What Does it Take to be a Chossid?

In honor of Beis Iyar, we bring you a unique account of the Rebbe Maharash’s talk on what is befitting (“past”) and what is not befitting (“past nisht”) for a chossid.

By Anash.org staff

In the summer of 5700/1940, the Frierdiker Rebbe related the following episode about the Rebbe Maharash:

When in Vitebsk during 5634/1874 the Rebbe Maharash was approached on Tu B’Av by the elder Chassidim who requested that he should honor them by going to the courtyard and presenting a Chassidic discourse. The Rebbe answered that because of his health he would not be able to give a major discourse, but he was willing to go out and say a few words. The Chassidim had prepared a platform and when the Rebbe appeared on it he said: In the worldly Yiddish language there is an expression — this is fit to do, and this is not fit to do. This applies differently to each individual — for a certain person, a certain action is proper, while for another the same thing is incorrect.

Fit and not fit is not only expressed by one’s actions but in speech, emotions, and also in intellectual understanding. For one person to speak in a certain way it is acceptable and if he doesn’t understand something, he is forgiven. For another person to speak in the same way it is degrading, and he should be capable of deep understanding.

For a Chossid it is fit that every day he should learn Chassidus and be involved in things that help others. For a Chossid it is fit that he should be b’simcha, to have a good heart. For a Chossid it is fit that he should see his own faults and another person’s positive characteristics. For a Chossid it is fit that he should hold the smallest and simplest Jew as better than himself. For a Chossid it is fit that he should learn from everyone proper Middos and good behavior. For a Chossid it is fit that there be brotherly love, peace, and friendship.

For a Chossid it is not fit that he ignores the study of Chassidus. For a Chossid it not fit that he avoids coming to the aid of another. For a Chossid it is not fit that he should be sad or depressed.

For a Chossid it is not proper to ignore his own faults. For a Chossid it is not fit that he should hold himself greater than the greatest. For a Chossid it is not fit that he does not learn something good from someone else and for a Chossid it is not fit that he make divisions between people — even because of the ways of Chassidus.

When he completed his comments, the Rebbe Maharash gave everyone a bracha and returned to his hotel room. Those present began to cry quietly.

At a later date, the Chossid R. Dovber Hershman told the Frierdiker Rebbe: Those 15-20 minutes that the Rebbe Maharash spoke to us cleansed us and washed us. I hope that Erev Yom Kippur after saying the Al Chait, I should feel the same as I felt then and there.

In another farbrengen, during Chol HaMoed Sukkos in the year 5638/1877, the Rebbe Maharash reiterated what is fitting and not fitting for a Chossid. He said that which is fit or not fit in the spiritual aspects must be at least similar to the physical aspect of one’s life. As a person must organize his life and consider whether what he is doing is fitting for him in the physical sense, so too with the spiritual. Just as it is not fitting for a person to wear dirty or sloppy clothes, so too it is not fitting for someone to avoid learning Gemara for a day.

In the same way, it is not fitting for a Chossid to miss a day of learning a chapter of Tanya or that a Chossid should not correct his middos to remove his negative traits, or that he doesn’t work to improve his positive aspects… it is not fitting for a Chossid to avoid Avodas haTefillah nor is it fitting for a Chossid to become so involved and worried about his business that he can – G-d forbid – forget the truth that it is Hashem’s bracha which makes him rich. It is not fitting for a Chossid to avoid the avodah of Krias Shema al HaMitah and permit himself to fall asleep covered in the mud of a whole days’ work….

One of the Alter Rebbe’s directives was that the Chassidim should make Chassidishe farbrengens and all Chassidim, rich and poor (whether spiritually or physically), should participate. And through their strength in numbers and the merit, promise, and bracha of the Alter Rebbe, this will help the Chassidim.

From Sefer Hasichos 5700, pp. 139 and 144. Care of Congregation Levi Yitzchok, Los Angeles.

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