The Rebbe and the Belzer Rebbe (Photo: The LivingArchive.org)

“Chassidus Must Become Part of the Curriculum”

“The fact that until now it was only for a select few, or reserved for study only on special occasions such as Shabbos and Yom Tov – this was only due to its value; valuable things are only shared at special times. However, since the situation of the world now has changed drastically, Chassidus must be studied at least as much as Nigleh.”

On the 5th of Adar I 5741 (February 9th, 1981), Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, the Rebbe of Belz, visited with the Lubavitcher Rebbe at 770. A large part of this fascinating audience was recorded and we herewith present a freely translated transcript of this unique discussion of two chassidic leaders. Among the topics discussed were the utter necessity that a systematic study Chassidic thought be incorporated into the yeshivah curriculum’s, the proper method of instruction in Jewish girls schools, and having even young students publish their Torah insights. A full translation of the transcript, along with commentary by Rabbi Daniel Green will be published in the forthcoming print version of Principles Magazine, subscribe here to order a copy to your door!

ALL JEWS MUST STUDY CHASIDUS

The Rebbe: When we met last time, I told you that I heard from my father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, the Previous Rebbe], that the Alter Rebbe, the Baal Hatanya, said that “advice ought not to be offered” – meaning, in simple language, that if no one asks you for advice, don’t give it; however, since I am still in middle of discussing something we spoke about previously, I don’t need to initiate.

I am referring to what] I have seen in the periodical [published by the Belz institutions in Israel], that concepts of Chasidic thought have begun to be printed. This reminded me of what we discussed when we met last [on Sunday, 9 Adar I 5733 – Feb. 11, 1973] concerning the importance of Yeshiva students knowing that Chasidus is equally important as “Nigleh” [– the “revealed” aspects of Torah].

The fact that until now it was only for a select few, or reserved for study only on special occasions such as Shabbos and Yom Tov – this was only due to its value; valuable things are only shared at special times.

However, since the situation of the world now has changed drastically, Chasidus must be studied at least as much as Nigleh.

Especially since a Yeshivah student has the notion that if he is told that something specific must be studied, that this is an indication that it is indeed a topic of high importance.

If, however, he gets the feeling that is a matter which should be studied only if there is a free slot of time available, be it in the evening, in between the regular sedorim [study times], on Shabbos and Yom Tov [i.e. when the study times are not regular], then he assumes, whether or not he actually verbalizes this assumption, that it indeed is a matter of secondary importance.

The Belzer Rebbe: The Rebbe surely knows that “Every river follows its own flow” [– a Talmudic saying, meaning that there may be different practices amongst different Jewish communities]; there was in fact the “Polish” way within Chasidus [i.e. the antiquated “Polish” way within Chasidus did not necessarily promote the publishing of Chasidus].

But now, when there are people who say that the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov have been forgotten, it is certainly crucial to publish Chasidus, as it says, “The words of our sages need to be fortified”.

The Rebbe: That [i.e. that it is necessary to publish Chasidus as a disclaimer to those who say that the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings have been forgotten] is a valid point, but why mention something unfavorable about fellow Jews, that there even exists such a Jew [who actually believes that way].

Therefore I state categorically, that since I have seen that began publishing Chasidic thoughts in your periodical, which clearly is not intended for Yeshiva students – for Yeshiva students should be occupied with their Torah studies as opposed to reading periodicals, which are intended for those either before or after their Yeshiva years –

I feel there is a window of opportunity, or moreover, it is now an opportune time, or perhaps even more than just opportune [i.e. but rather, it now imperative], to establish this study in an orderly fashion [i.e. to include the Yeshiva students as well].

Especially, as you have mentioned, that it a matter which requires reinforcement. The Gemarah says about things which need validation that [in a certain sense] they take priority even over Biblically-mandated matters. Hence, if “regular” Torah subjects are studied in a certain way, then these matters [of Chasidus] need to be studied even more vigorously; I refer to the necessity of designating a specific time for this study.

Perhaps this has already been established [at your Yeshivos]. My inquiry into this matter should be regarded as advice (And even though the Alter Rebbe said that advice shouldn’t be offered, as mentioned above, I am just carrying on where we left off when we met last).

Since there are so many new things in the world that didn’t exist in previous generations, things that have been adopted since they seem to be beneficial [i.e. in our times, despite the fact that these very things were not necessary in previous generations], it is a sign that everyone can agree that there are new illnesses in existence for which we must find a remedy, even if in the past there was no need for it…

The Belzer Rebbe: There is also a thirst for it!

The Rebbe: Indeed! There is also a thirst; “They are not hungry for bread nor thirsty for water, but rather to hear the word of G-d.”

IT’S TIME TO PRESENT THE “SOUL” OF THE MATTER!

The Rebbe: That which you mention that there is now a thirst for Chasidus, I also witnessed this firsthand through conversing with various yeshiva students from various circles. Although from diverse communities, they all are seeking “the soul of the Torah,” as the Zohar puts it, the explanation of the inner realm of the Torah.

And the Yeshiva student expresses it as follows –

When he is spoken to about matters of “the other side” [secular, unholy matters], the concept is explained, and then the “soul” of the matter is presented; that is, which scientific or philosophical theory it stems from, to which worldview it is correlated, how it effects ones very soul.

But then, he queries, when one is taught the laws of blessings, or the laws of Shabbos, or the laws of Eruvin, the matter is taught to him; but in reference to learning how this effects his soul, for this he cannot turn to his Rosh Yeshivah. For the Rosh Yeshivah has already finished delivering his lecture. And the class was delivered in a manner faithful to the adage, “We adhere to our ancestors’ custom” [i.e. no deeper inspiration or insight behind the ancient custom is offered, but rather, just its legalities and application in practical observance].

Therefore, it is crucial that another person should be appointed to do this task!


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