Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mixing Different Traditions and the Light of Moshiach

Due in part to Rav Itamar Shwartz, Shlita's visit to the United States this week and my lively discussion with "A Yid," in the comments section at A Simple Jew, I have been thinking about the role of the eclectic drawing of light from different streams within authentic Yiddishkeit versus strictly sticking to one mesorah for the sake of authentic maintenence of that mesorah. This prompted me to call Rav Moshe Weinberger, from congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, NY to get his perspective on the issue. I made some observations, which he shared, and to which he added specificity, regarding the sources from which Rav Shwartz, in the Bilvavi seforim, draws his message. I also shared with him the gist of "A Yid's" perspective on the issues.

Anyone who is familiar with Rav Weinberger's shiurim knows that Rav Weinberger also draws his teachings from widely "divergent" sources. In a single shiur he may quote the Ponevicher Rav, the Kedushas Levi, Rav Aharon from Belz, Rav Kook, the Lubavitcher rebbe, the Alter rebbe, and Rav Yoshe Ber Soleveichik. He told me that he primarily sees a lot of Ramchal, Tanya, and some Breslov (and many others as well to a lesser extent) in the initial Bilvavi seforim. Since I was bothered by the question, I directly asked him what the role of firmly sticking to one mesorah should be visa vis such an eclectic approach, which draws light from such a multitude of sources.

He said that he believes, and I feel sure Rav Shwartz would agree, that though they often seem mutually exclusive, all of these paths come from one unified source. And therefore, b'emes b'emes, they are one. The ability to see the oneness in the ostensibly polar opposite teachings of the Satmar Rav, R' Yoel Teilbaum, zt"l, and Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook, zt"l, for example, requires a wonderous and hafladik higher perspective on all of Yiddishkeit. He said that the light that is emerging today that has the ability to show the deeper unity within such different streams of Torah is called the "Oro Shel Moshiach."

In the sefer Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh al HaTorah (which I have recently purchased and started learning on Shabbos), the one theme that pervades Rav Shwartz's teachings in every parsha is this idea of "Oro shel Moshiach." Rav Shwartz repeatedly shows how the elevated light of Moshiach is above and inclusive of all opposites. In each parsha, he amplifies on the theme that the light of Moshiach is koleil "davar v'hifucho," a thing and its opposite. This was shown in last week's parsha, Parshas Vayetze (5766), in an amazing way. Ayin Sham. The emerging revelation of the Oro shel Moshiach today gives us, with the help of big tzadikim and talmidei chachamim like Rav Weinberger and Rav Shwartz, the ability to get a higher unified perspective, which allows us to see the oneness in the seemily contradictory teachings of many different mesoros.

He said that there is a preciousness and a certain chein in the approach of those who fervently stick to one derech and one mesorah and do not let the waters of other mesoros touch their little daled amos of ground inYiddishkeit. The advantage of this is that they perfect and understand those little daled amos of mesorah ground in a way that no one else can. However, this comes at at very high cost. Without the water of other emesdikeh paths irrigating their daled amos of ground, much potential growth and blossoming even within their tradition will never be realized.

Perhaps some of the proponents of the "Only One Derech" approach will not be pleased to hear this perspective. But after speaking with Rav Weinberger it is even more clear to me that for me, and for our generation preceeding the coming of the full revelation of the light of Moshiach, this approach of unification and "cross-pollination" between different chochmei emes is vital. (I should clarify that for an individual whose soul is simply not drawn to anything but his own personal derech and mesorah, Rav Weinberger is not suggesting that he must or should force himself to broaden his horizons by studying and learning from other paths. For that person, his shoresh neshama is intimately connected to that path, and thus he must stick with and perfect his role in that mesorah.)

I spoke about other things and questions with Rav Weinberger as well, but I'll save that for another post. Tizku l'mitzvos!

-Dixie Yid

Update: Follow-up post here.

24 comments:

Bob Miller said...

Some of this new article touches on your theme, in the context of kiruv:

http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2007/08/30/hard-questions-about-kiruv/

Chaim B. said...

