Sunday, April 5, 2009

Of chickens, tzaddikim and Chassidim

(pictures taken from Artemiy Lebedev’s travels blog)

A very simple thought, consisting of a combination of my thoughts, my rabbi’s thoughts and my friend’s vort. If you think you know what I am talking about, just keep reading. Perhaps you don’t. Also, apparently, coffee helps ADD. I personally prefer pictures of Stokholm subway.

Last night, my friend Boruch told the famous story of Baal Shem Tov about a prince who thought he was a chicken. [Those of you who know the story can skip until the next brackets, after the picture.] Sitting under the table, without pants, clucking away, etc. Then came a big chochom and told the king he would cure the prince. He sat under the table, also without pants, also clucking away and eating corn. This went on for several days, and the prince started getting used to another “chicken”.

Then suddenly, one day, the chochom showed up wearing pants. Prince asked: “I thought you were a chicken?! How can you be wearing pants?” The chochom answered: “Sure, I am a chicken. Do pants define me? I know I am a chicken, so what does it matter that I wear pants?” To the prince this seemed reasonable, and he also started wearing pants. Then, in a few days, the chochom started wearing a shirt, then wearing shoes, then eating at the table, etc., etc. The prince followed his example every time and gradually started behaving again as a human being (or, even better, as a prince), still thinking, nevertheless, that he was a chicken.

[Those who knew the story can resume here.] What’s the point of the story? We are all souls in this world that think we are like goyim. In reality, we are not. There is nothing wrong with being goyim, but we are not them — we are something else. We do, however, look, feel and behave like them. After all, why not? So, this is the purpose of the tzaddikim — to show us that we are not goyim but Jews. The tzaddikim come down to our level, sit under the table with us, eating corn, and slowly they elevate us to what the appropriate behavior for Jews, for princes, is.

Add to that what the Alter Rebbe says in Tanya about how tzaddikim are like a head of the body, and each cell receives its livelihood from the head and therefore needs to attach itself to it — and therefore, we need to attach ourselves to the tzaddikim — and you have Chassidus.

But you do not yet have Chassidus Chabad. Because being a Chossid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe is something additional. The Rebbe is not simply a tzaddik who tells us that we are not chickens and shows us how to behave ourselves. He is not simply the source of our livelihood, a channel through which Hashem’s blessing reaches our souls. He is the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Let me repeat myself: I am not talking simply about the Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shneerson. I am talking about the Lubavitcher Rebbe (whom, in our generation, the aforementioned Rabbi merited to become, fifty eight years ago).

What difference does this make? Very simple. The Lubavitcher Rebbe is a particular tzaddik whose Torah will not just connect a Jew to Hashem, and elevate him, and allow him to progress in his avoida and his middos, etc., etc.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe is a channel through which Chassidus Chabad enters this world — and as a result, he is the particular tzaddik whose Torah will teach a Jew how to bring geulah, how to bring Mashiach. He is a tzaddik whose Torah (combined with Torah of all the preceding Rebbeim Chabad) will teach a Jew how to connect the world with Hashem. How to realize on all levels, that literally ein of milvado, there is nothing but G-d (in this world, in the spiritual worlds, in all of reality, in all of behavior, in all of thoughts and in all of Torah), allow that realization completely transform his soul and behavior and bring closer the time when this will be revealed in and through this world.

Because this state of affairs (when Hashem will be revealed in and through this particular lowly world) is the reason and purpose with which Hashem created all existence, spiritual, physical and in between (i.e., not only our world, not only our world and the spiritual worlds “above” it, but also the infinite number of worlds that exist within the Simple Purity of His Light as it existed before the creation), and this state of affairs will be brought through our efforts, in this generation, specifically as a result of us following the teachings of the Rebbe that influence our generation — because of all this, Chassidus Chabad is the essential point of all Torah.

And the Rebbe, as a result, is Nosi HaDor, the leader of our generation. Let me repeat myself (because some people, including some very smart people who know much more Torah than me, seem to be confused about this): I am not talking about Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shneerson. I am talking about the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the source of Chassidus Chabad.

Now, being Nosi HaDor, the Rebbe is the source of instructions of how to bring Mashiach. He is also the channel through which we receive our livelihood, as Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya. This is true regarding all Jews — whether they know about this or not. Chabad Chassidim know about this (i.e., they do not think this way because they are Chabad Chassidim; they are Chabad Chassidim because they know this).

This is a special privilege. And a special responsibility. Not only do we have to know everything that all the Jews know and do everything that all the Jews do, but we need to know it and do it better. Because we are the shluchim of the Rebbe — through whatever medium this happens. And when we realize this and allow this to penetrate our consciousness, our perception and our actions, we receive a special blessing from the Rebbe in all we do.

Because we don’t do it for ourselves. We don’t do it for our physical pleasures, we don’t do it for the spiritual pleasures. We don’t do it for this world, for the world-to-come, for Lower Gan Eiden or for Higher Gan Eiden.

We do it for G-d alone. For the day when He and His Name will be One.

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