Chassidus is as Meaningful as We Mean It

Often, we find that Chassidus hasn’t inspired us, or is not talking to us in our language. The reason, stipulates the author, is because there was no search. No ache. An article by Rabbi Yosef Klyne.

Rabbi Yosef Klyne – Mashpia at the Yeshiva Gedola of Nyack

At a farbrengen in Yerushalayim, the elder chossid Reb Shmerel Sasonkin tackled a question. Yud Kislev, the Frierdiker Rebbe writes, is the birth of a chossid, and Yud Tes Kislev is the bris. The question thus arises, why is it that there are ten days between the birth and the bris, and not eight?

Reb Shmerel’s answer was plain and simple. Chazal say that the third day from the bris has the most pain, similarly Chassidus begins where it hurts.

In the hakdama (foreword) to Tanya, which by extension is the preface to all of Chassidus, the Alter Rebbe categorizes Chassidus with remarkable language: The answer to all the questions.

Chassidus, by definition, is a solution to a problem, a response to a search. Indeed, the opening words of the hakdama are addressed to a person with an inner quest, “Shimu eilai rodfei tzedek mevakshei hashem – Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, who seek Hashem.”

Often, we find that Chassidus hasn’t inspired us, or is not talking to us in our language. The reason, stipulates the author, is because there was no search. No ache.

If someone would approach us on the street, and enthusiastically share “a wonderful answer!” – we would be lost, at best. Answers fall flat when there is no issue at hand.

It’s not for nothing, that when Tosefos raises a question, the language is, “Im tomar – if you will ask…” Indeed, if the question doesn’t bother you, you won’t appreciate the response.

As we celebrate Yud Tes Kislev, the thought could trouble us: Why is it that someone we know has been so taken by Chassidus, moved and radically changed, while we are less so? In fact, at times, we can be perturbed by our own inconsistency, when we remember how we were ourselves more inspired by Chassidus than we are today.

But the reason is clear. Chassidus is only responding to a seeker.  We need to be in search for a deeper connection to the Eibershter, to be a mevakesh Hashem, for Chassidus to resonate.

Chassidus is a yechidus with the Rebbe, as the Alter Rebbe elaborates in the hakdomas hamelaket. The Rebbe is taking us in, talking to us, addressing our innermost quandaries and concerns. The Tanya will take us under the Rebbe’s wing and guide us through our greatest challenges in avodas Hashem. But we need to want. We need to “go in” to yechidus, to travel to the Rebbe. That’s the part that the Rebbe cannot do for us.

And the stronger the question, the more enlightening the answer; the stronger the quest, the more refreshing the wellspring.

Because Chassidus is meaningful to us, only as much as we mean it.

This article first appeared in Anash Magazine – published by

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