Is Neo-Chassidus the Answer? Why Not Neo-Hisnagdus?

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72 Responses

  1. Jewish Observer says:

    This is like extolling the virtues of spinach over pie, the nutritional value of which was never in question; it is about getting the child to eat. This tone deafness, which demonstrates our being out of touch with their needs, is precisely why our children are gravitating away from hitnagdut toward tastier fare.

  2. Ben Bradley says:

    ‘We need not necessarily look to any movements in order to maximize our avodas Hashem.’

    That rather sums up the way the entire article misses the whole point. If all was fine and dandy with the spiritual health of klal yisrael then there would indeed be no reason specifically to emphasise the inner dimension. However, since all is not well, as R Gordimer acknowledges, you can restate the classic litvishe approach until you’re blue in the face but it’s not going to help. The world of YU and the Gush, not to mention the yeshiva world at large, has no shortage of people whose world is the world of R Soloveitchik and forebears, and who thrive with it. But the briefest of surveys of the broader Jewish world shows that just ain’t gonna do the job for many or most.

    “Why not neo-Hisnadgus?” R Gordimer asks. Because, of course, that’s just not what klal yisrael needs right now.

  3. David says:

    1. All these “key features” are ones which are also held by Chassidut. They are all fine and true, but don’t distinguish “hitnagdut” from “hasidut”.

    2. By all means, go ahead and see if this works. Each generation has its own challenges, and the fact that certain ideas are “true” don’t necessarily make them attractive to every generation. Torah im Derech Eretz was perfect for its time – but is it applicable to all times? And I’m not singling our Torah Im Derech Eretz specifically – the same can be said for all movements. The principles remain the same, but whether people can connect with differing streams of thought depends on the time and place. In other words: This isn’t a top-down movement, of some people who wanted to “revive” Hasidut: it’s bottom-up, of people who were searching for something and found it there. Let’s try to not force anyone into any boxes (including the neo-hasidut box).

  4. micha says:

    I hear in this post a One Size Fits All / Procrustean Bed approach. The world of the Lithuanian Yeshiva was an effective one, but it’s not the only approach to Torah G-d created. We have many different temperaments (“just as their faces differ, so do their dei’os”) and each is going to find his religious needs met in slightly different ways. For people in the YU world who find the easiest approach up the Har Hashem to be R’ JB Solvoeitchik’s flavor of the Lithuanian legacy, that path was already available in the YU and general Mod-O world. The only people who would be the subjects of a “phenomenon”, of the spread of a new approach, would be those for whom the ideals in this column are not effective.

    Personally, I am happy with the rise of neo-Chassidus. I wish YU would put in the same effort they demonstrated when finding a mashpiah to offer more alternatives for this highly nonconformist non-affiliating millenian generation: mussar ve’adim (they already have a senior mashgiah and 4 other mashgichim), and a Ben Ish Hai society, more of R’ Dovid Lishitz’s legacy… as large of a smorgasbord of hashkafos as the student population can support. All alongside the path Rabbis Revel and Soloveitchik blazed for RIETS.

    Every path has its strengths and its weaknesses. While R’ Gordimer outlines the Lithuanian approach’s strengths, it does come with a danger of spending so much time analyzing the bend of each branch in a lamdisher analysis of some obscure din, with only rare glimpses back at the full tree, never mind the forest. (R Shimon Shkop’s style of limmud is comparatively less prone to this than Brisk, but that’s a conversation of its own.) Neo-Chassidus carries the opposite weaknesses; you spend so much time trying to experience Hashem’s Presence, you can overlook the many steps it takes to make that experience more full and frequent; “There can be no sanctity without preparation.” Mussar, which tries to balance the need for advance work and that for focusing on the big picture of avodas Hashem, yir’as Hashem and ahavas Hashem (worship, are and love of HQBH) suffers from the danger of becoming so much about the self-work that the religion becomes a spiritual narcissism. Being aware of its problems is no reason to reject a path, it’s a reason to cautiously avoid it. After all, no approach is without its dangers. Which is part of why none should be seen as the best ideal for everyone.
    While I myself would be happier in that va’ad than among the neo-Chassidim, I applaud their nascent infrastructure.

  5. ben dov says:

    “We need not necessarily look to any movements in order to maximize our avodas Hashem. We need to look to our Mesorah, to our rebbeim and to ourselves,”

    Whose mesorah? Do you advocate hisnagdus because you think it’s right or because it’s “our” mesorah? There is more than one mesorah, including a chasidic mesorah.

  6. Bob Miller says:

    Misnagdim, and really committed Jews in general, should reflect on why Rav Yisrael Salanter’s Mussar movement was necessary at the time, what its successes and failures were as a movement, and how to carry its essential lessons forward in a matter suitable for today’s Jews and environment.

    The rise of both the Chassidic and Mussar movements came in part from a need to solve serious internal problems in Orthodox society. Have these problems been solved by other means?

  7. Yair Daar says:

    Although I am not a “neo-chassid,” I really don’t appreciate the presentation of this article. Please don’t criticize how others serve G-d to promote your own derech. This article could easily have been titled “The Merits of Litvish Philosophy,” and completely left out other ways of thinking. Not everything people do needs to be analyzed, criticized, deconstructed, and compared to other approaches. Sometimes it’s okay just to be happy for people who do find meaning in doing things differently. I think it’s a sad commentary if people feel the need to reject x in order to promote y.

    (The article did not criticize. It presented another approach and distinguished that approach. -AG)

  8. Binyomin Wolf says:

    Rabbi Gordimer,

    II very much appreciate much of what you write in this venue, but it appears that in this matter, you have a very superficial understanding of chassidus, apparently viewing it as primarily about hisorerus. Perhaps you are simply responding to the “movement” described in the Jewish Action article, rather than the actual chassidus people are studying. The Alter Rebbe writes in the title page of the Tanya that chassidus is the “derech arucha uketzara.” It’s essence is that there are no shortcuts to kirvas Hashem and it must be done “derech binyan.” Although this fact does not negate that there is a place for hisorerus within a larger derech avodah, chassidus taught by Rav Weinberger also is certainly avodah focused, rather than mere hisorerus.

    I recommend that you study more chassidus, particularly chassidus Chabad.

    Kol tuv,

    Binyomin Wolf

  9. Arnie Lustiger says:

    From the Rav’s 1976 Teshuva Drasha: “Proper preparation is a necessary condition for any encounter with holiness. As one example, in the three-day prelude to receiving the Torah, Moses warned the nation “Be ready for the third day; do not approach a woman” (Exodus 19:15). Similarly, Aaron had to submit to a seven-day preparation period prior to the dedication of the Tabernacle, and every Kohen Gadol subsequently went through a similar sequester prior to Yom Kippur. What is the analogy between Aaron’s preparation period prior to the Tabernacle dedication and Yom Kippur? Both involved an encounter with holiness. Holiness does not arrive suddenly; it comes only by the invitation inherent in the act of preparation.”

  10. joel rich says:

    In the whole paean to neo-chassidus in JA, the following demurral appears (almost out of place)”Not everyone is wholly enamored of neo-Chassidus. Rabbi Blau admits that the singing and dancing aspect of neo-Chassidus serves a need for people looking for ways to connect to Judaism in an immediate and emotional way, and allows young men not cut out for intensive study to find alternative outlets. But he worries that all this feel-good activity may be too easy a substitute for rigorous Torah study, especially among a generation with a low tolerance for delayed gratification.”

