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  revival.

        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

         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 Chassidus, 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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Chassidism: Ways of the righteous

R. Yisroel Baal Shem Tov
(founded Chasidism)

R. Dov Ber

The Maggid
Succesor to Baal Shem Tov

R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi
(founded Chabad-Lubavitch)

R. Nachman's chair

R. Menachem Mendel Hager(Vizhnitz)

R. Aharon Rokeach

R. Naftali Tzvi Halberstam

Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam
R. Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam

R. Yoel Teitelbaum

R. Pinchas Menachem Alter (Ger)

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

R. Menachem Mendel Schneerson

* There are a couple of hundred Chassidic leaders, worldwide. The Holy Rebbes, זי״ע
   ("may their merits be an inspiration for us"), shown here, either founded the    movement or have large followings.

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