Question & Answer With Dixie Yid - Following The Chernobyl Derech
A Simple Jew asks:
Aside from regularly learning his sefer, to what degree do you feel drawn to follow the derech of the Me'or Einayim? Have you ever contemplated attaching yourself to one of the Chernobyl dynasties, adopting Chernobyl minhagim, or even attempting to follow some of the Hanhagos Yesharos that are recorded and appended to the back of Rebbe Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl's sefer?
Dixie Yid answers:
To be honest, I do not feel drawn, to a great degree, to adopt or discover the minhagim of Chernobyl.
I sense that at this point in my life, you and I think pretty differently from each other on this general issue. While you, my holy friend, tend to work on serving Hashem partly through connecting more deeply with your ancestors' mesorah and minhagim, I'm taking a generally different approach. I think you share this approach in common with Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin. Both of you greatly desired to know more about your roots and worked for a long period to time to reach your goal. And then when you learned where you came from, you learned everything you could about the minhagim of that place and then adopted those minhagim forthwith! I greatly admire both of you for this approach.
For the time being, I would feel hypocritical and insincere if I were to take on the external minhagim (in davening, Shabbos/Yuntif table, chumros, dress, etc.) of such a holy community without even attaining the basics of where I should be on the inside. As I understand it, the most important part of Chassidus is what's on the inside (behavior, thoughts, emunah, speech) as Rabbi Tal Zwecker writes about. While I know that acting in a certain way externally is a positive way to produce an internal effect, it also has the danger of allowing one to feel "religious" without having to do the real work, which is internal.
I'm concerned that I could fall into that trap, and so right now, minhagim-wise, I'm sticking to the original Ashkenaz minhagim that I learned while I was becoming religious. As I wrote about here, while I am inclined to change my minhagim at some point to reflect my connection to Chassidus, my current feeling is that I will hold off on that until I can feel that I won't be putting on airs or acting more religious than I feel that I actually am on the inside.