Avodah Mailing List

Volume 02 : Number 096

Tuesday, December 29 1998

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Mon, 28 Dec 1998 23:08:48 -0600 (CST)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>
Re: Avodah V2 #94

On Mon, 28 Dec 1998, Zvi Weiss wrote:

> ===>[thank you for the prompt comments.]

You're welcome. I enjoy discussing substance!
> ===> No. but I think that it is legitimate to ask Lubavitchers how THEY
> deal with the objections of R. Chaim.  The objections appear legitimate
> AND their "application" of what they claim to be based upon the BeShT
> leads to paradoxes that require [what appears to be] self-serving
> approaches. 

Let us note that, ironically, RCV's complaint applies much less to the
classic neo-Lithuanian Chabad Chassidus than to all other Chassidus. I.e.,
the Ba'al HaTanya stressed dveykus via intellect, derided those who come
to the Rebbe for material succor, and, in general, promoted Talmud Torah
over all - nigla and nistar.

It is the "new" Lubavitch - what my uncle would deride as Polish, although
I think that is unfair to the Chassiduyos that shtam from the Rebbe R'
Bunim (Kotzk, Izhbitz, Ger, Lublin, Radzhin) - that faces a greater

But, again, this is far more of a kashya on, say, Hungarian Chassidus than
on Lubavitch.

> ===> I am sure that you realize that there can be a significant
> difference...

To be sure.
> ===> Sorry -- on what basis could a *Lubavitcher* make such an
> inference?  Just because it sounds good..???  I understand that there is
> little point in prolonging this.  BUT for those who *defend* the
> Lubavitch thought (and try to claim that even a dead person could be
> MAshiach as per the Gemara in Sanhedrin), I think that it is legitimate
> to point out that this "hashkafa" seems -- at the least -- "convoluted",
> "forced", and problematic. 

You should know that the concept of "tzinoros hashpa'a" via tzaddikim to
others can even be found in RCV - see Ruach Chaim 1:3 about the "b'shvil"
of RCBD.

The application to a specific individual in each generation, I believe, is
based on a Zohar, "ispashtusa d'Moshe b'kol dor." That Moshe was the
"kelali" - or yechida - for his generation, I am sure can be found
in Chabad, but I know only where it is in R' Tzadok - see Tzidkas
HaTzaddik 159-160. (This stands contrary to that written by another Avodah
contributor, R' Moshe Shulman, that the concept of yechida kelalis was
never applied to Moshe Rabbeinu - sorry!)

I must note that this whole business of yechida kelalis is one of the
Chassidic axioms I have grave difficulty with - but:

1. It is essential to Chassidus.
2. It is universal in Chassidus.


Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
Cong. Bais Tefila, 3555 W. Peterson Ave., Chicago, IL, 60659
ygb@aishdas.org, http://www.aishdas.org/baistefila

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Date: Mon, 28 Dec 1998 23:15:44 -0600 (CST)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>
Re: Avodah V2 #90

On Mon, 28 Dec 1998, Moshe Shulman wrote:

> ROTFL Revisionism at its best.

Please enlighten us as to what ROTFL stands for.
> I would wager you are not correct. There is a story told that once the
> Ropshitzer Rov went to tashlich as the Chozeh from Lublin was returning.
> The Chozeh asked him where he was going. The Ropshitzer Rov answered, 'I
> am going to pick up the Rebbe's aveiros.'

If anything, the ma'aseh proves my point! The Ropshitzer held that the
Chozeh had no "real" aveiros - you don't pick up bona fide kelipos, no
matter from whom! Rather, that that which vis a vis the Chozeh might be a
kelipa was really a nitzotz for anyone else. Dok v'tishkach!

> I don't know who told you that, but it is an error. The reason has to do
> with sufik brochos. (BTW I DO make a shehakol on potatoes.) 


What safek?

> Yes, but that yechida should be in their Rebbe, is new. The Ari does not
> say that it is in the gadol hador. Moshe DID NOT have it. 

Addressed by me elsewhere (response to R' Zvi Weiss). See Tzidkas
HaTzaddik 159-160.

> But what of those who pray to the picture of the L. Rebbe, and expect to
> have their prayers heard? 

Indubitably, they are kofrim in one of the ikkarei emuna, not to daven to
any entity other than HKB"H. But didn't you know that?


Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
Cong. Bais Tefila, 3555 W. Peterson Ave., Chicago, IL, 60659
ygb@aishdas.org, http://www.aishdas.org/baistefila

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Date: Mon, 28 Dec 1998 23:31:05 -0600 (CST)
From: Cheryl Maryles <C-Maryles@neiu.edu>
Re: chasid vs misnagad

On Mon, 28 Dec 1998, Moshe Shulman wrote:
> ALL non-Chabad chassidim believe (as the Baal Shem Tov) that diveikus can be
> acheived without the intellectual contemplation that Chabad says is required.
> With that said, ALL non-Chabad Chassidim divide avodah into two classes. 1.
> The majority of the people whose ikkar avodah is emunah peshutah etc. 2. The
> benei aliyah who delve into 'intellectual' aspects of chassidus. 
Can someone explain the idea of emunah pesutah as applied here, because I
assumed in meant emunah pesutah as opposed to understanding philosopical
and metaphysical proofs to Hashem and achieving devekus through theses. My
confusion is that the Baal Shem Tov doesn't stess emunah pesutah (as
defined by me) alone he says that one needs both types of emunah. He says
this is p'sat in shmoneh esreh when we say Elokeinu velokei avosaynu. ie.
Elokeinu--as we understand Hashem through our philosoical proofs and
elokei avosaynu---as we understand hashem through emunah pasutah. I found
that only Rav Nachman stresses strict emunah pesutah. Can someone clarify
these terms for me (if sources are wanted to back up my statements I can
get them later, but they're not available to me as 
I write)

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Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 08:59:13 +0200
From: "Dr. Saul Stokar" <sol@mri.elscint.co.il>
Query re: Succa 27b

A friend of mine, Eli Kazimierski of Ra'anana, asked me the following
question over Shabbat, and I thought I'd forward it to this list for

The gemara (T.B. Succa 27b) states in the name of R. Eliezer "There is
no tribe in Israel that has not produced a Judge (Shofet)". Rashi (ad
loc) attempts to flesh out this statement by providing a list of Judges
with their tribal association, but he admits that he is unable to find
Judges from certain tribes. In addition, Rashi writes: 

"Otniayl, Yiphtach, Shamgar. Yair and Avdon - I do not know their tribe"

Maharsha (ad loc) says (amoung other things): 

"Yiphtach, although the son of a harlot, is known to be the "son of
Giladi" as stated explicitly in Scriptures and Gilad is [known to be] 
from [the tribe of] Menashe [he is apparently referring to Judges 11,1]"

As far as Yair is concerned, Maharsha says;
 "Yair - we never find [in Scripture] that he was a Judge; [rather] he
was the son of Menashe".

Rashash (ad loc) says: 
"see Maharsha and the objections raised to this is the book Iyaii HaYam.
However, both authors forgot that Yair ben Menashe is from the tribe of
Yehuda on his father's side, see Ramban at the end of Mattot [Numbers
32,39] and Radak to I Chroncles 2,22 [see also Ibn Ezra, Numbers 32,39]"

The questions Eli asked are:
[1] Why does Rashi say that Yiftach's tribe is unknown, surely Rashi
knows that he is Giladi (i.e. from the tribe of Menashe)! (Of course,
this is simply Maharsha's question.)

[2] Why do Maharsha and Rashash assume that Rashi is referring to Yair
ben Menashe mentioned in the end of Mattot? It is MUCH more likely that
Rashi is referring to Yair HaGiladi, mentioned in Judges 10,3 as serving
for 22 years (slightly after the tenure of Avimelech) ! (These are
clearly not the same person, since the latter Yair lived many hundreds
of years after the Yair mentioned in Numbers 32,39). To use the
expression used by Rashash back against himself "lishnayhem ne'elam" a
few verses in the book of Judges!

Does anyone have any explanation for these apparent gaffes?

Saul Stokar
Ra'anana, Israel

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Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 08:50:52 -0500
From: richard_wolpoe@ibi.com
Refocus, etc.

>>Date: Mon, 28 Dec 1998 17:03:27 -0600 (CST)
From: Cheryl Maryles <C-Maryles@neiu.edu>
Subject: refocus of discussion<<

I think cheryl has put her finger on our number one underelying woe sin'as 
chinom.  The gemeor notes it is THE root cause for churban bayis sheini, and 
probably what underlied the catastrophe of Rabbi Avkiva's Talmidim and IMHO is a
major fact in anti-Semitism.

The Torah says before hake Sakeh, v'dorashto c'hokarto HETEIV.  Be methodical 
and carfeful in investigating BEFORE you hit.

Hevu mesunim baDin.

What bothered me re: the YU thread was the concomitant sinas chimom. IMHO both 
YU and Lubavich have been victims of Sinas Chinom from the mainstream Yeshiva 
World.  I do NOT meanto imply they are above criticism, I just wish to echo 
Cheryl's sentiment that the criticims be just, judicious, fair, and without 

Rav Kook proposed that the antidote to Sinas chinam is Ahavas Chinom.  Perhaps 
another antidote is fair-mindedness, juidicousness, Al todein es Chaveicho ad 
shetagia limkomo.  Betzedek Tishpot es Amiksecho.

Remember LO sisno preceeds Hochiach tochiach.

Rich Wolpoe

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Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 09:06:44 -0500
From: Joel Margolies <margol@ms.com>
Re: universal language

Cheryl Maryles wrote:
> I was under the impression that when the torah describes the fact that the
> whole world spoke a "sefah achas" by the Tower of bavel that it meant
> (based on rashi) that the whole world spoke hebrew only, ie there were no
> other languages. However after looking at the sifsei chachamim on the
> pasuk it seems that it can be learned that everyone spoke hebrew but it is
> quite possible that other languages existed, just that the only universal
> language was hebrew. 

