RE: the JA article on neo-chassidism -- It’s very hard for me to understand why some have reacted by arguing that chassidus has no place in YU because chassidus exposes the masses to kabbalah (or some other reason), while there is no objection to teaching Milton at YU even though you can’t read Milton without some exposure to Christian theology. Milton is OK, but R’ Nachman not?
I also don’t understand some of the other objections to chassidus and/or neo-chassidism that try to sketch out what misnagdus is all about but end up with platitudes that anyone, misnagid or chassid, would have no problem with.
L'shem framing the issue, three questions, one historical, one about the present, one looking toward the future:
1) It’s hard to object to (or embrace!) something without defining it first. Is chassidus just a shift in emphasis, e.g. greater emphasis on tefilah, on joy, on kabbalah? You say tomato, I say tomah-toh; I say Ba-RUCH, you say BOO-reech? Hard to accept that the GR”A had such a problem with that. What was the philosophical chiddush/paradigm change that the BeSH”T brought about that others found so objectionable? (See The Piecezna in Mavo haShe’arim ch 4 and kuntres Toras haChassidus by the Rebbe RaYaT”Z for answers, and if anyone knows other mareh mekomos that directly address this question, I would appreciate if you would send them to me.)
2) Is it the appeal of this BeSHTian worldview that makes neohassidus so attractive, or is a neohassid just a mitnaged who likes Carlebach niggunim, feel good spirituality, and plays the part of a counter-cultural (relative to the rest of his community) rebel by adopting the dress and other customs of chassidus? Yes, that is a reductionist and somewhat coarse way to put it, but you get my point. Again, are we speaking about a “mere” difference in emphasis or a philosophical shift?
3) Lastly, to what degree will this infatuation with chassidus in the modern orthodox world last? Is it a passing fad, or a movement that will alter modern orthodoxy for the future?