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Wednesday
Jan272016

TEACHING CHASSIDUS TO BEGINNERS?

 A LESSON FROM TU BSHVAT

Dear Reader sh’yichyeh

This week we celebrated Tu B’Shvat. Although this day is the Rosh Hashanah for trees, we attach special significance to this holiday because “Man is [compared to] the tree of the field” (D’varim 20:19). Through cultivating strong roots – faith and commitment to Gd – we produce many fruits—Torah and Mitzvos.

In the Sicha of Tu B’Shvat 5748 – a year of Hakhel – the Rebbe explained a fascinating lesson from Tu B’Shvat that can be connected to Hakhel:

Tu B’Shvat is associated with fruits, trees and orchards as opposed to wheat, barley and fields. While both categories (fruits and grain) are eaten by people, there is a big difference between them. Bread – which comes from wheat – is eaten by a person in order to live, while fruits are eaten by a person to enjoy. It is a pleasure item.

There are two ways in which we can serve Hashem: 1) with complete obedience to the laws that Hashem gave us but without inner feeling and enjoyment; 2) Serving Hashem with love and enjoyment. These two approaches do not just reflect on the person that does the Mitzva, but also reflect in the Mitzva that is being done. The person that is just serving Hashem because he is following orders will not look to beautify the Mitzva. He will do the basic requirement and be done with it. When someone serves Hashem with enjoyment and inner love, the Mitzvos that he or she does will reflect that love and pleasure in the wholeness in which it is being done.

From where does one get such a deep love and inner pleasure for Hashem? That is by learning the “Fruits of Torah” in addition to the “Bread of Torah.” The bread of Torah is the basic laws about the daily lifestyle of a Jew. The “Fruits of Torah” on the other hand reflects the inner dimension of Torah – the teachings of Chassidus – which touch the inner part of the Jewish soul, which in turn arouses the inner love and delight that a Jew has for Hashem.

[This is reflected in the title of the first discourse that the Rebbe said upon accepting the mantle of leadership of world Jewry, “Basi L’Gani” – welcome to my pleasure Garden. While most people view this world as a jungle populated by humans, the Rebbe wants us to view this world as the place where Hashem wants not only to come and dwell, but more importantly to “enjoy himself” and reveal his essence.]

This is a very important lesson for us in the year of Hakhel. We all know that during the year of Hakhel we are supposed to gather the Jewish people together and to teach them to follow in the ways of Hashem. In the words of the Pasuk (D’varim 31:12): Assemble the people, the men, the women, and the children, and your stranger in your cities, in order that they hear, and in order that they learn and fear the Lord, your God, and they will observe to do all the words of this Torah. And their children, who did not know, will hear and learn to fear the Lord, your God, all the days that you live on the land, to which you are crossing the Jordan, to possess.”  

One may think that when we are teaching people – men, women and children of all different backgrounds and knowledge – to serve Hashem, it is enough if we teach them the “basics” i.e. the laws of how to live like a Jew. The “fruits of the Torah” i.e. the mystical dimension of the Torah, which arouses the inner love and fear of Hashem, does not need to be taught. This is the practical lesson from Tu B’Shvat: Every Jew is connected to the “Trees and fruits of Torah” and we should be inspiring them with – and encouraging them to learn – the teachings of Chassidus that will bring out their inner soul.

This is reflected in the Rambam (Hilchos T’shuva 10:5): “Therefore, when one teaches children, women, and most of the common people, one should teach them to serve out of fear and in order to receive a reward. As their knowledge grows and their wisdom increases, this secret should be revealed to them [slowly,] bit by bit. They should become accustomed to this concept gradually until they grasp it and know it and begin serving [God] out of love.”

This idea – of all Jews starting to learn the inner dimension of Torah – is very much connected to bringing and getting accustomed to the times of Moshiach. As the Rambam describes the times of Moshiach (Hilchos Melachim 12:5) “In that era, there will be neither famine or war, envy or competition for good will flow in abundance and all the delights will be freely available as dust. The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know God. Therefore, the Jews will be great sages and know the hidden matters, grasping the knowledge of their Creator according to the full extent of human potential, as the Navi Yeshayahu (11:9) states: ‘The world will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the ocean bed.”

Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a well sought after speaker and lecturer. Recordings of his in-depth shiurim on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be accessed at http://www.ylcrecording.com.

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