Sunday, October 02, 2005

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A (Hassidic) Mistake

From A Pamphlet on Excitement (Kuntres Ha’hitpa’alut), by the saintly rabbi, the second grand rabbi of Chabad hassidus, HaRav Dov Ber the son of HaRav Shneur Zalman, zt"l (as presented by Rabbi Ginsburgh of Inner.Org), discussing a common mistake in understanding how to approach intellectual divine concepts.

This mistake has to do with the nature of meditation [hitbonenut]. They preach that should a person be successful in his meditation, he should guard his heart from being excited as if it [excitement] was the most grave of prohibitions. This because it seems to them that they have heard somewhere that heartfelt excitement causes one to lose one’s mindfulness. For this reason they also preach against intellectual excitement, a grave mistake that ultimately results in substituting holy thoughts and meditation for external objects of thought [i.e., thoughts not related to the teachings of Chassidut], or even falling into a slumber.

And I am bitterly distressed over having seen and heard such folly, which is absolutely upside-down and rightside-up. For, the essence and foundation of all of the teachings of Chassidut, which are more precious than gold, is that they should be sustained in the psyche, the mind, and the heart, and particularly in an excited state; both as intellectual excitement, which is called “good hearing,” and afterwards as heartfelt excitement, condoned by the verse: “and you shall imbue [these teachings in] your heart.” These are described as “my G-d is within me,” and “each [understands the Almighty] unto his own measure….”

As we are about to enter the holy day of Rosh Hashanah, many arrive with dread and awe at the occasion of divine judgement of the world. Yet Chassidim arrive with excitement, just to be standing before and acknowledging the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed Be He. For this is the one thing man can actually do, a king is only a king if there are subjects. And this is a reason for excitement! Awe yes, but joy, it's coronation day!

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