Monday, May 26, 2008

Question & Answer With Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin - Karliner Chassidus

A Simple Jew asks:

How does the Karliner approach to Chassidus differ from the approach of other groups?

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin answers:

I think this post is even more relevant in light of some of the items discussed in the past weeks on your blog about different drachim in avodas Hashem. I do not claim to be an expert on this subject; I will only write what appears to me based on my personal experience and learning. I ask mechila if I misrepresent any of the Rebbes teachings.

I would like to begin by quoting R' Avraham Elimelech Shapiro’s, the Grodzisker Rebbe (whose mother was the daughter of R' Asher the 2nd of Karlin), haskama to the sefer Divrei Aharon (a likut of Torahs from the Rebbes of Karlin/Stolin). He prefaces his remarks about the derech of Karlin by writing that all of the Rebbes had different paths within the larger path of the Baal Shem Tov and the Magid, yet they all wound up at the same destination. Each one found particular nekudos through which he thought was the best way to reach the intended destination in avodas Hashem. I think this is important vis a vis the previous discussions as to whether there is one authoritative derech of Chassidus. The answer is obviously, “no.” Everyone connects differently, yet they all lead to the same place. With that said, the Grodzisker explains that most of the Torahs of the Rebbes of Karlin Stolin revolve around three nekudos: 1) simcha 2) lo lachpotz b’gadlus she’ainam lfi midaso (not to desire levels of ruchnius which are higher than where one is holding) ) 3) lo l’ramos es atzmo (not to fool oneself).

While these are points mentioned in many different chassidusen, and in Yiddishkeit in general, there is a heavy emphasis in Karlin. Of course, there are other elements mentioned by the Karlin/Stoliner Rebbes such as ahavas chaverim, hiskashrus etc…. but I am not sure this distinguishes them from other groups. Rabbi Leshem also referred to the Piacetzner Rebbe’s Mavo Shaarim (chapter 5) where he explains two drachim of Chassidus, a) avodas hamoach and b) avodah bkoach ubemunah peshuta. While explaining the latter, the Piacetzner frequently quotes from the Rebbes of Karlin and I also will draw on some of his insights.

A brief background: Karlin is a fairly old Chassidus. R' Aharon HaGadol, who is said to have seen the Baal Shem Tov as a child, was a talmid of the Magid of Mezerich and was sent to spread Chassidus in Lithuania, the center of hisnagdus. It is said that R' Aharon haGadol began to cry when the Magid informed him of his assignment as the persecution against Chassidim in those areas had reached levels of violence. (See Lithuanian Hasidism by Rabinowitsch for more detail). R' Aharon haGadol was successful in spreading Chassidus and Chassidim were hence called in the polemics of the misnagdim, “Karliners”. Even the Baal haTanya was referred to as a Karliner. R' Aharon haGadol was nifter at age 36 in 1772 and left behind his main talmid, R' Shlomo Karliner. R Shlomo Karliner was the Rebbe of R' Asher Stoliner (1760-1826) (R Aharon haGadol’s son), R' Mordechai of Lechovitch (1742-1810), and R' Uri of Strelisk. It is said that “shrayen in davenen”, the screaming by davening comes from R' Shlomo Karliner. (After R' Shlomo Karliner was killed in 1792, the Stoliner and the Lechovitcher used to go to R' Boruch of Mezihboz.) R' Asher’s son, R Aharon II (1802-1872), the Bais Aharon, is known as the Alter Rebbe (Admor haZaken) of Karlin. From Lechovitch, we have Koidenov. The Lechovitcher and Stoliner were mechutanim. Their grandson was R' Shlomo Chaim (1797-1862) the first Koidenover Rebbe, who was very close with his Uncle the Bais Aharon. R Moshe Kobriner (1784-1858), was a chassid of the Lechovitcher as well as the Koidenover until he made his own chassidus. Slonim comes from Kobrin. The derech haavodah that we see in Karlin Stolin, Koidenov, and Slonim are all rooted in Karlin, albeit with some minor changes here and there. This explains why I may illustrate the aforementioned nekudos with stories from the Lechovitcher.

Simcha - There are many statements about how with simcha one can overcome anything. It is said that one who has not seen Simchas Torah by the Bais Aharon has never seen seen a real celebration of Simchas Torah. The Hakafos would last the entire evening. Even today the hakafos go until at least 2 in the morning. The Bais Aharon said that the joy of dancing on Yom Tov is a higher madrega than the highest madregos of davening (Bais Aharon, L’isru Chag). There are countless other statements that can be found about simcha.

