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Dancing with the Torah

Miami Beach, Florida - Publicizing the Chanukah Miracle
Chabad, Miami Bch, FL


Lag BaOmer
Author: Yoninah

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Jewish Calendar:
Candle lighting, Parsha,
Z'manim, history,
and more...

 Chassidism:  Ways of the righteous

R. Yisroel Baal Shem Tov
(founder of Chasidism)

R. Dov Ber -

The Maggid

Succesor to Baal Shem Tov 

R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi (Chabad-Lubavitch)

R. Nachman's chair

R. Menachem Mendel Hager(Vizhnitz)

 R. Aharon Rokeach(Belz)


R. Naftali Tzvi Halberstam

 Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam
R. Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam (Sanz-Klausenberg)

R. Yoel Teitelbaum

 Thumbnail for version as of 13:59, 1 September 2005
R. Pinchas Menachem Alter (Ger)

 Thumbnail for version as of 20:15, 31 October 2005
R. David Twersky

R. Menachem Mendel Schneerson


 Let's enjoy Torah 

                                                    P a R  D e S
                                                    e     e   r    o 
                                                    s     m  u    d 
                                                    h     e   s 
                                                    a     z   h
Pardes (lit. "Orchard") is a metaphorical acronym, which refers to the traditional four levels of Torah interpretation, as follows: 

     Peshat - "simple", "plain" , ordinary or literal meaning.

            Rabbi Shlomo Ben Yitzchak - Rashi (1040-1105), one of the most prolific 
            commentators on   the Torah, Talmud and many other works, is best-known
            for bringing out, usually, the P'shat. Other commentators include Sforno, Klei 
            Yakor, Ibn Ezra, Avi Ezra, Sifsei Chachamim, Ohr Chachayim, Rashbam and
     Remez - "hint" or "allusion"; indirect references and/or hints.

            Rabbi Ya'akov Ben Asher - known as the Baal HaTurim ("Master of the Turim 
            [Rows] ) - brings this out in his commentaries on the Chumash.

     Drush -   based on the Hebrew word "drash,"  which means to "seek", "inquire", 
            or "investigate"; allegories and anthologies. Many sefarim (books),called 
            Midrashim,  (sing. Midrash), cover this extensively. Note the root word drash in 
            Midrash. There are so many books of Midrashim, so, here is an extensive, but 
            not complete list, as follows:
                Mechilta, Sifra, Sifre, Braita (e.g. "Braita of Rabbi Yishmael," "Braita of the 
                49 rules," etc.),  Midrash Rabba, Genesis Rabbah, Eicha Rabba,
                Midrash  Tanchuma, Yalkut Shimoni, Yalkut Makiri, Ein Yaakov, Targum,    
                Targum  Onkelos, Targum Yonason, etc.                         

     Sod -   "secret”, “mystical", "esoteric" meaning -  covered by works, best known 
               as Kabbalah,  comprised of texts, such as:   
              Zohar,  sefer  Yetzirah, Raya Mehemna, Bahir, Eitz HaChayim, Pardes 
              Rimonim, Heichalos, and Raziel Hamalach)
Now comes Chasidus (or Chasidism) -
    First publications of Chasidus include:

          Likutei Amarim (Tanya), Toldos Yakov Yosef, Meor Einayim
          Magid Devarav L' Yakov, Noam Elimelech, and Kedushas Levi

     Later publications include:
          Likutei Moharan, Be'er Mayim Chaim
          Bnei Yissoschar (Tzvi Elimelech Spira of  Dinov)

The development of Chasidus  was originated by Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov,
,ZT'L, ZY"A [1698-1760] ). 
This gave birth to, like an upheaval, a new way and era in Torah interpretation and practice. The traditional 4-level interpretation (PaRDeS) was, just by itself, no longer enough to satisfy the questions, inquiries and issues bothering the searching minds of scholar and layman alike; still apples nowadays.

A most famous account of the Baal Shem Tov: When he was at Shul on Rosh HaShanah, he was so into the prayers that  his soul ascended on high. He asked
G-d, "When will the Moshiach (Messiah) come?" The answer was, "When the wellsprings of your teachings(Chasidus) spread out far and wide, so that all mankind will know this wisdom."

                                              What is Chasidus?
This is not such a simple question. To really understand Chasidus may require lengthy and, at times, complex explanations. Simply put, Chasidus is a G-dly wisdom, which penetrates into the deep, inner dimensions of Torah. Then, you can understand Torah on a deeper level, and get answers to questions and difficult concepts, which may not be covered in PaRDeS.

                                        What is the point of Chasidus?
The ultimate point  of Chasidus is that by learning this wisdom and applying its way of life, you achieve a transformation of your natural characteristics (i.e. nature) - to such an extent that your "new", "replacement" nature is to serve G-d and do his will. You acquire a G-dly nature yourself ("Just as I, G-d, am benevolent, so you be benevolent; just as I am merciful, so you be merciful, etc.). 

Many ask the following questions-

    Question 1:  
    Kabbala also delves into deep levels of Torah, so what's the difference between     
    Kabbala and Chasidus?

