Thursday, May 15, 2008

"Consider What We Are All Doing Here"

(Painting by Martina Shapiro)

Rabbi Yitzchok Wagshul commenting on So Much Chassidus - What To Learn?:

There can be no greater authority on this subject than the Lubavitcher Rebbe himself. In his booklet Inyanah Shel Toras HaChassidus, the Rebbe clearly explains the true nature of Chassidus; why it is essential to Hashem’s plan for the universe and for Moshiach to come; and why it was revealed only in these later generations. (This masterly sefer is available in the original Hebrew plus English translation and explanatory footnotes as the book, On the Essence of Chassidus. Also, years ago, in teaching it to college students, I found that the book is relatively incomprehensible to those without adequate background. I therefore made a series of eight explanatory audiotapes with a complete reading of the text and selected footnotes and with even more explanation and background; this set of tapes is available from Purity Press (info @

In the book, the Rebbe explains that, just as the Torah is essentially one with Hashem Himself, so is Chassidus even more so, since Chassidus is the essence of the Torah. Specifically, the Rebbe quotes Kuntres Acharon and Derech Mitzvosecha to the effect that “the essence of Torah is that it is ‘completely united with the infinite light of the Ein Sof which is enclothed within it in a perfect and total unity’” (On the Essence of Chassidus, p. 30). As for Chassidus, the Rebbe says:

“The fundamental nature of Chasidus is a quintessential point, which is completely abstracted and removed from any particular ideas; however, it is by virtue of this quintessential point that all the above-mentioned special qualities exist and are derived. This quintessential point of the effusion of a ‘new light’ from the innermost level of keter, and yet higher, an effusion from the innermost level of atik itself, which is the level of the Ein Sof...that is found in radla [reisha d’lo isyada—‘the head or beginning that is not known’]. It follows then, from this very idea...that all of the distinctive qualities of Chasidus which are explained in various places are but the ramifications of the quintessential point. For since Chasidus is the extension of the state of Ein Sof, it is self-understood that Ein Sof is the essence [of Chasidus], and all other particular aspects are only ramifications and derivatives of it.... Now even though the quintessential point of all parts of Torah is that they are united with the light of the Ein Sof, in truth, the primary expression of this point is in Chasidus. (As was said of (alone) is the effusion of the Ein Sof that is found in radla.)”

Throughout the book, the Rebbe elaborates that Chassidus is the essence of Torah, which is united with the Essence of Hashem, and which unites the essence of a Jew with the Essence of Hashem. In fact, the Rebbe explains that this “essence” state, that of Yechida, is expressed in the universe at large through Moshiach, and that spreading the teachings of Chassidus literally accomplishes this.

Now, regarding what was said in Rabbi Leshem’s comment, consider the following, which is summarized from footnote 8 to the appendix of On the Essence of Chassidus:

Tikkunei Zohar recounts Eliyahu HaNavi’s statement to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai about the Zohar: “Many people in the world will be sustained and nourished from this work of yours, when it is revealed below in the last generation, at the end of days, and on its account ‘you will proclaim freedom in the land.’”

One could ask a question on this — the Zohar was not revealed only in the last generation before Moshiach; why then did Eliyahu HaNavi imply that it is only then that the Zohar will enable the ‘proclamation of freedom in the land,’ i.e., Moshiach’s arrival?

In answer, the Kisay Melech on Tikkunei Zohar (ad loc.) explains that it is only in the last generation “(because the learning of it must be in such a manner that) it sustains and nourishes... wherein its [Zohar’s] profound statements will be clearly explained by the introductions of the they will understand...for although one who studies it superficially has a good reward...nevertheless the virtue on whose account ‘you will proclaim freedom’ is when it will sustain and nourish, and is studied with the explanatory discourses.” (See also introduction by Rabbi Chaim Vital to Shaar HaHakdamos.)

The emphasis on “nourishment” refers to the teaching (see Tanya, end of chap. 5) that, whereas mitzvos are the “garments” of the G-dly soul, Torah is its mazon, “food” and “nourishment.” Just as bread is absorbed and digested only when it is thoroughly chewed and integrated within the person, so “likewise it is with the knowledge of the Torah and its comprehension by the soul of the person who studies it well, with a concentration of his intellect, until the Torah is absorbed by his intellect and is united with it and they become one” (Tanya, loc. cit.).

