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!