Reb Tzadok learns that the event that caused Avraham Avinu to "hikir es
boro" was the bilbul lshonos.  I heard this in a shiur by Rav Berel Wein
so I don't have a mekor and I am going on his explanation - but he seems
to say that Avraham saw that one day everyone in the world spoke lashon
hakodesh exclusively ahd the next it was reserved for Torah.  If anyone
has seen this inside - can you please affirm or deny?

Take care,



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Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 09:35:51 -0500 (EST)
From: micha@aishdas.org (Micha Berger)
Re: Universal Language

Something to think about when saying "veromamtanu mikol halshonos"... The
reason why Avraham Avinu knew Lashon haKodesh was because of his refusal to
participate in building the migdal. (Ashur similarly refused, but retained
"only" the k'sav, allowing their language to assimilate neighboring elements.)

We are saying something particular about calling ourselves a "lashon". It's
the begining of the progression that follows through "kidashtanu
bimitzvosecha vikeiravtanu Malkeinu la'avosecha".


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287    Help free Yehuda Katz, held by Syria 6019 days!
micha@aishdas.org                         (11-Jun-82 - 29-Dec-98)
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.
http://www.aishdas.org -- Orthodox Judaism: Torah, Avodah, Chessed

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Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 09:01:08 -0600 (CST)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>

In light of our recent discussions of "old" vs. "new" Lubavitch and
Chassidus in general, I take the liberty of posting to the group my essay
on "old" Lubavitch vs. other Chassidus and both vs. Mussar and non-Mussar
"Misnagdus." Please note that the essay is:

1. Available in HTML at the aishdas/baistefila website.
2. Has not been published, and probably never will, since for the various
periodicals to which it was submitted it was deemed eiither too short, too
long, or not "politically correct." Comments welcome!


Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
Cong. Bais Tefila, 3555 W. Peterson Ave., Chicago, IL, 60659
ygb@aishdas.org, http://www.aishdas.org/baistefila

Forks in the Road: Old Divisions, Modern Ramifications
Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer

We Might Be a Little Late!

This essay is some one hundred and fifty years late. Events since, some
fortunate, most unfortunate, have blurred the differences between the great
schools of thought that developed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth
century. Doubtless, the Satmar Rebbe zt l had this blurring in mind when
he is said to have remarked that he himself was the last true Chasid, and
that the Brisker Rav zt l had been the last true Misnaged. Nevertheless,
we can only understand how we got to where we are today by knowing from
where we came. Furthermore, and what is more important, as we all strive
to enhance our individual and collective Avodas Hashem, it is worthwhile --
perhaps essential -- to know what we might choose as our goal or aspiration.

The Great Divide

The nature of that goal has been the subject of a debate that has raged since
the middle of the eighteenth century, when Eastern European Jewry erupted into
the controversy surrounding Chasiddus. Henceforth, the Ashkenazic Jewish
world was to be divided along the lines of Chasiddus vs. Misnagdus. Oh, to
be sure, there are other, significant trends in Judaism, including the Torah
im Derech Eretz school and, of course, many rich variations of Sephardic
Avoda. The most blatant divide, however, is along the Chassidic/Misnagdic
fault line. It is this line that we will attempt here to delineate. But before
we really begin: Caveat emptor! It would be the epitome of presumptiousness
to purport that a short (or even long) essay might succinctly and precisely
capture the distinctions between these schools of Avodas Hashem. To dare such
an attempt would be foolhardy, to claim one has succeeded in the endeavor,
unmitigated gall. We intend to examine a relatively narrow bandwith of
the differences, in the hope that the reader use these distinctions as
a springboard for contemplation and understanding. Perhaps ironically,
we must begin our conversation with a definition of the Chassidic model
of Avoda. The reason for this is simple: Existing philosophies are often
forced to articulate their defining characteristics only when faced by a
new challenge. This seems to be the case with Misnagdus. Despite its earlier
origin, it was only forced to define itself as a philosophy when it came to
battle the revolutionary Chassidic movement. The very term Misnaged can only
be understood if one knows the context of Chasiddus, for its meaning, Opponent,
is only intelligible if one realizes toward what the opposition was directed.

