Shabbat Parashat Vayechi | 5768
The Approaches of Chasidut, Hitnagdut, and the Mussar Movement – part III
(from Perakim B’Machshevet Yisrael, pp. 515-531)
[We continue with Rav Yisraeli’s survey of the basics of Chasidic thought. We saw last time about the importance, in Chasidic thought, of one’s intention in doing mitzvot.]
Chasidut (Hasidism) - part III
Because everything is a manifestation of the Divine, there is no room for sadness, an emotion that the Ba’al Shem Tov saw as an impediment to service of Hashem. No event needs to rob a person of his happiness. The famous pasuk, “Shiviti Hashem l’negdi tamid,” whose simple meaning is that one should always view himself as being before Him, can mean that all events should be equal to a person. Even being sad because of a spiritual lacking is a trick of the Evil Inclination to make one feel that he is in a worse position than he is. One should take comfort that, in whatever position he is, Hashem is with him. Sadness prevents one from using the energy he needs to succeed, just as an energetic wrestler will beat a stronger but lethargic one (Tanya 26). Even if one has a sinful thought during davening, it should not depress him but encourage him to concentrate harder on his prayers. The thought need not be the product of a deficient prayer but of a prayer with enough potential to make it a threat to the negative in the world (ibid. 28).
The Ba’al Shem Tov used the following example to explain evil inclinations. A king summoned his friends and used optical illusions to make them see a large palace, when indeed the king was right before them. It took the king’s son to assure them that the king was right there. The inclinations are the work of the animalistic spirit; a person must remind himself that this is not his true desire. One should get angry at the Evil Inclination and should try to see Hashem’s infinite light in the most palpable manner possible. The Satan does not have any essence that can prevent one from exposure to Hashem. He is referred to in terms of darkness because he can be made irrelevant by adding light (Tanya 29).
Desiring to always be connected to Hashem can remove other thoughts, of permitted or forbidden matters. Not everyone can fulfill mitzvot optimally and thereby cling to Hashem. Therefore Chazal told us to cling to Torah scholars, which enables one to indirectly cling to Hashem. Every generation includes those who stand above the multitudes and are like the heads and brains of the masses (Tanya 1). The masses of simple people form one entity with the tzaddikim. As there are 248 limbs and 365 sinews so are there many parts to a spiritual body. The multitudes comprise the entity’s body and the tzaddik constitutes its soul. The latter occupies a higher level beyond regular free choice, in a manner that normal people cannot aspire to, whereby they have strong love for Hashem and are reviled by evil (Tanya 14). On one hand, simple people are expected to cling to the tzaddik. Conversely, the tzaddik is to connect to them. They can realize their potential spiritual heights only through the tzaddik, and the tzaddik is granted his high level only to serve the role in his congregant’s lives. When the multitudes elevate themselves one step, the tzaddik is also elevated. This is what happened to Moshe. After Bnei Yisrael were united in their preparation to receive the Torah, they caused “And Moshe went up to G-d.” Heaven forbid, the opposite is true as well.
The congregation must listen to the tzaddik. On one hand, he is to break their hearts with persuasive words, but then as they turn to repentance he must enable them to attach themselves to him. Both he who preaches and he who accepts should act for the sake of Heaven and create a lofty unity.
The approach of Chasidut created a powerful movement in which masses of people joined under a leadership that is beyond doubts or aspersions and thereby all can be elevated.
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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.