was asked of me by 'A Simple Jew' was why I have recently began transitioning from Chabad to Breslov in terms of my personal observance of Judaism.

Well, first of all, it is not entirely accurate since a) I am still wearing my yellow Mashiach Pin b) I am still davening nusach Ari from the Tehillat Hashem siddur and c) I am still doing Chitas etc., so to say that I have "left Chabad" does not seem to be quite accurate to describe my situation.

On the other hand, it is true that recently I have taken a renewed interest in the teachings of Rebbe Nachman and I am soon considering going to Israel to look at some Breslov yeshivot for this reason.

How did this begin? For the past decade or so since I began my teshuva process, one area of life where I feel I have been having my biggest personal failing is in the area of achieving simcha / happiness / joy. This lack of simcha led me to try out over 10 yeshivot in Israel when I first started my teshuva process and eventually I decided to join Chabad since I was aware of Rebbe Nachman's teaching that a) one must be connected with a tzadik and b) one must be b'simcha! (Yes, I was loosely affiliated with Breslov before I joined Chabad in Tzfat.)

However, after many years in Chabad, I have found that I have continued to struggle with the issue of simcha. For ages, I have been trying to figure out why I cannot bring myself to be b'simcha, which has been an obstacle in my religious observance ever since I left Isralight (where I began my formal teshuva process about 13 years ago.) I have been trying natural supplements such as 5htp, tyrosine, omega 3's, vitamins etc. Recently someone sent me an email suggesting that I try doing some hitbodedut to alleviate my depression. I thought that was a funny suggestion, but I decided to give it a try, since it came my way from what seemed to be a sincere person, by Hashgacha pratis. That day, when I tried it, HaShem sent me some clear signs that this was the right thing for me to do.

My Rabbi in Toronto who was a Chabadnik, gave a class that day and he told a story. He said - once upon a time there was a chossid who had a Rebbe and everything was ok by him. One day he heard about another Rebbe who came to a neighboring town and who many people were making a big fuss about saying "this Rebbe is so amazing" etc. This Jew got curious and he thought to himself, that he would leave his Rebbe and go to be by this other Rebbe who everyone was making a big deal about. So he went. As the years went by, things started going wrong for this Jew (let's call him Yankel) - Yankel went to the new Rebbe and asked him, why HaShem was doing this to him. The (new) Rebbe told him, when you were by your Rebbe, HaShem was happy with you and all was good. But when you started making comparisons and saying maybe this other Rebbe is better than my Rebbe, then in the Heavenly court they also started making comparisons of your deeds against other people etc., and you have thus brought many judgments upon yourself! Yankel decided to go back to his original Rebbe, and things became better for him again.

When I heard my Chabad Rabbi tell us this story - on the very same day that I had returned to hitbodedut after abandoning it for about 10 years - I suddenly realized that - with all due respect to Chabad - Rebbe Nachman was really meant to be my Rebbe, all along. Since then, I have started dancing to Jewish music 3 times a week (as Rebbe Noton and Rebbe Nachman talk about how this is a derech to teshuva and simcha) and also before I was religious I was aware of the fact that exercise plays a significant role in feeling good and being healthy. I am also getting increasingly interested in niggunim and music, which is also something I have always loved, but have never had the discipline nor opportunities to develop skills in this area in my life. I am also interested in the Na Nach Nachma Nachman MeUman folks and hope to learn more about them when I make my next visit to the Holy Land.

13 Comments:

At January 9, 2007 at 8:12:00 AM EST, Blogger Michoel said...

I find Breslov very uplifting and I am by nature and hashkafa a Litvak. Two big eitzos for alleiviating depression: 1) Real exercise 2) don't spend all day on the computer.

Hatzlacha raba

 
At January 9, 2007 at 8:17:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...

The Rebbes in the story you heard, at least how I heard and/or read it, were the Rebbe Reb Zusia of Anipoli, and his Rebbe, the Maggid of Mezritch. I seem to remember that the RR Zusia was away for awhile, and when he return, his Chassid asked where he was, & discovered that he had a Rebbe, so he decided to "try him out." The rest you got right.

 
At January 9, 2007 at 3:23:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

> find Breslov very uplifting and I am by nature and hashkafa a Litvak.

