Sunday, February 22, 2009
A Response to RYGB
Reality Check responds to Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer's shiur.
(I tried to break it up to make it easier on the eyes, while retaining the classic Circus Tent layout. I hope the words are easily understood, and I hope that RYGB will see it soon and respond in kind. - HT)
"I listened carefully to RYGB’s talk. He started off “on topic,” but way before half way went off topic (mostly because of all the questions) and his talk turned into a sociological discussion of Chassidus in general, all different kinds of branches thereof – nothing at all to do with Chabad, and nothing of real content in fact. As he asked for specific criticisms, I will oblige with some off the top:
1. He started quoting from some unidentifiable “letter,” which even if he had the actual name of the author it would still be irrelevant as it expresses personal opinions of that individual in a correspondence with another individual. The only point he cited from there is that (a) when studying Torah one “intellectualizes” G-d thus losing the “direct, emotive” connection” (I suppose what Chassidus refers to as dveikus), and (b) when studying the Rebbe’s teachings this obstacle is overcome, but (c) Chabad restricts this to their own Rebbes, the only way to overcome it is by learning Torah from one of the Chabad Rebbes. As for (a), there is truth in that. It is a “problem” noted already by the Baal Shem Tov about the tension between Torah-study (intellectual exercise where one must concentrate on subject-matter) vs. pursuit of dveikus (see Tzavoas HoRivOsh 29). Yet BST also states that one must continue studying, for without Torah study there cannot be dveikus, and the way to overcome the problem is by interrupting your learning every so often and thinking about Hashem - the Noysen HaTorah. He forgets, however, that Nefesh Hachayim IV:7 says something very similar, so that this is not unique to Chassidus, and “misnagdim” have the same problem.
As for (b) – at face-value that is ridiculous. The implication appears to be that one should only study the Rebbe’s Torah. Does that exist anywhere? In Chabad they study Gemoro, rishonim and acharonim, and poskim, no less than anywhere else. The Rebbe’s Torah is no more than their version of study of mussar etc., thus learned only at certain times (e.g., early seder and last seder of the day), though as the Rebbe has many pilpulim and hadronim etc. relating strictly to nigleh – these are often inserted into the analysis of nigleh subjects, ---- but NEVER, ever replacing any other kind of Torah-study. In that context it does indeed ensure never to forget that when we do talmud torah it is Toras Hashem. As for (c) this is no more than in mussar-yeshivos, learning the derech and teachings of their mussar-mashgichim (in the Mir R. Yerucham, in Kelm the Alter fun Kelm, in Novardok R. Yossef Yoizel etc.). To mix different derochim only confuses, and leaves one kere’ach mikan u'mikan. Moreover, the Lubavicher Rebbe’s Torah quotes so many other other chassidic and non-chassidic sources that the average student is exposed to these as well (albeit in context). Moreover, as their study of chassidus extends to all their Rabbeyim, and especially the extensive writings of the Temach Tzedek, the latter quotes extensively other Chassidic works, so that they are familiar with them as well (though obviously not widely and only from these quotes).
From Boisbriand Blog
2. RYGB claims that chassidus emphasizes the emotional vs intellectual yedi’as Hashem. This is true of many branches of chassidus, but certainly not of Chabad. In fact, this became a major argument between the Rav (founder of chabad) and some of his colleagues. Already the Maggid of Mezritch (successor of BST) emphasized the need of intellectual yedi’as Hashem, and this became prominent in the teachings of his disciple the Rav, aka as the Alter Rebbe. Even a cursory glance at Tanya (and esp. part 2 thereof) provides clear evidence of this. You claim that unlike the “emunoh pshutoh” of the Chassidim the misnagdim were open to chakirah. Both parts of this statement are untrue. Where do you have sources for misnagdim delving into chakirah? Have you forgotten what the Gro says in his notes on Shulchan Aruch regarding the Rambam’s philosophy (chas vesholom) leading him astray? And obviously you are not aware of the Tzemach Tzedek’s “Sefer HaChakiroh” where he profoundly analyzes statements of many sifrei chakiroh (from R. Saadia to Ikkorim etc.), aside of the frequent references in Chabad writings to Moreh Nevuchim.
Re your claim that aside of Vizhnitzer chassidim don’t even use Chovos Halevovos; that is incredible nonsense and ignorance. The classic sifrei chassidus are full of citations from there (from Toldos to Sfas Emes and Shem Mishmuel etc.).
3. First YGB makes general statements re chassidim (besides chabad) not into kiruv, and only much later this is qualified by mentioning Belz and Braslav. 4. Re: mechiyas Amalek – you say this is meant spiritually. Nowadays yes, as we have no knowledge to identify Amalek. But it is meant physically, and will be apply as such when Moshiach comes. 5. You mention that ALL Lubavitcher boys wear their shirts out as a notion of bitul. Nonsense. Some do so out of laziness, others in order to assure that their talis koton retain its she’ur of amoh al amoh (while when tucked in it is crumpled up to less than the she’ur; many get around this by wearing a gartel over their talis koton to keep it in place). In fact, there are many Lubavitch Yeshivos (certainly that demand that the boys keep their shirts tucked in and give a knas for violations). 6. When in finally returned temporarily to your topic, you expressed your problem with the concept of bitul hayesh, especially vis a vis the Rebbe. First of all, vis a vis the Rebbe; this is simply the halachic requirement re bitul to one’s Rebbe, (moreh raboch kemoreh Shomayim etc.). Find out about the total bitul that Reb Boruch Ber had to Reb Chayim, and some stories about this border (in common perception) on the absurd! The true talmid (chossid) regards his Rebbe as Shechinoh medaberes mitoich groinoi [cf. Yerushalmi Berochos 2:1, Yevomos 96b etc. re R. Elozor and R. Yochanan etc.], to accept the Rebbe’s view as objective while one’s own view is most likely distorted by pniyois.
The same chassidus that had this great veneration of their rebbes also demands vayigbah liboi bedarkei Hashem, and demands that one must recognize and act on one’s own qualities and talents no less than on one’s defects. (unlike in many mussar schools!) It also demands that one is not to rely on the Rebbe (tzadik) [as in tzadik be’emunosoi yichye – al tikrei yichye elo yechayeh] but achieve and “shteig” (to use a Litvishe expression) on one’s own efforts (taking tzadik... yichyeh literally). This is not only in chabad, but goes back to the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid in their explicit teachings."
- Reality Check.