    I can’t help but wonder if MO is being hoisted on its own petard – consciously or unconsciously the focus on “objective” intellectual and material accomplishment is being met with an updated revolution similar to the one that greeted its mitnagdic predecessors 3 centuries ago. As ye reap, so ye shall sew? ( or kbolo kach polto?)

    KT

  11. calibentorah says:

    Is this article written tongue in cheek or are you serious? You have described to a tee ,the exact stone cold litvakniss that these kids are running away from.Please reread the very last paragraph of the JA article.These kids want their soup hot.

  12. Moshe shivisinik says:

    Someone great who is bringing hundreds of children back their Father once said “[The Mussar Movement]tells you what you could be… Chassidus tells you what you are.” I think it applies here.

  13. Shaya says:

    It is important to understand that many of the Litvish (a better term than misnagdim) rabbis of previous generations were very influenced by Kabbalah, and were more focused on spirituality than modern Litvishers, often so focused on Torah study alone, appreciate.

    Kabbalistic seforim were widely studied by Litvishers, and Litvish women davened from kabbalistically-influenced prayers in Yiddish written especially for them. It was not unheard of for Litvishers to engage in such “spiritual” practices as always imagining the letters of the four-letter-name of Hashem in front of their eyes. (See the recent biography of Rav Kook.) The Vilna Gaon emphasized the importance of having such great kavana in one’s daily prayer that one is moved to tears. (His commentary on Esther 8:3).

    The Chofetz Chaim himself prayed to Hashem in his own words for over an hour a day (a practice nowadays associated mainly with Breslovers), and stressed the importance of this practice for all Jews:

    “In summation, all the many calamities that come on us and that we are not saved from them is because we are not screaming and outpouring in prayer over them. If we would pray and would pour out before HaKadosh Baruch Hu, certainly our prayers and supplications would not return empty. And it’s not enough for a person to pray the shemonei esrei three times a day, rather a few times per day, a person needs to pour out prayers and supplications in solitude, in his house, from the depths of his heart. Because the three prayers (shemonei esrei) are already fixed in his mouth and he doesn’t take them to heart so much. But if a person would contemplate in solitude and make a cheshbon hanefesh on his personal situation, his great poverty and his many toils, and for all this to live on crusty bread and water, then he will pour out his heart like water in front of Hashem, yisborach, and the prayer will go out with deep kavana and with a broken heart and a lowly spirit. A prayer like this will certainly not return empty. And then when his soul is bitter on him, on his situation and his weak standing, and he drops supplications before HaKadosh Baruch Hu, he should also remember the great pain of Hashem yisborach, because he also, so to speak, does not have rest. In all our suffering He suffers…” (Chafetz Chaim – Likutei Amarim ch.11)

  14. calibentorah says:

    Is this article written tongue in cheek or are you serious? You have described to a tee ,the exact stone cold litvakniss that these kids are running away from.Please reread the very last paragraph of the JA article.These kids want their soup hot!

  15. Sholom says:

    “Inspiration flows in large measure from performing Hashem’s Will, and performance of His Will is always the starting point and primary goal.”

    The corollary of this statement appears to be that all of these neochassidim (truthfully including the early chassidim like the Baal Hatanya, who were themselves new adoptees of chassidus at some point) were not performing Hashem’s will prior to getting involved in chassidus–otherwise their preexisting adherence to Torah and mitzvos should have been sufficient to attain the necessary inspiration. I realize that baalei teshuvah constitute some of the ranks of the neochassidim, but this is not solely the case.

    I am also not seeing how engaging in hisbodedus (likely the original form of davening, and still a mitzvah), learning pnimiyus Hatorah (which is, after all Torah, and muttar to learn at least according to the Baal Hatanya and numerous others), and supplementing one’s davening with melody (not unique to chassidim anyway) fails to meet the Rav’s criteria of “performing Hashem’s Will.”

    Also regarding “independent thinking”: it seems that the value of this in the litvish chareidi world has been eroded over time (as is evident from the fallout related to R’ Nosson Slifkin’s books). Placing significant value in independent thinking, as far as I can see, was best achieved by rationalist medieval authorities, and survives (regrettably at times in a negative form) in the modern orthodox world. I don’t see this as a huge value with current litvish “misnagdim” particularly with the rising prominence of daas Torah in chareidi public discourse, which appears to expand and contract in scope depending on the particular proponent that one speaks to. Proponents of daas Torah in its strongest form actually seem to resemble, well, many chassidim.

  16. Bob Miller says:

    Correction: In my comment of December 11, 2014 at 8:25 am, I should have written “manner”, not “matter.

  17. Proud Litvak says:

    Major kudos to Rabbi Gordimer for his well articulated response to the problematic Jewish Action feature. Read it carefully, with some thought, and it may well grow on you.

    Seeing some of the comments above, however, it seems that they missed an important part of what he wrote. He calls for a return to the *core values* of ‘Hisnagdus’. What that means is that unfortunately, many, in the Modern Orthodox (and Litvish) worlds, have lost their way, and lost sight of the forest for the trees. They have lost sight (if they ever had it) of the Litvish/Misnagdic overall philosophy, confusing it with details and methods, such as ‘lomdus’ and ‘Brisker Torah’. Is is that which needs correction, rather than throwing out the whole derech and philosophy of ‘Hisnagdus’, which would be like throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water. We need some tweaking (even if it is on the major side), not wholesale trashing and discarding of a venerable derech. In the throwaway society we live in, where people throw away things instead of repairing them, I guess people want to throw away old derochim as well. However, just as you don’t, even nowadays, so quickly discard something of major value, such as a car or major appliance, so too, people should look here first as well to tweaking and repairing, rather than discarding their traditional religious approach overall.

    Also, a major problem here is that people are viewing the Litvish/Hisnagdus derech as being monolithic, black and white, monochromatic, boring. Actually it is quite varied. The Vilna Gaon was not a Brisker, nor was Rav Yitzchok Elchonon Spektor, whom RIETS is named after. Perhaps what needs to be done is to move away from a (perceived or actual) Brisker hegemony, and offer as well paths of the Vilna Gaon, Rav Yisroel Salanter, Rav Yitzchok Elchonon, and other non Brisker ways. YU/MO Litvish needs to diversify, and not put all its eggs in a Brisker basket. Let the different Litvish flavors shine! Litvish includes what Chasidim, classical and neo, call ‘penimiyus haTorah’ as well. Don’t believe the canard, peddled in the JA articles and elsewhere, that ‘inner Torah’ is exclusive to Chasidus. Torah, inner and outer, belongs to all Klal Yisroel, מורשה קהלת יעקב it is!

  18. joel rich says:

    In the whole paean to neo-chassidus in JA, the following demurral appears (almost out of place)”Not everyone is wholly enamored of neo-Chassidus. Rabbi Blau admits that the singing and dancing aspect of neo-Chassidus serves a need for people looking for ways to connect to Judaism in an immediate and emotional way, and allows young men not cut out for intensive study to find alternative outlets. But he worries that all this feel-good activity may be too easy a substitute for rigorous Torah study, especially among a generation with a low tolerance for delayed gratification.”

    I can’t help but wonder if MO is being hoisted on its own petard – consciously or unconsciously the focus on “objective” intellectual and material accomplishment is being met with an updated revolution similar to the one that greeted its mitnagdic predecessors 3 centuries ago. As ye reap, so ye shall sew? ( or kbolo kach polto?)

