Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Summarizing Przysucha

Excerpt from The Quest for Authenticity:

To summarize, we will formulate thirteen principles of faith in the world of Przysucha. These are:

1. Learning Torah in particular and the use of the intellect in general are crucial values.

2. These values must be accompanied by a personal purifying process; otherwise mind alone is inadequate to achieve intimacy with G-d. This purifying process requires an analysis of who one is and what one's motives are.

3. Performing a commandment for the sake of personal interest or because what other people think is not acceptable.

4. Only those who have an understanding of themselves can come to the supreme value of personal authenticity; otherwise, one is living a lie.

5. All actions have to be done with sincerity in a state of personal truthfulness. Przysucha rejected the Rabbinic value that one should perform a command even for ulterior motive because eventually one will come to do it sincerely. Przysucha utterly rejects what is insincere, sham, pretence, external, and superficial, whether it is reflected in the leader or in his adherents.

6. The seat of truth and truthfulness is inside one's heart, which is allied to nature and Torah. It is not found in some book of knowledge outside oneself. Because Przysucha focuses on human beings, anything theological or esoteric is not its concern. Therefore, the Zohar, the Ari and kaballah are muted. Theology is simply not the issue - the issue is the human being.

7. To be true to oneself requires not only an awareness of one's true essence but primarily a sense of Divine presence, aware that this sense might be a delusion without some degree of self-analysis. The vehicle for this awareness is prayer. Prayer is therefore so critical that even normal halachic restrictions of time are ignored.

8. Preparation is critical for a person to be able to fulfil a commandment authentically. Preparation means that one can only perform a commandment such as prayer when one is ready. Without preparation, the likelihood is that the experience will be a sham, and any emotion will evaporate and nothing of value will remain after the act.

9. The ultimate purpose of Torah and the commandments is to draw a person close to G-d. This approach to the Divine can only be achieved within the context of humility and with a sense of awe, which is the experience of being in His presence. Where there is no humility there can be no true self-analysis. Haughtiness, pride, self-righteousness and self-satisfaction are all to be rejected. The greatest enemy in the psychology of service is depression, the antidote to which is joy and passion.

10. No rebbe or zaddik can usurp the role of the individual. All they can do is to help a disciple to become what he could be. Imitation, especially of a zaddik, is therefore the kiss of death. Because purity of motive leads to a challenge to or a weakening of external authority, Przysucha shows no respect to zaddikim if they exhibit any of the qualities of insincerity, ignorance or pride.

11. Each individual must assume personal responsibility for standing before the Divine presence. Belief in zaddikim cannot absolve a person from personal responsibility and finding his own path.

12. One must never be static or in a state of routine. Rather one is to be in a continual state of renewal striving for sincerity and genuineness. The role of the group and the rebbe is to ensure this renewal.

13. The quest for truth as a supreme value means that the norms and customs no longer have credibility per se, for social behavior encourages parading one's religiosity, whereas the search for pure motive would tend to lead the devotee to hide his quest for spirituality.


At November 4, 2008 at 9:23:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post ! It seems to me that this path fits very well in many items with the thought and learnings of Rabbi Nahman of Breslov. Don't you think also?

At November 4, 2008 at 12:57:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chassidim use the Yiddish version of the place name: "P'shischa."

At November 4, 2008 at 1:16:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I highly recommend the book. Rav Rosen has done a remarkable job at this. Furthermore, reading it has helped me cut through a lot of fasehoods in my derech and helped with devekus in general.

At November 4, 2008 at 1:25:00 PM EST, Blogger Yosef said...

What are the main seforim of this chassidus?

At November 4, 2008 at 2:04:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

One sefer is Kol Simcha

At November 4, 2008 at 3:56:00 PM EST, Blogger Isaac Miracles said...

I'd be super interested in understanding Rabbi Nachman's approach in comparasion to this one. It does fit rather nicely. Did he know of Rebbe Nachman ?

At November 4, 2008 at 5:32:00 PM EST, Blogger Shorty said...

