By hashgacha protis, two events today coincided, which allowed me to draw an analogy between them — yortzeit of the Alter Rebbe and, lehavdil, last day of the President Bush in office.
Although I have many problems with Bush’s presidency — especially, his fiscal policies (the so-called “compassionate conservatism”) — nevertheless, I feel, he should be praised for his middas ha’netzach, desire for victory, in the war against Muslim terrorists, y”sh.
I don’t have much time before I have to go back to the exciting world of electrophysiology, so I will just plagiarize a bit from my comments on a post elsewhere. Yes, I know, very lame.
On Dixi Yid’s question (read the post for context) of why Chabad Chassidim consider Chabad Chassidus to be the essence of Torah and “the best path there is” — even though other paths are completely valid and darkei chayim — I answered:
Imagine there is a war going on. You have a number of warlords on your side, and a number of warlords on the opposite side. You can join any of the warlords on your side that you think is an effective warlord — i.e., the guy who, when met with opposing forces, will win a victory, and provide you, his officer, with tools and directions of how to win a victory.So, not much on Bush there, but after all, today is about, lehavdil, Alter Rebbe’s legacy and uniqueness of his teachings.
So, if your goal is to advance in ranks, gain loot, capture prisoners, capture castles and towns and so on, you can join a particular warlord who looks like he knows what he is doing. And then it’s up to your personal preferences — which warlord’s personality or style you like the most, or are most compatible with.
But then imagine that you don’t care about the loot, and riches, and castles, and prisoners, and your personal advancement in the army and gain of influence. All you care about is for this war to end. With your side as victorious. You don’t want it to end some time in future, when they’ll say, “Oh, this guy, in this warlord’s army, took these and these castles and contributed this much to victory.” You want this war to end now — and you don’t care what this victory does for you.
Then, you look around, and you see a warlord who has an actual written plan on how to win a war. Not a series of military victories, but mamosh the whole war. A detailed plan, which shows why the war has not been won so far, what needs to be done to win it, with analysis of the nature of the war, the enemy, the terrain, the goals and conditions, necessary tactics, strategy, list of ammunition, plan of attack and so on.
A good example is an article I read about two Republican Presidents waging wars, Lincoln and Bush. They were looking for generals willing to win a victory — and while they couldn’t find them, Democrats kept screaming that the war is lost. When they finally found generals capable and willing to achieve a victory (as opposed to series of battles), the war was won. Not all at once, but won.
So, you pick sides with such a general or warlord not because he suits you better, or you like his style, but because he has an actual plan, suited to the enemy and the circumstances, and the goals of victory, of how to win the war. It’s not that I don’t think other generals are capable of producing individual victories and defeating enemy on the battlefield. It’s just that I see a plan of reaching the enemy’s capital city in this general’s plan. It’s that simple.
Usually when I hear people talk about Chabad Chassidus and Chassidim’s beliefs, they say, “Huh, so you guys believe that your Chassidus is the essence of Torah. Is that how it is? Hmm… OK. Well, I’ll tell you what: you believe what you believe, and I’ll believe what I believe.”
What I don’t hear there is the question “why”. What does it mean? In what sense is it the essence of Torah? Where does the Rebbe say that and how does he justify himself? I mean, what use are beliefs without justifications of them? What use is a theorem without its proof and explanation? Lehavdil, Mishna without Gemara?
Today is Alter Rebbe’s yartzeit. Last week, a day before Shabbos, was Rambam’s yartzeit. I think there is a great deal of similarity between the motivation of writing of Mishne Torah and of writing of Tanya (and developing the whole of Chabad Chassidus). It’s all really explained in the mentioned Inyana Shel Toras HaChasidus, but even without reading it and just learning Chabad Chassidus (or even just Tanya), one can already get a sense. [...]
I think this is the ikkar of Alter Rebbe’s argument — to bring Mashiach, Jews need to learn about Hashem (not just avoidas Hashem, but specifically about Hashem) and the topics of Hashem’s achdus, ein od milvado, “Ani Hashem Loi Shinisi” and so on in a systematic and structured way. Learn, meditate, and then allow these teachings transform one’s middos and avoida (although even then — that’s not the goal) and lead to real changes in the world bringing Mashiach.
For a great class regarding Alter Rebbe’s role in Judaism, you can listen to a great class by Rabbi Paltiel on Alter Rebbe’s siddur (really going in detail about the specialness of Alter Rebbe from all perspectives) and a very interesting class “Insight into Tzaddikim” (from the Chassidic point of view — including some of the questions touched above).
Also, see this shiur from Mem-Gimmel (starting from 13:50) on Hisboinenus and brief comparison between Chabad Chassidus and Chagas Chassidus.