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July 11, 2007



Re: Comment: This sensibility is what separates Chassidus and Mussar.

I don't understand how anyone can see Hassidut and not see that it involves intense introspection.. ..and the sensibility to start at the foundation. All of the Besht's teachings were _foundation_ teachings. Emunah, tefillah, torah, teshuvah, mitzwoth. What else is there??

1. The Tanya forces someone to come to terms with the fact that they would at their very best be no more than beinonim. That it's a fight that will take their whole lives and will never let up, but they have no choice but to keep fighting with all their might or else they will surely lose.

2. Rebbe Nachman insists on you bringing everything under the eye of the intellect and searching out the good points. (implying that the bad points are easier to see with that same intellectual eye)

3. The Notzer Hesed stresses bitul over all else but warns of being lost in fake self-delusional bitul. He also stresses the foundations of Yirah as put forth in Pirkei Avoth (kol sheHochmato kodemet lyirato and vice versa)

4. Meor Eynayim ends on the note of how important it is to attain true yirat shamayim, it's everything. He also champions the Baal Shem Tov's idea of recognising the Godly in every desire (fallen midah) and raising it back to HaShem.

5. The Noam Elimelech learns in Parashath Mishpatim davka that one cannot "rise to the altar in steps" ie. ascend beyond one's pace/level. (or skip steps)

Until this story you quoted today.. I'd never heard of any Chassidut (in my admittedly limited knowledge) encouraging skipping steps in leaps and bounds.. even the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Lechatchila ariber (sp?) is not a free license to get ahead of oneself, only to push forward with all of one's might, transcending difficulties. (At one's current level)

Please enlighten me?


Part of it is that you may not be familiar with the very intense detail work on middos that proper study of mussar demands, or with the kind of personalities that it can produce after many years of application. It focuses on personality correction to the extent that chassidus, b'shitah, does not.

It is not that Chassidus encourages skipping steps, in fact there are, as you point out warnings against it in chassidic sources, mostly later ones. Earlier sources, which I can't produce right now, do contain statements warning abut the dangers upon Besht's new path. It is more that this danger is the real danger of inspirational charismatic movements in general and Chassidus in particular. It teaches an ecstatic, transcendant spirituality, which is is a lot of fun, but without doing the hard work, it may be built on false foundations.

I started from a mussar background and am coming to chassidus later in life. It is natural to compare and contrast the two in a way that someone else may not do or may not be able to do.



Your sentiment echoes that of R' Avram Elya (Avraham Eliyahu) Kaplan zt"l, in his essay Shtei Derakhim http://www.aishdas.org/raek/2derachim.pdf . One paragraph, as translated by R' YG Bechhofer:

"Mussar does not disagree with Chassidus. Mussar is often satisfied with the Jewish strength of Chassidus; its capacity not to submit to the environment; its heartfelt openness bein adam l'chaveiro that softens petty superficial European etiquette; its readiness to dedicate itself to a lofty purpose, and so easily sacrifice for that purpose normal conditions of life; its youthful fervor in mitzvos, which extends well into old age. Mussar, however, also has a significant criticism of Chassidus: It sees Chassidus as too external, too theoretical and abstract. The Chasid deludes himself into thinking that he is getting more out of Chassidus than he actually is. Chassidus deals with profound thoughts and great deeds, but it remains outside the essence of the Chasid. Chassidus penetrates the depths of the greatest Torah problems - between both Man and G-d, and between Man and Man - but it penetrates too little the self of a person, so that he might engage in a reckoning as to where he stands in relation to his World and in relation to his obligations in his World... The average Chasid deludes himself into thinking that a nigun that he sings wells up from his heart, and that the dveykus that he experiences has its source in his soul, even though it is entirely possible that these are transient moods, not associated with his true essence. One should not judge hastily. We cannot say even to the simplest Chasid, when he experiences dveykus, that he does not truly cleave to G-d. But that constant self-critique: 'Perhaps I am deluding myself;' the query that should accompany every step in life: 'Have I not strayed in this instance from the path?"; and, finally, all that is encompassed in the thought that serves as a necessary precondition for Shivisi Hashem l'negdi tamid ['I have placed G-d before me always'], namely, the thought, 'I have placed my 'self' before me always,' - all this is more prevalent in Mussar than in Chassidus..."



Not all cahssidus disagrees with this either. Gutnick Chumash on the beginning of Naso brings that this is why the avodah of Gershuni, driving out bad middos, precedes that of Kehas, which means gathering in. First one has to fix the middos and only then redeem and gather in the sparks.

Interestingly, when we speak about tenufa of leviim in the beginning of Bahaloscha, it is Kehas who are lifted to Hashem first.

levi rapoport

RE: "For us, living in the worlds of falsehood, the danger of unbridled immersion in chassidus is self deception and unintended hypocrisy. Chassidus shows the way forward, but it should be coupled with an unceasing effort in mussar, especially in as much as it relates to self-examination and the striving for truth." There are various schools of thought in chassidus. Chabad Chassidus is invincible to this criticism.

levi rapoport

attn. micha,
nothig could be further from the truth. Chassidus trains the mind see be aware of Hashem's presence in all realities, and be aware of his presence in all things.

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