    KT

  19. Reb Yid says:

    I found the original article interesting, and Rabbi Gordimer’s response spot-on. In passing, though, I was wondering whether, in any Chassidic publication, there would be an analysis of any trend toward misnagdishe behavior among chassidim.

  20. Reb Yid says:

    Throughout the posts I hear things like “This tone deafness, which demonstrates our being out of touch with their needs, is precisely why our children are gravitating away from hitnagdut toward tastier fare.” and ““Why not neo-Hisnadgus?” R Gordimer asks. Because, of course, that’s just not what klal yisrael needs right now.”
    As if our approach to yiddishkeit ought to be determined by which is the most effective marketing strategy. Judaism is not one big kiruv project.

  21. Ben Waxman says:

    You think that this is an issue for only guys who haven’t immersed themselves in Torah?

    I know a rav in Bat Ayin who leads meditation seminars. They go out to a forest and think about things. The vast majority of participants are Gush guys, even guys in the kollel.

    More immersion in Baba Batra isn’t the issue.

  22. A. Gordimer says:

    I am well aware of the situation described in the critical comments, as well as the motivation, which I respect and appreciate.

    Yes, it is necessary to emphasize the ruach and neshama of Torah and not just the bones and muscles. I am all in favor of fervent tefillah, good, stirring and inspiring niggunim, and even some rikkudim. These are part of our religious experience and enable us to come close to Hashem and His Torah and to show our devotion.

    But that is the kicker. The musical and meta-emotional aspects of Judaism are *enablers* and *implements* that serve as the vehicles to cement commitment and inspire emunah – but they are only implements, only devices – they are not principals. When greater focus is placed on the tools than on the structure, we need to rethink the project.

    Torah and mitzvos, including the centrality of Torah study and focused performance of mitzvos, are the core, as all agree. The casualties are due to poor marketing, and are probably more importantly due to a complete religious sterility, more in some corners of Orthodoxy than in others.

    Yes, if davening is a dull, wholly uninspiring rush to the end of Aleinu, with the atmosphere of an operating room or the DMV, and with no realization that one stands before the Creator and converses with Him, there are sure to be many casualties. But that is because of the terribly-packaged product. When davening is inculcated as one of the most amazing experiences known to us, as we stand before the Creator and converse with Him in a private audience without distractions, it suddenly becomes totally different. And so too for all parts of our avodah.

  23. Shades of Gray says:

    “Is Neo-Chassidus the Answer? Why Not Neo-Hisnagdus?”

    It doesn’t have to be either or. R. Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz exposed his talmidim to Chasidus but most did not become Chasidim. Michtav Meliyahu quotes from Chassidic sources but it’s not a Chasidishe sefer. Modern Orthodoxy can also borrow from these models of synthesis and eclecticism(In another sense, R. Lamm has written about models of MO based on Hasidic philosophy).

    “ Farbrengens, hisbodedus, Carlebach-style davening, and soul-touching stories and teachings of the Chassidic masters are among the prominent features of this old-new movement…”

    I think the correct stress on Carlebach-style davening depends on the person. A shul in Brooklyn recently made a Carlebach Shabbos. When the Rav announced the zemanim Friday night, he mentioned that all tefilos, meals, Oneg and Melava Malka, would be Carlebach-style. He then quipped that the Daf Yomi before Shachris will also be b’nussach Carlbach.

    “In other words, being inspired is not the starting point, but is the result.”

    The point about the role of inspiration was also discussed in a letter in Summer 2012, Klal Perspectives:

    “Going to a shabbaton and being uplifted by the experience is very nice, but it’s fleeting…The end result of the kiruv oriented approach is that after 12 years of yeshiva education, and many more years of hearing inspirational speakers, people are left with very little content. No wonder they feel empty.

    Incidentally, this approach has ramifications for many areas in life. When a couple expects to be inspired in marriage all the time…well, we see what the end result often is. Contrast that with the approach that both partners understand that they are in it for the long haul, for better or for worse. That’s a marriage based on commitment, and it looks completely different.”

  24. Y. Ben-David says:

    Very nice piece. I got a lot out of it.
    First of all, I heard that someone once complained to Rav Amital of Yeshivat HaGush something to the effect that he was disappointed that he didn’t get a spiritual thrill out of tefillah or something like that. The Rav responded “why did you expect to?”. The essence of being a Jew tuned in to the Torah is to keep soldiering on, day after day, and keep building on what you have learned or experience and not to expect thrills, or excitement, or other emotional lifts. Frankly, it is not necessarily fun to get up early every day and go to tefillah, it is often more desireable to stay in bed or read comic books or something like that. I never taught my kids that it is “fun” to be religiously observant. We can hope that it will be but we don’t expect it. We are essentially soldiers in the Torah’s army, doing our duty because as Jews, we are members of the nation of Am Israel and the Torah is our Constitution.

    I also apprecitated Rav Gordimer’s statement that even on a simple level,a Jew can get a lot out of Torah. As someone who attends the Daf Yomi but is not capable of studying Talmud on my own without Shottenstein or Rav Stensaltz’s help, I find this view quite encouraging….that even with a “mitnagish” mentality one does not need to be able to study Talmud on the level of a major talmid hacham to get something out of it. For me, a “spiritual experience” occurs when I encounter a statement in Hazal or a commentator or in the TANACH which illuminates the nature of man, his society or the world at large. Actually, the TANACH is very rich in these pearls of wisdom and it is unfortunate that this was not emphasized for so many generations. I am grateful to the “New TANACH studies” and people like Rav Elchanan Samet, Rav Yaakov Medan, Rav Yoel Bin-Nun, Rav Mordechai Breuer and many others who have greatly enriched our study of G-d’s message in the TANACH and other sources.

  25. yehudis says:

    I believe that I was the only woman profiled in the piece in Jewish Action, and I found it very interesting that although the emphasis in my interview was on what we learn, how we learn and why we learn, the actual piece emphasized trips to Uman (which I only do about twice a year), and that information really came from a Tablet piece that came out last year. Ostensibly, I was chosen for the piece because I’m a chassidic woman teaching chassidic texts to a predominantly (but not exclusively) MO crowd. I really didn’t realize we were a movement–I thought we were just learning and trying to change and grow.
    I really can’t say what neo-chassidus is about within the world of MO males; here in Yerushalayim, my ladies are learning chassidus and many other subjects (Iyun Rashi, Nach, Ein Yaakov, Jewish History) so that we can draw closer to Hakadosh Boruch Hu while navigating our complex lives. My students range from pants to shvartze tichelach–and there’s something profoundly satisfying about all of us drinking from the same well. Hopefully, it comes across with a chassidshe bren. Although, anyone who comes to a class and knows Yavne-style recognizes that I was trained in Cleveland. So maybe what we’re doing is actually shpitz Litvish?

  26. Yair Daar says:

    “The article did not criticize. It presented another approach and distinguished that approach. – AG”

    I will just cite a few examples:

    “”Is Neo-Chassidus the Answer? Why Not Neo-Hisnagdus?” (Your title presents a choice as one being the answer or the other. This clearly sets a goal of promoting one way of doing things AS OPPOSED TO another. Could have done without that)

    “Hisnagdus (for lack of a better, more positive term)” (Really? There is a major problem if the BEST term for your philosophy literally means “Opposing.”)

    “While this new trend raises some serious questions, I do not want to get into that here” (That is exactly what you do, just indirectly.)

