What is Chassidus?

Wednesday, 20 November, 2013 - 11:27 pm

אדמור הזקן.jpg

An old friend of mine once came home from a farbrengen at her Chabad House and her mother- who was slightly wary of her growing interest in Judaism- asked what she had been doing. She told her mother that it was a ‘celebration of the anniversary of one of the leaders being released from prison’. Aghast, her mother cried “what kind of a criminal group are you involved with?!’

Yes, our leaders were imprisoned, but for doing good, not bad. Their alleged crimes were either entirely fabricated or they involved some form of spreading Jewish knowledge and practice, under regimes that did not allow that freedom.

Those releases were cause for celebration because of the life threatening risks involved at the time. But the reason those liberations are still cause for celebration, here and now, is because of what they represent.

The Alter Rebbe, first Rebbe of Chabad, spread the teachings of Chassidus wider and more broadly than had ever been done before him. He took the deepest parts of Torah and taught them in a way that was accessible to the average person. No longer were these teachings exclusively for an elite few.

The Alter Rebbe faced much opposition to his work. It was new and many scholars and communities were afraid, they didn’t understand what he was doing.

Some of those people turned to the Czarist government and claimed that the Alter Rebbe was ‘starting a new religion’ (which was illegal), ‘supporting the enemy Turkish government’ by sending charitable funds to the Jews in Israel then under Turkish rule (also illegal) and other such claims. He was imprisoned under terrible conditions.

Naturally, his followers were overjoyed and relieved to hear of his release. But what his release represented is what makes it relevant to us some 200 years later.

Upon his release, the Alter Rebbe explained that his imprisonment had been a mirror of what was taking place up on high, in the Supernal Court. There was a great debate going on about whether the hidden parts of Torah should be released and shared with the masses. Was it necessary? And was the world ready?

After 52 days in prison, (corresponding to the 52 chapters of his book ‘Tanya’, a foundational work of Chassidus) the Alter Rebbe got the go ahead from Above. His teachings were correct, and a necessity. And so he was released on the 19th day of the month of Kislev.

The teachings of Chassidus dig to the core of the diverse disciplines of Torah study and they synthesize and harmonize them by connecting them with their essence.

When studying Chassidus, we gain an understanding of G-d, ourselves and the world around us in a way that we couldn’t otherwise. An understanding of Torah’s great depth and richness.

So anyone who has been touched by the profound teachings of Chassidus, and who hasn’t? (…Chassidic ideas and attitudes have penetrated every facet of Jewish life to an even greater extent than many realize…), has great cause to celebrate this monumental and pivotal day in Jewish history.

The 19th of Kislev falls out this Friday, please join us for a celebratory dinner/farbrengen as mentioned above on Thursday night!



Picture of the week: 


350 year old Torah scroll, on a fascinating tour of Crown Heights, NY 

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