Question & Answer With Long Beach Chasid - Gerrer Chassidus
A Simple Jew asks:
You have recently written about your attraction to Gerrer Chassidus. What specifically did you find in Gerrer seforim that you did not find in other seforim that you have learned? Could you imagine yourself becoming a Gerrer Chassid one day?
Long Beach Chasid answers:
Gerrer Chassidus is something beautiful. Not to say that any other form of Chassidus lacks but Gerrer has something in it that ignites my neshama. A Chabad Chasid once told me "Our Chassidus is Chabad and all the rest of Chassidus is Chagas." I smiled reviewing that weeks parsha that the Sfas Emes delivered a maamer on some 130 years ago.
I thought that if this Yid thinks that only Chabad has knowledge wisdom and understanding he has never read anything by the Sfas Emes. My exposure to Chassidus is limited to Chabad, Breslov, Bostoner, and Gerrer Chassidus. What really attracts me to the Sfas Emes is his emphasis on Shabbos and the Weekday. Ger Chassidim were very poor and Kollel wasn't an option. Even the Sfas Emes and his grandfather the Chiddushei HaRim had businesses. Since I have a job and can't devote my whole day to learning, I especially rely on Shabbos to bring kedusha into my life. The Sfas Emes always goes the non-pshat route and the end result is always inspiring. Sure, all Chassidus is intellectual and really makes you understand the deepness of the Torah, but until the Sfas Emes I was never giddy when learning. I'm talking about clap your hands like you are 6 years-old excited. Once I was at a shuir at a very Litvak shul and the Rav quoted the Sfas Emes and the Yidden soaked up every word. That's when I knew he wasn't just any Rebbe. Because even the Litvaks respect his teachings which ones again unites Jews and leaves behind the segregation of Chassidish and Misnagish Torah. Which also made me realize or so it seems that only Chabad continues the terminological mishugas of the Misnag vs Chasid.
Pesach was a defining moment in my learning of the Sfas Emes. I actually quoted him as I spoke in front of a Chabad Shul on the last days of Pesach. It was my first time speaking Torah in front of a large group and I wasn't sure how they would take hearing Torah from someone other than their Rebbe.
In his maamer on Pesach he takes the pasuk of the Hagadah that says that every year we should celebrate as if we are personally leaving Mitzrayim. So instead of trying to picture ourselves as slaves 3000 years ago leaving Egypt the Sfas Emes takes it as usual right out of Pshat mode. He says we should look at what Mitzrayim represents. It represents the truly evil, mundane, and materialistic. This is all still here in Galus. He is saying that to relive the exodus we much bring it into our own life and like they Yidden of Egypt we must leave behind all that Mitzrayim represents today.
It really stuck with me how the Sfas Emes always makes the Torah relate to his Chasidim. Even 137 years later I am able to relate to him on the other side of the world from where he once lived. Other Rebbes do this, but it is unique for me at least in the way the Sfas Emes does this. Yes he is able to get the deep understanding from the Torah and explain what the stories represent and how things happened, but to really connect as a Jew for me at least it is to do like the Alter Rebbe of Chabad said "Live with the times". I'm able to guide my life with Torah based on the teachings of the Sfas Emes. He tells us that if you cant sit in a room and learn Torah all day, that you can go out to work during the week and find Holiness because everything is from HKB. That not only can the Shabbos make the weekday more holy but vice versa.
Its not that other Seforim lack this, but I just relate better to the way the Sfas Emes relays his message.
I could become a Gerrer Chassid. However, I don't know how the politics work now that the shtetl life is gone. Pre-War I could have simply traveled to Ger but I'm not exactly sure how this works now. Do they accept baal teshuva easily? Now that I'm married I also have a wife to consider. Is the way the woman dress, their freedom, etc conflicting with the ideals of my wife. As for now our plan is to learn in Israel for a month in July and daven at their shul, and speak to some of them. I pray that Gerrer Rebbe and chassidim of today reflect what I feel the Sfas Emes stands for, and if this is the case then we found our place.