Sunday, December 16, 2007

radical ideas in chassidus

I wasn't sure whether to post this or not....hopefully it will not have been a bad idea (and its Sunday so fewer people are reading anyway : ). Some ideas in sifrei chassidus need to be appreciated against a background of immersion in those seforim and their outlook, and to take an isolated quote of of context can risk distorting a nuance of hashkafa into something completely foreign to Judaism. A few years ago R' Shochet made this point in an article written in response to a critique against Chabad which combined hearsay stories, statements made by nobodies, and a few isolated incidents with toras hachassidus of chabad taken out of context, which of course leads to total distortion. Lubavitch is an easy target these days, ad k'dei kach that some will claim that chassidism treat the Rebbe like a deity and are ovdei avodah zarah without exaggeration. I am not out to defend the extreme elements of Chabad who may be misguided, but simply wanted to provide an example from chassidus from an unquestioned source which, without context, may/should raise a red flag. The Berdichiver on P' VaYechi on Yosef's statement "hatachas Elokim ani" quotes the Targum's translation that Yosef was a yarei Hashem and adds:

ונראה כי הכלל האדם בכל מידותיו צריך להדבק עצמו להבורא ב״ה במדת היראה...במדת האהבה...במדת התפארת...וכן בשאר המידות וזה הוא עולם האמת ואם תבין זה תבין מאמר חז״ל מנין שה׳ קראו ליעקב ק-ל וגם מאמר חז״ל מה ה׳ בורא עולמות אף הצדיקים וגם מאמר חז״ל עתידים צדיקים שיקראו בשמו של הקב״ה וגם מאמר חז״ל עתידין מלאכי השרת לומר לפני הצדיקים קדוש. והנה אם האדם דבוק בכל המדות להבורא אז הוא אינו ״תחת אלקים״, אדרבא הוא דבוק בה׳

Tzadikim who are called G-d, angels singing "kadosh" to tzadikim?! No one has yet banned the Kedushas Levi or accused him of kefirah - quite the contrary, the sefer is a foundation stone of toras hachassidus. Yet, obviously, reading such a torah and taking it literally at face value can lead a person to draw very dangerous conclusions, and worse, to ascribe those false and dangerous conclusion to the Berdichiver! The same can be said of certain radical ideas found in Ishbitz, in R' Tzadok, in Likutei Moharan. I always wonder when I read polemics against various chassidic groups what their authors would make of statements like these.


  1. Anonymous3:36 PM

    Last I checked there arent 3,000 Berdichever Rabbis teching Torah around the world.

  2. Well said. Allegorical statements of this type may well lay the groundwork for a religion in which practioners literally conflate their leaders with God. However, much as HaShem created the sun and moon despite the existence of fools, so, too, the gedolei chassidus brought into the world their particular divrei torah despite what future harm may one day come of them.

  3. it's very deep though. There's no frum person in the world who doesn't think that their Rebbe/Rav's opinion is the same as the true ratzon Hashem. Why would hashem mikayem what a tzadik gozers unless their wills were completely the same?

  4. If we say that Hashem has a specific will at all, a will other than whatever is and the kollel of what ever anyone else wants, we are conflating his will with Moshe Rabbeinu, who apparently can give over the true G-d's will forever. Why is believing in the words of Moshe over the evidence of our eyes ears and personal intuitions any less of a sheetuf between Hashem and the people who's will we conflate with his?

    Levi Yitzchak is saying a deep thing. Liumasum mishabchim v' omrim, every tzaddik who realizes how small he is as opposed to G-d has G-d on the other side, thining to himself "i'm nothing. THIS is for whom was created Heaven and Earth"

    Because if Hashem is really honest, he won't say that he's more than us. he'll say he Is, and that's everything that is, bb"A

  5. Anonymous7:00 AM

    R' Tzadok has a notrious one where he says Jews intermarry to bring "Or Lagoyim" Which was removed in most prints because of the lashback

  6. First: you write
    "in response to a critique against Chabad which combined heresay stories...."
    Now there's a Freudian slip! Did you mean Hearsay or Heresy?

    Your Shem Mishmuel in Vayechi, I think year 72, talks about this, and says that every mitzvah we do, every dvar torah we learn, creates worlds, just as Hashem created worlds, and he goes on to expand on that concept. So it's just an expansion of vehalachta bidrachav. Of course, expansions are as dangerous as novelties, witness his dvar torah about Korach and Zimri having been motivated lesheim shamayim, and almost having been zocheh to the same gadlus as Yehuda.

  7. 1) typo (freudian or not) corrected

    2) see the mei hashiloach on zimri who goes much further. the berdichiver is saying much more - it is not just that we as humans were enpowered with the ability to create spiritual worlds (nefesh hachaim in beginning of first sha'ar is built on this theme), but the tzadik specifically has these powers which can only come from being one with G-d (which is the part that must obviously be taken non-literally).

  8. Anonymous10:40 PM

    you assume that the fact that these people said these things is itself a defense. but it was statements like these about, e.g., the special theological status of the tzaddik which were behind the original misnagdim's opposition to chassidus. (see "the GRA and the hassidim" for more about this.)

  9. >>>you assume that the fact that these people said these things is itself a defense

    You are 100% correct. No one alive today (barring a handful of exceptions) is about to revive the polemic between GR"A and chassidus or to question the tzidkus of someone like the Berdichiver. In fact, I would say that the maskanah of the machlokes is that chassidus as won.

  10. Anonymous11:08 PM

    See Rabbeinu Bachaye, a rishon, in Parshas Vayishlach on the words "Kel Elokei Yisroel". What the Kedushas Levi is saying is very similar to Rabbeinu Bachaye. Also the Kedushas Levi is quoting Chazal on this.