With this in mind, we can appreciate the Rebbe’s statement (On the Essence of Chassidus, appendix, pp. 108–110):

“Originally, this knowledge [the inner aspect of Torah] had been revealed and known only ‘to a select few, and even then, discreetly and not publicly.’...The dissemination of the inner part of Torah began only with the Arizal....Even then, however, its revelation was not widespread, nor was it diffused in such a manner that ‘it will sustain and nourish’—until the appearance of the Baal Shem Tov. Upon his arrival, and through his efforts, the extensive and all-embracing dissemination of this wisdom to all Israel began. This was in accordance with the response of the King Moshiach (to the question of the Baal Shem Tov, ‘When will the Master come?’): ‘When your wellsprings are dispersed abroad.’ And it was especially after the revelation of Chabad Chasidus through Rabbi Schneur Zalman that it attained the level of ‘nourishment,’ for then Chasidus was articulated in terms of man’s intellectual understanding and in rational language (‘food’). From that point on, this knowledge was disseminated in a mode of continuous progression and increasing light.”

Thus, Chabad Chassidus should not really be viewed as the Chassidus taught by Chabad chassidism; nor, for that matter, should other forms of Chassidus be viewed as the Chassidus of various Chassidic groups. Rather, each form of Chassidus should properly be viewed as a specific step in G-d’s master plan for the universe; for the revelation of Torah over the generations; and for Moshiach’s arrival. Chabad Chassidus, in particular—as the Rebbe explained—is the culmination of this process, the final step in the progressive drawing of Chassidus down to earth. I would venture to say that, in a very real sense, Chabad chassidism flows from Chabad Chassidus, not the other way around.

(None of this necessarily means that a person whose lineage is that of another Chassidic group is obligated to become a Chabad chassid instead. We all have our individual souls, and they each have their specific place in Hashem’s plan— which person is most closely affiliated with what Rebbe, etc. But learning Chabad Chassidus is something everyone should do.)

Now I ask you all, dear readers, to stop and consider what we are all doing here: not only are we engaged in a discussion of Chassidus, the innermost essence of the Torah, we are doing so by means of an internet blog, accessible to literally everyone in the world. Is this not the fusion of ‘the portals of wisdom above’ (i.e., Torah, see below) and ‘the fountains of wisdom below’ (i.e., technology)? It is, indeed, time for Moshiach—now!

The Kabbalah teaches (Zohar I, 117a), “In the sixth century of the sixth millennium, the portals of wisdom above, and the fountains of wisdom below will be opened, and the world will be prepared for the spiritual elevation of the seventh millennium [i.e., the Messianic Era]. . . . This is alluded to in the words (Genesis 7:11), ‘In the six hundredth year of the life of Noah . . . all the fountains of the great depths burst forth.’”

As Rabbi Y. H. Greenberg (translator of On the Essence of Chassidus) writes in his introduction to Words of the Living G-d (Torah Or and Likkutei Torah adapted into English, published by Purity Press):

“In the quote from the Zohar, above, ‘the portals of wisdom above’ is a reference to the secrets of the Torah, and ‘the fountains of wisdom below’ refers to advances in worldly knowledge like science and technology. Here we see the combination of these two in the service of G-d: not only is Chassidus increasingly available in English today, but technology has advanced to the point where anyone with a Palm pilot, Smartphone, or similar wireless device can log on to websites like and access the most profound mysteries of the Torah wherever they happen to be. Chassidus, clearly explained, is literally in the air. It blankets the earth.

“There can, seemingly, be no greater extension of the wellsprings abroad than that. May it be Hashem’s will, therefore, that [this] be the final step in the dispersal of the wellsprings abroad, and that we immediately merit the reward for such dispersal. As the Rebbe explains in On the Essence of Chassidus, this is nothing less than the revelation of the Messianic Era, about which, as the Prophet Isaiah writes (Isaiah 11:9), ‘the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d, as the waters cover the sea.’”


