R. Jacobson Defending Chassidism
Moshe Ben-Chaim
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: Chassidism is not a NEW creation. It is part and parcel of Judaism in general. It is an integral part of the development and revelation of Torah she'Baal Peh in general. Each generation has its gedolei Torah that address the needs and issues of their particular time. Just as the Arizal revealed Pnimiyus ha'Torah in his time, and that has become accepted by ALL Jews, so too it is with the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples, and the Rebbeim in the subsequent generations.
Mesora: Again there is no way to prove that Moshe Rabbeinu followed Chassidus. This is absurd as saying George Washington had a computer. And to say that Chassidus is part of Torah, is groundless. One can say that any movement is part of Torah by making analogies too. If G-d desired Chassidus, He would have set that system up Himself. G-d did not miss a point, and it seems that Chassidus is trying to gain acceptance by aligning itself with Rambam, Moshe Rabbeinu, and other attempts. True proof is undeniable, something you have not shown here.
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: How do we know when a movement within Judaism is acceptable and when it is beyond the pale?
The Ramban explains this in his Hilchos Mamrim in his Mishne Torah. He basically says that once a takoheh or minhag is accepted by most Torah authorities and it withstands the test of time, that proves its Torah truth. Indeed, the Rambam's books were burned by some in his days, claiming that they were heresy. The Ramban and others in the following generations came to the Rambam's defense. And today the Rambam is accepted by all as mainstream halacha. The same is true about others as well.
Mesora:This is incorrect thinking, and again, a simple statement with no proof. Proof means that something cannot be contradicted. You are not proving anything, merely suggesting similarities between Rambam and your accepted leaders. To make a single comparison from Rambam to Chassidism, does not mean Chassidism is validated like Rambam is.
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: It is critical to note that all the Baal Shem Tov disciples, beginning from the great Maggid of Mezeritch, and all the Maggid's students, were all major Torah scholars at the time. They were NOT born into Chassidic families, but rather, they embraced Chassidus and their Chassidic masters and their teachings simply on its own merit -- the merit of being an essential part of Torah, and their teachers being Jewish halachic leaders of the highest order. Take the Baal Ha'Hafloah, who is a great and recognized Talmud commentator. Or the Baal ha'Tanya, the acclaimed Rav, author of Shulchan Aruch ha'Rav. And many many others.
Mesora: Because a talmid is is smart, does not mean the leader is. I have read statements by the Besht which are infantile in thinking. I do not pay attention to what the world at large respects, if I cannot see wisdom with my own mind, I cannot conclude otherwise. The Besht promoted the dissension of the
Tazaddik, for future gain. This the Gra clearly admonished him as dangerous and assur. You condone this?
The Besht held of G-d's permeation into physical matter, and even in sin there is said to be spark of good. Another dangerous notion, completely against Yahadus, and against Rambam's second Ikkur. Do you condone this too?
These are not a thinker's words. I'm sorry, the Besht was not following Toras Moshe.
Additionally, Chassidim today still follow this, I know first hand.
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: The concept of a Rebbe is not something new. Moses is called Moshe Rabbienu. Rabbi Yehudah ha'Nassi is called Rebbi. G-d says in the Torah, "Va'yaminu bi ub'Moshe avdi," -- "They will believe in Me and in Moshe my servant." The midrash equates belief in Moses with belief in Hashem.
Mesora: Do not equate anyone with Moshe Rabbeinu's distinction. This pasuk is meant for Moshe Rabbeinu alone.
You cant pick and choose pasukim and interpret them as you see fit. This is not proper learning.
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: Finally, the objections and questions that existed at the birth of Chassidism are no longer relevant and pertinent today. Initially some feared (out of not knowing better) that Chassidism may compromise halacha. But today, we see in retrospect what Chassidism has accomplished for upholding and strengthening Yiddishkeit. The leaders of the Litvishe world worked hand in hand with Chassidishe Rebbes. Cases in point: R' Yitzchak of Volozhin (son of R. Chaim Volozhiner, student of the Gra) worked together with the Tzemach Tzedek (one of the Lubavitcher Rebbes); R' Chaim Brisker worked together with the Rebbe Rashab of Chabad. And many more instances exist as well.
Mesora: The Gra clearly protested Chassidism. I don't not believe stories that R' Yitzchak of Volozhin worked together with Chassidim. I have heard versions that it was R. Chaim Volozhiner. The stories repeated are altered, implying that fabrication is evident, as happened many times when Chassidim sought to concoct stories that the Gra regretted any of his charamos. These are all lies. Chassidism has at its roots distortions of G-d Himself, that He is somehow physical, all perfect grounds for the Gra's charamos.
