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Shabbat Parashat Va'eira| 5768

Moreshet Shaul

The Approaches of Chasidut, Hitnagdut, and the Mussar Movement – part V

(from Perakim B’Machshevet Yisrael, pp. 515-531)


Hitnagdut  (Opposition [to Chasidism]) II


[In our first installment on Hitnagdut, we saw that while most of the concepts of Chasidut were acceptable to Mitnagdim, the extreme to which some Chasidim took these concepts, such as the perfection of the tzaddik, the absolute necessity for elaborate preparations, and that everything serves as a manifestation of Hashem’s presence, were likely to be abused or come at the expense of normative practice.]

Man’s task is to raise the world by means of the system that was set by the Creator, which is Torah and mitzvot, as they are passed down with their explanations by the Rabbis and the poskim. By following these matters with great care one can reach the promised completeness, and any movement away from this path even with good intentions cannot bring this level. “It [the Torah] is not in the Heaven.” A great person should not deceive himself to think that his grasp is so great that he can see the secret of the mitzvot in the upper worlds that are appropriate to the root of his soul. He thus may not say that it is possible to violate a certain mitzva or even one of its details (based on Nefesh Hachayim). Rather we are to keep every detail of every mitzva including its time. Special intentions in fulfilling the mitzva are not at the mitzva’s heart, rather the fulfillment itself includes the deepest intentions. Even a standard fulfillment without knowing secrets will impact and fix worlds and will create more sanctity and light (ibid.)

Clinging to Hashem is not the purpose of the mitzvot, as there is nothing more conducive for clinging to Hashem than saying Tehillim properly all day long. Focusing on one’s intention causes an obstacle, as it causes some to refrain from studying Torah because to learn properly requires one to have an uninterrupted high level of concentration and clinging. There is even a more unhealthy opinion that posits that Torah study without clinging is worth nothing. The main intention of lishma (studying for the proper purpose) is studying for the sake of the Torah. This is opposed to those who dedicate all of their study to books of mussar and yirah (encouragement to act with fear of Hashem). Although our food needs proper storage facilities, it is not logical that one would put all of his efforts into the storage and not produce the food that needs to be stored.

Not only in physical mitzvot is the action more important than the intention but even in mitzvot like tefilla, which is called service of the heart, the main thing is for a person to pronounce the words with his lips according to the text that was composed. The actions themselves act in all the worlds to the point that a person would be filled with fear if he would take note of this fact.

Within the framework of mitzvot, the greatest stress is to be put on Torah study, as occupying oneself in it makes one cling to Hashem. The Torah’s upper root is very lofty, above and beyond that of other mitzvot including tefilla, whose efficacy also depends on Torah. The mitzvot in general receive their light only from the holy letters of the Torah. If the world were bereft for even one second of Torah study, all of the worlds would be destroyed.

Acquiring fear of G-d which is necessary to safeguard Torah wisdom does not require an action outside of Torah itself, as the Torah itself clothes a person in fear of Hashem. Everyone has the ability to involve himself in Torah study in a manner that is suitable for him.

One should not look [as Chasidim do] to one person as the pipe through which the stream of holiness flows. One must not make himself subservient to any power in any service of Hashem, even to the holy spirit of a prophet, and doing so is full idolatry.  A person does not require any intermediaries except for Torah.



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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of

R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld


 Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of

Max and Mary Sutker

 and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.

May their memory be a blessing.

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