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Thursday
Aug222019

Explaining “Chassidishe G’neivah”

The first known case of a “Chassidishe G’neivah” was “committed” by the Alter Rebbe himself. He himself related it, and it goes like this:

When the Alter Rebbe came to the holy Maggid of Mezeritch, the Maggid, having discovered his greatness and genius, wanted him to study with his son, Reb Avraham “der Malach.”

The Alter Rebbe, who was a genius in Nigleh, taught his study-partner Nigleh, the Malach would teach the Alter Rebbe Kabbalah and Chassidus.

Reb Avraham was called an angel not in vain; he lived on a higher plane. So, the Alter Rebbe, in his great eagerness to study more and more of the Nistar, used to utilize his friend’s total naivete in physical matters to move the clock. That way, they ended up learning less Nigleh and more Chassidus.

The Alter Rebbe said about this “stolen” time of Chassidus-study, (using the words of a passuk ) “Stolen waters are sweet.”

As for Chassidim, they were always involved in “Chassidishe G’neivos.” A “Chassidishe G’neivah” means sneaking out a ksav (a written manuscript of a ma’amar) from the Rebbe’s room to have it copied (usually by hand) and then returned.

In fact, the Rebbe Rashab and Rebbetizin Shterna Sara would help the Chassidim copy the Kesavim of the Rebbe Maharash during his daily trips to the forest.

So, there is a long-standing tradition among Chassidim that kesavim were taken from the Rebbeim unofficially to be copied. But it is understood that the Rebbeim were aware of the fact and allowed it to continue (as will be discussed further). They wanted that it should be taken in this indirect way, like the Brachos of Yitzchok Avinu, that were taken by Yaakov “b’mirma” – deceitfully.

The Frierdiker Rebbe relates it in the following way:

“When the boy was taken out of the oven, his appearance was frightful. The Rebbetzin Sterna cried to the Alter Rebbe: ‘See what could have been! What a misfortune! Other people, you allow in, but when your own grandson pleaded, you didn’t allow him in!’

“He said: ‘Sha, Sha. Moshe Rabbeinu came to Har Sinai through the fire — seeing the burning bush — and merited to be the one to give the Torah. One can only receive Torah with Mesirus Nefesh. He will be healthy, and he will live a long life.’” 

So, we see here that the only way the Tzemach Tzedek could have gotten this was by not being allowed it!

[We can also cite the Alter Rebbe’s disappointment after a book of Chassidus (rumored to be “Sefer shel Tzaddikim”) burned in one of the many fires frequent in small towns. The book was bound from both sides and was inscribed with “Anyone who opens this book will be excommunicated by Cherem d’Rabbeinu Gershom, in this world and in the next.” 

When he inquired if perhaps any copy survived, the Mitteler Rebbe said, “How could there have after you warned against it so severely?” The Alter Rebbe responded by saying, “Where is the Mesirus Nefesh for Chassidus…?”]

***

What about the Halachic aspects involved? Like Gezel, or at the very least Geneivas Da’as?

In a sicha, the Rebbe addresses the question of how this “deception” was allowed according to Halacha, by relating a personal story of a “Chasidishe G’neivah” he committed:

“When my father-in-law traveled away from home, he needed [someone] to guard the sefarim and, most importantly, the kesavim … It seems that because of the situation, he was left with no choice and was forced to leave them with me.”

In the sicha, the Rebbe went on to explain the halachic underpinnings for his following step. As a rule, a person is not permitted to use an object deposited with him. However, a Talmid Chacham is allowed to use sefarim he is given to watch. The rationale is that everyone knows that a Talmid Chacham would not be able to resist using them, so when you give him a sefer to guard, you automatically assume that he will use it. Although you didn’t say it, you essentially gave him silent permission.

The Rebbe continued to say: “It doesn’t matter so much if I’m considered a Talmid Chacham, rather what matters is whether there is a suspicion and [it was undoubtedly surmisable that] if given a ksav — especially a ksav that the general public didn’t have — I would make a copy.

“…And that is what I did. I didn’t think too much about the psak din in Halacha. As soon as I realized that the hemshech [Ayin Beis] was there [in the suitcase], I immediately jumped at the opportunity — before someone started thinking this way or that way — and immediately made copies, which I have in my possession until this very day.”

Eventually, the Rebbe used these photographs to print the Hemeshech Ayin Beis in 5737, as the Rebbe went on to say in that Farbrengen (20 Kislev 5737).

***

All this leads us to the fundamental point of differentiation between a “Chassidishe G’neivah” and a wrongful G’neivah made in the name of Chassidus.

Once, Bochurim put a microphone in the Rebbe’s room to listen in to Yechidus. The first thing the Rebbe did when hearing about this was to ask for their names. He davened for them that they shouldn’t be affected by a kepeida, etc. The Rebbe was very upset.

At a Farbrengen soon after (Parshas Bamidnar 5729), the Rebbe cried and screamed and amongst many other things, said “Avrohom Pariz was a true Chassidisher Tomim, and the Rebbe knew that he was stealing kesavim, but you, bachurel… you are a chick that still hasn’t opened his eyes…!”

The concept of Chassidishe G’neivah has become terribly distorted; it’s not to take something and keep it, that is plain stealing. A Chassidishe G’neivah is to take, copy, and return.

I remember how Reb Volf Greenglass was begging that people should have rachmanus on him and return the letters that were stolen from him!

That is the difference between a Chassidishe G’neivah and plain stealing in the name of Chassidus.

Edited transcript of a video on StumpTheRabbi.org

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