    Kabbala explains Divinity, esoteric and mystical concepts on such a high level that 
    only someone who is a Torah master (on all pre-Kabbala levels) and is over 40 (or 
    mature like that) can properly understand it. If not, he may misunderstand and apply 
    it inappropriately, which, in our history, had disastrous results. Basically, it explains 
    the various levels, like a "configuration" or "anatomy," how G-d manifests himself 
    throughout the universe.

    Chasidus, by use of examples - esp. of human traits (e.g. soul powers such as 
    thought, speech, action, will. delight, etc.), analogies, parallels, etc., brings down 
    Divinity, esoteric and mystical concepts to such a level that someone of ordinary
    intelligence (a layman) can grasp it.

    Question 2:
    Why Chasidus? Weren't other parts of Torah, revealed before, good enough? What 
    does it contribute?

    Before we answer this, let's first bring up an important well-known principle.
    All of Torah (both Written and Oral were given to Moshe Rabenu on Mt. Sinai. This 
    includes any discoveries or innovations in Torah study revealed afterwards, by 
    later Scholars (e.g. The Talmud, Rashi's commentary, Rambam, Ari-Zal, etc.). So, 
    you can ask the very same question: "Why were these not revealed before?" The 
    answer is because these had to come out at its most appropriate time, especially, 
    because there was a need for them. Same with Chasidus. It had to come out at the 
    most fitting time, because, then, there was a serious need for it.

    May it be G-d's will that the next innovation will be Moshiach!

    Answer (to Question 2):
    As to what Chasidus contributes and its need, the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rabbi 
    Menachem Mendel Schneerson, ZY"A)
, 1902 - 1994,  best covers this in 
    his famous discourse, "Inyana shel Toras HaChasidus" (On the Essence of 
    Chasidus), originally given over on 19 Kislev 5726 (1965). It is also available in 
    English, from KEHOT Publication Society.

    Before we begin, let's dispel a popular misconception that "Chasidus is an 
    explanation of Kabbala." Many make this mistake, very likely, because Chasidus, 
    often, utilizes terms and concepts from Kabbalah. But, Chasidus clarifies and 
    illuminates all levels of traditional Torah interpretation (PARDES), including, but not 
    limited to, Sod. It is actually an innovation, such that, it can be called the fifth level, 
    which gives life to the other four.

    The need for Chasidus arose because:

        In the times of the Baal Shem Tov, the Jews were despondent. Massive pogroms, 
        bad economic conditions, and false Messiahs left them dispirited. The love, 
        inspiration, and teachings (Chasidus) of the Baal Shem Tov, effected a major 
        Chasidus demands self-sacrifice; a Jew is expected to go beyond the letter of the 
        law in his observance. The Jews respected this expectation of them.

        The outstanding feature of Chasidus is to effect such a   profound change in a 
        person, such that one's natural characteristics are transformed into G-dly ones.
        This means, it should be your "new" nature to serve G-d..

       The teachings of Chasidus made it possible for an ordinary person - did not have 
        to be an outstanding scholar or a "high" soul - to understand the deep, mystical 
        levels of the Torah, which helps you understand G-dliness.

   Example of  Chassidic interpretation:

        Although Chasidus interprets all levels of PARDES, for now, let's see how
        Chasidus clarifies a Peshat, from the Modeh Ani Prayer.

        When we wake-up in the morning, immediately, then, we recite (using Hebrew 
        transliteration): "Modeh Ani Lefanecha, Melech, Chai VeKayum, Shehechezarta 
        Bi Nishmasi BeChemla, Rabba Emunasecha."- "I give thanks to you, living and 
        eternal King, that you have restored my soul within me, great is your faithfulness."

        According to Peshat, we give thanks to G-d for returning our soul to us, which 
        enables us to wake-up. We must say this as soon as we awaken. Even though are 
        hands are impure (evil spirit still remains until ritual washing of the hands - known 
        as "negel vasser"), which ordinarily prohibits us from making a true blessing (i.e. 
        one which contains G-d's name), we can, still ,say Modeh Ani because it does not 
        contain any of G-d's names.

        Now a little preface to the Chasidic interpretation. According to Chasidus, there 
        are 5 levels of the soul, namely 1) Nefesh,  2) Ruach, 3) Neshama, 4) Chaya, and 
        5) Yechida. The first four levels (acronym “NaRaNaCh
”) can  have impurities and 
        flaws. But Yechida of the soul is so close and united with G-d's essence that there 
        can be no imperfection, whatsoever. 

        So, according to Chasidus, we see as follows:
        Modeh Ani is from the level of Yechida. Why can we say this while the hands 
        are still impure? Because all impurities and defects cannot contaminate the Modeh 
        Ani (the Yechida, the impeccable and G-dly part) of a Jew!

        Now, the part, where we say,"...Shehechezarta  Bi Nishmasi ....," - " for 
        returning my soul..." What does it mean, "MY soul.?" If, G-d forbid, the soul of a 
        non-Jew, or, worse yet, an animal would be returned, would he give thanks? No!
        This is because, even though a foreign soul will keep him physically alive, the 
        influence of Yechida makes him feel that 'life" is Jewish life only.


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