The many variations within chassidus itself point to tolerance for chiddush and adopting what works on an individual basis.

AJ-X-Eli said...

That's so great!! this post is very precious to me... I'm learning Tanya, davening in a chabad mynian and sending my children to Chabad schools as well, but feel very very close to the derech of Rabbi Nahman... I learn lonely Likoutey Moharan and Likoutey Halakhot, and feel so sad that my chabad's friends do not appreciate Breslevers, while those one do not like Chabad's ways... I always wonder if there is a meaning in between, and here you're giving me great hopes w/oro shel moshiah... Have a great Shabbes !!

A Yid said...

Obviously, Blevovi uses a lot of Ramchal, it seems to be the core on what everything is build there.

Right, the light of Moshiach is special and must be revealed somehow. The question is, how can we differ between speculations and real things?

The question of combining everything in one "cholnt" has another perspective too. Using "combining" approach everything becomes the same. Ramchal, Baal Shem Tov, Gro, Reb Avrohom Abulafia etc.

True, there is an inner affinty in all mystical teachings of Kabolo. But there are nuances too! Simple unifromal equalizing doesn't fit with the chasidic tradition, and Rav Weinberger who is well versed in Chassidus and of course in Pyasetchno sforim should be for sure aware of it. Chasidim don't look at Baal Shem Tov as just another mystic, like before him. Look in "Mevoy haSheorim" where the essence of Baal Shem Tov's revelation is summarized. How do you work with this? Baal Shem Tov was specially unique according to chasidim. Making a "cholnt" takes this away.

In Breslov, the Rebbe is held as the next step after the Baal Shem Tov in the sequence of revelations of behiro detzadikayo.

Note, that holding a derech, doesn't mean that one is required to refrain from research and learning anything about other dorichim. But I assume, for chasidim - chasidic methods are of the primary interest, because of the nature of Baal Shem Tov's and Rebbe's tikkunim.

For the abstract reseacher, who approaches Chassidus as "just one more" mystical system, this will be different.

What do you think about it?

A Yid said...

> AJ-X-Eli:

Chasidic drochim obviously should have more affinty to each other, than to other ones. Breslov teachings aren't contradictory to Chabad in essence.

avakesh said...

There is a distinction between
a communal derech and a personal derech. The infortunate reality is that most people, as well as children and the young, simply don't have the breadth to reconcile and contain divergent opions. They need ideology, "shittah". On public policy level there should be one uniform derech in each community for all. However for individuals with intelectual capacity to contain opposites and transform them 'b'oro shel moshciach", well , of course!

A Yid said...

Avakesh: Correct. But it has a backlash. Since it's personal, it can be very possibly unfit for others.

My friend told me once an interesting thing. His wife's grandfather lived in Kolbushev (in Galitzia) before the war. At that time, he was a bocher, but he belonged to the local "underground" a chaburo of mekubolim. "Underground" it became because of general attitude in yeshiva started to shift from Galician, to common Hungarish, which negates deep mystical things altogether. (Eventually the yeshiva prohibited Kabolo study, and he had problems with that and left them).

So once he asked the roysh chaburo there, how should one approach Kabolo i.e. real Nistar (if you understand what I mean) and not just intellectualizm of it. His teacher answer is very notable. He said to him, that there are thousands of gates to Kabolo, and one is required to find his, because he wouldn't be able to enter through other ones...

Anonymous said...

Rav Schwartz clearly explains in Bilvavi 5, pp. 64-66, why he joins various sefarim. He states that on our low level, we need all the help we can get in order to serve Hashem properly. He quotes this from Rav Dessler and brings a mashal from Rav Hutner. Two sons-in-law were living in the father-in-law's home, but they had to eat separately, because one ate only meat, and the other, milk. Then, when the father-in-law became poor, he could not buy meat or milk, so there was no reason for them to be separate. We, too, are so impoverished that we need to use the various sefarim to the extent that they can help us. I will add a mashal: In the past, each derech was like a healthy person, who doesn't need a transplant. Now, these "people" have become weak in various areas, and we must make some transplants from others who are healthy in that particular area. But this work must be done by an expert, who knows how to do the work, otherwise, the results can be disastrous. Many people with the eclectic approach end up falling to the lowest common denominator, which is that you should just be good and do some good things. They lose all their passion for anything specific. They often will embrace incompatible ideas without knowing that they are doing so. It is fine to quote Rav Kook and the Satmar Rav on parsha or tefillah, but on the fifth of Iyar, you have to know what to do in davening! An expert gadol can blend various shittos without creating a monster. I would also add that an expert would never rely only on later sefarim, but would look at Tanach, Chazal, and Rishonim as well. This is all evident in the Bilvavi sefarim.