Mesora: How do they make out all the Hassidic Rebbes to be miracle performers, when King David and King Solomon didn't perform miracles? Do they honestly believe their Rebbes to be higher than these great kings?
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: And yes, Kings David and Solomon performed miracles as well.
Mesora: Where is your proof to this?
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: At the same time, we do not depend on miracles. We must live our lives responsibly and plan within the confines of nature. Yet, we believe that G-d can suspend at will the laws of nature (as he did when He parted the Red Sea, and in many other instances). And miracles can be performed by a holy man of G-d, like Moses, not because he has any power of his own, but because he is an extension, a transparent channel of G-d's will on earth.
Mesora: This is not so, G-d is the one who performed the Nissim. Even in Mitzrayim, Moshe prayed to G-d to halt the plagues, Moshe did not operate or effectuate anything himself. he cannot, he is flesh and blood. You keep making statements with no proof. Do you not see your error? You must have proof if you wish another to be convinced, mere statements, no matter how appealing, do not match to proof.
The entire proof of Sinai IS a proof, because there were multitudes of witnesses. THIS is why we believe that story. Conversely, if there were not many witnesses, we would not believe it. Based on this accepted approach to the basics of Judaism, Rebbes doing miracles without witnesses should not be believed. Where are THEIR witnesses?
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: First of all, we do not accept Sinai because of the proof, but because we believe in G-d and in what G-d tells us in the Torah, including the fact that the Torah was given at Sinai. Rabbi Yehudah ha'Levi (in the Kuzari) cites the proof you mention, of multitudes who witnessed the revelation, but he does not say that this is why we believe. We believe because we believe, and IN ADDITION to that, we have this proof.
Mesora: I believe you are distorting the facts of that you read. Judaism's mark of distinction over other religions is that we are based on rational proof, not mere "belief" as is the case with Christianity. Your statement places Judaism and Christianity on the same level, just belief. I do not know where you are getting this view. It is certainly not any rishon or tanna. Re-read the Kuzari and rambam on these topics.
Additionally, you are familiar w/ the concept of not following a Navie Sheker, a false prophet. Even if he does signs.
Question to you: Why should we not follow him? If both Moses and a false prophet perform miracles, what do I have in my arsenal that says Moshe outweighs him? The answer is, in order for G-d to give us such a command as not following a false prophet, G-d must have also given us the means by which to prove him wrong. This the proof of Sinai.
I am sorry you prefer blind faith, or belief over proof. What did Moshe tell the people 7 times in Devarim, (para) "remember what you saw", and "kol dvaraim mi-toch hashe", "the voice of words from fire" . Moshe based all of his arguments to the Jewish people on "proof" back then. This is open in the pasukim. But you are choosing different than Moshe, you are choosing blind faith, or belief. This is clearly not what Moses used.
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: In addition, we DO have honest and trustworthy witnesses that testify to the miracles tzaddikim have performed. Obviously, not every person who says he saw a miracle can be trusted. But when it comes to these tzaddikim, there are witnesses with impeccable credentials, intelligent scholars, who have testified to the fact.
Mesora: Please produce some proof.
In addition, how is Chassidism any different than Conservatism, in the respect that both deviate from what original orthodoxy dictated (i.e., Chassidim daven at times not outlined in the Shulchan Aruch)? Both deviate, and both keep laws. What's the barometer for determining that Chassidism is OK, but Conservatism is not?
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: This is a completely false and unsubstantiated statement. Indeed, it is actually offensive, and one that deserves an apology. You would have to cite an instance or a document where Chassidim deviate, G-d forbid, from halacha.
Mesora: They do not keep to set times of tefila, I'll give you a list if you wish.
They deny the second of Rambam's 13 Principles. They shave their heads, open Rashi against this (banim atem l'Hashem)
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: Indeed, in every area in Yiddishkeit, without exception, Chassidim are more stringent than other communities.
Mesora: Now you are making statements you cannot possibly substantiate. You have statistics?
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: Ask any Jew, "Who puts on two pairs of Tefillin?" "Who goes to the mikveh each morning?" "Who wears a full beard?"
Mesora: Where in heavens name are there any halachos about going to the mikveh each morning? You honestly feel wearing a beard makes you better Jew? How absurd!! If you honestly feel that hair on one's face plays a role in one's perfection, I need not read more. Think about your words.

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