"Mainstream" Chasiddus and Chabad

Chasiddus itself divided into two significant camps, that of mainstream
Chasiddus, and that of Chabad. Each side argued that its respective derech was
the most accurate reflection of the Ba'al Shem Tov (Besht) zt "l's chiddush
(novel approach) in Avodas Hashem. What was that chiddush, and what did each
side represent as the means of implementing that chiddush? These points are
discussed at length by the Piascezner Rebbe, Rabbi Klonymus Kalmish Shapiro
zt"l Hy"d (author of the Chovas HaTalmidim) in his work, the Mevo HaShe arim
(Chap. 5).[1]

The Piascezner writes that the Besht radically changed the world by
affording much wider access to dveykus -- a strong awareness of connection
- with Hashem. Prior to the advent of Chasiddus, accomplishing dveykus
required an individual to access the secret world of the Mekubbalim
(Kabbalistic masters). The prerequisites and regimen that one had to undergo
in order to be initiated into those secrets and that society were harsh and
demanding. Much fasting, self affliction, separation from general society, and
other forms of ascetic behavior were required. Only those who had undergone
such preliminaries, and had then been accepted as the select students of the
masters of each generation, could be worthy of access to the body of wisdom
and practice that allowed its initiates to relate to Hashem in a powerful
and direct manner.

The Ari zt"l and the Or HaChaim HaKadosh zt"l began to ease access to this
body of knowledge and practice, a point not lost on the Chasidim, who cherish
the works of these individuals. It was the Besht, however, who completed
the revolution. From the perspective of the Chasidim, the Besht was the
first to introduce the means and tools for even the most common, simple Jew
to experience dveykus in Hashem. (An integral feature of Chasiddus is the
Chassidic tale. One of the focal themes of those tales is the capacity of
even the most ignorant Jew, who is but sincere and pure hearted, to connect
to Hashem and stir the Heavens to a greater extent than the most accomplished
scholar and saint.) The salient internal issue in Chasiddus became how best
to achieve that dveykus. The mainstream of Chasiddus stressed fervor and
emotion in Avoda and Emuna Peshuta -- simple, pure, experiential faith in
Hashem -- as the best tools for this endeavor. It posited that the sanctity
of a Jewish neshama and its potential to connect to Hashem is far too great
for man s intellect to grasp or perceive. Hashem, rather, in His infinite
wisdom and mercy, provided that the toil of simple, yet powerful Avoda would
afford a Jew the possibility of tapping into lofty, uplifting kedusha. In a
pithy statement that captures the essence of this derech, the Beis Aharon of
Karlin zt"l wrote that he envied the galloping horses upon which participants
travel to a Bris Mila. This approach viewed the study of Kabbala per se
as significant only to the extent that it aroused Avoda Peshuta. In short,
the mainstream of Chasiddus emphasized Avoda with the heart and in deed.

Chabad Chasiddus, on the other hand, stressed the mind and thought. The Ba
al HaTanya zt l demanded of his followers that they attempt to perceive and
grasp Hashem s greatness with their intellects. The Ba al HaTanya saw this
direction inherent in the Besht s revolution. The Besht had revealed that
even the vessels -- the revealed, simple levels of the Torah, possessed the
same illumination as the esoteric regions of Hashem s wisdom. While the
previous Kabbalistic perspective had denigrated the revealed Torah as a
sackcloth, the Besht revealed the sanctity inherent in that sack. In the
Ba al HaTanya s famous analogy, there is little difference between one who
merits to embrace the king while the monarch is dressed in few garments (the
study of Kabbala) and one who merits to embrace a king clothed in more layers
(the study of the revealed Torah, i.e., Shas and Poskim). Thus, even the study
of shor shenogach es hapara (a wellÄknown Talmudic subject in Bava Kamma)
could now serve to enhance one s dveykus with Hashem. (The Chabad acronym,
standing as it does for Chochma, Bina, Da as, evoked this idea. Da as, the
result of the intellectual process -- wisdom -- also connotes connection, as
in vayeida Adam es Chava ishto. From Chabad s perspective, since the soul
rests in the mind and from there impacts on the heart, the love and awe of
Hashem can only follow from knowledge of Him.

The Piascezner sums it up: The Ba al HaTanya s derech was to bring the
intellectual world of Kabbala and its mystical properties down into this
world. The mainstream s derech was to bring this world s inhabitants
into the higher spheres via experiential Avoda. Practical Implications
The Piascezner then describes several important distinctions that flow
from this dichotomy. Both schools of thought sought to define what it
would be like to experience a taste of Gan Eden in this world. Chabad held
that it could be experienced in the pleasure of knowing and understanding
Hashem s illumination, while the mainstream of Chasiddus defined it as the
pleasure of experiencing fervor and emotion in Avodas Hashem. Chabad, with
its emphasis on bringing illumination down to our realms, feels compelled
to deal with reality and existence -- even if only to clarify its illusory
and temporal nature. The mainstream, on the other hand denied any validity
to contemplation of reality -- after all, its entire goal was to get its
adherents to transcend that reality and break through its barriers between
us and our Creator. In this vein, Chabad saw most people (the beinonim )
as grounded in this world (the Kabbalistic realm of kelipas noga ), while
the mainstream of Chasiddus regarded each and every Jew as potentially
transcendent and utterly holy. Chabad, with its emphasis on the intellect,
bore some resemblance to the old Kabbalistic schools. The Ba'al HaTanya,
therefore, still saw some value in perishus -- fasting and asceticism -- the old
modalities. The mainstream, with its emphasis on fervent, experiential Avoda,
represented an almost complete break with the past. It saw little or no value
in perishus. Abstention, by its very nature a lack of experiences, contributed
practically nothing to the pursuit of experiential proximity to Hashem.

