Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Missing the Point of Chassidus?

Did The Point of Chassidus elude this blog author who was interpreting Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, z"l?

Torat HaRav Aviner: Our Rabbi and the Chassidic Movement

Picture courtesy of Torat HaRav Aviner. Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

25 comments:

mekubal said...

Are you asking if R' Kook missed the point of the Chassidic movement or if R' Aviner missed the point of the Chassidic movement.

Considering that the answer to this question is attributed to R' Kook, it would seem to be R' Kook that you are suggesting missed the point.

Here is an alternate answer. My own Rav recently was part of publishing a sefer of Shailot and Teshuvot from R' Kaduri. Published in the front of the Sefer is a warning to rely on none of these Teshuvot for psak halacha(without proper iyun), as they may have been given to for the specific needs of a single individual, or for the need of the hour.

Concerning R' Kook, R' Shalom Hadayya Z"L and R' Ovadiah Hadayyah Z"L(Roshei Yeshivot of Beit E-l and both in their time Chief Kabbalist of Jerusalem) considered and wrote in their own Teshuvot that they considered R' Kook to be their equal in Torat HaSod. He was thus obviously a Tzadik and an accomplished Mekubal in his own right.

So it appears to me that he upheld Chassidut in that he told this student to study Chassidic texts. Yet there are key elements that we are yet missing. We know not all of the details of this particular individual. Nor do we know that Chassidic sect that was trying to, for lack of a better word, recruit him. Or even sub-sect for that matter.

To me it seems most likely that R' Kook gave his advice based on the mentioned principles to a particular individual facing a particular situation. I do not think that R' Kook missed the point of Chassidut at all.

What I do think happened, as it appears apparent in the post, is that someone has decided to take R' Kook's Teshuva to that individual and try to build an edifice on it. This person has missed the point, the point of R' Kook's initial Teshuva, and quite possibly the point of Chassidut as well.

Crawling Axe said...

Yeah, he pretty much did. Big time.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Hamekubal,

First for the concessions. You are right that the original teshuva may have been misinterpreted by the author of the post and/or that what he said was due to the specifics of the situation.

One of those specifics could have been the particular person or group trying to get the bochur to "switch over." Chassidim to whom "chassidus" is just a levush and a set of minhagim, going to tishin Friday night, and the Yiddish language certainly do not represent what Chassidus actually is either.

So you are right that my question is more properly addressed to the interpretation of the author of the post, who wrote as if he was speaking about Chassidus (the Chassidic Movement) in general.

I would still take issue with a couple of things that you said though. You seem to equate greatness in Kabbalah with Chassidus, and the desire to uphold it. These are certainly not equivalent.

Also, the suggestion that one should learn Chassidus but not be a "chassid" is what I have the most problem with.

Toras Hachassidus is not about creating novel "vertlach" by moving around commas and periods in psukim. It's not about studying kabbalah or deep secrets of Torah either, though those things are used as tools, means to an end.

Studying Chassidus but not being a chassid means learning chassidus as an intellectual pursuit, similar to the majority litvish attitude toward Torah as an intellectual pursuit, rather than a derech in avodas Hashem. Such study of chassidus as "vertlach" and deep teachings to stimulate the intellect completely misses the point of why those Torahs were written, which was as a means to teaching a "derech" in avodas Hashem.

If one is going to pre-innoculate one's self that he's only going to be affected by intellectual insights of the seforim but not let them turn him into a cheftza of Chassiudus personally, he is "missing the point."

Izbitza said...

I believe that R Kook had the point straight on. this is exactly what the piacezna is bemoaning in Mavo Shearim.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Hamekubal, Izbitza,

The more I think about it, the less likely I think it is that the blog author and my initial reading accurately understood what Rav Tzvi Yehuda was saying.

As Izbitza elluded to, what Rav Kook was probably saying was davka to take the avodah being taught by the Chassidishe seforim, but not to take on the outer trappings of the Chassidic communities, which have nothing, b'etzem at least, to do with what Chassidus is about as taught in the seforim.

So please consider the post amended. :-)

snag said...

Yaser keyach Dixie for calling people's attention to the Rav Aviner blog posting. It is very good, as it elucidates well some major problems with so called 'Hassidism'.

