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If Chassidut is so important, why wasn't it available until 300 years ago?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

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In a nutshell, Chassidut is the “soul” of Torah. Just as with a person the body performs actions, but the soul adds life and meaning to the actions, the same is true with Judaism. Torah and Mitzvahs are the actions, but chassidut gives life and meaning to the Torah and Mitzvahs.

Chassidut is part of Torah. It is the “hidden” element of Torah as compared to the “revealed” aspects of Torah, such as the Chumash and Talmud. It is also known, as mentioned earlier, as the “soul of Torah” as compared to the “body of Torah.”

The study and ways of Chassidut are crucial. Just as you can’t separate the soul from the body – without experiencing terrible results – similarly you can’t separate Chassidut from Torah.

No one will say, “I was fine during the summer without turning on the heater, so obviously, now, too, I’ll manage without.”
To answer why (the average) Jews never had it before recent times, I will give you an analogy expressed by the Previous Chabad Rebbe:

As explained above, chassidut gives life and meaning into Judaism. It imbues passion, warmth, and light to Jews and Judaism.

Now, in the summer you don’t turn the heat on, and during daylight hours you don’t need to turn on a light. However, when winter arrives and it gets cold, or when night comes and it becomes dark, then one turns on the heat and the light. Obviously, no one will say, “I was fine during the summer without turning on the heater, so obviously, now, too, I’ll manage without.”

In days of old, the closer we were to the revelation at Sinai and the Holy Temple Era, Judaism was in a state of summer and daylight. As we traveled further from those glorious moments and eras, as our enemies made life more difficult and bitter, Judaism fell into a state of a deep darkness and cold winter night. It is thus crucial at this point in time to introduce the warmth, life, and light that chassidut reveals in Judaism.


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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.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
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.
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.
Chumash
The Five Books of Moses.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.