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Why is it so important to study Chassidut?

by Rabbi Ari Shishler

  

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Of all the 613 commandments of the Torah, only six are relevant at any given time.1 These include belief in G-d, knowing G-d, revering and loving Him.

Every Jew has a personal responsibility to know G-d. Additionally, you cannot love or revere something you know nothing about. Chassidut examines these fundamentals in depth and expounds upon them in a way that every person can understand.

Rabbi Yitzchak Luria2  espoused that every Jew is obligated to study the mystical teachings of the Torah. His student, Rabbi Chaim Vital, describes in great detail how essential Kabbalistic study is in order for one to follow a Torah-true life.3

Realistically, though, Kabbalistic doctrine is beyond the reach of the average person. Chassidut addresses these same spiritual concepts in a way that you and I can understand.

Chassidut is first aid for the soul.

In previous generations, when the Jewish populace had a healthy Jewish consciousness, they did not need the spiritual inspiration of Chassidut to keep their Judaism wholesome.

In previous generations, when the Jewish populace had a healthy Jewish consciousness, they did not need the spiritual inspiration of Chassidut to keep their Judaism wholesome
Today, we live in different times; Jewish observance is under threat and assimilation eats away at our people. Our generation needs Torah that speaks straight to the soul.

The first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, used a poignant parable to illustrate this: “A crown prince once took ill and was soon unconscious. When no medical professional succeeded in finding a cure, one doctor offered a radical suggestion. He advised the king to crush his beautiful crown jewel, dissolve the powder into water, and drip it into the prince’s mouth. Should a few drops get into the prince’s system, it stood a chance of saving his life.

Likewise, the Jewish nation in recent generations was at its spiritual weakest. G-d, therefore, chose to release the most precious element of His Torah - simplified for us to digest - to revive us. This is Chassidut.”

Chassidut provides the inspiration and soul sustenance a Jew needs to keep spiritually afloat in a modern world.

Finally, Chassidut is about more than personal spiritual progress. Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement, once shared a remarkable personal soul encounter. (Righteous individuals of that caliber can project their souls into the spiritual realms and engage other souls.) On one such occasion, the Baal Shem Tov engaged the soul of Moshiach.

Seizing the opportunity, the Baal Shem Tov asked Moshiach when he would be coming.4

Moshiach’s reply: “When the wellsprings of your teachings (i.e. Chassidut) spread to the outside.”

You see, the Messianic age is about absolute knowledge and awareness of G-d5 . We Jews believe that the better prepared we are for the Messianic experience, the more pleasant an experience it will be. So, studying Chassidut - which centers on understanding G-d as best as the human mind can – is the key to preparing our world and ourselves for the utopian era of Moshiach.

Footnotes

  • 1. Introduction to the Sefer HaChinuch.
  • 2. The famous Kabbalist known as the Arizal.
  • 3. Introduction to Eitz Chaim.
  • 4. After all, Jews have been waiting for him for thousands of years.
  • 5. See Maimonides, Laws of Kings Chap. 11-12.

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Moshiach
The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
Chabad
Chabad, an acronym for Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.
Chassidic
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Chassidut
The teachings of the Chassidic masters. Chassidut takes mystical concepts such as G-d, the soul, and Torah, and makes them understandable, applicable and practical.
Kabbalistic
(adj.) Pertaining to Kabbalah—Jewish mysticism.
Baal Shem Tov
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), Polish mystic and founder of the Chassidic movement.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.