Rav Aviner is no fool (by the way it is incorrect to describe him as Litvish, I believe he is actually of Polish Hassidic descent. Hisnagdus is not limited just to Litvaks.), and lihavdil, neither was Rav Tzvi Yehudah z"l. I understand that you mean well and are enthusiastic about your Hassidic faith and want to promote it, but you should realize that not all Litvaks/Misnagdim are like the stereotypes you read and hear about in Hassidic propaganda, which tends to portray Litvaks as people full of gaavoh, anger, who oppose 'Hassidism' for no good/valid reason, whose Judaism is rote, etc. There are some beautiful and great Litvaks/Misnagdim out there, maybe some day you will be zoche to meet them.

I do note your amendment in the comments section. It is progress, but doesn't go far enough. You seem to be basically saying that it just criticizes those whose Hassidism is superficial, which is not really what it essentially is. While I didn't know Rav Tzvi Yehudah, I just will say that there are reasons for Hisnagdus beyond what the blog post states.

snag said...

"similar to the majority litvish attitude toward Torah as an intellectual pursuit, rather than a derech in avodas Hashem."

I protest this distortion strongly. It is false, sheker. Sounds like you got it straight from Hassidic propaganda from over two hundred years ago. Even if contemporary Rebbes and Hassidim repeat that old canard, that doesn't mean that it is correct.

Am I saying that all 'Litvish' are great saints and that the intellectual side of Torah is not important to them? Of course not. But what is missed here is that even for those who may sometimes lose sight of why they are learning, still, they are learning for more than just intellectual development. After all, they are learning Torah, not nuclear physics, no?

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Snag (interesting choice of handle),

While my impression of Misnagdim (of whatever brand) is not based on "Hassidic Propaganda," it is based on the understanding they they basically limit Hashem's revelation in this world to the relatively small space of the "daled amos shel halacha," where He is most clearly revealed. Chassidus, in contrast, reveales that "m'lo KOL ha'aretz kevodo."

For more information, please see the link in the main post on the words "The Point of Chassidus."

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Snag,

Of course the comment doesn't refer to all "Litvaks." That's why I specifically inserted the word "majority."

As to the fact that they are learning Torah rather than physics, this is true. While there is certainly "schar limud" for learning Torah rather than limudei chol, that doesn't mean that one is learning it as more than a mere intellectual pursuit.

Learning Torah to grow into a bigger Yid and reveal Hashem more in the world requires a great deal of avodah for the learning to accomplish this. If one only learns, without doing this avodah, all he will have is the schar limud and the intellectual pursuit, rather than the deeper accomplishements Torah is really meant to affect in a person.

mekubal said...

Dixie,

The primary reason that I referred to R' Kook's greatness in Kabbalah is on account of most Mekubalim, and especially those who considered him great, follow a derech of learning for the Avodah that the Seforim teach, not necessarily simply the "deep" issues.

I don't want to publicly call out any sect or sub-sect of Chassidut. So I am simply going to say that there are certain sub-sects that have taken some teachings of Joy to the extreme of it meaning drinking a few too many "L'chaims". I personally know individuals from one such subsect, most are drunk... can't walk straight drunk... before Mincha. It's Purim everyday.

Without seeing the original Teshuva and being able to actually read R' Kooks details, I am left only with conjecture. However, considering that R' Kook seemed to have a good relationship with both Sephardi Mekubalim(who teach the secrets of Torah to people at a young age) and with various Chassidic Rebbeim... I am going to posit that he is being horribly misrepresented. That his words should only be taken as advice for a particular individual in a particular situation.

All of that being said, I think the poster totally missed the point of Chassidus(I would say Torah study in general, as Reshit Chokhma states that Torat L'shma literally means to learn in order to do or do better), and also totally missed the Derech Chesed and Ahavat Yisrael that his Rav was known for, as well as horribly misinterpreted his Rav's words.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

mekubal,

I certainly couldn't agree more about the subset of CILOs (Chasidim in Levush only, just made that up) who use their misperception of Chassidus to justify always being "shiker."

And you're probably right in your conjecture about what Rav Tzvi Yehuda really meant.

snag said...

"While my impression of Misnagdim (of whatever brand) is not based on "Hassidic Propaganda," it is based on the understanding they they basically limit Hashem's revelation in this world to the relatively small space of the "daled amos shel halacha," where He is most clearly revealed. Chassidus, in contrast, reveales that "m'lo KOL ha'aretz kevodo."

FYI, misnagdim say 'melo chol ho'oretz kevodo' in kedushoh just like you do.