At May 15, 2008 at 6:37:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

None of this necessarily means that a person whose lineage is that of another Chassidic group is obligated to become a Chabad chassid instead. We all have our individual souls, and they each have their specific place in Hashem’s plan— which person is most closely affiliated with what Rebbe, etc. But learning Chabad Chassidus is something everyone should do.

I would add, that for many Lubavitchers it will be nevertheless beneficial to study other Chasidic works, which are sifrey yesoyd. For this reason, Chabad even publishes Maggid's sforim, and likutim form the Baal Shem Tov (Keser Shem Tov and etc.).

At May 15, 2008 at 7:21:00 PM EDT, Blogger TZ said...

While it is true that the Lubavitcher Rebbe who was much greater than me in all ways said all these things in this Kuntres, we have to remember two things he was the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the leader of Chabad.

That said, off course he is going to say that only Chabad Chassidus teaches you in this special way and that only Chabad Chassidus nourishes the soul etc. He is the leader and representative of Chabad!

In many sichos the Rebbe breaks Chassidus up into two parts Chabad Chassidus and what he calls Chassidus Polin. This misnomer seems to group all other forms of Chassidus as eclectic and different as they are under one umbrella.

Again with all respect to the Rebbe Z"L anyone who studies Chassidus knows that Noam Eliemelch, Likutei Moharan, Kotzk Izbitz Radzin, Ziditshov Komarna, Hungarian/Romanian Chassidus etc. are not the same.

The rebbe himself must have known this, so why the grouping?

I would assume its as follows.

Chabad claims and has always claimed that their Chassidus is the real authentic continuation in the chain of Baal Shem Tov Maggid Ba'al HaTanya etc. (Dont be surprised every other group claims something similar, for example in Intro to Bais Yakkov Radzin it says the same idea switching the Rebbe Reb melech for the Baal HaTanya and keeping it going through the Chozeh Yid HaKodesh to Izbitz but you get the idea)

In Chabad you have the story told how the Baal Shem Tov and Maggid visited the Alter Rebbe in prison herd him say over a Ma'amar and said that he says Torah just like they did.

Anyway Chabad also calls their leaders Nasi something no other chassidus does, and most Chabad chassidim I have met when they said it says in Chassidus x or y and Chassidim do x or y they mean Chabad.

So lets not beat around the Bush Chabad philosophy is clear that Chabad Chassidus is superior, the Lubavitcher says it in his sichos compating it to Polin and its clear in the Kuntres as well.

However thats Chabad's opinion.

I was not mekabel that this derech is the superior or better one.

Its as valid as any other.

The bottom line follow your Rebbe and your derech.

At May 16, 2008 at 1:48:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

isn't the essence of our reason for being here according to tanya to create a "dira b'tachtanim"...a dwelling place in the lower world for the shechinah?

and the beauty of this is that it can be applied both individually and as a group. any deed or thought of chesed, of kindess creates this dwelling place. the mitzvot, learning, any kind word spoken...

it seems that we, ourselves are to strive to become such dira b'tachtanim.

i find much solace, and inspiration in this one idea.

At May 16, 2008 at 12:56:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Learning Chabad Chassidus is something everyone should do"

I prefer Rabbeinu Nachman's approach:

Learning everyone's chassidus is something everyone should do!

At August 6, 2008 at 1:42:00 PM EDT, Blogger Menashe said...

TZ said..

In many sichos the Rebbe breaks Chassidus up into two parts Chabad Chassidus and what he calls Chassidus Polin. This misnomer seems to group all other forms of Chassidus as eclectic and different as they are under one umbrella.

I agree with you; I'm sure the Rebbe knew that every chassidus is a world of its own and very different from any other. However, from the point of view of a chabad chossid, and kal vchomer, the Rebbe, in terms of what Chabad considers as primary (logic and philosophy), it is not any injustice to group all other chassidus under the same umbrella. If your point of reference is chabad vs. not chabad than every other chassidus really CAN be grouped under the umbrella of chagas. Obviously every chassidus has some element of both chabad and chagas. But clearly chabad emphasizes chabad as primary, and everyone else emphasizes chagas as primary.


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