    “One’s personal chumros and minhagim should thus be private, reflective of his unique relationship with Hashem. By keeping one’s chumros and minhagim private, his personal connection with Hashem remains intimate and unique.” (This is not germane to “Hisnagdus” or any specific version of Judaism. Seems like you are taking a pot-shot at peyos, beards, and public Jewish fun.)

    “Not drawing attention and not being too loud, but being humble, pleasant and dignified mark the way of the Jew in the company of others. Being distinctively Jewish is praiseworthy, but the private, inward posture of the Jew’s spiritual identity governs his public comportment.” (Same as the last.)

    “No intermediary or inspirational group gathering is needed for the Jew to reach Hashem and commune with Him.” (Same as before; your philosophy does not have a monopoly on connecting to Hashem privately. Besides the fact that things like Tefillah, b’tzibbur, Beis Medrash culture, o chevrusa o misusa, etc.. etc.., which clearly extol the benefits of ALSO connecting through joining with others, are staples of Litvish culture.)

    “”The concept of אין קדושה בלי הכנה also imbues a genuine sense of humility. When one recognizes that reaching a spiritual apex can only be the product of serious and methodical toil, he will not delude himself and he will experience true and accurate self-realization in his Avodas Hashem.” (Are you assuming that those who do things differently think that reaching “spiritual heights” is quick and easy? If not, then what is the point here? Maybe there are other types of “methodical toil” other than those involving constant Gemara study.)

    “We need not necessarily look to any movements in order to maximize our avodas Hashem.” (no commentary necessary).

    It seems that a number of the idiosyncrasies mentioned here are not specific to your way of thinking, but instead things you (sometimes incorrectly) perceived as lacking in Neo-Chassidus. This, to me (and many other readers) implies that your only goal is to promote your way at the expense of one very-specific other.

    Again, I’m not sure why you felt the need to contrast your way with the way of others. It is not necessary. If you have a way of doing things, great. Promote it on its own. If you think that you need context to write such an article, and the Neo-Chassidus article provided that context, then I’d say it’s better not to the write the article than write it the way you did. And if you didn’t realize beforehand how your words here would be interpreted, I suggest finding some new people to read through your writing before publishing.

    (The cases you cite do not amount to an attack on (Neo or “Standard”) Chassidus. The choice of title is to offer an alternative – not to knock down Chassidus. So too for the rest. These are distinguishing points and highlights, not barbs against Chassidus. -AG)

  27. Ben Bradley says:

    @Reb Yid – ‘Judaism is not one big kiruv project.’
    Surely Judaism is precisely that, assuming that kiruv means coming ever closer to hashem/torah. What else does the word kiruv mean? And what else is Judaism about?
    I realise you mean that the ra-ra, whoppee nature of outreach is not core to Judaism, but kiruv, well at it’s basic meaning it’s certainly core.
    The only question is how the way people can be encouraged to maintain the lifelong journey upwards in shemiras hamitvos with all that entails. It’s not a matter of a marketing, it’s a question of the right derech for the individual, and people’s need for particular drachim tends to come in historical phases. Just take a look around if you want to see the devastating effects of forcing one approach to life.

  28. shaya says:

    Good comments, Proud Litvak, Shades of Grey and Yehudis!

    There are definitely people who daven nusach Ashkenaz, have a Yeshivish Rav, and yet selectively study chassidus as well. This has a long history — Rav Kook was Yeshivish and yet studied chassidus extensively. The Stiepler Gaon was somewhere in between a Litvak and a Chassid (he studied Likutei Moharan daily, for example). R’ Dessler also studied and cited Rebbe Nachman’s works in his own writings.

    The fact is, there is a huge world of spiritual and ethical literature available to Jews, from Duties of the Heart to Nefesh haChayim to the Bilvavi. Everyone should try studying these books, to see if something speaks to you, and benefits your Avodas Hashem. You never know if you are missing something until you try. All the seforim that have been written are worthwhile and have a purpose. Why wouldn’t one want to explore all the rooms of the great palace of Torah?

  29. George says:

    A massive yasher Koach to RAG for once again being lochem milchomos Hashem and showing the sheker of all those whose path deviates from the true mesorah. No doubt this hisorerus will save many holy neshamos from mokeish.

  30. Steve Brizel says:

    Once again, R Gordimer hits the proverbial nail on the head-there are no shortcuts to kedusha-Kevias Itim Latorah together with a strong commitment to Shemiras HaMitzvos, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim are the key-but we have to remember “Ki Ner Mitzvah vTorah Ohr. A candle can be extinguished but a realization that the Torah and its study are a paramount obligation for men has to be inculcated, first at home, and then on a communal basis. Take a look at Emunah UBitachon by the CI and the Nefesh HaChaim, especially Shaar Daled for many of the mkoros of R Gordimer’s observations.

  31. ben dov says:

    “The musical and meta-emotional aspects of Judaism are *enablers* and *implements*… they are not principals.”

    You are not discussing chasidus but the abuse of chasidus. By that logic we would have to dismiss modern orthodoxy as a desire for ease and cultural assimilation. We would have to dismiss Litvishism as a worship of kolel and intellectual acrobatics. Religious Zionism is an obsession with power and statehood.

    If we judge a derech by its worst practitioners, no derech passes the test.

    With thousands of jaded or barely observant Orthodox college students, we criticize those attracted to seforim kedoshim and Rav Moshe Weinberger. Isn’t it wonderful we have our priorities straight!

  32. tzippi says:

    Rabbi Gordimer, you really can’t come up with something better than Neo-Hisnagdus? How about Neo-Mussar?
    And forgive me for the possible oversight, Cross-Currents is not a site I should go on erev Shabbos before work, but did I miss something or did you not mention the joy, not just the inspiration, that comes from fully actualizing your bullet points? Yes, for the Litvak “simcha gedola lihyos b’mitzvah” might at times come more readily that “mitzvah gedola lihyos b’mitzvah.” But the Torah-oriented Jew knows what happens when “lo avadta as Hashem Elokecha” b’simcha. We can have our cake and eat it too 😉

  33. George says:

    Ben Dov

    You are spouting relativistic feel-good “live and let live.” Let’s just sit I’m a circle singing kumbayah all get along. that is not yahudus. It’s PC sheker.

  34. tzippi says:

    I just noticed that I wrote “mitzvah gedola lihy’s b’mitzvah.” Should be “b’simcha.” Guess my roots are showing.

  35. Jewish Observer says:

    “Litvish (a better term than misnagdim) ”

    – I know why you say this but it isn’t better in all regards. Misnagdim allows for all the non Litvish non chasidim; e.g. Russian, Polish, German, Latvian, Hungarian, etc. etc.

  36. shaya says:

    Tzippi: It’s interesting that the teaching “It is a great mitzvah always to be happy” is associated with Rebbe Nachman, but there’s a Misnaged version too: as the Kitzur says (29:2), very similarly, “One should always be happy.” (Jewish Observer, you apparently have a point: I had to use the term misnaged here because R’ Ganzfried was Hungarian!)

  37. ben dov says:

    George, the “Ben Dov” you oppose, I also oppose. Your words have nothing to do with what I believe and wrote.

  38. jblogreviewer says:

    @ Yair Daar,

    Not sure I understand your issue with the article. Neo-Chassidus promotes a “way of serving God” that does not fit with R’ Gordimer’s understanding of Torah. Would you have an issue if he criticized Reform or Conservative Judaism? I’m happy to hear from Neo-Chassidim who want to defend their path, but I’m not sure why this discussion is off limits.