This is one of the issues that confuses many newcomers to Breslov. They don't realise that Breslov is a Chasidus, and not a "one more school of mussar". Still, it's great that you feel uplifted by Rebbe's teachings.

 
At January 9, 2007 at 5:09:00 PM EST, Anonymous moshe said...

"They don't realise that Breslov is a Chasidus, and not a "one more school of mussar"
A Yid: Thank you! I see that too, and I myself used to make that mistake. Could you still explain it more maybe?

 
At January 9, 2007 at 5:32:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

I'll write about it a bit later. It is a long subject.

 
At January 9, 2007 at 11:00:00 PM EST, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Great post. There is great wisdom, as you know, in the teaching of Reb Nachman. I've learned much about the mean of true joy from his works. Thanks for sharing!

 
At January 10, 2007 at 5:25:00 AM EST, Anonymous X-Eli said...

I used to have the same experience but the opposite way... I made tshuva thanks to chabad, and then have been much closer to Rabbi Nahman's teaching... Once, when I davened at Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai's grave in Meiron, I was praying Hashem to give me a sign, a way to be sure which path to follow... Then I opened my eyes and what did I see first? A picture of the Lubavitcher Rabbi on one of the many books and sidurim that where lying on the table... Since, while I still enjoy reading from Likutey Moharan and Likoutey Halakhot, I went back to Chitat and learning maamarim from the Rabbi, and to daven in a Chabad shul. Also, I send my girls in a Chabad school, and I think that's the only way I can raise my children in Hassidut... Bottom line, '70 panim laTora', and every single jew has to find is own way...

 
At January 10, 2007 at 6:40:00 AM EST, Anonymous moshe said...

A Yid: looking forward to it.

 
At January 10, 2007 at 9:54:00 AM EST, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

A Breslover rabbi once told me that Breslov teachings combine Chassidus and Mussar.

 
At January 10, 2007 at 10:38:00 AM EST, Blogger avakesh said...

I don't know the writer at all and my remarks do not apply to him but are directed only for those who may feel that it applies to them.

For many sensitive souls, the ups and downs of life are painful. They may be tempted to use spirituality to self-medicate but such use of Chassidus is akin to magic, a use of a large coin for small change. But you can't mix psychology and Chassidus well(mussar mixes much better with psychology). Chassidus explains inner states but is not really applicable to more severe inner states. In fact, one criticism of Breslov from other Chassidus is that it appears to apply BESHT's teachings to more disturbed psychological states. Ultimately, it may lead to a davar meguna - utilization of ruchniyos for selfish goals.
Especially Breslov needs to watch for that. Rebbbe Nachman left a wealth of teachings on how to lift oneself from low states of being, but I beleive that these are spiritual lows, not psychological lows.
So I would caution about picking a Chassidus because it promises to lift one out of depression. Depression is at the core not a spiritual malady, although it can be conceived of as such and may ovelap in certain individuals. One needs a guide in these matters.

 
At January 10, 2007 at 10:55:00 AM EST, Blogger Michoel said...

I think Avakesh is saying something correct and profound. I don't know enough chasidus to get into the nitty gritty. I would only suggest that since clearly the spiritual and emotional are m'kushar ze ba'ze, one's way of being noheg in Yiddishkeit can clearly open up doors that one may not see if they were noheg differently. That is not advocate a particular derech as a "refuah".

 
At January 10, 2007 at 11:32:00 AM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

Avakesh, Michoel: I think exactly the opposite. Chasidus is universal, and such division between ruchnius vs. psychological is totally wrong. Chasidus teaches that even division between gashmius and ruchnius is ultimately incorrect, kol shekeyn "psychological". What do you thing "pshychological" mean? Pshycho is a soul, "logy" is study. So psychology means the study of the soul. While science does it differently, Chasidus is very busy with the "study of the soul". It is a virtue of Breslov, that it addresses even the lowest states of mind and soul more often than others. If you know enough - Baal Shem Tov addresses them a lot too. So the statement that "one criticism of Breslov from other Chassidus is that it appears to apply BESHT's teachings to more disturbed psychological states" is totally out.

 
At January 10, 2007 at 3:42:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

However it worth to mention, that because of the mentioned above, Breslov attracts many mentally unstable or even complete meshugeners. No one denies that.

 

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