Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I grew up in a mixed community, and I had always seen and known about Chassidim. Of course, I was aware that they had different customs than my family had. They took shorter haircuts, and they spoke Yiddish. I even went to tishen every now and then. However, coming from a non-Chassidic home, I never thought twice about whom they are and what they represent. It was not even an aspect of them and us; they simply were a non-issue. Nevertheless, as I wrote in my previous post, after I started reading Chassidic stories, I started feeling that there might be something there, so to speak.
Around that time, I remember attending a tish on the seventh night of Pesach. I watched as hundreds, maybe thousands of Chassidim were dancing around in circles around the Beis Medrash. I cannot say that I saw some special joy or light on their faces. However, I remember wondering to myself, what possesses these grown men to dance in circles for hours on end? It can’t be that they’re all crazy.
I had been raised with the unspoken premise that whatever any serious Jew had reason to look for was to be found in the tradition of the mainstream Yeshivos. There really isn’t anything that Chassidim have to offer us that we don’t already have. Moreover, we have it authentically. Because of this, the dance of the Chassidim somewhat irked me. According to what I knew and understood, to be spending this night in the way that they were had no point. What in the world were they doing?
I understood that they felt that they were spending their night trying to come close to Hashem. Indeed, they were spending their lives doing that, albeit in a way which I had never known. Could all these thousands of people be honestly and sincerely dedicating their lives to serving Hashem, and all of them be wrong?
That night, I realized in a very real way that there must be something in Chassidus today that inspires these people to keep going on in this path. I didn’t make sense to me that these men were spending so many hours in meaningless celebration. There just had to be some sense to all this. I wanted then and there to know what that is.
I consider that moment the turning point for me regarding my relationship towards Chassidus. It was from that night on that I opened myself up to eagerly listening to what Chassidim were saying, and what they had to teach me. It’s been a long, turbulent journey since then. But I am forever grateful that Hashem has inspired me to pursue it.


Samuel said...

I really don't see how you came to that conclusion, that thousands of frum Jews can't be wrong. Not that it matters in context of a personal narrative, but for general purposes.

Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel didn't approve of each others halachic actions. In fact Bais Shammai kept a yichus chart because various of their marriages was considered assur by Bais Hillel. How did Bais Hillel view those people? As being very, very wrong! As giving up a connection to Shechina; not being able to receive nevuah.

When I was in a Litvishe yeshiva, someone there poked fun at the previous Bobover Rebbe zt'l for spending the entire Hoshana Rabbah night preparing hoshanos. I couldn't comprehend it. The Rebbe was almost universally respected; it takes a real moron to think that the Rebbe lost it and just wasted his time. It is clear to a young child that the Rebbe was doing things that he considered important. But if the Rebbe were to ask us, must we tell him what he thinks? (I wouldn't have dared to advise the Rebbe; but I hope you're getting my drift.) Why not tell him what we think? And why not think what we think? That these people are wrong and that this is not the correct path?

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