A brief Chassidic tale captures the essential divide between the two schools
of thought. Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev zt"l s grandchild married the
grandchild of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Ba'al HaTanya. When the
grandfathers arrived at the wedding, they found that the doorway through
which they were both to enter the hall was too narrow for both to walk
through simultaneously. After futilely importuning each other to go first,
the Berditchever proposed: Let s break through the wall. The Ba al HaTanya
responded: No, let us widen the doorway. Further important distinctions are
to be found at the beginning of Rabbi Moshe Dovber Rivkin (Rosh Yeshiva at
Yeshiva Torah VoDa as) zt"l's Ashkavta d'Rebbi.[2]

Rabbi Rivkin discusses the centrality of the Rebbe in the respective
derachim. Since the mainstream attempted to bring this world s inhabitants
into the supernal spheres via experiential Avoda, it was essential that
someone -- a Rebbe -- orchestrate and direct those experiences. The Rebbe
would provide the inspiration, elevation and kedusha for the Chasiddim. The
Rebbe s tools, in this system, consisted of both material means, such as
shirayim, and spiritual means, such as the Rebbe s Torah. Precisely because
the goal was to inspire the heart and stimulate the deed, the means were
often material. (Elsewhere (Hachsharas HaAvreichim 61b), the Piascezner
explains the significance of mashke -- the partaking of alcoholic beverages --
in Chasiddus as an additional means of achieving dveykus. Altered states of
consciousness -- reached lishem shomayim -- are helpful in this quest.) Even
the nature of the Torah was affected by its purpose. The Torah was meant to
inspire. Often it was an integral part of the overall experience of powerful
experiences such as the tish. That Torah, therefore, generally took the form of
vertlach -- snippets of insight, sparks of a divine fire. Rarely does one find
the mainstream of Chasiddus involved in formulating comprehensive theologies
and weltanschaunngen. They were unessential.[3] The Rebbe provided the devek,
the glue, of his Chasiddim s dveykus. In Chabad, however, shirayim were an
anathema. They were derided as nahama d kesufa, literally, bread of shame,
or, colloquially, something for nothing. The Rebbe s task was not to inspire
and provide kedusha but rather to educate, to provide the Chochma and Bina
that the Chasiddim would learn, internalize and utilize to achieve their own,
personal Da as. In this system, it was imperative to spread the most profound
intellectual concepts in a systematic fashion, thus allowing all adherents
to achieve the intellectual devek that, by definition, each Chasid had to
possess on his own.[4]

We should note that Chabad Chasiddim would refer, somewhat derisively, to other
Chasiddim as adherents of Chagas Chasiddus. Chagas is an acronym for Chesed,
Gevura, Tiferes, the three sefiros immediately below Chabad in the Kabbalistic
system. While the sefiros of Chabad describe the intellect, the sefiros of
Chagas describe character -- middos -- and emotional drives. Chabad Chasiddim
defined themselves as focused on intellect, and Chagas Chasiddim as focused
on emotion. Furthermore, Chabad Chasiddim saw themselves as educated to a
certain independence from the Rebbe, rooted in their individual comprehensions
of the Chabad system. Chagas Chasiddim, to their minds, were limited by a
dependency on the Rebbe to be their collective Da'as. The reader is certainly
able to deduce how a Chagas Chasid might respond to these assertions.

Before we proceed to define Misnagdus, let us repeat the statement with
which we began: This essay is late. Fertile cross-pollination has blurred
other distinctions. The wholesale slaughter of some of the greatest paragons
of each school has deprived us of their respective role models in true
Avodas Hashem. In Chabad, in particular, new developments have influenced


It is the two schools that we have discussed and their principles, however,
that inform modern Chassidic pathways in Avodas Hashem. Prioritizing Values
in Avodas Hashem At the core of both Chassidic schools is the supreme value
of dveykus. The fissure that developed between Misnagdus and Chasiddus
concerns this value. In most Misnagdic systems, dveykus is a value, not the
supreme value. In some schools of thought, it may not be a value at all. This
point was clarified to me in a conversation I once had with a distinguished
representative of a great Misnagdic perspective. When I queried if it would
be possible to attain prophecy in our day and age, would it be advantageous to
aspire to attain it, he responded in the negative. When I asked him to define
kedusha, he replied that it means greater dikduk (meticulousness) in fulfilling
mitzvos. Finally, in answering a question as to what more intensive kavana
in davening might consist of, he said that it meant a greater (intellectual)
understanding of the words of our prayers. While these positions may seem
extreme in their dismissal of dveykus, they enable us to sharpen our focus.[6]

If one were to subscribe to these views, what might be one's supreme value? A
Misnaged 's supreme value is shleymus -- perfection. Hashem endowed each and
every Jew with a rich reservoir of unique strengths and talents, a vast and
great potential to realize.. It is the development and accomplishment of as
much of that potential as possible that should be the goal, aspiration and
supreme value of a true Oved Hashem.

