Monday, July 30, 2012

Mussar for the Siyum Hashas

מזל טוב to all on this great occasion.

Although it is a great simcha, nevertheless there is a place for some words of mussar as well.

Here are a few mussar thoughts from gedolim of the past that come to mind.

1) מסכת אבות, פרק ב, משנה ח - רבן יוחנן בן זכאי קבל מהלל ומשמאי, הוא היה אומר, אם למדת תורה הרבה, אל תחזיק טובה לעצמך, כי לכך נוצרת

Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai said, if you learned much Torah, don't hold yourself great because of it, as therefore you were created.

2) You went through Shas - but did Shas go through you (attributed here to the Kotzker Rebbe)?

3) It is easier to learn through the entire Shas than to change one bad middah (character trait) - Rav Yisroel Salanter.

May we be zoche to internalize our learning so that it becomes to us a סם חיים, an elixir of life.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More On Moshiach Being A Misnaged

I heard more about Moshiach being a Misnaged from a Litvishe friend.

The way he told it was like this.

Moshiach will be a Misnaged. Why? Because he will come and say kaddish, and he will not say veyatzmach purkanei vikareiv meshichei (ויצמח פורקניה ויקרב משיחיה) as part of it (because if  Moshiach has already arrived, it will be out of place, anachronistic, to say it). So that proves he is a Litvak, and not a Chassid.

Alter Rebbe of Lubavitch: Moshiach will be a Misnaged

The Alter Rebbe of the Lubavitch, R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi, is reported to have said, surprisingly, that Moshiach will be a Misnaged (not a Chassid), giving the following explanation.

If Moshiach will be a Chassid, the Litvaks (Misnagdim) won't accept him. But if he will be a Misnaged, the Chassidim will accept him anyway, since Chassidim are (allegedly) 'kabbolas ol'niks' (בני קבלת עול).

If so, how did the messianic fervor around the late Lubavitcher Rebbe take off? Did they abandon the above teaching of the Alter Rebbe, renowned and venerated founder of the Habad Lubavitch group?

By the way, if you think about it, the above saying is really a Chassidic put down of Misnagdim. As if they (the Chassidim) are saying that the Misnagdim are like babies, they won't accept a Moshiach not like them. But we are more mature, we won't insist that Moshiach will be one of us. Reminds me of the issue of Moshiach's Hat.

P.S. Does anyone know of sources for the above, especially early ones? I did a search online and saw it mentioned in a number of places, including a Lubavitcher forum. Even a very prominent Lubavicher Chassid, R. Zalman Posner, longtime Lubavitcher shliach in Tennessee, mentioned it in the course of a back and forth on Lubavitch messianism in Jewish Action magazine a few years ago (page three, first column, paragraph three). So it is known. Though how well known these days, I do not know. Perhaps Lubavitchers didn't talk about it much in recent times. Perhaps it fell out of favor. It wouldn't seem to fit in too well with those promoting the late Rebbe as Moshiach I bet. :)

Litvaks, Nit Chassidim, and Misnagdim: Various Terms for the non Chassidic

What do you call a non Chassid?

Some people use the term Litvak. However, that leaves something to be desired, as there are Chassidim that are of Litvak roots. Chassidic groups such as Karlin, Slonim, and Lubavitch, are of such background. And there are misnagdim that are of non Litvish background as well. On the other hand, some prefer it, as it sounds sort of neutral, non-threatening, and non confrontational. It just means that the person comes from Lita, where the standard form of Judaism was not Chassidic. Some people use Litvish instead of Litvak, Litvish meaning that they follow the way of Lita, even if not from there or that background.

The late Lubavitcher Rebbe, stated that there are no Misnagdim today, just ניט חסידים (non Chassidim, in Yiddish). What he meant with that claim was that some non Chassidim today don't really actively oppose Chassidism, or know why they are not part of it. They just know that that is not their background.

Although that is incorrect (Misnagdim still exist and they cannot be wished away, even if a Chassid would like to imagine that they don't exist), there is something to that.

The last term, Misnaged, clearly indicates that a person is opposed to Chassidism. It is more 'in your face' than the others.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sephardic Kabbalists (מקובלים) & the Tanya of Chabad-Lubavitch: On The Same Page?

I came across some very interesting things a few days ago online.

At the Kavannah blog there was a series of posts recently consisting of interviews with a Sephardic student of Kabbalah. In the second of the posts, the talmid relates how Rav Kaduri z"l sliced out the entire Tanya , along with sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, from the Chitas that he owned, after asking and obtaining permission from him to 'fix mistakes' in it.

The talmid goes on to inform us that great Sephardic mekubbalim (he names eight of them, including well known giants like the Ben Ish Chai, and Rav Kaduri, as well as other names not as well known to the general public) held that the Tanya contradicts the עץ חיים of the אר"י ז"ל (Rabbi Isaac Luria, the great, overwhelming master of Kabbalah from about five centuries ago). Also, great Sephardic mekubbalim instructed their students not to learn Chasidic sefarim!

Sometimes people assume that Sephardim and Chasidim are basically in agreement theologically. But the truth may be more complicated than that. Quite interesting.

Update: Learned from a comment at another blog that the matter is more complicated - see more here.