Monday, January 14, 2008

Learning Torah from All Sources - The Sudilkover Rebbe


Based on on a comment that the Sudilkover made in our first converation, I asked him to explain it more in our conversation last week. We were discussing sifrei Chassidus, and he said that one should learn from all of the seforim.

Based on some disagreement regarding this point by some (See HERE and HERE), I was very interested in hearing a fuller clarification of what he was saying. I think that with his explanation, which I think lines up very well with what Rav Weinberger said in the conversation I referred to in the other post I just linked to, it will be very difficult for anyone outside of the most my-chassidus-or-the-highway types to take issue with.

He said that one should learn all of the sifrei Chassidus, whether it be Toldos Yaakov Yosef, Meor Einayim, Degel Machaneh Ephfraim, Tanya, or Likutei Moharan or others. This is, of course, in addition to having a seder in learning to know Chumash, Gemara, and Halacha. And he said this regardless of which group a Jew comes from. He said this with a couple of clarifications/tenaim (conditions).

You must have a Rebbe and a primary derech. It cannot be just a mishmash of learning whatever you feel like on whatever day, regardless of how things may or may not shtim. There will be things that seem to contradict and you will be confused. You need to be able to go to your rebbe ans ask him about it, so that he will be able to clarify for you, "No, this is meant to be applied in this situation, and that is meant to be applied in that situation."

You need a Rebbe to help you set up a seder in learning these things. Also, the Rebbe is needed to tell you what is ochel and what is psoles, what should be taken from the seforim and what should not be taken from them. Much confusion will come to you if you do not have this kind of guidance.

Also, you need a Rebbe who can tell you when a certain type of avoda is too great for you and too high above your level. Or when you are ready to being using a new derech avodah and that you are ready for it.

I would add that fortunate is the one who has a Rebbe and a primary derech. The next question for many of us is: "Great. I understand what you're saying. But I don't have one clear derech or Rebbe that I can follow! How can I do this? I don't want to be a big mishkababel! How do I do this?!" If you're a Chassid of a living Rebbe, or you have a good mashpia, this is great. But for those of us with a modern orthodox background, Ba'alei Teshuva, or Gerim, who haven't been able to latch onto one clear derech and Rebbe, what do we do?!

I can't give the answer to that in this post because it's something that I've been thinking about and struggling with for many years, but I would encourage you to comment with your thoughts on how to address this problem.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of antiqueseforim.com)

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5 comments:

A Simple Jew said...

Dixie Yid: From many of your past postings you have indicated that you have a very close relationship with your rebbe. Forgive me for being simplistic, but I would imagine that you could get your answer as to what seforim you should learn simply by asking him. As for other's who don't have such a relationship with their rebbe I would encourage them to take a look at Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz's suggestion
here.

Long Beach Chasid said...

Ill go on the assumption here that many Chasidim are not looking for Baal Teshuvas. Assumptions are not good ways of going about things, but i find it hard to believe that after being inspired by Rebbes of Ger that i can just show up and be accepted. Living away from their communities. My mashpia is a Radomsk Chassid so maybe when i go meet his Rebbe Ha Rav Chaskel Besser things will be more clear to me. I felt a deep connection to the Biala Rebbe of BB but since i don't speak Hebrew I'm limited to the treasures inside their seforim. Advice is greatly appreciated.

Izbitza said...

ahsreinu sheyesh lanu rebbe kazos...

DixieYid said...

You're right that I have a rebbe I can ask these questions to. And I do. The question for me is not so much about the learning, but about a derech haChaim. I don't have a clear set of minhagim, except for my generic nusach ashkenaz minhagim. Right now, those are the one's I'm sticking to, though with my increased interest in Chassidus, I've been thinking for a few years about making some sort of transition.

The question would be, "To what?" I don't think that my rebbe would recommend a whole consistent set of minhagim for me in Chassidus. I have spoken to him about the topic and he doesn't want anyone to feel that they have to change their minhagim to connect to what Chassidus is about, which is primarily more pnimi, not chitzoni.

So right now, I'm trying to focus more the penimi, which is the main thing anyway. If I change my external set of minhagim to become a generic Chossid (?), I'm not sure what that would entail.

Although I do enjoy Horowitz-esque "noshing."

Long Beach Chassid,

Interesting first post on your blog. Looking forward to seeing more, if you decide to write.

I look forward to hearing what kind of clarifications you will get, when you speak to your mashpia's rebbe.

The only advice I could give is to be forward and "aggressive" when seeking out counsel from whatever Tzaddikim that you can find. "Lo habaishan lomed." :-)

-Dixie Yid

Neil Harris said...

Fantastic post. Those of us who return to Yiddishkeit struggle with finding a Rebbe and/or derech, as you wrote.

Dixie Yid's advice seems solid.