A Yid said...

Anonymous: So you want to tether to it the issue of concealment of the light. I.e. statements like "nishkachas Toyrash haBaal Shem Tov" and the like. Probably correct in some perspective. I.e. for some. But there are those who don't agree that it is totally nishkachas and all became "parve". Breslov wouldn't agree at least. I assume it depends on a person.

Anonymous said...

Check out this site: http://www.geulah.org
Rabbi Avraham Sutton's derech is to combine all of these different teachings, the kabbalah of the Gra with the talmidei haBaal Shem Tov and a host of others. This is Moshiach's Torah that transcends all divisions.

A Yid said...

Anonymous: You didn't answer on questions above. See posting at: August 30, 2007 11:35 AM.

I know there those who combine all. But they don't address those questions.

A Yid said...

Anonymous: Thanks for the site, I'll take a look at it.

DixieYid said...

aj-x-eli,

B"H, if your neshama is drawn to Rebbe Nachman's teachings, you shouldn't feel as if that contradicts or is disloyal to your Chabad connection up to now. For more insight into the complementary nature of Chabad and Breslov, read my translation of Rav Itchie Mayer Mordenstern on the topic here.

A Yid,

At the beginning of your comment, I see the main problem you have as being the "cholent" kasha. If the author were actually creating a mushkababel of different ideas into a formless, colorless, feel-good mixture, then I would agree with you. However, I believe that you are missing the key word I used (which I got from Rav Weinberger); "Unified." The seforim (and, more importantly, the Oro Shel Moshiach approach) are not a rough-shod joining of contradictory sources, but a demonstration of a higher unity that underlies different and even "contradictory" approaches to avodas Hashem.

For example, there was a bitter bitter dispute between Rav Yosef Chaim Sonenfeld and Rav Kook in pre-state E"Y. Rav Y.C. Sonenfeld held that Rav Kook's approach to teaching which exemplified this Oro Shel Moshiach approach was wrong at best, and spiritually dangerous at worst. On one occasion, Rav Sonenfeld needed some help with a help issue in his family and they required the assistance of Rav Kook. He sent his grandson, I believe to Rav Kook's home, and when Rav Kook was sending Rav Sonenfeld on his way, he told him; "Please tell your Zaide that if he wasn't doing what he is doing, I would not be able to do what I am doing."

What you perceive as irreconcilable opposites, from a higher perspective are two necessary and complimentary components of a greater whole. Is concave the opposite of convex? Yes, but you cannot have one without the other. They are really one. Are Chochma and Bina different? Yes, but you must have both in balance and they are really one since they are both derivitives of Keser. This is also the message of Rav Kook in that ma'aseh.

You are right that we must differentiate between speculation and truth. How do we know which is which in this case? I am certainly no baki in chochmas haemes so really, I'm only basing myself on a couple of people's much-more-experet opinion in these matters. Rav Moshe Weinberger is very clear that he sees an unbelievable unity in the seforim of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, and that they are in no way based on personal speculation. I don't know if he wants his name announced, so I will merely say that a Tzadik and Rebbe of a Chassidus in Boro Park is of the same opinion and now has all of his Chassidim learning the Bilvavi seforim. Rav Gamliel Rabinovitch is close with the mechaber, who sees him often.

