Tuesday, June 5, 2007

What is Chassidus?

To best answer the complex question of what is Chassidus? Let us turn to one of the earliest masters (3rd generation after the Baal Shem Tov) and see what he, himself answered. We will try and post a selection each week so please come back and see more...

This collection of customs was hand written by dictation of the Rebbe Reb Melech of Lyzhansk (Lizansk) by his son Rabbi Elazar. It was sent in a letter to one of the Rebbe's followers admonishing him for believing that righteousness and piety was achieved by reciting certain psalms and through certain shallow actions.

The Rebbe Reb Melech had his son write these customs to serve as an example of what a Jew should due to attain the true path of sincere service of Hashem. As opposed to the Tzeital Katan, Hanhagos HaAdam contains many customs that are not distinctly Hasidic in nature. They have been translated to serve as a guide and as a glimpse into what the Rebbe expected of his followers.

(Again we stress that not all concepts and customs here are meant for today's generation. A person who wishes to act upon and take the Rebbes advice is urged to consult with his personal Rabbi before doing so.)

Hanhagos HaAdam (The customs of Man) from Rebbe Elimelech of Lyzhansk

These are the things that man shall do and live by.

1. The primary responsibility is to learn Gemara and the commentary Rashi and the Tosafos (The Talmud with the medieval commentaries of Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki and the Tosafist commentaries). Each one should learn according to his understanding. Afterwords learn the Jewish law from the poskim - the codifiers, beginning with the section Orach Chaim from the Shulchan Aruch, the section on daily living found in Rabbi Yosef Karo's set table, the primary code of Jewish law.

You should pray to Hashem blessed is he to come to the realization of truth. This is because the sins of Adam's youth blind the eyes from seeing, even if you can learn well and teach others the law, you yourself may forget and not live by the truth fulfilling these precepts. Therefore you should feel great sorrow over your sins and seclude yourself in meditation (hisbodedus) early before dawn, which is a time that is beneficial to pray and mourn the exile of the Divine presence the Shechinah.

Cry many innumerable times over this and shed tears. You should also seclude yourself meditating on your sins during the daytime as well. Remember your sins, iniquities and transgressions as if they were large hills and mountains as if you never imagined how terrible they really were. Do this not once, not twice, not one hundred times until there is Divine mercy and Hashem has pity on you. Pray to Hashem that He should guide you on the correct path of life so that your life not be wasted. He will enlighten your eyes with illuminating light of the holy Torah and you will truly understand it in order to live and fulfill these precepts.

Translation from my upcoming Noam Elimelech in English soon to be published by Targum Press. Copyright by the translator.

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