  39. Steve Brizel says:

    More fundamentally, I question whether MO, as defined by R Lamm can produce Tzadikim, Talmidei Chachamim, Bnei and Bnos Torah, except as exceptions to the rule of the general level of observance within the MO world, if Neo Chasidus, as opposed to Neo Misnagdus, becomes more au courant within MO.

  40. Proud Litvak says:

    A recurring complaint by the neo Hasidic advocates seems to be that Misnagdic learning is not individualized, and forces people into doing something they don’t enjoy. While it is true that that happens sometimes, too often, it is often an institutional issue. A Yeshiva picks a certain masechta to learn, for example, and students are expected to follow.

    The true Torah, and Litvish-Misnagdic way however is, as the gemara teaches in Maseches Avoda Zara, that individual interests, tastes, and desires need to be respected and worked along with, rather than against, for success in learning Torah.

    The Chofetz Chaim, a real Litvak, taught that if someone is learning something and he is not enjoying it, he should switch to a different kind of limud, which appeals to him. That could be Nach, Bekius, Hashkafah, Eyn Yaakov, etc. The idea that Litvaks hold that one must only learn gemara beiyun all the time, is sheker, absolutely false, incorrect, and libelous.

  41. Shmuel says:

    The article defines the below items as key features of “Hisnagdus”: Torah Above All, A Private Relationship with Hashem, A Direct Relationship with Hashem, Independent Thinking. The article raises many questions. Does the author imply that there is any less Torah or Chashivus Hatora by Chassidim? I have spent years in Ponenez Yeshiva and other litvishe Yeshivoth and some of the best students were Chasidim – indeed some of the big Rebbes both in Israel and the US are alumni of these Yeshivoth. Does a private and direct relationship with Hashem exclude the Chassid-Rebbe relationship? How does he then relate to the current Rosh Hajeshiva/Gadol – Talmid relationship which is accepted in the litvishe circles. The whole attitude of this article is very regretful as its seems to fall back on clichéd stereotypes and stirs up a polarization which I hoped had been buried long ago, it really has no place in this forum.

  42. Yair Daar says:

    @jblogreviewer,

    I don’t think the topic itself is off-limits, but I do take issue with the presentation. Had the author stuck to promoting his philosophy on its own merits, I would have been fine. However, from title to conclusion, the article presents in an us-versus-them manner, imoplying that there is a competition of sorts for title of #1 Hashkafa. In light of an article that presented a way that many God-Fearing, Halakha-abiding individuals find meaningful, it is even worse. Couldn’t R’ Gordimer just been happy that people are finding meaning in derech other than his? Why so defensive, unless there is a competition that is in danger of being lost. Is neo-chassidus really a threat to all serious Torah learning?

    You can look at the examples I cited earlier if you’d like to see proof. To me the most egregious part is the hashkafic hijacking. R Gordimer specifically describes his Hashkafa as having certain characteristics that are clearly present in Hashkafot other than his. Conveniently, many of these characteristics could be claimed to be missing in neo-chassidus. This is all clearly meant to say “here’s where we have it right and they have it wrong (although the author didn’t say so explicitly). To paraphrase Shmuel’s comment above, I find this entire article regretful.l

    (Yair and Shmuel: I think you are being overly sensitive. My article had not one negative statement. Please keep to the hashkafa of your choice, but also respect that others have their own hashkafos, which may both disagree and overlap with yours. I do not take offense when Neo-Chassidic adherents tell me that Chassidus offers the Inner Light of Torah – as if those of us who are not Chassidim are bereft of this light. I simply read their words, decide whether I agree or disagree, and I look to my own hashkafa without taking personal insult. This is not a war, no one is throwing punches, and please respect that one can distinguish his hashkafa without having to be perceived as a basher. -AG)

  43. Jacob Suslovich says:

    The following passage in the article in the Jewish Observer article about Neo-Chassidus I think sums up the objection of Rabbi Gordimer.

    “there has been an increased emphasis on the question, ‘What does religion do for me?’”

    Of course what Judaism does for me is going to be a factor, even a major factor, in helping me overcome temptations and challenges and to do what I am supposed to do. But what it does for me is not supposed to be the criteria by which I decide what to do. The criteria is supposed to be what does God want me to do, regardless of how spiritual it makes me feel.

  44. Jewish Observer says:

    “The Chofetz Chaim, a real Litvak, …”

    – simply not the case. Radin is in Belarus, not Lithuania. The topology is different, the culture was different, the economy was different. The Ponivezher Rav was a real Litvak

  45. Mordechai says:

    Shmuel: “I have spent years in Ponenez Yeshiva and other litvishe Yeshivoth and some of the best students were Chasidim – indeed some of the big Rebbes both in Israel and the US are alumni of these Yeshivoth.”

    One wonders why they were in Litvish yeshivos if they had all they needed already in the background they grew up with.

    There are many people, including great gedolim, over the years, from Chasidic backgrounds who have joined the Litvish world, some of them even being descendants of well known Chasidic Rebbes. Here are a few recent prominent examples.

    The Steipler Gaon. Rabbi Noach Weinberg. Rav Yaakov Weinberg. Rav Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman. Rav Binyamin Paler. Rav Shlomo Brevda.

    If you would base everything on pieces like the Jewish Action feature, you might think that they were a bunch of fools for going from Chasidish to Litvish. Obviously, real life is more complex than fanciful magazine articles.

  46. Ohad says:

    There are different flavors of neo-hasidut in Israel: more out-there versions like Bat Ayin, R. Ginzburg, more conventional versions like R. Steinsaltz, hardal versions like R. Tau, intellectual versions like R. Shagar and his students. Some of these could find a place in RIETS but others probably could not.

    I would like to see R. Gordimer address the following question: is their a place at the MO table for hasidic theology and avoda as articulated in the writings of the earlier hasidish rebbes?

    To make the question more concrete: is the approach to tshuva described in Likutei Moharan 6 something that can be taught in an MO institution – despite the fact that it differs fundamentally from the Rambam/Rov approach we are so familiar with?

  47. Yair Daar says:

    R’ Gordimer,

    Of course I am fine with people disagreeing, and I definitely don’t equate disagreeing with bashing. But if you could directly address these points, I’d appreciate it:

    a) Did you include specific objections to Neo-Chassidus in this article? (even thought you never said so outright)
    b) If the answer to (a) is “yes,” why did you feel the need to include these objections in the article? Why did you feel the need to write this article at all?
    c) If the answer to (b) is “b/c in light of the Jewish Action article I wanted to show the beauty of Litvish philosophy,” why include objections to the other? You can easily promote one way of doing thing without comparing, don’t you agree?

    As you said you can “simply read their words, decide whether I agree or disagree, and I look to my own hashkafa without taking personal insult.” Great; I am all for that. But that doesn’t always warrant an article. Sometimes it’s okay to let someone else have the “limelight” for a few minutes. To paraphrase Kohelet, there is an עת לבלוג and an עת לשתוק.