As to your valid point about the centrality of Chassidus and the derech haBaal Shem Tov to Rav Weinberger and Chassidim in general, I don't see the problem. It is true! I disagree that this is somehow contradictory to the idea of drawing light and inspiration in avodas Hashem from pre- and non-Chassidish sources. One can have their primary interest in Chassidus, like you said, and realize the truth within the other paths as well. That does not make someone an "abstract reseacher, who approaches Chassidus as 'just one more' mystical system."

I personally see Rav Weinberger and Rav Shwartz as being more connected to the way of Chochma, the way of Yosef Hatzadik. As I write in the introduction to the translation of R' Itchie Mayer Morgenstern's Kuntres, Chochma is the way of seeing the different, distinct, disperate pratei pratim and seeing the "Klal," the unified principal behind it. This is also connected to the bechina of Yosef Hatzadik. And I theorize that this is why Chanukah, which is very connected to the parshios of Yosef Hatzadik, is the Yontif to which Rav Weinberger feels the most connection.

Avakesh,

I defninetly see your point. And that has been the derech of the gedolim. They are mechaneich their communities that their way is the way for them to follow, in no uncertain or unclear terms. But individuals can and should be encouraged to follow the pull of their neshoma to enrich thier "daled amos" with other derachim in Torah that they feel connected to.

Regarding this idea that there is great significance to that which a Jew's soul feels connected to, there is an awesome Mei Hashiloach in last week's Parsha, parshas Ki Seitzei. He places and great emphasis on the Torah's words, "V'chashka va." Cheishek is a very strong word for desire and is not be taken lightly. He explains over there based on that, that if a Jew feels a cheishek for something, even something outwardly bad, it is because there are true nekodos tovos in that thing that that person's soul needs to be mevarer, to sepperate out. How much the more so in terms of Torah! This places new meaning in the words, "L'olam yilmod adam ma shelibo chafeitz."

This is just as "A Yid" himself wrote in A Simple Jew: "If he feels attraction to certain field of study, it indicates, that this field was neglected by him in his previous gilgulim (if any), so now his neshomo arouses this urge to learn what it missed before, so the rule of "ma sheliboy chofeytz" according to mekubolim is really a deep indicator of what is missing for neshoma's tikun."

Anonymous (12:16),

Thank you for sharing that. I know I've heard that before but I am only up to chelek beis, so you're way ahead of me. Thank you for sharing that.

-Dixie Yid

DixieYid said...

Bob, thanks for pointing out that article. I hadn't seen it yet. I'm not currently a "Cross Currents" reader. Perhaps I should start!

It reminds me of the following question: Are we trying to be mekareiv Yiddin to our own group/sect? Or are we (try to be a kli to be) mekareiv them to Hashem?

-Dixie Yid

moshe said...

Wow, what a loaded topic!! Thank you DY, we've all been waiting for this one!
What I can add is this: a large part of uniting different drachim is PLACING EACH ONE IN IT'S RIGHT PLACE. One will have to decide things like, well, whose daas Torah do we listen to? For example, when trying to unite R' Kook with the Satmar Rav, do you say hallel or kinos on 5 iyar? (considering current situation I'd be inclined to say both... I wonder what they'd say in merkaz harav if someone suggests that). Someone is obviously going to have to make compromises... Someone will be the melech and someone will be the mishne lamelech... These are all questions that most of us can only speculate about...

BTW, R' Yitzchak Ginsburgh (galeinai) has these ideas coming up a lot in his shiurim. What I enjoy about them is that he really puts things in their right (according to his opinion) place. Chabad and Breslov... Litvishe posek and a Chassidic Rebbe... Polish chassidus vs chabbad... If you want I can find specific links to where he speaks about it.

Liorah-Lleucu said...

Interesting.

Anonymous said...

A Yid,

I am just explaining how I see the derech of Rav Schwartz based on the sefarim, and I quoted from his own sefer. I specifically made a point that one must be really great to do this, otherwise, you are absolutely right that you have a chulent, as we see with people who don't know what they are doing. In truth, those great people who synthesize systems are really expressing a personal derech of avodah they have discovered, and not just putting together various ideas that sound nice. And by the way, the idea of the concealment of the light is not a stirah to a greater light. We are in a tunnel. On one hand, the light from the entrance is dimmer, but also, the light from the exit is brighter, so both perspectives can be true.

