Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rabbi Itche Meyer Morgenstern: Explorations In Tanya

“I speak, however, of those who know me well...”

As explained earlier, any person who believes in the holiness of the tzaddik has a connection to him and these words are meant for him. It is especially clear that one is a student of the Baal HaTanya if he feels the deep G-dly light that is imbued in his works. One who grasps the inner holiness of Torah without love, fear, and dveikus through the Da’as afforded by this holy work can be sure that his soul is deeply connected to the author.

The fact that the Baal HaTanya reveals a dual path of entering the avodah of toiling in serving Hashem while at the same time feeling the light of the unity of Hashem is alluded to in the Baal HaTanya’s name, שני-אור, which can also be read as “two lights” or a dual illumination. Of course, when the Tanya discusses the aspect of toil, this is also included in the light of the yichud.

On a simple level, the Baal HaTanya wrote in his great humility that this was merely a work for those who were close to him. But on a deeper level, this is because there are some great souls who do not follow the path of the Baal HaTanya. Rav Avraham Kalisker did not hold like the Baal HaTanya, for example. In addition, the entire path of Slonim in Chassidus is not like the way of the Baal HaTanya. Many great luminaries held that the Baal HaTanya was mistaken. These greats argued on the entire pathway of revealing the depths of Torah in this manner, even citing as proof that the Maggid had taught that the Mishnah that one whose wisdom exceeds his deeds ultimately loses his wisdom also refers to developing too much Chochmah in Chassidus.

This opinion is the path of those neshamos that are rooted in judgment, such as the Be’er Mayim Chaim, a student of the Maggid of Zlotchov who was also rooted in judgment. [Rav Michel Zlotchover died while singing a melody of his own composition during the third meal of Shabbos.] He explained the Talmudic dictum that one who does not understand the laws of divorce and marriage should not administer them metaphorically. One must first master the subject of “divorce,” that is how to distance evil, before one can focus on doing good.

Of course, these are completely valid paths in avodas Hashem, since they hold that a person first build his spiritual level before focusing on understanding the depths of Torah. According to these greats, one should only learn that which is really suited to him. But the focus of the Baal HaTanya—like Beis Hillel explained above—is to shine the light of G-dliness into a person even if he is still in an aspect of mochin d’katnus, of immature and constricted consciousness. The reason for this is similar to the Talmudic axiom that a little light dispels a great deal of darkness. This path of teaching wisdom even to small neshamos is rooted in the side of Chessed.


At September 23, 2009 at 9:47:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to know what's the point of view of Rabbi Nachman in this debate. I feel for myself that despite the Baal HaTanya works (Tanya, Tora Or, Likutey Tora) are amazing and full of wonderful insights, its hebrew is very difficult to catch and understand. Whereas, when I read Likutey Moharan, I have a very strong that Rabbi Nachman speaks to me and teaches me. Does it mean I have spiritual roots in common with that path?

At September 23, 2009 at 12:52:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My understanding is that the point of contention with the Baal haTanya was not that he shouldn't reveal the light to those who weren't worthy and that we should focus on sur m'ra before reaching aseh tov. Rather, the issue was with focusing on the intellect as opposed to the light of avoda. There are plenty of divrei Torah from R Shlomo Karliner and R Mordechai Lechovitcher, both of whom differed from the Baal haTanya, that stress the idea of focusing on aseh tov even if one has not fully mastered sur m'ra. The Derech of Karlin and Lechovitch was passion in avoda and increasing light, not getting stuck in sur m'ra nor getting caught up in intellectualizing.
See, Sefer Avodas Pnim (R Luria)where he writes about the difference in the Lechovitcher derech and Chabad.By the way, R Avraham Kalisker and the Baal haTanya eventually made up with each other. The offshoots of Lechovitch hold R Avarham Kalisker as one of their Rebbes, as well as his Rebbe R Menachem Mendel Vitebsker.
I thought that Tanya was an essential sefer in most chassidusen except for Karlin/Lechovitch and their offshoots.

At September 23, 2009 at 4:40:00 PM EDT, Blogger Shmerl said...

Reb Luzer Kenig generally disapproves speculating where particular tzaddik's neshomo is rooted in. Who are we to evaluate such matters?

At September 24, 2009 at 5:16:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Y.Y. Bar-Chaiim said...