The mid-nineteenth century saw the development in Misnagdus of two distinct
schools of thought. The Lithuanian yeshiva world, the bastion of Misnagdic
Avoda, divided into two camps: Mussar and non-, even anti -- Mussar. While
both camps valued shleymus above all else, the pathway to shleymus, perhaps
even the definition thereof, was the subject of their dispute. Everyone
agreed that perfection entails accomplishment in intellectual development
and Halachic observance. It was also universally accepted that awe and love
of Hashem are essential to shleymus. Disagreement centered on the priority to
be accorded to specific and focused Avoda in the development of Ahava, Yirah
and one s ethical personality in general. Contrasting a Chasid and a Misnaged

But let us return to that point in a moment. Let s go back to the divide
between Chasiddus and Misnagdus. The distinction has many ramifications. We
will note three of them. The first concerns the issue of Emuna Peshuta. To
a Chasid, analysis of theology is a foreign, even dangerous, concept. Such
analysis detracts from the powerful, simple, experiential Emuna and Avoda
that are at the core of Chasiddus. Intellectual analysis detracts from
emotional dveykus. Even in Chabad, where understanding is key, independent
exploration, as opposed to receiving and understanding, is questionable. To
a Misnaged, however, (within the limitations of b'mufla mimcha al tachkor
- Chazal s admonition that we refrain from exploring that which is beyond
our capacity to comprehend) the more profound the intellectual perception,
the greater the extent to which one has developed one s potential, the more
perfect one s shleymus.

A more important example is manifest in one of the core disputes between
Chasiddus and Misnagdus. We ask Hashem every morning to grant us the
opportunity to learn His Torah lishma. What do we mean by that request? The
interpretation of lishma is the subject of a great debate between the Besht
and Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin zt"l. The Besht (Tzava as HaRivash simanim 29-30
and the nuscha'os acheirim there. Rivash = Rabbi Yisroel Ba al Shem) held
that Torah lishma means the study of Torah with the purpose of achieving
dveykus in Hashem. The Besht, therefore, advised his followers to interrupt
their studies at regular intervals in order to meditate on the dveykus that
the studies allowed one to achieve. A radical illustration of this approach
is provided by the story that one of the early great Chassidic leaders,
the Rebbe Reb Zushya of Hanipoli zt"l, once spent an entire night staring
at the first line of the first mishna in Bava Metzia, so awed was he at
the prospect of dveykus in Hashem inherent in the Torah. To the Besht,
the study itself was almost a b'di'eved: "Although during the time one
is studying it is not possible to be davek in Hashem, nevertheless, one
must learn, for the Torah polishes one's soul and is a tree of life to
those who grasp it. If one does not learn, therefore, he cannot achieve
dveykus. One's attitude must be that just as when one is asleep he cannot be
davek [but, nevertheless, one must sleep]... the time alloted for learning
is no worse." The goal was the focus on Hashem that study facilitated, not
the focus on the study per se. Reb Chaim, however, expends a great deal of
effort (Nefesh HaChaim Sha'ar 4, Chaps. 1-2) rejecting this approach. Reb
Chaim defines Torah lishma as Torah for its own sake, as complete and total
immersion in study for no other purpose but the study itself. For Reb Chaim,
interruption of any sort -- even for thoughts of dveykus -- was Bittul Torah,
pure and simple. Only by studying with the greatest possible concentration,
depth and breadth, could one approach shleymus.

This is an opportune moment to reflect on one of the many major departures
from our neat categorization (remember, you were warned!). Several Polish
branches of Chasiddus, spiritual heirs of the Rebbe Reb Bunim of Parshischa
zt"l,[7] produced scholars of epic magnitude. Now, this is not to say that
other branches of Chasiddus were bereft of Gedolei Hora'ah and Lamdanim. But
there is a subtle difference between these Polish schools on the one hand and
the mainstream and Chabad schools on the other. While the Kotzker said that
a Chasid is in awe of Hashem, while the Misnaged is in awe of the Shulchan
Aruch (Pisgamei Chasiddim p. 99), he also said that true pshat is the most
profound secret in the Torah, and that while others might say Torah to ascend
to the seventh Heaven, he himself was of the opinion that one must say Torah
in a fashion that will penetrate the innards of the listener (ibid., pp. 183,
184). These schools stressed the pursuit of shleymus to a far greater extent
than other branches of Chasiddus. This difference is best expressed in the
example presently under discussion here, Torah lishma. The Sochatchover Rebbe,
the Avnei Nezer zt"l, explores the issue in the introduction to his Eglei
Tal. He writes: "The essence of the mitzva of Talmud Torah is to be happy,
rejoice and take pleasure in one's studies. Then the words of the Torah become
absorbed into his blood. Since he derives enjoyment from the words of the
Torah he becomes davek in the Torah." He goes on to explain that the simcha
in one's Torah study also enhances Torah's other purpose, the reinforcement of
one's yeitzer tov. Dveykus, yes -- but in the Torah itself, and in the pursuit
of spiritual perfection, not as a means of facilitating dveykus in Hashem.[8]

A final example -- perhaps the most apparent one -- may be found in the
relative attitudes toward Halachic standards. Chasiddus is willing to
bend the rules a little -- most famously in the area of zmanei tefilla --
as long as the purpose of such minor deviations is the pursuit of greater
dveykus. Misnagdus is completely intolerant of such liberties. The pursuit
of perfection demands meticulous attention to Halachic parameters.