Thanks for this summary. This sounds like something i would be interested in reading...

At November 4, 2008 at 6:02:00 PM EST, Blogger Menashe said...

I am no misnagid. But this reminds me of a a taina that the Vilna Gaon's successor had against early chassidim. Something about sitting on pesach and visualizing matzo but never actually eating it. Meaning: kavana is important but Torah puts value (I don't know the balance) on the physical act. The heiliger zeide reminded us kavana is important. But that's assuming you're already doing the physical act!

Also troubling is his disregard for the rule about mitoch shelo lishma ba lishma.

And zmanim. We can be meikel in halacha when there is a need - but not disregard it altogether.

At November 4, 2008 at 7:51:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am concerned such teachings demonstrate a tendency toward perfectionism that might ultimately be used in the service of the yetzer in a negative way. They set up a standard above that of the rest of those who conform to halachah, who are seen as too mediocre and without value.

Lehavdil, it reminds me of Nietzsche, another uncompromising perfectionist obsessed with authenticity, who felt society's values did not apply to an ubermensch (superman) like him.

At November 4, 2008 at 7:55:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think these teachings need to be seen, however, in historical perspective, where they represented a then-necessary reaction against tzaddikism and false piety.

At November 5, 2008 at 3:27:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Itzchak Nissim-
I think that Rabbi Nachman's teachings certainly share a strong emphasis on authenticity, but there are at least a few differences I can see.
One is that Rabbi Nachman emphasized simplicity to a great extent. He was in fact also very demanding in fact in terms of learning, etc., to the extent of a person's ability, but I think the Breslov path to sincerity lies especially through prayer and humility, and through hisbodedus and being "shofet es atzmo", as opposed to accomplishing this by means of extensive intellectual contemplation, though this is not ruled out in all circumstances when there is a tachlis purpose for it.
Also, Rabbi Nachman was very makpid on keeping halacha k'phuto. For example, he emphasized to his chasidim that davening netz for example is the most preferable time to pray, just like the straightforward halacha. I don't think he would support delaying tefilla for the sake of reaching a greater level of sincerity, and certainly not past the zmanim d'rabanon, which he explicitly described as a mistake made by other tzadikim.
Another thing is that Breslov I think does have a strong influence from Kabalah, the Zohar etc. These influences are anything but muted in Breslov. They are not de-emphasized in favor of self awareness.
All this taken into account, I think that the main emphases here are shared in Breslov chassidus, and that the difference are mostly subtle ones in the "hows" of achieving the goals of authenticity, truth, purity and genuine deveikus. The emphasis on individual authenticity, humility, awe, joy, study, sincerity and renewal are certainly all common ground.
Rabbi Nachman encouraged his followers to learn the Torah of other tzadikim as well, particularly the Talmidei Baal Shem, and even though Breslov chasidim will certainly defer to their Rebbe where there is a difference of opinion, there is certainly great value from the teachings from other tzadikim as well.

At November 5, 2008 at 3:40:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't realize this was the chassidus of Kotzk. Thanks for the link ASJ! Just reading some of the Torahs from the "look inside" link was great.

At November 5, 2008 at 5:42:00 AM EST, Blogger steve mcqueen said...

Psischa would not necessarily approve of western, non Yiddish speaking, non-hebrew reading, college educated people, dressing up as hasidim in order to seek to develop new aspects of their personalities. Externalities came last and R Simcha Bunim did not wear chassidishe clothing.

He fought against the leading chassidishe rebbes of his time, who responded in kind. (Same for R Nachman). You cannot combine respect for, let alone follow, many of today's chassidishe ways with Psischa, if it appeals to you you should be careful what you are aiming for.

There are similarities with Breslov, both are rooted in chassidic tradition after all, but also some great differences. the role of the rebbe for one - Psischa would put more importance on an individual's decisions and feelings and zero on copying the rebbe's hanhogos because that is what the rebbe did.

