Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nosai B'ol Im Chaveiro - The Passion in Compassion - Rav Aharon Kahn

Check out this shiur given by an unbelievable Talmid Chacham who is also a very gifted speaker, Rav Aharon Kahn. He was my rebbe in Y.U. (whom I quoted here) and it was always the highlight of the year when he would give that week's Sichas Mussar. Enjoy!

Money quote:

The sensitivity to something in midos does not happen because we are learning Tosafos Rabbosai! And if you have any hava amina that that's how it happens, banish the thought! Because the sensitivity in midos is only shiach when you work on the midos themselves... [A ben Torah has many pluses that make acquisition of the midos more likely] But don't confuse the pluses with the achievements!

-Dixie Yid

P.S. You can listen to 32+ more shiurim by Rav Kahn HERE.

(Courtesy of Divrei Yosher, Picture courtesy of YU Torah)

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micha said...

The phrase is "nosei be'ol im chaveiro". It's not carrying one's friend's burden, but carrying with him. Helping, rather than taking over.

That makes it more distinct from the concept of achrayus.


Menashe said...

I've noticed that chasidus, at least of the chabad variety, quotes pretty frequently from works like reishis chochma and chovos halevavos, classic works of mussar. however, newer works like mesilas yesharim are basically ignored. I'm curious why you think that is. What's the difference in them and the attitude chasidus takes towards them?

DixieYid (جنوب يهودي) said...


I added the "im" in the title to reflect the text of the mishna and Rav Kahn's usage. Yasher koach.


If by "you," you mean me, then I don't know what to tell you. Perhaps other Chabad readers would have a better idea why the Rebbes haven't quoted the Ramchal very much, if at all. Actually, a friend commented to me last week that he was talking with a group of Chabad bochurim and in the conversation he mentioned the Ramchal, and he was surprised that they didn't even know who he was talking about...

I'd also be interested in an explanation...

-Dixie Yid

Neil Harris said...

It might have something to do with the Ramchal's view of Kaballah vs Chabad's on philosphy. I'm no buki, but there also might be some machloches b/t the Rambam and Ramchal...seeing how Lubavitch are in Rambam. Just a thought or two.

micha said...


I was going to write something similar in response to Menasheh's question.

But I don't think it's because of the same factor as Lubavitch's interest in the Rambam. That would be too broad of a brush -- if they accepted the Rambam on "things above the orbit of the moon", L would have to reject Qabbalah altogether -- which is far from the reality.

I think it's more related to why the Vilna Gaon was so attracted to the Ramchal's writings. The approach to Qabbalah is more of the Gaon's ilk than the Besh"t's.

I recommend seeing this Avodah post by R' YG Bechhofer and subsequent discussion.

One issue is that the Ramchal was self-taught, and Chabad chassidus emphasizes the need for a chain.

Another is that the Ramchal didn't have "Chaba"d" (Chokhmah, Binah, Da'as) in his version of the Eitz Chaim. Rather than Da'as as the third sefirah, the Ramchal sides with those who have Keser as the first.

Third, Chassidim base their service of G-d in this world in terms of seeking Him and cleaving to Him. The Ramchal held that that was the role of the next world (the nature of ultimate reward) and this world is about making oneself the kind of person who can do so in the next.

Fourth, I think that the Ramchal being picked up by the Mussar Movement (for the reasons above) probably made Chassidim more suspicious.

Last, and most importantly, in his lifetime, the Ramchal was a pretty controversial figure. Of course, anyone talking Qabbalah that close in timing to Shabbetai Tzevi was suspect, but here is a man who learned Torah from angels in his mid-30s, called himself a gilgul of Moshe, and identified one of his students as mashiach.

The surprising thing may not be that Chabad and many other Chassidim do not use the Ramchal much as a source, but that others do!


Neil Harris said...

R Berger,

Thanks for the insight. All of your points are great (especially the third).

I'll look at R Bechhofer's post.

BTW- It's just "Neil", I don't have semichah.

micha said...


Not everyone called "reb" has semichah. It's an affectation I picked up from the aforementioned Avodah an email list that I run. We had a few embarassing incidents. E.g. when some college student realized the person he was calling "Yitzchok" was just accepted as a dayan on the Crown Heights BD, or when someone figured out that he was calling R' Teitz of Elizabeth "Elazar". So, very early on, we made it a norm that every male is "R'" for either rabbi or reb. Women are Rn (Rebbetzin), or if known to be Sepharadiah -- Rt (Rabbanit). For me, at this point, calling someone in email RXYZ is habit.


Menashe said...


I know that as a rule maamorim of the (Chabad) Rebbeim only quoted works that they considered to be written with ruach hakodesh. That's probably the result of some of the points you enumerated.

Nice job.

Menashe said...


I reread your post and something else strikes me. You describe Ramchal as : "Of course, anyone talking Qabbalah that close in timing to Shabbetai Tzevi was suspect, but here is a man who learned Torah from angels in his mid-30s, called himself a gilgul of Moshe, and identified one of his students as mashiach."