DixieYid said...

Moshe,

I'm not sure this disagrees with what you're saying, but I don't think it's really up to each individual to decide which Daas Torah to listen to. That would kind of defeat the purpose of Daas Torah. But it says in Pirkei Avos "Knei lecha Rav." I think it's up to your personal rebbe which halacha you follow on 5 Iyar, for example. That's not a decision one can make for himself.

But thank you for what you're saying. I agree that it's a major topic. I didn't realize that it was an issue bubling under the surface though. In what way do you see this happening?

-Dixie Yid

moshe said...

DY: when I mentioned 5 iyar I was just giving an example of the issues involved, I did not mean to voice an opinion on who decides which daas torah to follow. What I really wanted to say is that deciding who's daas torah to follow is more than just a technicality, it's one of the things that "make" the unification. All the different shitot in klal yisroel now have their role and place. The shita of R' Kook has it's place. So does the satmar shita. And in order to unify them, each one will have to be in their RIGHT place! For one the right place is to be the melech (and that's whose daas torah must be followed) and for the other it's mishne lamelech (which is a very important position, but not much of daas torah). I strongly suggest you listen to this from R' Ginsburgh: mms://ra.colo.idt.net/ginsburgh/heb/5767/he671001.mp3 where he touches on these issues. If you have problem with the hebrew, I'll be happy to tell you the main points b'n.

moshe said...

DY: you asked in what way do I see it bubbling under the surface. Well, I'm not sure how much it's bubbling really, but it does seem to interest many people. I think it depends on how much one is SICK of golus and wants Moshiach to come... If one is more or less comfortable in golus, and has an attitude of "let moshiach come whenever..." than one can see klal yisroel split up and cut in pieces, and not loose too much sleep over it. After all, one can live comfortably in golus while following any one shitta and not paying attention to much else. One can even be considered a truly religious and even a spiritual person... But I think for anyone who really can't stand golus any more, it's clear that something should be done to bring about true unity... It must be done it the right way of course, not just creating some "cholnt" as reb Yid sais...

Netzach said...

WADR, this idea that there is some sort of merit to mixing together, sorry, "uniting" different derochim, and that this is somehow oro shel Moshiach, has no basis, no source. The only basis is ... the opinion of a Rav *who won't even identify himself*!!

All the past generations of those who enjoyed the light of Chasidus knew of the concept of Chosid and Rebbe, that one chooses one Rebbe and devote themselves to his teachings and instructions, and in this way he connects to Hashem. The system worked then and it works now (assuming the Tzaddik is really what he presents himself as, but that's a separate discussion). If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

But you see, that system requires bittul, giving up who I am and subsuming myself in the Tzaddik. Accepting his words and instructions--and orders--even when I'd prefer to do otherwise. But that ain't popular any more. In this orphaned, sound-byte, consumerist generation, people who lack bittul but want the high that Chasidus offers have found the perfect solution: learn Chasidus, without bittul, without a derech that you follow because you have a Rebbe, who is YOUR master! Rather, take a bit of what you like from here, a bit of what you like from there, and ignore what doesn't suit your fancy. Pick and choose your spiritual experiences. Guide yourself ... into ...

What's more, the darkness is so great that this confusion has been promoted to a level not only equal to that of devotion (hiskashrus/bittul) to a Tzadik, but--get this--to a level *even higher* than bittul to a Tzadik! The "oro shel Moahiach"! Mamash Moshiach tzeitn!

Let's see just one classic source for this notion. But I know that tou won't find any.

For example, the graduates of the Chavakuk place are totally confused people. They are taught cholent, and then they live their lives with cholent, without guidance, without proper direction. It would be better if they'd have been taught only one derech, and then if they feel they need to change, they would change. This way they're neither here nor there!

DixieYid said...

Netzach,

You're obviously a very special Jew, who I agree with 90%. Unfortunately, you are making several mistakes which, I think, are primarily leading to this seemily vast disagreement.