Not to look for hasagos - As the Piacetzner writes, the ikkar in Karlin is avodah, the effort one makes or as the Rebbes called it harivanya. One must put in chius into the avodah. It is not about intellectual contemplation that will lead to emotion, or grasping spiritual concepts. There is a maaseh from the Lechovitcher where he asked a Lubavitcher chassid: Do you think the world is built on sechel?! Al n’haros yechonneneha. The world is built on a lechtigkeit! A lechtigen davenen, etc…. ( although n’haros means rivers in lashon hakodesh, nehora means light in Aramaic).

There is also a maaseh that a chassid came to visit the Bais Aharon after he baked matzos Erev Pesach. The Bais Aharon turned to the chassid and said that: before my father (R' Asher Stoliner) all of the worlds and taanugim were open before him. He wanted nothing of it. He said : “Ribono Shel Olam, I want to serve you only with harivanya (labor and toil)!” And this derech he was m’kabel from R' Shlomo Karliner.

Not to fool oneself - At the Bris of the Bais Aharon, R/ Asher Stoliner asked the Lechovitcher, who was Sandek and had krias Hashem, to give a brocha to his son. The Lechovitcher gave the following brocha: Don’t fool yourself, don’t fool G-d, and don’t fool people. There is much talk about emes, not having ulterior motives in doing mitzvos, etc…

While this is only roshei perakim, perhaps this material will spark further discussion. There is much more to say about each of these points and why they are so important. May the merit of these Tzadikim protect us and inspire us in our avodah!


At May 27, 2008 at 8:17:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who killed R' Shlomo Karliner?

Also, why did the Stoliner and the Lechovitcher go to R' Boruch of Mezihboz? Was there a reason that they chose him over other tzaddikim?

At May 27, 2008 at 10:40:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderful glimpse into Karliner Chasidus!

At May 27, 2008 at 11:36:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

R Shlomo Karliner died al kiddush Hashem. There a few stories about his death. The following is an account from Lithuanian Hasidism: During the war between Russian and Poland, the Russian commander gave his troops permission to do as they pleased with the Jew of Ludmir for two hours. (note: R Shlomo had fled to Ludmir because of persecution of misnagdim in Karlin) This was on the Sabbath eve, when almost all of the Jews of the town had taken refuge in the synagogue in which R Shelomo of Karlin was in the habit of praying. R Shelomo was standing by the table and saying the kiddush with his usual intense devotion. Just then, a lame Cossak passed by the synagogue and aimed a rifle at R Shelomo. R Shelomo's small grandson, who standing next to him, saw what was happening and tugged at R Shelomo's robe to rouse him from his trance. At that same moment the Cossak fired at him and wounded him. R Shelomo said that if his grandson had not roused him from his trance of devotion, the Cossak would not have had the power to harm him. The hasidim wanted to take R Shelomo out of the synagogue, but he refused to move until he had finished sanctifying the Sabbath. When he had finished his prayer, they laid him on a bed, and while they were dressing his wound he asked for the Zohar to be brought to him. The volume remained open in front of him till his soul departed. It is also added that Cossak was really Armilus, who according to the Medrash is to kill Moshiach ben Yosef. It is said that R Shelomo was Moshiach ben Yosef in his dor. There is a similar account in Shama Shlomo p.24 but says he was in the middle of davening, with his head in the aron hakodesh. It also says he refused medical treatment on Shabbos and died about a week later.

R Shlomo Karliner's son, Dov Ber, was married to R Boruch's daughter. R Boruch was also the grandson of the Baal Shem Tov. Many Tzadikim went to R Boruch. He had a special minyan for Shavuos, which was his zeide's yohrtzeit. R Mordechai of Chernobyl and R Shlomo Chaim Koidenov were among those invited.

It happens to be that R Asher Stoliner also went to the Kozhnitzer Maggid and other Tzadikim but R Boruch was the main one.

At May 27, 2008 at 11:49:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great (concise, informative & interesting) Post!
Yayashar Koach!

At May 27, 2008 at 12:00:00 PM EDT, Blogger tea mad hatter said...

i would love to hear more

At May 28, 2008 at 1:48:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Rabbi Slatkin.

And this was not only true in the past, but continues today, especially in the Karlin-Stolin kehillah. My Stoliner chavrusa, Reb Yitzchok Wolpin, z"l, was a living example of this derekh and its lofty values! May he be a "guhter beiter" for us all.


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