But a major simialrity between Breslov and Psischa is that both appeal to "new age spritiual seekers" who are outside of orthodox Judaism. This is perhaps because both share massive similarities with the non-Jewish Romantic movement which arose in a different part of Europe at the same time. (There is zero evidence that there was any deliberate cross-fertilisation, but the similarities are startling)

At November 5, 2008 at 5:52:00 AM EST, Blogger steve mcqueen said...

I posted my comment before seeing R Sears post on Uman which starts

"First of all, Breslover Chassidim go to Uman because Rebbe Nachman told us to do so, plain and simple."

For me this is the biggest difference between Breslov and Psischa. Psischa would emphasise what you feel about something, copying what someone else feels is sheker. As another poster mentioned this is a potential downside as you have to leave simplicity, engage in evaluations and can be led to arrogance and feeling superior

At November 5, 2008 at 9:07:00 AM EST, Blogger Yosef said...

steve mcqueen-
Why would psischa not approve of "non-hebrew speaking, non-yiddish speaking college educated" etc. etc. people?
These things are irrelevant as far as Hashem is concerned, if that is the outcome of a person's circumstances of birth. To reject someone because of their background is a rejection of Hashem's hashgacha, and I find hard to imagine a derech so focused on emes as rejecting them.
Also, Breslov doesn't emphasize emulating the Rebbe at all, just following and having faith in his advice. I doubt Psischa chasidim would disagree about that.
Re: Clothing, it was mostly a non-issue in Breslov. People off all stripes typically were Breslovers, and there was never any set lvush or strong emphasis of specific minhagim, etc. That was never part of Breslov, and accordingly I don't think that this is an area of conflict either.
Lastly, I think that if there are people you describe as "dressing up as chasidim" going to Uman (this could be interpreted as offensive btw), this is probably just because of the universality of Rabbi Nachman's teaching, which speak to different, extremely diverse people running the full gamut of backgrounds and knowledge levels uniquely, each in their own way. Seeing this, and the amazing noam and achdus between everyone in their sharing of such a sincere religious experience is IMO is part of what makes Rosh Hashana in Uman so special. It isn't specific to "westernized" Jews seeking to "develop new aspects of their personalities".

At November 8, 2008 at 10:27:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but:

1. Reb Nachman never speaks about davenning with the netz, just davenning early. It later became commonplace in Breslever circles to do so, but even then, without looking at the minute hand of the clock.

2. Reb Nachman puts great emphasis on hiskashrus l'tzaddikim and says that one who performs his avodahs without such hiskashrus is like an ape imitating a human being (Chayey Moharan somewhere); while Pshischa takes the view that the individual is primary, and the tzaddik is no more than a "spiritual friend."


At November 9, 2008 at 12:28:00 PM EST, Blogger Yosef said...

Smashed Hat-
I think your two points are accurate based on my experience with Breslov. Re: davening, the Rebbe may not have mentioned netz specifically, but I know that R' Noson z'l speaks about vasikin specifically as a great practice in Alim l'Trufa, etc. That said, I think a common thread about most (not necessarily all) things the rebbe gave advice about, was that he was not making rigid guidelines, but rather general advice. Netz is halachically tefilla l'chatchila, and should be the ideal and basis for the value judgement in tefilla by which we make our cheshbon based on, combined with other factors. There aren't too many rigid, universal practices Breslov chasidim have, with possible exceptions being learning halacha every day, hisbodedus, and maybe RH in Uman (not everyone can always go, but it's certainly a big thing to try to do so).
As far as the second point, your right that Breslov probably puts a much stronger emphasis on the role of the tzadik. This emphasis however is different than what was suggested by a previous commenter, the idea of imitating the Rebbe. I haven't seen much of an idea of imitating the rebbe in Breslov- rather, the attitude seems to be more that the Rebbe was totally unique and irreplacable, and we all need the help of his advice, teaching and advocating in heaven for us. This is certainly a much stronger role played by the tzadik himself in the relationship with the chasid, as you described. This is probably emphasized in Breslov more than any other chasidus that I'm aware of.


Post a Comment

<< Home