    (Yair: No, my article did not state objections, just plusses and distinctions of the Litvish approach. I feel it is important for people to be aware that although the Neo-Chassidic approach is being portrayed as very attractive, there is another approach, with which most people are probably already affiliated, yet they may not understand its comprehensive underpinnings as a very potent derech in avodas Hashem. My article sought to bring out and elucidate the profundity of this derech. -AG)

  48. Shmuel says:

    RAG: Sorry I respectfully disagree: To claim that all of the above mentioned features define the “litvishe” Mesorah and Hashkafa in an article where you contrast your Mesorah with the Chasidish Mesorah implies that Chasisdim have a different Hashkafa to some of the most basic tenants of Yahadus. This I feel to be deeply offensive to Chasidim. Your otherwise excellent article has definitively a point claiming that other approaches are as valid to reintroduce vitality “into perceived doldrums of Modern Orthodoxy”.
    At a time when the real battle is between us and the secular/reform and other manifestations of heterodoxy why do we need to rehash old schisms?
    Mordechai: Don’t get your point. I have never claimed that the the chasidishe Yeshivoth were the same calibre as Ponevesh which at the time (30 years ago) had three of the greatest Maggidei shiurim and an elite chaburah. (In the immediate crowd always taking with Rav Schach was a Gerer Avreich who Rav Schach fondly called “my Gerer”.) I take offence with the perception that the values of chashivus Hatorah are any less in the Chasiddish world. By the way how do you understand that Horav Leibel Eiger, Reb Zodok, the Yismach Moishe and in more recent Horav Aharon Cohen from Chevron all from misnagdische background were attracted to Chasidus. Some people will appreciate different aspects/flavours in Yahadus this does not prove or disprove any Derech.

  49. Jewish Observer says:

    they may not understand its comprehensive underpinnings as a very potent derech in avodas Hashem. My article sought to bring out and elucidate the profundity of this derech”

    – kids are searching for chasidus because they don’t understand hitnagdut’s profundity?

  50. Yair Daar says:

    Even if you did not intend to state objections, they are implied by many of the things you wrote (see my examples above). I am not partial to either viewpoint, so this is not an example of me being overly-sensitive because it relates to me. If I, and many others (based on other comments and people I have spoken to who read this) find this article criticizing and badly timed (even if that wasn’t your intention), I suggest having someone you trust look it over and give you feedback. I would also suggest doing so for future articles.

  51. E. Lebowicz says:

    I am cutting and pasting what I’d written in response to the Jewish Action article:

    Rabbi Blau…worries that all this feel-good activity may be too easy a substitute
    for rigorous Torah study, especially among a generation with a low
    tolerance for delayed gratification. “I represent, to a degree, a more
    rationalist tradition,” he says. “When I was in yeshivah, the ‘best’
    students were those who were either the smartest or most willing to
    persist for long hours in the beit midrash. How do you judge a ‘top’ student of neo-Chassidus? It’s impossible to know at this point if this trend will produce talmidei chachamim.”
    But that’s exactly the point.The yeshivish tendency to put the greatest emphasis on the “best” boys has contributed to the trends of “doing by rote” frumkeit at best, and off the derech at worst. The Baal Shem Tov had exactly this concern, seeing Jews in earlier times feeling disenfranchised and increasingly less connected. His stress was on each Jew feeling that he counted to HKBH just as much as the talmid chacham.

    The boys in the classroom are still sitting in their YU classrooms. They are, as stated by Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, getting hashgafic guidance from him, with the desired result of those students getting a balanced approach. I listened to a brief mussar shiur by YU rabbi Chaim Weinstein on Torah Anytime addressing this issue. While he endorses people being able to have the opportunity to engage with HKBH in any way possible, he also warned against emphasis on the chitzonius without guidance. As he said, anyone can grow payos because to do that you have to do absolutely nothing. Without meaning any disrespect, the same could be said about growing beards, and hamsters (l’havdil elef havdolos) can have lots of children. With assuming chumros must come investigation, what responsibilities comes with my involvement with the outer trappings of what I’ve taken on.

    I once heard a joke where a baal tshuvah, after doing his prerequisite stint in a baal tshuva in eretz yisroel was urged on to a more mainstream yeshiva. After a while the baal teshuva went to his rosh yeshiva and said: “Rebbe I don’t get it. This is a more advanced yeshiva, yet I don’t hear anything about Hashem here.” To which the rosh yeshiva replied: “Oh, that stuff is for baalei teshuvah. Here you’re getting the real stuff.” We need to reach all our talmidim and talmidot, not just the future talmidei chachamim. Let’s give this approach a chance, and hope all will get the proper hadrachah.

  52. Ari Heitner says:

    Rabbi Gordimer,

    Your list of points is well taken and would most probably appeal to the typical 30-year-old avreich here in the GRA shul in Ramat Bet Shemesh. But how many 16-year-olds will it appeal to? How many 18-year-olds?

    I’ve been hosting a casual series of farbrengens for boys from a local American post-high-school yeshiva; they’re eating it up. I hope to take my 7-year-old son to the next Biala chassunah in Yerushalayim. Of course I know for myself that sitting and learning is (like the Tanya says) a higher level of dveikus; but we can’t expect everyone to connect with that at least initially. The sense of grandeur and awe of hundreds of people joining for a moment of kedusha, the pure חיות of a group singing with all their energy, are much easier points of connection.

    As R’Mordechai Dolinsky – talmid muvhak of R’Avigdor Miller, former mashgiach of Torah Ore, and a pure mussar personality if there ever was one – says, “Today, people need a geshmack kumzits.”

    If our Litvishness cannot understand that, we have a problem.

  53. Proud Litvak says:

    Jewish Observer posted above

    ““The Chofetz Chaim, a real Litvak, …”

    – simply not the case. Radin is in Belarus, not Lithuania. The topology is different, the culture was different, the economy was different. The Ponivezher Rav was a real Litvak”

    So the Mirrer Yeshiva in Europe was not in Lita then? Rav Aharon Kotler’s yeshivas in Kletzk and Slutzk were not either? Nor R. Elchonon Wasserman’s in Baranovich?

    Your point about Radin being in a different area than Ponevezh is correct, but for Jewish purposes, both are considered Lita. If you look at an old selichos keminhag Lita you will see the words Raysen veZamut, referring to different regions of Lita. The area where Ponevezh, Telshe, Kovno, Slabodka, and so on, was Zamut, where modern Lithuania is. The Raysen part of Lita is where Mir, Radin, Baranovich, Minsk, etc. were. The two areas roughly correspond with the present day states of Lithuania and Belarus respectively. They are both considered Lita.

    In the past, Lithuania was a large empire. Now it is only a shadow of what it was then. Jews, with a long memory and sense of history, know that the world was not created in the last hundred years, and that our history in that part of the world goes back a very long time.

    Rabbi Berel Wein relates that after WWI, negotiations took place re what should be the boundaries of the new states being born then, and that the negotiator for Lithuania asked for his state to get a large area, corresponding to what Jews considered Lita, which was much larger than he was going to get otherwise. He didn’t succeed, but the point is made, that Lita is a lot more than the modern small state called Lithuania.

  54. Proud Litvak says:

    Neo-Chasidus in an American Yeshiva is not new.

    Way back in the 1930’s there was a neo-Chasidus movement in another major American Yeshiva, that one in Brooklyn, by the name of Torah Vodaath. A group of students there adopted Chasidic practices under the influence of R. Levine, a Rav in the Bronx, referred to as the Malach (angel), who the menahel of the Yeshiva, R. Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, had sent them to study with. His followers were called malochim.

