Sunday, August 16, 2009

How (Not) to Learn Chassidut

Chopping WoodRecently I was at another shiur given by my LCR (Local Chassidishe Rebbe) and he gave over a great story about the Yid HaKadosh and learning chassidut. The Yid HaKadosh is of R. Yaakov Yitzchak of Peshischa (1766-1813) and is one of the Chassidishe Rebbe's in the fourth generation after the Ba'al Shem Tov.

In the lifetime of the Yid HaKadosh seforim of Chassidut were being published and already there were over twenty different Chassidishe seforim that you could learn. The Yid HaKadosh was asked why do you need to learn Chassidut from a Rebbe when you can learn it from a sefer?

The Yid HaKadosh responded with the following mashal: If a person wanted to be a woodcutter, he could buy a book on how to chop wood. He could read about how to lift the axe over his head. And then he should use all his strength to bring the blade into the wood. There could also be all sorts of diagrams showing what angle he should swing the axe and what is the proper grip for him to use. But if he were to go and watch a person chop wood, he would hear the krecht krechtz (grunt) that is made as he swings the axe. He could read the book a hundred times and he wouldn't find that krecht krechtz mentioned anywhere. So too with learning Chassidut - you can read the words in a sefer, but you need to learn with a Rebbe to bring them to life.

As we approach Elul, try and find a Rebbe who can bring new life to the words of Torah.


  1. It is a krechtz or krechts. Obviously something was lost in the transmission there. So you see, even if you have your Hassidic leader giving it over to you, there is no guarantee you are getting it correctly.

  2. Thank you for providing an excellent example of the difference between experiencing Chassidut from a Rebbe and learning Chassidut from a sefer. Even in this glorious blog I can only provide a תמצית (taste) of learning Chassidut from a real live LCR.