Chassidus: The Antidote
to Spiritual Near-Death
to Spiritual Near-Death
Rabbi Y. Oliver
A colleague of the Maggid of Mezeritch once noticed a manuscript of Chassidus lying in the dirt, and this upset him. He was upset that these sublime, infinitely priceless secrets had come to be treated so carelessly, and so he wished that they would remain hidden, as, in his estimation, the generation clearly did not deserve them.
This episode in our world caused a similar action to be taken in the Heavenly Court: The prosecutor in the Heavenly Court came forward with the same argument against allowing the revelation of the teachings of Chassidus to continue.
The Alter Rebbe sensed this negative feeling and the danger it was causing on high, and responded to it by drawing an analogy to justify the revelation of these teachings. The Heavenly Court accepted this defense, and Chassidus continued to be taught. The analogy was as follows:
A prince once fell gravely ill. The doctors diagnosed that the prince’s sickness could only be cured by grinding down certain priceless jewels, mixing them with water, and administering this potion to him. However, these jewels were so rare that they could not even be found in the king’s treasury. The only such jewels available were embedded in the king’s very crown. In the meantime, the prince’s health deteriorated to the extent that his lips became tightly shut together, bringing the doctors to doubt whether the prince would even be able to swallow the potion. The king then declared that nonetheless, it is worthwhile to grind down this jewel, the centerpiece of the king’s crown, on the slight chance that a drop might enter the prince’s mouth and heal him.
Likewise, the Alter Rebbe said, the Jewish people are compared to Hashem’s children. While in exile they are in a very low spiritual state, and are in danger of spiritual death. Our spiritual doctors, the great Tzaddikim, starting from the Baal Shem Tov, realized that the only cure for this malady is the most sublime, precious secrets of Torah, which had until then been completely hidden—the teachings of Chassidus. Even a minute amount of this life-giving potion is enough to illuminate the darkness of exile and enable the Jew to continue living as a Jew, strong in his faith and Mitzvah observance.
Now one may no longer stand on the side and declare that he chooses to follow the previous approach and not study, or not teach, Chassidus, because of his concern that such study may not be appropriate. Now that this prescription has been given, not only is it appropriate, but it is mandatory: everyone must follow it and share it with others.
This justification for revealing Chassidus was even true in the times of the Alter Rebbe, before the Enlightenment Movement, Reform, Zionism, and all the sundry isms that have decimated so many of our people, may Hashem save us. This is all the more relevant in modern times, when the majority of the Jewish people have assimilated, may Hashem save them, and even many who are still basically observant are lacking true faith and inspiration, their observance weak from the insidious influences of secular culture (see here).
Now, more than ever, Chassidus is the elixir of life for a Jew. It implants in his heart true love and fear of Hashem and devotion to Torah and Mitzvos. A Jew who takes the medicine of Chassidus is fortified against the tempting enticements of the secular world. He is G–d-fearing, proud and happy to be a Jew, and enthusiastic in his observance of Mitzvos, even to the point of being willing to undergo self-sacrifice. He is a healthy Jew.