    When it led to problems, R. Mendlowitz, asked a sheila of a Rav in the area, and was given the psak that he may expel a student that is causing disruption in the Yeshiva. The group was thrown out of the Yeshiva, but survived as a small group in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, where it continues to this day. The responsum from the Rav, R. Yehoshua Baumol, to R. Mendlowitz can be seen in Teshuvos Emek Halacha 2:28.

    History often repeats itself. There seem to be definite parallels between the current YU situation and YTV neo-Chasidus in the 1930’s. At that time Torah Vodaath was a lot more modern than it is now, in case you are wondering.

  55. Yossie Nemes says:

    As all of Rabbi Gordimer’s articles, this one is definitely thought provoking.

    Some observations 1) your first point that “Inspiration flows in large measure from performing Hashem’s Will, and performance of His Will is always the starting point and primary goal” is a major theme of the book of Tanya (see end of Chapter four among many.) It was the success of this book the Tanya that landed the Rav in jail…

    2) The ultimate spiritual experience is Olam Haba or Gan Eden and though it is part of Torah and in fact principle # 11 of the Yud Gimmel Ikkarim, still, it should not be the primary motivation of a mature Servant of Hashem, as the Rambam elaborates in the last chapters of Hilchos Teshuvah. My BIASED perception is that in Mussar yeshivos and in Litvishe Yeshivos, there is s pre-occupation with Olam haba, an emphasis on the Yafa Shaa Achas Koras Ruach of Olam Haba… While in Chabad Yeshivos the emphasis is on the ultimate connection being here and now, through Torah and mitzvos i.e. the Yafa Shaa Achas Teshuva and massim tovim… I am open for people to set me straight on this perception.

    3) The most interesting part of the article, for me at least, was the part about independent and creative thinking and not just relying on the tzadik. In Chabad literature, and at Farbrengens, this is a very important point of discussion, V’od Chazon L’moied.

    Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

  56. Proud Litvak says:

    Yair Daar writes “why include objections to the other? You can easily promote one way of doing thing without comparing, don’t you agree?”

    Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. The Jewish Action article(s) puts down the non Hasidic way over and over. At the end of it, Rabbi Weinberger compares the non Hasidic way to cold soup. Maybe Mr. Daar should pose those questions to Rabbi Weinberger and the others who do so there?

  57. A yid says:

    To sum up. The one side says “hey this is effective!” the other side responds “hey this has nothing to do with our religion.” If anyone can explain what is present in any if the neo chassidic practices that is not also present in islam or christianity I would be interested to hear.

  58. Yair Daar says:

    Proud Litvak,

    What you said is a fair criticism of what was found in the original Jewish Action article. I am personally not Neo-Hasidic, nor have I publicly criticized Litvish culture in any way, so the pot-kettle analogy doesn’t apply to me personally. I think that both sides should refrain from putting down one derech to promote theirs.

  59. Shades of Gray says:

    “The responsum from the Rav, R. Yehoshua Baumol, to R. Mendlowitz can be seen in Teshuvos Emek Halacha 2:28. History often repeats itself. There seem to be definite parallels between the current YU situation and YTV neo-Chasidus in the 1930’s…”

    Interestingly, R. Norman Lamm’s grandfather was R. Baumol and he is quoted in Emek Halacha asking questions to his grandfather.

    The situation in YTV with the Malochim was very different than in YU today, as the Malochim disrupted the yeshiva. To the contrary, I don’t see why YU can’t benefit from R. Mendlowitz’s approach of including Chasidus the way he did it in Torah Vodaas.

  60. sarah shapiro says:

    I loved coming upon this article today, and find it strengthening, having just returned from a Shabbos in ancient Sfas, where I was lifted easily aloft, instantaneously, as if without effort, like a winged thing on currents of holiness. The candlelit shuls, and dovening unhinged from earth, and visions all around of distant Heaven above, utterly close at hand, and by the rain and fog and mountains.

    Arriving back home last night in Ir Ha Kodesh, Yerushalyim, which is where I lead my daily life, I had a bumpy landing, as if I had stepped off one of those moving sidewalks at the airport, my feet surprised by what felt like the uninspiring, un-gliding floor. T was having a hard time this morning, re-orienting myself to the daily labor, accepting that I have to start off, yet again, step after mundane step, as on thousands of other mornings, at the foot of the mountain. Perhaps a sudden air-current will lift me to an occasional soaring now and then. As is the case with most of the religiously observant Jews with whom I’m acquainted, awareness of the Divine origin of this world is sometimes an unanticipated gift of perception, granted free of charge, and usually earned with the coin of habitual, conscious effort, treading carefully.

    At the risk of embarrassing myself by stupidly, pompously reiterating the obvious and the self-evident–nothing new to the readers of this site…something which has already been pointed out by countless Jews on countless occasions through the centuries…I’ll foolishly mention what seems here to bear mentioning anyway:

    Inspiration and action are two aspects of being human, to be developed in each of us in different proportions and ways, at different times, according to the G-d given uniqueness of our individual personalities and circumstances. Each of us, in the privacy of our thinking mind and feeling heart, must develop our own unique blend of spiritual freedom and learned obedience to Divine Will.

  61. Hamtakas Hadinim says:

    What’s “neo” about this Hisnaguds?

  62. Chana Kronick says:

    I don’t know enough about ChaGaS chassidus to know whether Rabbi Gordimer’s perception applies there, but it is not correct with respect to ChaBaD chassidus, as a well-known story about Reb Nissan Nemanow zt”l, the famous mashpia and Rosh Yeshiva of Tomchei Tmimim in Brunoy, illustrates: A bochur came to him at Sukkos time complaining that he doesn’t perceive any illumination in the sukkah. Reb Nissan asked him “How did you prepare for Sukkos? Did you learn mesechta Sukkah? Shulchan Aruch Halachos of Sukkah? Ateres Rosh on the Sukkah? The maamorim of our Rebbeim on the Sukkah?” To each question the bochur answered no. Reb Nissan said, “You can’t just fly into the sukkah from the cold and expect to feel any different! You have to prepare!” [Quotes approximate, obviously I wasn’t there.]

  63. Ari Heitner says:

    אנטשולדיק. The students who left Torah Vodaath for the Malach were, in the end, attaching themselves to something far outside the mainstream of yeshivish thought. Not so Torah Vodaath itself, where many talmidim (including a number of my Rebbeim and chaverim) drew very close to R’Wolfson and (l’havdil) the Klausenburger and an understanding and depth in chassidus that was and is very much compatible with yeshivish hashkofa.

    In a parellel, every one of my rebbeim in Yerushalayim is a talmid of some combination of R’Yitzchok Hutner, (l’havdil) R’Yonason David, and R’Moshe Shapira, which didn’t prevent them from being talmidim of R’Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, R’Chaim Shmulevitz, R’Shlomo Wolbe, and R’Shlomo Brevda.

    Maybe the distance between being a serious student of chassidus and a serious student of mussar (or for that matter a serious Granik) is not so great.

  64. Bob Miller says:

    This may only be my reaction, but:

    Not long after the petira of HaRav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik ZT”L of YU, I attended a gathering in Metro Detroit where they broadcast hespeidim being said at YU.

    One speaker in particular seemed to be straining to sound objective, academic, and unemotional. This seemed oddly out of place in this context, and made me wonder if the YU ethos included pushing the valid emotional content of Judaism as far away as possible.

    If this was so, Rav Weinberger’s efforts at YU can be seen as a corrective to restore a proper balance.

