Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Interesting and Illustrative Conversation on Openmindedness Between Mesorahs
I wanted to point out an interesting but somewhat frustrating conversation that has been going on under the radar. A fellow who identifies himself as "Noahidelaws," started a discussion thread at ChabadTalk, criticizing a post I put up a couple of months ago on the topic of exposing one's self to the teachings of different Tzaddikim, not only the ones from one's own minhag/group.
The majority modern Chabad opinion seems to be that one is supposed to only study the teachings of the Chabad Rebbes, (correct me if I'm misunderstanding this). This is based, in part at least, on the first sicha in Toras Sholom from the Rebbe Rashab. They won't say that one can't learn teachings from other Tzaddikim, but there is no active reason to do so. See the comment thread over there for a more substantive discussion on that by Noahidelaws (who identifies himself as "Netzach" here at Dixie Yid).
There seems to be a feeling over there that if one is Chabad and he feels that he can be enriched by studying Mei Hashiloach, Meor Einayim, Sfas Emes, Michtav Mei'Eliyahu, or Pachad Yitzchak, that this somehow implies that there is something lacking in Chabad Chassidus. Nothing could be further from the truth. Also, there seems to be a fear that if you believe that there is an inner unity between the ostensibly divergent teachings of Chabad and other types of Chassidus, that this will cause confusion and bilbul in one's avodas Hashem. Perhaps if one studies too much from non-Chabad Tzaddikim, he will stop keeping Chabad minhagim!
To give a mashal, one can be a musician who connects very deeply to the artistic and emotional side of music. However, it will not detract from his artistic and emotional music appreciation if he also studies the mathematics behind music, or the history and development of music. One can specialize in his special part of the world of music, and that is not lessened by enriching himself with an understanding of other aspects of music.
Similarly, if one is Chabad and thereby develops an intense connection to the Chochma of Divine understanding and avodah, that is his area of practice and specialty. For more on that, see my translation of Rav Itchie Mayer Morgenstern's section on the roots of Chabad and Breslov. If one practices his avoda in the world of Chabad, for example (although the same would apply to others in their own mesorahs as well), then that should be his primary focus in learning and avodah and there is nothing lacking per se in that avodah. However, that person only stands to gain by understanding the teachings of other Tzaddikim, who can illuminate the aspects of Bina, Chaga"s, or Nahi"m that they specialize in.
No one is suggesting that anyone mix and match their practical minhagim or derech avodah, like some sort of salad bar. The depiction of the approach of openness and enrichment as a "cholent" or bilbul of different ideas is a straw man and a red herring.
I encourage anyone here to register at ChabadTalk and put in your two cents. It's an interesting discussion though any way you slice it.
(Picture of the Freidiker Lubavitcher Rebbe wearing a Shtreimel courtesy of ChabadLibrary)
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