Where does Mussar Fit in this Picture?

Mussar's relationship with Chasiddus is more complex. Mussar arose because
Rabbi Yisroel Salanter zt"l perceived that perfection in observance and
scholarship did not suffice to make an individual an Adam HaShalem.[9]

Precisely because Mussar placed value on perfection across a broader
spectrum of traits and characteristics, it might have made room for dveykus
in its system of Avoda as well. Indeed, the tract that was to become Mussar's
fundamental guidebook, the Mesillas Yesharim, states unequivocally (Chap. 1)
that dveykus is shleymus (the Ramchal zt"l, in Chap. 26, identifies the
highest level of accomplishment, kedusha with dveykus). Mussar's unique
critique of Chasiddus is expressed by a passage in an essay by Rabbi Avrohom
Eliyahu Kaplan zt l contrasting the Chasiddus of the Rebbe Maharash zt l of
Lubavitch and Reb Yisroel s Mussar:

Mussar does not disagree with Chasiddus. Mussar is often satisfied with the
Jewish strength of Chasiddus: its capacity not to submit to the environment;
its heartfelt openness bein adam l chaveiro that softens petty superficial
European etiquette; its readiness to dedicate itself to a lofty purpose, and
so easily sacrifice for that purpose normal conditions of life; its youthful
fervor in mitzvos, which extends well into old age. Mussar, however, has a
significant criticism of Chasiddus: It sees Chasiddus as too external, too
theoretical and abstract. The Chasid deludes himself into thinking that he
is getting more out of Chasiddus than he actually is. Chasiddus deals with
profound thoughts and great deeds, but it remains outside the essence of
the Chasid. Chasiddus penetrates the depths of the greatest Torah problems
both between Man and G-d and between Man and Man Ä but it penetrates too
little the self of a person, so that he might engage in a reckoning as to
where he stands in relation to his world and in relation to his obligations
in his world... The average Chasid deludes himself into thinking that a
nigun that he sings wells up from his heart, and that the dveykus that he
experiences has its source in his soul, even though it is entirely possible
that these are transient moods not associated with his true essence. One
should not judge hastily. We cannot say even to the simplest Chasid, when he
experiences dveykus, that he does not truly cleave to GÄd. But that constant
selfÄcritique: Perhaps I am deluding myself; the query that should accompany
every step in life: Have I not strayed in this instance from the path? ; and,
finally, all that is encompassed in the thought that serves as a necessary
precondition for Shivisi Hashem l negdi tamid [ I have placed GÄd before
me always ], namely, the thought, I have placed my self before me always,
All this is more prevalent in Mussar than in Chasiddus...[10]

What Does All this Mean to Us?

In conclusion, let us come full circle. The focus of our lives is our Avodas
Hashem. This assertion places upon all of our shoulders -- men and women,
young and old -- an amazing responsibility. The Avoda that Hashem expects
from us involves constant, diligent, indeed, relentless, pursuit of personal
development and growth. This may not be difficult for young people, who
are still in yeshivos and seminaries, enjoying the "hands on" guidance and
direction of Morei and Moros Derech. It is infinitely harder, however, for
adults. More often than not, the older we are, the more involved we are in
our families and occupations (even if it may be Avodas HaKodesh), the less we
face demands, the less we benefit from counsel, by sagacious mentors. Like it
or not, we are frequently placed in the uncomfortable position of having to
sort out matters for ourselves, with far less advice from Rabbonim or other
Mashpi'im than would be ideal. If so, to paraphrase the Mesillas Yesharim's
description of life as a maze, we really need to have a conceptual framework
of where the pathways lie and to then make exacting cheshbonos hanefesh. The
first step is to know where Avoseinu -- Rabboseinu blazed the trails, so that
we may know where to follow. This essay is an, albeit feeble, preliminary
attempt to inspire us to take up this difficult, yet essential, task.

As we have mentioned, cross-pollination has brought all of these derachim
into contact with each other (one has but to recall great thinkers such
as Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch zt"l, Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler zt"l, Rabbi Yitzchok
Hutner zt"l and Rabbi Gedalya Schorr zt"l who combined elements of all these
schools in forging their own unique and extraordinary derachim) -- and with
us. It is worthwhile for us to sort through them -- and, of course, others -- in
our quest to understand where we have come from and where we should be going.



