It irks me when a whole farbrengen goes by without the speaker making any mention of the importance of Avodas HaTefillah. All the more so when the person almost never speaks about Avodas HaTefillah altogether. This was always the central topic of a Chassidishe farbrengen!
Yet sometimes when Avodas HaTefillah is discussed, and the (well-meaning) speaker is of a younger age, I find myself wishing that that the topic had not been raised after all. They may mean to inspire, but what they end up saying is about as inspiring as a eulogy. Their words go like this: In past generations Chassidim would be misbonein (meditate) for hours, davven all day, and reach true ahavah v’yirah. But nowadays “times have changed,” and that’s not shayach for us, so let’s at least davven with kavono in pirush ha’milois.
Feh! Pirush ha’milois alone? That is a chassidish’n davenen?! That’s a chiyuv gomur al pi din! That’s basic Halacha. Not for this was Chassidus Chabad revealed!
Granted, one who is lacking in knowledge of the pirush ha’milois, or who knows it but does not make a point of thinking it, should make it a priority to fix this. And one who notices that another Jew is lacking in this area should explain the importance of this to him. But please, don’t call this the Avodah of Chassidus Chabad!
By what right do they dare come along and assert that “times have changed” and Avodas HaTefillah as prescribed in Kuntres HaTefillah and Kuntres HoAvodah is irrelevant (yishtakach ha’dovor ve’lo yei’omeir)? Are they Rebbes that they are able to declare inapplicable the words of Raboseinu Nesi’einu, which are divrei Tzaddikim chayim ve’kayomim lo’ad? When did the Rebbe ever indicate such a thing? On the contrary, those who seek truth will know that the Rebbe explicitly and unequivocally repudiated this misconception (as I’ve proven in this blog here)!
What’s appealing for the yetzer horo about this claim is that it means that we can take life easy. If Avodas HaTefillah is dead, then I’m exempt from it, you’re exempt from it, we’re all exempt from it. Phew. Okay, let’s say a kaddish for Avodas HaTefillah, to pay our respects to times of old, to mourn and “get over” the deceased. Perhaps “the living will take to heart” and have kavono in pirush ha’milois, if we’re having a good day. But Hisbonenus? Arichus HaTefillah? Real ahavah v’yirah? Come on, who’re you kidding? That’s not for our generation, don’t you know? Don’t be a dor ha’shishi’nik! You’ve gotta get with the program! You know, the program of being a pusteh keili! Rachmana litzlan.
It’s true, real Avodas HaTefillah requires many hours of preparation and effort. It’s probably also unfortunately true that most people in our generation are indeed not shayach to the haflo’o’dike arichus and hergeishim of someone like Reb Itche Der Masmid. But it’s not all or nothing. Ahavah v’yirah are obligations, Mitzvos Asei min HaTorah, and Chassidus Chabad teaches that these feelings are attained through in-depth Hisbonenus and a hartzik’n davenen. So perhaps you can’t make the big league. But at least do it on your level! The Rebbe Rashab says this clearly; see here and here.
Of course, talk is cheap. Anyone can write a post on a blog. The only way to truly demonstrate that Hisbonenus and Avodas HaTefillah are alive is to set a living example. No matter how many witnesses come and testify that they saw someone’s death and burial, if the supposedly deceased person shows up in Beis Din, he ain’t dead. He’s chai ve’kayom.
May we all be zoche to set such an example.