Friday, January 30, 2015

The Rebbe and I

Recalling my years of yeshiva, there existed this constant sense of frustration. They would always farbreng about the Rebbe, and how lucky we are to be chassidim. Recalling  Hakafos by the Rebbe, dollars, kos shel brocha, or even their own yechidusim. On the one hand, it kindled this drive to want to connect to the Rebbe, this wish that I would have met him and make him a part of my life. On the other hand, there was always an underlying sense of disconnect. Everytime I would hear the word, ______ years ago, I would cringe. Their passion for the Rebbe that they were sharing with me was based off what they experienced back in the bochur days. I, being only 1 by Gimmel Tammuz, could never have such experiences. Their speak of Rebbe and their call for connection was not a language that I was a native of. So when it comes to the idea of Hiskashus, all the more so the day of Hiskashrus, Yud Shivat, I ask myself: what is my Hiskashrus?

The literal translation of Hiskarshus is "connection." The simple definition of connection is influence. If one person's life has been affected, has been influenced by another, there exists a connection between them. The more that one person's life has been affected by the other, the stronger the connecttion Even though this is not something quantifiable, there is a myriad of degrees, and always room for improvement.

When Chassidus tackles the issue of a "connection" with G-d it sets a couple things as primary pillars. A connection can only truly exist if we make G-d a part of OUR lives. If our relationship is only due to what G-d has done to our forefathers in Egypt, or we view G-d purely as this abstract ineffable being, then there is no hope that we can make G-d part of our lives. In turn, the more of your life that you allow G-dliness to enter, the stronger the connection.

It's been twenty years. The generation of bochurim today never saw the Rebbe. As best, the Rebbe is real through a dollar, a picture, a Tanya, a video, a building. For many, the Rebbe is real as a concept. I am not saying that we should expect, (or even believe possible), that the Rebbe can be as real to us as he was to the previous generation. That being said, however much the Rebbe can be a part of our lives, the main point is that a connection only exists if the Rebbe is pertinent in OUR lives.

Mashpiim, Shluchim, and the like may have the best intentions. Aware that this generation is the first ever to not personally experience a corporeal Rebbe, they try their best to give over what the Rebbe was/is. But they can only give us what the Rebbe was to THEM. They do not, and can not, relate to how we perceive reality. If we just become parrots, repeating all the "chassidishe slang" that we were given, we have lost the whole point. Our Rebbe can not become the Rebbe of our forefathers.

The time for revolution has come.

Rabbeinu HaKodesh looked around his generation and realized that if everything just stayed status quo, the Torah would be forgotten. Even though it said that "One should write down the Oral Torah", he had the foresight to realize that it was either not writing the Oral Torah or no Torah at all. We now can see how pivotal that decision was.

The Ba'al ShemTov looked around his generation and saw that people were in state of faintness (physically and spiritually). If everything stayed status quo, Judaism would of died in Russia. Even though it was accepted that the esoteric part of Torah should be kept privatized, past down from scholar to scholar, unfit for the layman, the Ba'al ShemTov disseminated it to all Jews everywhere. We can now see how crucial that decision was.

Judaism survived due to innovativness and creativity. It exists today because great people had the courage to accept that a change must happen.
I implore you, look around and see the state our generation is in. True, such talk is stepping on thin ice. Stepping away from the status quo could have dangerous consequences.
But if we allow everything to remain status quo, what do we end up with in a couple of years?

I can offer no simple solution. I offer no solution at all. I simply belief it is time for a revolution. The time for the generation to be candid about the issues that we live with. The time that the Rebbe for us is no longer a record player of Reb Yoel or Shlomo Zarchi. The time for us to have a real discussion about what to do. The time for change.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Truth Vs. Acceptance

Truth. Pure, unfiltered, uncensored truth. That is the language that religion speaks.
In the world of opinions and relativity there is a lot of space, and need, for acceptance. However, once we enter the world of absoluteness, acceptance sounds not only extra, but essentially impossible. Two opposing truths is an oxymoron. If I hold Truth, another intrinsically can not.

Therefore, by the very nature of religion, insulation and intolerance are expected. A lack in either shows a weakening in your convictions. We must, therefore, not only allow parochialism, but praise it.

Within Judaism, on every issue there are always two 'whys' then can be asked, and generally, must be asked. Firstly, 'why' on a practical sense. Based off the natural course of events, what caused this to be the way it is? Secondly, 'why' on a metaphysical sense. Why did G-d cause the natural course of events to turn out the way they did?

As such, looking at the myriad of varying opinions and customs within Judaism itself, we must ask these two 'whys':

In regards to the first why, there are many opinions and historians who strive and in many ways do resolve how modern day halacha turned out the way it did. However, how do we answer the second 'why'? Why did G-d create a situation where there are more opinions than Jews?

In order to answer that, we have to redefine the word "Truth." What "Truth" truly stands for is consistency and all-encompassment. Judaism is saying, that each person must find his own Truth, but that doesn't negate the truth of another. Your "Truth" has to be unwavering. But that is your Truth. Judaism not only allowed but decisively created opposing opinions with Torah itself, in order to tell a person that each one has it place, and not at the expense of the other. Therefore, on the contrary, if you do not respect anothers views and his personal service of G-d, you are going against Torah. This does not allow for anyone to create his own service as he pleases. Rather, we have to look at Judaism and Torah as an instrument. You are bound by the strings, but you have to write your own song.