With a couple small changes, that could be a description of the heiliger Baal Shem Tov himself! He learned from achiya hashiloni, chasidim certainly consider him our moshe rabbeinu, and he himself as well as various students of his at times were considered to be a potential melech hamoshiach!

micha said...

R' Menashe,

And didn't the Besh"t in fact face opposition on those very grounds? (Of course, not by his followers, but then again, the Ramchal's qabbalah wasn't questioned by his own students either.)

But there is a difference, Chassidim may consider the Besh"t Moshe-like, but the Ramchal declared himself the actual possessor of Moshe Rabbeinu's soul.

And the Besh"t wasn't some kid, either...


micha said...

As for why Chabad Rabbeim would only quote sources that have lineage...

There is a basic problem of philosophy and basic emunah. You analyze G-d too much, and there is nothing "Personal" left, no "Whom" with Whom one can have a relationship. The resulting picture is cold, sterile, infinite and remote.

R' Nachman's solution was to conclude that theology was assur.

Chabad concluded that only theology from the generation's Yechidah Kelalis, the highest (yechidah) aspect of Benei Yisrael's national soul, is capable of avoiding this problem.

Thus, they believe in a chain of mesorah, one person per generation, who was the Yechidah Kelalis. Moshe, Yehoshua.... Rashb"y.... Besh"t... down to RMMS. Hashem "spoke from within the throat of MOshe" and "Yiftach in his generation was like Shemu'el in his generation". This conduit nature is taught by Chabad to be true of every rav in this chain. Of course, RMMS dying with no successor then poses a fundamental theological problem. But back to our issue...

This means that any qabbalah not from the yechidah kelalis is suspect, and why every statement needs to be traceable to that chain of individuals to Moshe.


Akiva Ben Canaan said...

When I was in Rav Kahn's shiur, I remember a line he said: "how can we eat ice cream while our brothers' blood (in Eretz Israel) is running in the streets..."

Angels - Ramchal said...


>> but here is a man who learned
>> Torah from angels in his
>> mid-30s, called himself a
>> gilgul of Moshe, and identified
>> one of his students as
>> mashiach."

Did the Ramchal state that he learned with angels? That's interesting. In which book did he write that?

Micha said...

The Ramchal mentions his visits from a maggid in letters to R' Binyamin haKohein. R' Yequsiel Gordon, a talmid of the Ramchal's, discusses what it was like to an observer in the Ramchal's presence when it occurred.

The Ramchal was threatened with excommunication for the claim, and the Italian rabbinate only relented once he signed a promise not to reveal anything else the maggid told him. (This wasn't that long after Shabbatai Zvi.) When the Ramchal appealed to the rabbis of Germany (when he was there traveling from Italy to Amsterdam) for help, they not only refused, they wanted him to sign a letter claiming the maggid didn't even exist! (He didn't.)


about Ramchal's maggid said...


Thank you for the explanation, but I am still lost. I never understood this Maggid to be an angel. Is that so? Are we sure he did not mean something like a wise man (as I used to think) or something like that?
Sorry to bother with my questions.

Micha said...

First, that's what a maggid is. When R Yosef Caro (Maran Bet Yosef / author of the Shulchan Arukh) was visited by the angelic embodiment of the Mishnah (the Beis Yoseif's description), he recorded what he was taught in Magid Meisharim.

Second, here are a few lines of description of the Ramchal's experience from his letter R' Binyamin haKohen (whose son-in-law, R' Yeshayah Bassan was the Ramchal's rebbe), as translated by R' Yaakov Feldman:

"On the first of Sivan in the year 5487 (1727), as I was reciting a certain Yichud, I fell into a trance. When I awoke, I heard a voice saying: 'I have descended in order to reveal the hidden secrets of the Holy King'. For a while I stood there trembling, but I soon took hold of myself. The voice kept on speaking and revealed a particular secret to me.

"At the same time on the second day I made sure to be alone in the room, and the voice reappeared to reveal another secret to me. One day he revealed to me that he was a Maggid sent from Heaven and he gave me certain Yichuddim that I was to recite in order for him to appear again.

"I never saw him but I did hear his voice as it spoke though my own mouth. He then allowed me to ask him questions. After about 3 months he revealed to me the Yichuddim I would have to recite to be worthy of having Elijah reveal himself to me. He then charged me to compose a work on Ecclesiastes on the basis of the mystical meaning of its verses that he had revealed to me, and Elijah came and imparted his own secrets to me. (The Maggid) said that Metatron, the great prince, would be coming to me and that I would know that it is he because of what Elijah had said. From then on I came to recognize each of my visitors. Souls whose identity I know are also revealed to me. Each day I write down the new ideas each of them imparts to me. All these things happen while I lie prostrate, with my face to the ground, and I see the holy souls in human form as in a dream."


Letter by Ramchal said...


I didn't know about that letter, that's a great Chiddush for me. Thank you for sharing all this. Todah Rabbah.