HaEztem: Hisnagdus and Chassidus {Article One}

Hello Everyone, Today I thought I’d cover somethingg not as well known, the real opposition to the Baal Shem Tov and his Talmidim during the time Chassidus was starting to be revealed to this world. Now, everyone thinks this is a set in stone issue and that, the Misnagdim were spreading Loshon Hara about the Besht and his followers and were defaming the Chasidim making them look like idiots, and while this has truth to it, it is not wholly the truth as one might expect, now as a follower of Derech HaBaal Shem Tov myself, I did want to seek the truth in this matter, so I am going to try to elucidate the matter of this opposition and why it came to be.

Misconceptions about Chassidus being widespread. 

This reason is more well known to Chasidim generally as are the others. The Misnagdim spread all around Europe that the Chasidishe derech of connecting to Hashem was to drink schnapps and dance and sing, which to put it simply, is absolutely not true. HaRav Yaakov Shapiro explains beautifully in his shiur about the Derech of the Baal Shem Tov, that the Besht did not come to subtract from the Torah or to be Meykel (lenient) on anyone in their observance of the Torah, he expected from the people who had Torah knowledge accessable to them, to study Torah and perform the Mitzvot strigintely. He expected people who learned Chassidus to reach very high levels. (I am no longer quoting the Rav here) However the Besht was also understanding in terms of the Baal HaBatim (ignorant people) for whom Torah was inaccessible. The Jews of Eastern Europe, due to various social and religious reasons that are not for the scope of this article, were very widely uneducated, some of the barely knowing the Alef-Beis, the Baal Shem Tov taught these simple Baal HaBatim how to connect to the Eibishter, in a simple manner, singing nigunim, schnapps, get-togethers, were all ways to connect to H-shem Yisboreich, with everyday things these poshuter yidn (פשוטער אידן, simple Jews) would do to connect to Hashem. However this concept was not limited to exclusively the Baal HaBatim as the Besht taught that everything physical, had Godliness within it, and if used properly could be elevated for a higher purpose, so if a group of people got together, they would sing nigunim, have a few drinks and talk Torah through out the night, this was a simple manner of how to serve the Eibishter in which even very high rung Chasidim (Such as a Chosid of the Tzemach Tzedek, Reb Hillel Pariticher) the Baal Shem Tov and his intermediate students taught this seemingly simple way in which to serve Hash-m by elevating the physicality,  which in truth has Sparks of Godliness which are supposed to be elevated for a higher purpose. all students of the Besht taught this which  includes but are not limited to: the Mezritcher Maggid, The Meor Einayim, The Noam Elimelech, the Rebbe Reb Shmelke, The Haphloh, The Rebbe Reb Zishe, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, Reb Noson of Nemirov, the Baal HaTanya and many, many more extraordinary people (I would even say to call these people “extraordinary” is an understatement, they were Mamash angels). However, in spite of the feel-good attitude of these get-togethers, the Baal Shem Tov’s attitude towards Limud HaToyro was not to take away in any sense of the term, the Besht emphasized it and even for the simple Jews whom were widely uneducated, that if it was possible to educate them, it should be done. There was however, a mix-up of the view of the Baal Shem Tov, thinking that the Iker (Main point of the Baal Shem Tov’s derech) was to sing and dance rather than study Toyro, which, if it happened to be true, that’s not Judaism, it’s a completely separate religion. Many people took issue with this as this lie was being widespread and this was part of the problem of the Chasidim being viewed as heretics and ignoramuses. However, this is only one facet of the opposition, I will be doing this into seperate articles as it would become too long if I were to write an entire article. 

Zai Geziunt let’s spread the light of the Baal Shem Tov and bring Moshiach!

Two Drachim in Chassidus?

Hello Chaveirim! Welcome to my first vort on Chassidus.(Mild disclaimer: most ideas I write on this article aren’t my own and just things I have learned, however I find it important if you are a talmid of the Baal Shem Tov, that this is important). On my search for emes in the world of lies, I stumbled across the Chasidic Movement and it’s various different outlooks (Chabad, Breslev, Karlin-Stolin, Pshische-Kotzk, etc.). However, if you look closely ALL Chasidishe Drachim can be categorized into two main Stam Derechs.

Avoidas Bmoiach 

Avoide ubkoiach ubemunah peshuta

This is fairly true for all forms of Chasidut as if you look at the Seforim of one Rebbe and compare it to the other to see what type it is. However, in my so-far ceaseless look for haemes, I peeked (I would be doing both myself a disservice and you an untruth if I told you I “studied” them) at both of these types of Drachim and I would say in my humble opinion that both of these Drachim are valid for different types of Yidn however there comes a question:

Is there a correct derech? 

My answer to that question is this:

