"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Monday, July 27, 2009

Missing the fairs—with good reason!

At times we Chabad chassidim are distinguished by what we do, but at other times, we are distinguished by what we don’t do. I am not referring to neglecting something that we should be doing, but to our refraining from following certain minhagim (Jewish customs) followed by many (and sometimes most or even all) other groups, Chassidic or otherwise. Although these minhagim are totally legitimate and sublime (“yesodosom beharerei kodesh”), our Rebbeim taught us not to follow them. Below is a partial list. Chabad chassidim:
  • do not grow long pei’yos (sidelocks—see Igros Kodesh, Vol. 20, pp. 9-10);
  • do not sleep in the Sukkah (see Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 20, p. 211 ff.);
  • do not eat shalosh se’udos (the third meal of Shabbos—see Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 21, pp. 84 ff.), although we do eat a morsel—see HaYom Yom 22 Adar I;
  • recite a nusach (prayer text) in which certain prayers and hymns are omitted, such as Aanim zemiros, Veshomru, Yigdal, Akdomos, and so on;
  • do not recite Selichos in the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah.
This creates a sort of anomaly. On the one hand, as Chabad chassidim we believe that the derech of Chassidus Chabad is the highest form of serving Hashem. Yet at first glance, the fact that in a number of areas we customarily do less appears to contradict this.

Perhaps the following story can resolve this:
Once I had a private audience with the Rebbe, and the subject turned to the greatness of the Mincha prayer of Erev Shabbos. I asked the Rebbe to explain the reason for the Lubavitcher custom not to recite Shir HaShirim on Erev Shabbos. He told me that the Baal HaTanya was once asked why he doesn’t recite Veshomru and Shir HaShirim, which are known to cause a great fair in the supernal realms. He answered that “one doesn’t need to attend all the fairs.”

The Rebbe said to me that he asked his father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe, for an explanation. His father-in-law answered, “Certainly at the time of
Erev Shabbos he was at a more important fair, and thus he doesn’t have any free time to take part in this fair.”

The Rebbe asked further: “I can understand that the Rebbe is at a higher fair, but why don’t the
chassidim recite Shir HaShirim, since it causes such a sublime fair.” His father-in-law responded, “When the Rebbe is at a more important fair, he drags all his chassidim and those bound with him along as well; thus, they too don’t have time to take part in the other fair.”

See also Piskei HaSiddur, where a slightly different version of the story is told:[1]
There is a story oft-told among chassidim that Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, the in-law of the Alter Rebbe, sent him a message (or told him): “When Jews recite the prayer of Veshomru on the night of Shabbos, a fair is held in the heavens; if so, why did you institute that it not be recited?” The Alter Rebbe responded: “A fair is also held in the heavens from the juxtaposition of the prayer of redemption to the Amidah (semichas geula litefillah [and this juxtaposition is missed when one recites Veshomru]), and one cannot attend all the fairs.”
In any case, the relevance is clear. We asked why Chabad chassidim don’t follow these and other sublime minhogei Yisroel (Jewish customs) and benefit from the sublime divine revelations that they bestow? In light of the above story, the explanation is clear. Through our Hiskashrus (bond) to the Rebbeim of Chabad, when we consciously refrain from observing these holy practices (at the same time keeping ourselves busy with other worthy things that the Rebbeim taught us), we connect with other yet more sublime levels of divine revelation that supersede those experienced via those customs. Put simply, when you connect with a higher derech, you connect with higher revelations (however, it should be noted parenthetically that regardless of which derech one chooses, one should choose one specific derech and follow it consistently—see here).

Perhaps this principle can be applied to various other areas as well, such as the choice of which 
seforim to study, and the like.

[1] Another similar story: When the Alter Rebbe and Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Barditchev were at the Great Wedding, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak suddenly began dancing (without saying “Kadosh”) because he heard how the angels were saying “Kadosh.” The Alter Rebbe commented, “One need not dance at every ‘Kadosh’”
(Sicha of Sukkos 5689).

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