Question & Answer With Yirmeyahu - Sanzer Chassidus
A Simple Jew asks:
How does the Sanzer approach to Chassidus differ from the approach of other groups?
I must preface my answer with the unequivocal fact that I cannot claim to speak of Sanz Chassidus, or any Chassidus, but I’ll share my thoughts as an observer.
The question of what is unique about each Chassidus is a bit ambiguous, much as the question of what is different about Chassidus from non-Chassidic Orthodoxy. It can be easier to perceive the difference than to articulate them. The differences that aren't "superficial" are generally those of emphasizing common values differently.
Nevertheless it seems to me that there is a clear focus, Sanz Chassidus emphasizes the unequivocal primacy of traditional Torah learning.
I am not certain that, had you asked this to the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe zy'a, that he would have conceded that there is a difference. While the Besht extended opened arms to the uneducated this was not meant in the slightest to depreciate the value of traditional Torah study. "The disciples of the Besht expended much effort to do "kiruv" by teaching all Jews to return to Teshuvah and educate their children with proper Chinuk. However, the inner circle of the disciples of the Besht were Gaonim in learning. Most held important positions and disseminated Torah learning amongst the masses." (Derech Chaim, end of chapter 11). Compare this to the words of the Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim 5, 24, 6).
The Rebbe zy'a continued discussing the importance of classical Torah study in chapter twelve of Derech Chaim. There he cites one of the earliest Chassidic authorities, the Rebbe Reb Elimelech who says, "First and foremost, a person must study Gemara with Rashi, Tosafos, and other commentaries, each person according to his abilities. This should be followed by the study of Poskim, beginning with the study of Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim." (Seder Hanhagos HaAdam).
Baruch Hashem, today there are many great classical works on Chassidus that can help us draw closer to Hashem. The Chassidic world has also produced some important Sheilos u'Teshuvos, Responsa literature. One very important work is the sh'ut Divrei Chaim by the Admor from Sanz. In it contains a very important psak on adopting Nusach Sefard. It also has noteworthy teshuvos in connection with constructing Mikvaos and other topics. The Divrei Chaim's son, HaRav Yechezkel Shraga Halberstam zy'a also has a number of Teshuvos which have been attached to his work the "Divrei Yechezkel". The Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe zy'a published seven volumes of teshuvos under the title "Divrei Yotziv". Another work of responsa called "Yashiv Yitzchak" has been published by HaRav Yitzchak Shechter shlita, a Rosh Yeshiva in Kiryat Sanz. "Divrei Moshe" is a work of Responsa by the prominent Posek and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Divrei Chaim in Yerushalayim, HaRav Moshe Halberstam zt'l, who passed away recently. The "Divrei Yoel" and the "Minchas Eliezer" also have ties to Sanz.
The first Admor of Bobov, HaRav Shlomo Halberstam zy'a,who had been raised by his grandfather the Divrei Chaim of Sanz founded the first Yeshiva in Galacia. Prior to then students learned in small groups in the shteiblach. While the Divrei Chaim noted and supported this phenomenon, the first Rebbe of Bobov recognized that with the rise of the haskala the structure provided by a traditional Yeshiva was necessary.
The Klausenberger Rebbe zy"a founded Mifal HaShas, a program where men would study 20, 30, or seventy blatt of Gemara a month on which they are tested. The stipends are tied to test performance. Shortly after my conversion, when my wife was pregnant with our son whom we planned to name after the Rebbe zy"a, we spent several months in Beitar Illit. At one point I asked some friends we had make what they knew about the Rebbe zy'a since at the time finding such information was much more difficult than even now. My friend pointed out the street we both lived on was named "Mifal Hashas" after the Rebbe's program. Although I had read of the program I hadn't been familiar enough with the term to make the connection.
I think Sanz-Klausenberg has been very successful in maintaining focus on traditional Torah learning as a prerequisite for Chassidus. But I do not think anyone in Sanz would claim that this is the exclusive domain of Sanz Chassidus but rather essential to Chassidus.