Forgive me, but it seems quite clear that you have limited exposure to the Litvish/Misnagdic/Non-Hassidic world, and are assuming that they are like the stereotypes you hear repeated over and over again in Hassidic propaganda. Hassidic propaganda can be a sefer from 200+ years ago and it can be a shiur on the internet from a contemporary YU grad. It can be from a Rebbe in Brooklyn, it can be from a Rebbe in Woodmere, it can be from a Rebbe in Los Angeles. Sorry, I think you mean well, but continually rehashing old tired 200+ year old Hassidic stereotypes just doesn't cut it anymore (if it ever did).

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Snag,

Again, I point you to the link in the main post for more clarification. I think that the distinction between Chassidus and "misnagdus," for lack of a better term, is deeper than you'd previously understood. Tzarich iyun.

And *saying* "m'lo chol ha'aretz kevodo" in Kedusha is not the same thing as really understanding the depth of that pasuk's implications.

snag said...

Dixie - I had checked out the link earlier and am aware of the differences re the meaning of that. And I still wrote what I wrote. I have been studying such inyonim for years.

As with the initial subject of your post, you should take into account that people may already be aware of your position and have reasons for rejecting it. You shouldn't assume that people, esp. learned ones, are just unaware of Hassidic teachings and that their opposition is due to ignorance. Sometimes they have studied the different opinions and believe that a different way is the correct one.

Neil Harris said...

"Forgive me, but it seems quite clear that you have limited exposure to the Litvish/Misnagdic/Non-Hassidic world, and are assuming that they are like the stereotypes you hear repeated over and over again in Hassidic propaganda."

FWIW, I personally know DIXIE YID (as in from "the non-blog world") and the implication that he has "limited exposure" is so off track that you need to get a new ticket for your train, that you completely missed.

Menashe said...

Snag,

It is impossible to learn Chassidus properly and not be moved to adopt it as the proper derech. It is one thing to say "I'm not holding at that madreiga yet. I will work on myself and eventually become a keli for the light of chasidus to penetrate and enliven my yiddishkeit."

But to say "there's a higher emes." No, that can ONLY be based on ignorance.

snag said...

Neil : "FWIW, I personally know DIXIE YID (as in from "the non-blog world") and the implication that he has "limited exposure" is so off track that you need to get a new ticket for your train, that you completely missed."

If I am wrong I stand corrected. I was giving Dixie the benefit of the doubt, being dan lekaf zechus, that he wrote the offensive words ""similar to the majority litvish attitude toward Torah as an intellectual pursuit, rather than a derech in avodas Hashem.", out of ignorance. If he was exposed and wrote it anyway, it seems like an even greater problem. Maybe he was exposed, but just partially/superfically to the Litvish world. Just like he wrote above about people who are Hassidim only externally (CILO - I like that one by the way), so too there are 'Litvaks', who are only superficially such as well. Or maybe he just heard general Torah from Litaks, but didn't thoroughly learn the ideology of the non-Hassidic frum world, esp. vis a vis Hassidism.

Either way, I think that saying something like "the majority litvish attitude toward Torah as an intellectual pursuit, rather than a derech in avodas Hashem.", is off-base and in need of correction and retraction. Such words should bother other people here too. It is sad and ironic that a group who claims to love all Jews and one of who's great leaders, the Noam Elimelech, instructed about seeing a chaveir's maalos and not their chesaron (their good side and not the reverse), should go and cast aspersions on Litvaks that their attitude toward Torah is "as an intellectual pursuit, rather than a derech in avodas Hashem." Come on! Are you for real? Do Litvaks have horns on their heads too perhaps?

snag said...

Menashe: "It is impossible to learn Chassidus properly and not be moved to adopt it as the proper derech. It is one thing to say "I'm not holding at that madreiga yet. I will work on myself and eventually become a keli for the light of chasidus to penetrate and enliven my yiddishkeit."

But to say "there's a higher emes." No, that can ONLY be based on ignorance."

Nope. You can believe what you wish, but that is not correct. There have been many non-Hassidic gedolim in the last two hundred years who have been aware of Hassidic teachings, but still rejected them after study and thought.

Neil Harris said...

Snag,
Firstly, thanks for responding. Let's look at Dixie Yid's quote again:
"Studying Chassidus but not being a chassid means learning chassidus as an intellectual pursuit, similar to the majority litvish attitude toward Torah as an intellectual pursuit, rather than a derech in avodas Hashem. Such study of chassidus as "vertlach" and deep teachings to stimulate the intellect completely misses the point of why those Torahs were written, which was as a means to teaching a "derech" in avodas Hashem. "

After reading this again, I don't think that Dixie Yid was in any way, Chas V'Shalom, dissing Litvaks in any way.

