Shabbat Parashat Vayigash | 5768
The Approaches of Chasidut, Hitnagdut, and the Mussar Movement – part II
(from Perakim B’Machshevet Yisrael, pp. 515-531)
[We saw that in Chasidic thought, the basic elements in the service of Hashem are love of Hashem and the realization that His Presence is everywhere and that everything is a manifestation of His light.]
Chasidut- part II
Since Hashem’s Presence is pervasive, “G-dliness includes all of the worlds and all of the world’s creations, whether the good or the evil; evil is but a seat for the good.” The difference between good and evil is only in regard to how it is connected to Hashem. Good is directly connected, whereas evil is nurtured by Hashem through walls that constrict (tzimtzum) and “lowerings,” which are called achorayim (something that one casts behind him) (Tanya 22).
The Divine Light was constricted and covered so that it invisible and makes objects look independent. Man’s job is to return and reveal the hidden Divine Light in the world. Sin’s essence is to show matters’ apparent independence from Hashem. One should reach the point that he can nullify that which [seems to] exist. Rav Dov of Mezritch said that while Hashem created yesh me’ayin (something from nothing), man has to return the yesh to ayin.
Let us present further concepts from the Tanya. Any intention while serving Hashem for one’s own sake is a flaw in the service. Just as a person might engage himself in physical pleasures, so it is possible for one to engage himself in the pleasure of learning Torah, praying, etc. One who is truly close to Hashem forsakes even such benefits and concentrates only on satisfying his Maker. Hashem has His Presence dwell only on one who nullifies himself. Whoever lives separately from Him does not receive the special spiritual liveliness.
The proclivity toward service based on self-nullification is to be found only in the Israelite soul. “The light of Hashem is the soul of man” (using the special word that hints at Israel). His soul resembles light that strives to move ever upward, wanting to separate itself from the body and cease to be an independent entity. The yesh itself, in any spiritual form that it comes is the biggest partition between man and his Maker.
Based on this approach, the greatest emphasis is on prayer. “The main matter and its essence, which is the foundation of the entire Torah, is to know Hashem and recognize His greatness and grandeur in a full knowledge… until one comes to love Hashem and to cling to Him and His Torah and desire His mitzvot greatly. One should not use R. Shimon Bar Yochai and his friends’ examples, for in their greatness it sufficed to recite Kriat Shema, for this whole matter they had acquired in a first look in the lowness of the dedicated heart…” (Beit Rabbi 38-39). It is told how the Ba’al Shem Tov’s prayer included removing physicality and powerful clinging to Hashem.
Even in Torah study, one’s intention is the key. When one learns, he should primarily cling to the internal spirituality of the infinite light captured in the Torah’s letters. Without this, learning can be the counsel of the Evil Inclination. “The Evil Inclination does not try to convince one not to learn at all, as will not listen, out of the fear of being known as unknowledgeable. Rather it entices him to learn things that will not bring him to fear Hashem.” Chasidim criticized those who learn in order to aggrandize themselves. It is told that the Ba’al Shem Tov once refused to enter a study hall because it was full of Torah and prayer that had not reached the Heavens because they lacked proper intentions. Some Chasidic masters even taught not to learn with too much diligence because it takes away from one’s ability to interact with people or because it removes one’s thoughts from clinging to the Almighty. In this way, Chasidut opened the doors to Hashem before those who could not approach Him through the intellectual rigors of intense Torah study.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.
May their memory be a blessing.