1. While it would be more scholarly to footnote every assertion we will make
in the next few paragraphs, for brevity's sake it will suffice to say that
they are all taken from the Piascezner's discussion there. The interested
reader is directed thereto to pursue the sources.

2. It should be noted that the Piascezner was a representative of the
Chassidic mainstream. In contrast, Rabbi Rivkin was a Chasid Chabad. Our
previous comment as to detailed references applies here as well.

3. Somewhat ironically, the Piascezner stands out as an exception in this
regard. His works were systematic and comprehensive. Their focus, however,
was not on theology, but on the understanding and codification of the derech
of Avoda with heart and in deed.

4. In a remarkable passage in the Tanya (Iggeres HaKodesh Chap. 23),
Reb Shneur Zalman warns the Chasiddim against seeking counsel from Rebbes,
such as himself, in material matters. He regarded himself as an educator,
not as an oracle.

5. Lest one make the mistake of assuming that Chabad has always stirred
the kind of controversies that surround it today, one has only to recall
universally accepted giants of the Jewish world such as the Rogatchover Gaon
zt"l and Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin zt"l who were firmly rooted in Chabad.

6. In attempting to define a classic Misnagdic philosophy, Rabbi Yosef
B. Soloveichik zt"l in his Ish HaHalacha posits that if Hashem created the
universe via the process of tzimtzum -- hiding His presence and barring us from
its apprehension -- then it follows that He does not expect us to make it a goal
to reverse that process. I would venture that a more "mainstream" Misnagdic
approach would find value, were it possible, in striving for prophecy, or
any lesser form of communication with Hashem. A more mainstream approach
might define kedusha as Rabbi Shimon Shkop zt"l does in the introduction to
Sha'arei Yosher: "Hashem created everything to fulfill His desire to benefit
his creatures. Hashem's will is that we follow in His path, as it is written:
vehalachta bidirachav.' Each of us, His chosen people should, therefore,
constantly strive to devote all our physical and spiritual strengths to
the greater good of society. I think this is the definition of the mitzva
of Kedoshim Teeheyu.... This mitzva comprises the entire foundation and
purpose of our lives, i.e., that we constantly direct all our toil and
effort toward the benefit of the Klal. We should not use any deed, movement,
pleasure or enjoyment for any purpose that does not ultimately benefit
another. We then resemble Hekdesh, something uniquely designated for some
lofty purpose." It would seem that even staunch Misnagdim would regard tefilla
as Avoda b'Lev and value emotional engagement in the dialogue with Hashem
that is prayer. Chasiddus, on the other hand, certainly values aspiration to
prophecy. Much of the Chovas HaTalmidim discusses the essential relevancy of
that aspiration to our times. Chasiddus would probably identify kedusha with
dveykus. Kavana in tefilla would be measured by the dveykus achieved as well.

7. Kotzk, Izhbitz, Gur, Lublin, Radzhin, Sochatchov, and others as well.

8. We must note that these brief paragraphs cannot do justice to the rich
breadth and depth of Polish Chasiddus. The similarities and differences between
Polish and other forms of Chasiddus are many, complex and profound. As we
mentioned, one cannot hope to capture and define every principle (even most
principles) in one essay. In passing, however, we should note that Reb Tzadok
HaKohen of Lublin zt"l, arguably the greatest mind in the annals of Chasiddus,
does define lishma as dveykus (Tzidkas HaTzaddik siman 167).

9. I heard from one of my Rabbeim zt"l, that one of the impetuses for Reb
Yisroel to found the Mussar movement was a "test" he ran once on one of
the Yomim Nora'im in Vilna. He stood during the Shemone Esrei next to an
illustrious scholar, pretended that he had forgotten to bring a Machzor,
and motioned a request to be allowed to look into his neighbor's Machzor. The
scholar's "response" was a shove. Reb Yisroel learnt from this incident that
great scholarship does not necessarily refine an individual's character. The
movement he started posited that character, ethics and personality all required
distinct, systematic study and treatment (an eloquent case for in depth,
profound treatment of middos and one's relationship with Hashem is made by the
Mesillas Yesharim in his introduction as well). Those who opposed him held,
in broad terms, that meticulous and exacting study of Halacha in and of itself
was the best method by which to bring oneself to higher levels of refinement
(a case made by the Chazon Ish zt"l in his Emuna u'Bitachon Chap. 4).

10. B'Ikvos HaYirah p. 22. Reb Avrohom Elya noted that the founders of
Chasiddus did know and impart the need for Mussar-like introspection to
their followers, but sufficient stress was not placed on this component,
and over time it was forsaken (ibid., p. 136). The Netziv zt"l (Harcheiv
Davar Shemos 5:3) does view dveykus as the supreme expression of shleymus,
but seems to be skeptical as to whether the Chassidic model actually leads
to its attainment. (I am indebted to Mr. Louis Bernson for the Mareh Makom
in the Netziv.)

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