Reader Y followed up with this question…
I know that my neshama is rooted with the Baal Shem Tov (we even share a birthday), even though I have never planted a flag with any one of the derechs that came from his teachings. Maybe that's why I feel this way?
How did you become Lubavitch? And how in the world did you end up being a Lubavitcher that is so connected to Eretz Yisrael?
One of the things that always kept my wife and I away from committing to Chabad was their detachment to the Land. While we are fully aware of the Rebbe's commitment to Shlemus Haaretz (not giving away any of the Land of Israel), the idea of actually wanting to live here seems anathema to most Lubavitchers outside of Israel. They would often look at us as if we had two heads when we said that we were moving here. Rabbi Ginsburgh, shlita seems to be a bridge between these two worlds, but we are fully aware that he is far from mainstream.
Are you a BT? Did you ever experience this kind of torn feeling between Breslev, Chabad, etc...that people like myself experience? I'm sure it was very easy to get swept up with Chabad when the Rebbe was physically here, but a trip to Crown Heights these days can have the opposite affect.
I'm sure this is all part of the Redemption process, but it can be discouraging at moments such as when people ask us with perplexed faces, "wait a minute...so "what" are you guys?"
Reb Akiva responds…
Chabad continues to be focused on outreach via shlichus, going out and creating Chabad centers and programs around the world. That goal follows the pattern put in place by the Rebbe, to return Jews to mitzvah observant Judaism.
In Israel the Rebbe established Kfar Chabad and a Chabad community in Tzfat. In addition Chabad has a long history in Hebron and Jerusalem. Regardless, aliyah is not one of the goals, though probably about 25% of Chabad houses are run by Israeli Chabadniks, especially those in India and Asian countries (though not in China).
I make my home in Chabad chassidus, and the Rebbe is my rebbe. But buying in to the chassidus doesn't mean I have to buy into the organization.
Being we're talking chassidus, you have to focus on the pnimius, the inner or the core, and recognize the chitzonius, the exterior, the outside, the wrappings, for what they are.
We live in a generation with a lot of wrappings and organizations that present or represent image over substance and goals for the organizations (rather than an emes) goal.
But the Torah is still there, the chassidus is still there and the teachings of the tzaddikim are still there. Connect direct and avoid the organizations that are operating for their own benefit or their own goals.
As far as Breslev, I've learned some Likkutei Mohoran and find some items of definite benefit in Breslev. I've also learned a bit of the teachings of Rav Shalom Arush, shlita. There's items of value to enhance my avodat Hashem there, and those paths are right for some and certainly for my good friend Rabbi Nati, but they're not the full path for me.
My cholent is my own. The base is Chabad, and I wear a kapatah and represent myself as a Chabad chossid (though I don't call myself that in my own name, but rather because a tzadik specifically referred to me that way). But I spice my cholent with bits and flavors from where I find benefit. And my cholent follows no organizational recipe. Rather the opposite, I find myself challenging the organizations, calling them on their inconsistencies and self interest, regularly.
Learn chassidus, target the goals of the Rebbe or whichever tzadik connects with your neshama. An associated culture can help bind you to a path and give you an identity, if you need it or want it or like it - but it's not required to make your connection. And an organization can give you a place to fit in, if you're willing to play by their rules - which may or may not be 100% straight.
This doesn’t mean don’t be part of a community, shul or yeshiva. All are important and critical to function well as a religious Jew. But be careful about taking the whole package. Go in with open eyes, see where there’s truth, chesed, and being straight AND where there’s not. Take the Torah and the emes, avoid the klippos.
We don't live in a time of clarity. Connect direct, avoid the baggage of our time that doesn't provide you direct value.
Reader Y replied…
You are echoing what I have been telling myself lately....that we need to stay away from "image" as much as possible and focus on the pnimius (the inner), especially when looking at chassidus. However, don't you think it's almost impossible to separate one from the other?
A Jew can't be an island unto himself (or so they tell me). Like it or not, the Rebbe did set guidelines for his Chassidim. If I totally accept Chabad over Breslev, I would basically have to leave any minhagim that remain from my Moroccan heritage.
It was such a relief when I went to Uman and saw that I could pray to the tunes with which I was raised and still be a "chassid". This is symbolic of the hashkafic insularity vs relative openness. This becomes especially apparent once you have kids...where do you send them to school, what hechsherim do you or don't you eat, do you raise them valuing living in the Land of Israel or going on shlichut, etc...
I'm sure you are aware of the much-publicized roller coaster of Matisyahu? In my personal conversations with him and many other people with similar inclinations, we all face the same issues.
Reb Akiva responds…
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not recommending you make up your own minchagim (customs) or religious mix. But you certainly can eat Chamim instead of Cholunt on Shabbos, and have Marak Teymani instead of Chicken Soup on Friday night and still be 100% Chabad or 100% Breslev.
I knew a Persian Jew, Rav and Mekubal who became a Chabad chossid and mashpia of the previous generation – who ran a Chabad yeshiva and was the rav of a sephardi synagogue! Of course, Rav Shalom Arush, shlita, a leading Breslev tzadik and chossid of our generation is a Morrocan Jew! So apparently family minchagim are NOT an impediment to becoming a chossid of Chabad or Breslev!
Will your children be confused? The binder is the chassidus, derech haTorah and avodas Hashem. A true chossid follows the goals, path and derech of his Rebbe or Tzadik. Wearing the same clothes or eating the same style of food as his Rebbe is pure chitzoniyus!
That’s not what the Rebbe wanted (he said so directly). And I can tell you from seeing it directly, that’s not what Rav Arush wants either! It’s all about the spiritual goals. The rest is shtuss.