Chassidus, especially in the early years, was meant to motivate the down-trodden Jews after the false-messiaship of Shabatai Tzvi (YSH”Z) and the gezeiras tach vetat. From my own personal knowledge of stories I have heard and from what I, a simple yid, “understands” from the way the Baal Shem Tov (Ztz”l zy”a) and the Maggid (ztz”l zy”a) is that they and the majority of their talmidim served Hashem with Avoide ubkoiach ubemunah, and the Toire they taught was based on that derech. However, there was an exception with the Alter Rebbe miLiadi (ztz”l zy”a), who taught that his Chasidim should strive not be “poshut” and that in davening they should know what they’re saying in the Tefiloh and to do meditation on what they had learned in Chasidus and etc. and this gave birth to Chasidus Avoidas bMoiach. And this also eventually came to be the dominant form of Chassidus in Russia, as well as the Poilisher form of Chasidus bmoiach created by the Yid Hakadosh (zy”a). I have heard many people (Most notably from Rabbi YY Jacobson, Zol Gezunt Zain) that Avoide ubkoiach and emunah no longer works because the Rebbeim weren’t as they were back in Russia, and the Rebbe should not be the one who kindles your spiritual fire, but rather, it should be you who lights it, etc. To a certain point I agree with that and I have always been a fan of learning (first select secular subjects that I enjoyed and now Torah) but, we DO, Boruch Hashem, have very big tzadikim that are alive today and if a yid is “poshut” or does Avoidas bmoiach does excite him and he wants to be a chosid, then he should go with the latter option, he shouldn’t contemplate too deeply about Tefiloh and Teyre and the like, that’s my answer, Every Yid is special we each have a spiritual derech that we feel we need to go on and with regards to Chasidut, whatever Rebbe your Neshomo is drawn to or whatever teachings, go with that…

Zol Gezunt Zain Chasidim,

~Shia

Gemara…

Yep, the big one the bedrock of our lives as observant Jews, where all the halacha stems from. And boy, it is a doozy. The Gemara may seem frightening at first to the novice, one who is unskilled is tracking the Gemara will find its language tough and confusing, and the tangents the Gemara is known for, may make it seem unorganized, on the previous page you were talking about ritual slaughter, now your talking about different types of knives (this is a made up example but it resembles the Gemara when learning it). I am no Chacham (scholar) in my own right, but do have experience when it comes to people who try to learn Gemara but to no avail. I did not start receiving formal Yeshiva education until February of this year, and before that I was not particularly worried about learning it because it seemed out of league for me. But as of know I am studying Gemara with Rashi biyun (in depth) I have managed to work my to knowing how the Gemara works and I’m working my way to               Bezras H-shem studying Tosfot (in depth commentary on the Gemara that discerns the law) in a few weeks. I would like to give you guys a few tips on how to study the Gemara so you can get started:

Absolutely do not use Artscroll. Artscroll Gemaras have been frequently criticized for making the learning of the Gemara too easy. That might not sound like a bad thing but the Gemara requires sharp, caculated thinking, Artscroll spoon feeds everything to the Talmid eventually hindering from learning the proper way. 

Learn with your local Rav  

For those who cannot go to Yeshiva I             recommend learning with your local             Rabbi, this is the I started and then               whenever your Rabbi feels ready to he         should pair with a Chavrusa (a                       learning partner with about equal                 experience to you) and to argue and             debate the meaning of the text

  Aramaic and Hebrew

The bulk of the Gemara is written in Hebrew and Aramaic. For Hebrew I recommend having a good dictionary and knowing basic hebrew grammar, and for Aramaic, this is more tricky due to the fact that the type of Aramaic used in the Gemara went extinct about 1,000-1,100 years ago so I recommend the Aramaic-Hebrew-English dictionary to learn the phrases and words of the Gemara.

In Conclusion 

The Gemara is, besides the Torah itself, the most important religious document in Judaism and all our religious laws stem from it. However to end I will say, if you are a working person who is already in his late 30s-early 40s, I don’t recommend learning Gemara, (I spoke to a friend of mine who is a Talmid Chochom about this) if you don’t have the time to sit done for a set period of time every day to help your mind get used to the pace and style of the Gemara, it’s more recommended that you just learn Halacha L’maaseh ( Law you can implement) laws about the holidays, fasts, Shabbat, kosher, and it should be learned either by a class online when you’re in your car or from the book itself, this is better if you are working with kids and absolutely don’t have time to learn the Gemara. However, if you do find the time, definitely, without question begin your journey with the Gemara, may you have success in your journey and may we see Moshiach come speedily in out days, Omein!

Taking the Train: Next stop the Besht

I did teshuva a year and a half ago through Lubavitch. Their work was essential in bringing me back to Yiddishkeit, and I followed their derech for a while, I was even an ardent Meshichist at one point, and I would say the ever-so infamous Meshichist anthem: Yechi Adoneinu. However as I was a devoted Lubavitcher, I failed to understand the meaning of the Tanya nor the meaning of what Chabad chassidus was, I knew Chassidus and the derech of the Baal Shem Tov, but Chabad was not coming to me. Thus, a few months later when I met the Biala Rebbe I came under his fold it wasn’t long until I become a chosid of the Biala Rebbe, and did I become a chosid, I grew (still growing them) Payes and tried following the Biala Derech as well. However, as well with the Biala Derech, I did learn Chassidus, but not Biala chassidus. The thing is there was a point about a month ago I had a long thoughtful talk with myself, my soul expressing itself with my thought and I decided: all forms of Chassidus are wonderful and beautiful and consist of spiritual fire. I want to experiment with all drachim. Even drachim excluding Talmidei HaMagid (Rebbe Pinchas Kortitzer, Rebbe Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye, even Rabbi Nachman of Breslev, a certain extent) etc. I don’t encourage everyone to do this however, this is something I felt I needed to right, and that Chassidim, should not only study their own chassidus but works of other chassidusin and chassidus of chassidusin who never came to be (other Talmidei Baal Shem Tov besides the Maggid Ztz’l). Those are my thoughts

Zai Gezent,

Shia

Welcome!

Sholem Aleichem Yidn, Welcome to my new blog where I am planning to write (Bezras Hashem) Chasidishe Dvar Toire’s and my insights on different drachim in Chasides or different events going in our communities right now. I hope you enjoy and may we have the z’chus to bring Moshiach today!

~ Shia