"The Derech of Karlin and Lechovitch was passion in avoda and increasing light, not getting stuck in sur m'ra nor getting caught up in intellectualizing."

Well said, anon (12:52). From where do you have such nimble knowledge about these fine lines of chossidus? Let me likewise ask R' Morgenstern from where he knows "the entire path of Slonim in Chassidus"?

I'd like to add that Slonim emphasizes Shleimus more than tfisa; strife to achieve bitul via giving up the entire self in Avoida over attempting so via understanding the mechanics. "Anoichee omeid bein'cha l'bein H' ", that the ego sabotages the dveikus of even and sometimes especially the greatest Tsaddikim, is one of the most fundamental klalim that the Besh"t taught. Presuming to categorize people whose Avoida is different into neat little dimensions below your own is a sad example of how powerfully this klal works!

At September 24, 2009 at 2:09:00 PM EDT, Anonymous anonymous chosid said...

Anonymous: sounds like Breslov is for you!

At September 24, 2009 at 2:25:00 PM EDT, Anonymous anonymous chosid said...

Anonymous (comment #2): I am sorry but I believe you misunderstood what is being said here. Not surprising since this is merely an excerpt of a longer piece.
The basic principle is that one is either focused more on the light or one is focused on his own limitations and what he can take in according to his level. Does one focus on having true dveykus or fake, or does he just "dive in" and do what he can to learn and learn and attain dveykus. The first path is an aspect of ase tov compared to the second which is more focused on tzur m'ra.
Of course there are inspiring divrei torah in the works of Slonim! That is not at all the point being made here. The Be'er Mayim Chaim is also filled with many amazing pieces, does this mean he did not write the excerpt in the piece?
I also think you are a bit mistaken in your point that the macholokes was merely intellectual vs. emotional. This is also true but not only, since the focus in Slonim on anavah and self knowledge cannot be denied. In Chabad the focus is on entering into the depths of a Torah so that a person is completely subsumed in it. This is not the path of Slonim at all. Most of the pieces in the essential works of Slonim (besides Chesed L'Avraham,) are fairly short and attempt to ignite one's heart into avodah etc. This is a completely different path rooted in Binah, which is an aspect of fiery gevuros compared to the deep intellectual connection of Chabad, which is rooted in the aspect of Chochmah compared to water. , In Chabad one works on hispalus, feeling a deep pleasure of the intellect to (hopefully) influence the lower self as well.
The root is higher, but of course this doesn't make on person higher than the other chas v'shalom.
To illustrate, in Slonim they would tell someone very distant who wished to learn a deep Torah of Chasidus that he was likely fooling himself, since he should focus mostly on teshuvah and change, while in Chabad they would tell him that the way to become better is primarily through learning and connecting to the lofty Torah of Chasidus.

At September 24, 2009 at 2:43:00 PM EDT, Anonymous anonymous chosid said...

Rabbi Bar Chaim wrote: "Slonim emphasizes Shleimus more than tfisa; strife to achieve bitul via giving up the entire self in Avoida over attempting so via understanding the mechanics. "Anoichee omeid bein'cha l'bein H' ", that the ego sabotages the dveikus of even and sometimes especially the greatest Tsaddikim, is one of the most fundamental klalim that the Besh"t taught."

I found this a bit strange since this seems to prove the point made in the piece! Toil is also rooted in Binah, fire as opposed to the of water.
As far as the ego fooling one and blocking him from true dveykus, this reminds me of story.
Someone once pointed this out to the Baal HaTanya even claiming that his followers were fakers since they worked on levels that they were not at all on. So what is the point of all that lofty chasidus?
"They will receive the punishment for fakers outlined in the Mishnah in Peah," the Baal HaTanya replied. "There we find that one who pretends to be blind or lame will not leave the world without suffering this very ailment. Similarly, my chasidim will eventually attain true dveykus to which they aspire."
I have no idea why you took this as an insult to Slonim; it was not meant that way at all. It merely explains that source of both chasidusin, not the levels of the adherents, especially the great masters.
As I am sure you know, there is no way to know the true level of another Jew, no matter what path he takes.
And as you wrote, anyone who feels above another is certainly distant from true dveykus, but being choshed b'kesharuim is also not exactly a catalyst for dveykus.
I guess you misunderstood.


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