He was simply giving a comparison.
Would you not agree that looking at learning Torah as an intellectual exercise doesn't really fall into what we would think of as "Avodas Hashem"?

If you look at the classic disagreements between Chassidim and Litvaks it centered around "hargesh" vs "lomdus".
(and I'm fairly litvish)

snag said...

Neil : "Would you not agree that looking at learning Torah as an intellectual exercise doesn't really fall into what we would think of as "Avodas Hashem"?"

DY created a false dichotomy here. According to what he wrote, Litvaks learn Torah just as an 'intellectual exercise' and not for avodas Hashem. So why are they learning Torah? To improve their SAT/GRE/MCAT/LSAT/IQ scores? It is cheaper to take a Kaplan course for that. ;-)

While it is true that some Litvaks (Litvaks are not monolithic and there are different streams and ideologies within the Litvishe camp, and I don't just mean mussar and non-mussar) get involved in 'intellectual exercise' while learning (as do some non-Litvaks, by the way), they are still, at the same time, engaging in it as part of avodas Hashem. After all, they say birkas haTorah before learning, don't they?

One can get intellectual exercise from Torah and learn as part of avodas Hashem at the same time.

"If you look at the classic disagreements between Chassidim and Litvaks it centered around "hargesh" vs "lomdus".
(and I'm fairly litvish)"

Not correct.

In fact, significant elements of Litvaks have opposed 'lomdus', cf the Vilna Gaon.

Neil - I saw on your blog that you wrote about R. Aharon Soloveitchik z"l. You wrote some very nice words about him. Would you say that he fit the carricature of Litvishe Yidden given here? Did Rav Moshe Feinstein z"l? Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky?

The Hassidic carricature of Litvaks as arrogant, stuck-up people, who just learn Torah for intellectual exercise and to show off, should be treated like the anti-semitic carricatures of cheap money grubbing Jews with long noses. If you are offended by one, you should not be propagating the other either.

Crawling Axe said...

snag,

So, why don’t you tell us: what is the primary, deepest reason for which Litvish and Polish Yidden study Torah? I could ask other questions, but this is probably a good place to start.

Also, when Chassidim love all Jews, they love the Jews: of all paths in Yiddishkeit, frum Jews, non-frum Jews, etc. And we don’t write “lehavdil” between the names of Jews. But it doesn’t mean we cannot criticize the opinions.

Regarding gedoilim learning Chassidus and not adopting its teachings: well, it’s a Litvish view that a godol is just a very knowledgeable rabbi, right? And that nobody is infallible.

snag said...

"So, why don’t you tell us: what is the primary, deepest reason for which Litvish and Polish Yidden study Torah?"

Just to show off how smart they are, why of course.

"And we don’t write “lehavdil” between the names of Jews."

You seem to be referring to what I wrote in an earlier comment. If you would have looked at it more carefully, you might have realized that two gedolim were mentioned there, one with us physically now, and one who is in the olam ho'emes. It IS a minhog to write lihavdil in such a case (bein chaim lichaim is one way some express it).

"Regarding gedoilim learning Chassidus and not adopting its teachings: well, it’s a Litvish view that a godol is just a very knowledgeable rabbi, right?"

No, not correct. A godol is not just very knowledgable. We don't recognize your computer as a godol.

"And that nobody is infallible."

True.

You seem to have trouble accepting that gedolim can be non-Hassidic. So Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, etc., were not gedolim to you, huh? Well, it is a free country, you can believe what you wish, you have a right to make such egregious mistakes.

P.S. Crawling axe - what a sweet name - especially for a Hassid. ;-)

Crawling Axe said...

Well, you certainly did a fine job at dispelling the myths about snags. This must be in honor of Yud Tes Kislev, when one of your gedeilim sent, lehavdil, Alter Rebbe to prison. Out of love, I am sure.

snag said...

1) There you go again, dragging out allegations from over two hundred years ago, instead of addressing current reality.

2) You wrote earlier "And we don’t write “lehavdil” between the names of Jews." So why do you do it in your latest comment above?

3) There is a case in court right now, in Crown Heights (you are a Lubavitcher after all), where Lubavitchers are on the verge of possibly sending other Lubavitchers to prison. How about doing something?

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

This conversation has clearly devolved into something non-productive. I'm closing comments.