    Also, note that The JA article mentioned various classic Chassidic texts being studied by “neo-chassidim”. These have real depth and are not at all easy to grasp, and certainly those who explore them are not just out to emote and party!

  65. aa says:

    After reading Rabbi gordimers definition of hisnagdus, I think everyone should definitely learn chassidus! If your a litvak, learning chassidus will definitely make you a shtarker litvak and inhance the litvishe values Rabbi gordimer discusses!

  66. micha says:

    If I may quote R’ YG Bechhoffer’s loose translation of R’ EE Dessler (Michtav meiEliyahu vol V pg 39):

    “In our times: The qualities of ‘Emet’ that personified the Ba’alei Mussar [Mussar Masters] are already extinct. We no longer find individuals whose hearts are full with profound truth, with a strong and true sense of Cheshbon HaNefesh [complete and rigorous reckoning of one’s spiritual status and progress]. We have reached the era of Ikvasa d’Mashicha [the final generations before the coming of Moshaich], generations that Chazal described as superficial. If we find an individual who does learn Mussar, we find that he is primarily interested in the intellect of Mussar, the profound philosophy and psychology that are linked to Mussar. Even if he learns Mussar b’hispa’alus [with the emotional impact of nigun – melody – and shinun – repetition – that R.Yisroel prescribed], rarely does this activity lead to Cheshbon HaNefesh.

    “Contemporary Chassidus lacks the component that was once at its core: Avodas Hashem with dveykus. All that remains is the external form of Chassidus, something that appears like hislahavus. There is nigun, but the soul of nigun is no longer. Hitlahavus in davening is almost a thing of the past.

    “For today’s era, there remain only one alternative: To take up everything and anything that can be of aid to Yahadus; the wisdom of both Mussar and Chassidus together. Perhaps together they can inspire us to great understandings and illuminations. Perhaps together they might open within us reverence and appreciation of our holy Torah. Perhaps the arousal of Mussar can bring us to a little Chassidic hislahavus. And perhaps the hislahavus will somewhat fortify one for a Cheshbon HaNefesh. Perhaps through all these means together we may merit to ascend in spirituality and strengthen our position as Bnei Torah [adherents of a Torah centered lifestyle] with an intensified Judaism. May G-d assist us to attain all this!”

    If a rav born in Litta, a descendent of R’ Yisrael Salanter, the first head of Gatehead Kollel and mashgiach of Ponovezh, could see value in blending some chassidus into our fundamentally Litvish worldview, how can we simply dismiss it as an empty shortcut?

    (Thank you all. This will be the final post on this topic. -AG)

  67. Ari Heitner says:

    “A yid” wrote:To sum up. The one side says “hey this is effective!” the other side responds “hey this has nothing to do with our religion.” If anyone can explain what is present in any if the neo chassidic practices that is not also present in islam or christianity I would be interested to hear.

    Wow. How about you go read the first few chapters of Tanya, or one Torah or Maaseh of Rebbe Nachman, or one Sfas Emes, or Shem MiShmuel, or Kedushas Levi, or Nesivos Sholom, or …. and then we’ll discuss?

    ג-ט אין היממעל

    In the meantime, now that you’ve decided that half of Ashkenazi Yiddishkeit has “nothing to do with our religion,” I’ll just get on the bus to Bnei Brak to work on getting R’Chaim to sign a kol koreh announcing that music (and possibly dancing in a circle) in the impending Mikdosh Shlishi has been cancelled as a foreign innovation.

  68. Proud Litvak says:

    The Neo-Chasidus at YU and elsewhere is similar to the malachim of Torah Vodaath of old, rather than to R. Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, as Rabbi Weinberger has been teaching a very extreme version of Chasidus at YU. There lies is the similarity to the malachim, in that both were and are way out, extreme, even for Chasidim.

    R. Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, and the Klausenberger Rebbe did’t stand for such extreme Chasidus as Rabbi Weinberger. It has been shown on other websites that Rabbi Weinberger, in his Introduction to Toras Habaal Shem Tov class at YU (evidently he doesn’t say such things in his other talks, such as giving chizuk, so people are fooled and think he is innocuous), stated things like without Chasidus there would be no Jew putting on tefillin today, and other outlandish things. He seems to hold some type of theology in which traditional, non Hasidic Judaism, is a spent fossil, with no power to go on, and that Chasidus now replaces it. He talks about dancing on Tisha BeAv. Did Reb Shraga Feivel or thr Klausenberger say such extreme things?

    Therein lies the danger.

  69. Ari Heitner says:

    Proud Litvak writes, …Rabbi Weinberger compares the non Hasidic way to cold soup

    In fairness, Rabbi Weinberger is quoting the Tzemach Tzedek. The Tzemach Tzedek is comparing the misnaged in the story to cold soup.

    R’Shlomo Brevda was unquestionably the ראש עם ועדה of Graniks in our generation. I don’t think anyone who ever heard him speak, or davened in his shul, could possibly think his avodah was cold. I don’t think anyone who walked into the beis medresh in Brisk could possibly think their Yiddishkeit is cold. It is not warm and fuzzy. But it is certainly not cold. Before my wife and I left Mattersdorf to go work for NCSY, we went to get a bracha from R’Scheinberg. He said exactly one word to us: “hatzlocha!” R’Scheinberg was not warm and fuzzy. But no one who ever heard him daven – three tefillos a day, from the amud, for decades – could think his avodah was cold.

    Rabbi Weinberger’s comments were made in the context of an article in Jewish Action, which will be read by a mainstream North American audience, who attend shuls and dayschools in North America. Rabbi Weinberger is not talking about or to R’Brevda’s Granik talmidim, or avreichim learning in Brisk, or even R’Scheinberg’s (very American) talmidim. He is talking to mainstream Centrist/Modern Orthodox Yiddishkeit in North America.

    After seven years in North America working for NCSY, and especially untold hours spent in the youth minyanim of North American shuls, my personal take is that Rabbi Weinberger is spot on.

    (This is THE final comment on this topic. Thank you all. -AG)

  70. Jewish Observer says:

    “Jews, with a long memory and sense of history, know that the world was not created in the last hundred years, and that our history in that part of the world goes back a very long time”

    – those who possess a familiarity with the classic Litvishe personality would not davka pick the Chofetz Chaim as the archetypical Litvak. The Chofetz Chaim was a velt’s yid, with a broad capacity to encompass a the universe of styles and approaches, per how he was indeed wont to preach. His having lived outside of strict Lithuania was essential, not incidental, to who he was. Having to pick a classic Litvak I’d be more inclined to think of men like R Dovid Liebowitz, R Yakov Ruderman and R Mordechai Gifter. RMG’s is a prime example of Litvsche shtoltz He may have been a proud Virginian by birth but was a pure Lithuanian by spirit, Litvischkeit being as much a state of mind as accident of birth.

  71. Michael Halberstam says:

    It seems that you have the following take on the Jewish action artcle. Modern Orthodoxy is a failure. There is a real danger that People will be “taken in” by Chassidus. Therefore its time to make a push for litvishkeit. Thanks for turning this into a turf war. In fact the push for Neo-Chassidus comes from the feeling which has always existed in Klal Yisroel, that many people are not getting enough spiritual sustenance from their religious involvement. Chassidus offers some people a way. Others may not feel this way. Enough said.

  72. jack sink says:

    Beautiful article! but if (and halvay) your ideas will be followed then what “modern part” of modern orthodoxy will remain? not wearing hat and jackets?!

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