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What is Chassidut (Chassidic Philosophy)?

by Rabbi Yitzchok Ginsburgh

www.inner.org

  

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Chassidut (or, Chassidus) is the inner dimension of Torah explored and taught by the Chassidic masters. Chassidut teaches you how to see the soul of a thing rather than its body; its inner essence rather than its external manifestations.

Chassidism is a movement within Judaism founded by Rabbi Yisrael Ba'al Shem Tov (5458 – 5520 [1698-1760 CE]). Its purpose is to awaken the Jewish People to its own inner self through the study of the inner dimension of the Torah, which explores the inner dimensions of creation and Creator, thus preparing the way for the advent of Moshiach.

Chassidut is inwardly based upon the ancient doctrinal tradition of Kabbalah. Outwardly it gives new emphasis to the simple and joyful service of God, particularly through prayer and acts of loving-kindness. In Chassidic thought, the abstract and often impenetrable formulae of classical Kabbalah are recast into the psychological terms of human experience, making it understandable and accessible to the average person.

In Chassidic thought, the abstract and often impenetrable formulae of classical Kabbalah are recast into the psychological terms of human experience
By using the individual’s own inner experience as an allegorical model for understanding the deepest mysteries of the universe, Chassidut both elevates the consciousness of the ordinary Jew as well as expands the conceptual territory of Kabbalistic thought. Indeed, the classical tradition of Kabbalah can be considered superficial relative to that of Chassidut. By focusing upon immediate experience, Chassidut identifies aspects of Divinity that the highly formal and abstract system of Kabbalistic induction leaves unexplored.

Another way of explaining the differing emphases of Kabbalah and Chassidut is to say that Kabbalah focuses on the "vessels" (kelim) of Creation while Chassidut deals with the "lights"(orot) that fill these vessels. This distinction is apparent even in the names attached to these two mystical traditions: The word Kabbalah in Hebrew is derived from the root kabal, "to serve as a receptacle or vessel," while the word Chassidut is constructed from the root chesed, "lovingkindness," an attribute often referred to symbolically as the light of day.

The Ba'al Shem Tov brought Kabbalistic thought to its historical apex, both in terms of its conceptual refinement and its degree of influence upon the lives of the Jewish populace. It has been said that where Kabbalah is the "soul of the Torah," Chassidut is "the soul within the soul." The body of Torah (Talmud, Halachah etc) teaches you the what and how of Judaism, the soul of (and especially the soul of the soul of) Torah illuminates the why and what for.

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


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Chassidism » Chassidic Concepts

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.
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.
Halachah
Jewish Law. All halachah which is applicable today is found in the Code of Jewish Law.
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).
Kabbalah
Jewish mysticism. The word Kaballah means "reception," for we cannot physically perceive the Divine, we merely study the mystical truths which were transmitted to us by G-d Himself through His righteous servants.
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.
Yisrael
1. Additional name given by G-d to Patriarch Jacob. 2. A Jew who is not a Kohain or Levi (descendant of the Tribe of Levi).