Rabbi Zvi Homnick, Beis Moshiach
Husband: Why do you keep trying to get me to change?
Wife: When you love someone, you want to help them grow.
Husband: To really love someone is to accept them for who they are.
Wife: Our one-year-old is 29 inches and 21 pounds, crawling nicely and sounds so cute when he babbles away. As much as I love him and accept him for who he is, I would hate to see him stay that way.
The depiction of ChaGaS Chassidus in the previous installment was only a snapshot for the purposes of highlighting the differences between ChaBaD and the other approaches. In truth, it is far more complex and detailed, with various streams and approaches, and a vast range of areas of emphasis within the different streams.
What they all have in common can be summed up in the idea of using inspiration and mental imagery, fueled by the spiritual realities described in the inner dimension of Torah and the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, to work with and excite the emotions of the animal soul in the service of Hashem, so that it cooperates with and expresses the super-love of the G-dly soul, even if it does not actually experience it in a revealed way.
This approach of working with the animal soul is most effective when a person begins his training at a young age, before the animal soul has developed other sources of excitement and more sophisticated desires. Every parent or teacher of young children (if not completely clueless or immersed in materialism) sees how receptive young children are to becoming excited about anything associated with Hashem and Torah and mitzvos, when presented in an appealing way. Yet, that same child can easily be turned off as he gets older and his animal soul develops other ideas of what is exciting, if he does not have the inner tools to generate continued inspiration and excitement.
Thus, the Alter Rebbe’s colleagues felt that all efforts should be directed towards developing a new generation of Chassidic youth, and providing them the necessary tools to keep their inner fires burning. They also felt strongly that efforts should not be wasted on trying to reach out to the Torah scholars of the opposing camp, because these people are already invested in the “fake it” approach and therefore see Yiddishkeit only as a performance based system rather than as a relationship. All they care about is becoming bigger, better, more accomplished, scoring more points, earning more rewards etc, and only see Hashem and Torah and mitzvos as a means to that end. Once the animal soul has embraced Yiddishkeit as a self-centered enterprise, there is nobody to talk to.
The ChaBaD system the Alter Rebbe established (in the year 5532, while the Maggid was still alive) was not merely a difference in approach, but represented a new revelation of drawing down the “essence” of Pnimiyus HaTorah, as a loftier progression from the revelations of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid. It was not time to settle for a lower level of divine revelation, but rather to access an even higher light and bring that down even lower. What the Alter Rebbe revealed is that there is a deeper and even more powerful connection than the super-love every Jew has for Hashem that the Baal Shem Tov revealed. In fact, that super-love is actually only an outward manifestation of this deeper connection.
The Alter Rebbe even summed up that connection in one word: bittul (often translated as self-nullification).
Whaaat? Bittul? Seriously? Well, to be more accurate, actually super-bittul or bittul atzmi.
As explained previously, whereas love is how I feel about you for any of a number of reasons, with reasons and feelings being subject to change, super-love is a connection that originates in my very being and sense of self. You are my son, father, daughter, mother, spouse, etc, and I can no longer (or never could in the case of parents) imagine a sense of self that does not include you. That is not subject to change (without radical soul-surgery in the case of a spouse), although it is susceptible to being covered over by distractions.
The super-love of the G-dly soul for Hashem is described with a variety of analogies: son; daughter; brother; sister; wife; mother. What they all have in common is that each possesses an individuated sense of self, separate from (to varying degrees) but inextricably bound to Hashem with an essential bond. However, the true “essence of the soul” exists on a plane of reality (true reality) where the very idea of an individuated sense of self is in the realm of the impossible. Nothing exists or can exist except for G-d. The act of creation does not change that reality, it only appears that way from the perspective of the created beings.
As we wrote way back in the beginning of this series, “In truth, nothing exists outside of Hashem (ein davar chutz mimenu); there is no place where He is not (leis asar panui minei); and ultimately nothing else exists except for Him (ein od milvado). As the Alter Rebbe writes in his Iggeres HaKodesh (#25), this was the basic belief of Jews throughout all of history, and any suggestion otherwise was a relatively new idea based on erroneous philosophical ruminations and/or an incorrect understanding of the writings of the Arizal.”
The soul, being “a tangible part of G-d from above,” is sent down here to become a part of creation even as it remains a part of the Creator, descending into a physical body and an animal soul, in order to reveal the true reality in a world that promotes the “fake” reality that it does have its own space, its own existence, and exists separately from G-d. The super-love revealed by the Baal Shem Tov only revealed the desire of the soul to escape from the false reality of this world and connect to the truth of Hashem’s Oneness.
The Alter Rebbe revealed the super-bittul of the neshama so that it could actually do its job of revealing the truth of Hashem’s Oneness in this world by “conquering” and transforming the emotions of the self-centered animal soul, and through that the world, not just running away or overwhelming the animal soul. Since whatever is “real” to the animal soul is “fake” to the G-dly soul, “fake it till you make it” is not an option, and neither is trying to work with the animal soul on its own terms since its whole perception of reality is a fake.
(to be continued, G-d willing)
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