Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Identity


This afternoon, an African American woman on the subway asked me if I was a Chassidic Jew. I hestitated for a moment and replied that I was just an Orthodox Jew.

How could I quickly explain to her that although I am not a chassid, I aspire to be one; that I learn Chassidus everyday, am connected to a Chassidic Rebbe, and adhere to a number of Chassidic practices and yet I am still not a Chassidic Jew?

This leads to a deeper question: At what point can I call myself a chassid? It is a both a level and also identity. It is something that can be defined, and yet no amount of words can properly define it.

20 Comments:

At January 26, 2011 at 11:49:00 PM EST, Anonymous Shmuel said...

I think the vast majority of people that read this blog would agree that you have earned the right to call yourself a chossid. Probably more than most chassidim.

 
At January 27, 2011 at 4:42:00 AM EST, Blogger David said...

If a person establish a kesher with a specific chassidic Rabbi, how can he not call himself chassid?

 
At January 27, 2011 at 6:22:00 AM EST, Anonymous yehupitz said...

!!
Like!

 
At January 27, 2011 at 9:24:00 AM EST, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

David, how much of a kesher would suffice?

 
At January 27, 2011 at 4:16:00 PM EST, Anonymous Dovid Sears said...

I'd say that you are if that's what you aspire to be. How close do any of us get to our ideal?

(Just for the record, I definitely consider you a Chassid, however you define yourself!)

 
At January 27, 2011 at 4:31:00 PM EST, Anonymous Litvak said...

Good move.

Pintele Litvak showing itself there? :)

Perhaps you are loathe to separate yourself off from your non-Hassidic ancestors and friends with such a step.

Keep on nurturing your inner Litvak! :)

 
At January 29, 2011 at 8:53:00 PM EST, Blogger Gandalin said...

Simple,

Do you see a difference between a chossid and a Hasidic Jew?

Gandalin

 
At January 30, 2011 at 9:50:00 PM EST, Blogger DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Hamodia Newspaper made me a chossid. I helped a little bit in organizing aspects of the Koidinover Rebbe's first visit to the Five Towns. A picture of me shaking hands with the Rebbe made into Hamodia with the caption, "The Koidinover meets with one of his chassidim in the Five Towns." I became a clean-shaven chassid just like that!

But kidding aside, I think on an emesdike level, it's like Rabbi Sears said, that one is what one aspires to be. But it's still difficult to come right out and call oneself a chassid.

 
At February 1, 2011 at 3:20:00 PM EST, Blogger Dovid said...

I think you'd then have to change the name of your blog.

 
At February 1, 2011 at 8:57:00 PM EST, Blogger DanielS82 said...

Why can't you just be a simple Jew? After all, that is what your blog is about really, serving Hashem as a simple Jew, even if your particular path is called Chassidus.

 
At February 3, 2011 at 1:18:00 PM EST, Blogger Yehoshua said...

There are two types of Jews: Hasidim and those on the road to becoming Hasidim.
Kol Tuv!
www.treasuredpeople.com

 
At February 3, 2011 at 8:17:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am reminded of the story that someone approached Reb Yaakov Kaminetsky, zt"l, in Toronto and asked him if he was a chossid. Reb Yaakov replied, "Yes, but my Rebbe is a Litvak."

 
At February 15, 2011 at 12:42:00 PM EST, Anonymous Yirmeyahu said...

I understand the feeling, but for you to deny being a chasid, even out of humility, may not be entirely honest. :)

 
At February 16, 2011 at 7:04:00 AM EST, Blogger yoni said...

There is a maiseh from the kotzker that goes something like this:
A follower of the Kotzker once approached his Rebbe and asked, "Rebbe, who is a Chossid?" The Kotzker responded, "Anyone who wants to be a chossid is a chossid." The follower at this point gets very frustrated and says, “What!? For years I have been devoting myself to the ways of chassidus, and struggling day in day out and that’s it? Anyone who wants to be a chossid is a chossid?!” The Kotzker replied, “You have missed the point. As I said, anyone who wants to be a chossid, he is a chossid. As soon as one stops wanting to be a chossid, he can not be called a chossid.”

I believe you have embodied this teaching. Ashrecha!

 
At February 24, 2011 at 9:46:00 AM EST, Blogger Michael said...

The other way I have heard the Kotsker'scomment is in response to the question as to who may not become a chasid, he answered one who already thinks that he is a chasid.

 
At February 24, 2011 at 9:47:00 AM EST, Blogger Michael said...

Or better, one who already "is" a chasid

 
At March 16, 2011 at 9:35:00 PM EDT, Anonymous David Tzohar said...

My Grandfather,R'Duvid Fenster AHSh was aLitvak who hailed from Eastern Prussia and came to America in the early20th century.He became attracted to the Tolner Chassidim in Philadelphia and their leader Rebbe Moshe Tzvi Twersky. He took on chassiic customs, and dovenned in their shtieble. He did not however define himself as a "Tolner Hassid" nor did he wear a kapoteh or a Shtreimel. He also retained some litvische traditions like winding the tefillin to the inside.
This is the basis of minhag in our family today.
Interesting to know that when my father went off to the second world war, my grandmother took him to the Tolner Rebbe for a blessing.The Rebbe also wrote him an amulet. Ifound this s little strange since the Tolners are said to be an "intellectual" chasidut. In any case the amulet diddnt hurt since mt father returned from having been a combat soldier with the US Army in France,in one piece,withonlt a few shards of Shrapnel in his back that give him problems passind airline security.










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At April 23, 2011 at 10:08:00 PM EDT, Blogger Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver said...

ASJ: If you consider yourself in your avodah a work-in-progress, then you are a chossid. If you thought that you'd reached perfection, then you would davka not deserve that title. Cf. Tanya ch. 15.

 
At April 23, 2011 at 11:06:00 PM EDT, Blogger Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver said...

Also, see my posts on this general topic here.

 
At November 26, 2011 at 12:26:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you have to call yourself anything other than a Jew trying to follow the Torah and do the will of the creator. That is what a Jew is. Not a chassid, charedi, dati leumi, etc. There is no such thing in shamyim. Hashem only cares about the end result. He doesn't want or need the label. He knows what is in the heart of hearts! That is all that counts!

 

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