You obviously have strong feelings about spiritually "homeless" people who dabble a little here and a little there, thinking that by not sticking with any Rav or any derech that they are somehow on a higher level. I agree with you about that and that kind of person/life has literally nothing to do with I was writing about. So it seems you have interpolated the fear of that phenomenon into what you thought I was writing about, so I am happy to disabuse you of that notion.

In fact, is is necessary that one have a clear derech in Avodas Hashem and a personal Rebbe. The mistake that some poeple make is thinking that "my way or the highway." If, while living and learning your derech, you don't get to widening your perspective with teaching from other sources, there will be something missing. That was the point. And not that someone it is better for one not to have a primary derech or a Rebbe, which is obviously not true and goes without saying.

I don't know what "that Chavakuk place" is.

As to Rav Shwartz, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim, he has made his identity known over 6 months ago and has been teaching publicly in Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim for some time now, as well as many locations in the U.S. during two trips. As to your bizayon of that Talmid Chochom, who apparantly you know little to nothing about, I would be very careful if I were you. Before his name was public, it was not necessary or desirable for his identity to be known. His haskamos spoke for themselves. See here: http://bilvavi.net/content/view/12/28/

As to why that would be, you might have some people, like yourself, that would not even look at the seforim if they thought that he was from some other "group" or "brand." Rather than looking for truth and more knowledge about how to get closer to Hashem, some are more concerned about if someone is from "my group," and if not, the person must have nothing to say to me.

To conclude, no one's suggesting a cholent. What we are talking about is while having a rebbe and a derech, enriching that derech with the light of other Tzadikim.

-Dixie Yid

Netzach said...

I apologise concerning the book, I didn't know it had haskomos, and I also wasn't clear that its author was really identified. But now I see that it's a different situation.

In any case, concerning your comments re seeking truth, some people are concerned about whether certain literature is from their group or at least approved by someone considered reliable in their group because they don't want to accept something from a source that for them is not acceptable, which seems perfectly reasonable to me. Who knows who could have written an anonymous book, and even if a name is there, who knows that that person is reliable? Kabdeihu ve'chashdei'hu, the Gemara advises healthy skepticism.

"What we are talking about is while having a rebbe and a derech, enriching that derech with the light of other Tzadikim."

Come now, be honest, you've suggested much more than that. You've suggested that Rav Shwartz's approach be widely adopted, even though he himself (according to my understanding from your posts) doesn't consider himself a chossid of any one Rebbe or a follower of any one derech. So you *are* suggesting the abandonment of the Rebbe-chossid/derech system. If you aren't, please clarify.

DixieYid said...

Netzach,

No, I am not suggesting an abandonment of the "Rebbe-chossid/Derech system." And neither is Rav Shwartz or Rav Weinberger in the conversation above that I was talking about. One does not need to interpolate an all-or-nothing approach into what I am saying.

You may personally not be drawn to anything else other than Chabad Chassidus, and that is fine for you. Gezunteh heit!

As I clarified in the main post; "I should clarify that for an individual whose soul is simply not drawn to anything but his own personal derech and mesorah, Rav Weinberger is not suggesting that he must or should force himself to broaden his horizons by studying and learning from other paths. For that person, his shoresh neshama is intimately connected to that path, and thus he must stick with and perfect his role in that mesorah.)

You said on ChabadTalk that while other derachim in Avodas Hashem are indeed derachim in avodas hashem, chabad is not a derech in avodas Hashem, it is *perfection*. You certainly have the right to believe that only Chabad Chassidus is perfect, and everything else is "just another path" to Hashem. I wouldn't expect anything I could say to make a difference to you, given that perspective of yours, as well-founded in Sichos as it may be. And if you personally don't feel connected to anything else, then continue on the path you are on now and don't look into other things.

I only hope that, for your children's sake, if they do show indications that they need to see and learn other things because of the nature of who they are and their shoresh neshama, that you encourage that, rather than stifle it, by projecting your nature onto them. (On the other hand, if one of my kids wanted to only learn *one* thing and go only according to *that* derech, I think that I will be able to support that as well.)

-Dixie Yid