Tanya - Background To The Chabad Approach - Chabad


Mind versus heart. Among Dov Ber's disciples, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi formed Hasidic Philosophy into a profound intellectual system, called "Chabad" after the Kabbalistic terms for the intellect, that differs from mainstream Hasidic emotional approaches to mystical faith. This seeks inward Jewish observance, while downplaying charismatic Hasidic enthusiasm, that it sees as external. The mysticism of Schneur Zalman did not seek cold intellectual investigation. In common with all of Hasidism, it awakens joy and negation of self-awareness, from the Jew's perception of the Divine in all things. But in Chabad, later to be called after its Russian village of Lubavitch, external emotional expression is seen as superficial if devoid of inner contemplation. In this vein, it is related that the second Lubavitch Rebbe, Dov Ber Schneuri, would pray motionless for hours. Emotional expression was replaced with inner, hidden emotional ecstasy from his intellectual contemplation of Hasidic Philosophy during prayer. At the end of praying, his hat and clothing would be soaked in perspiration. Typically, he wrote one of the most personal mystical accounts in Judaism, his "Tract on Ecstasy", that instructs the Chabad follower in the levels of contemplation. This explains his father's concept of the Chabad articulation of Hasidism. While the Baal Shem Tov stressed the heart, Schneur Zalman stressed the mind, but it was a warm, fiery mystical intellectualism.

Intellect versus faith. By giving Hasidus philosophical investigation, the Chabad school explained the inner meanings of the "Torah of the Baal Shem Tov". Its systematic investigation enables the mind to grasp and internalize the transcendent spirituality of mainstream Hasidism. If the mind can bring the soul of Hasidism into understanding and knowledge through logic, then its effects on the person can be more inward. The classic writings of other Hasidic schools also relate the inner mysticism of Hasidic Philosophy to the perception of each person. The aim of the Hasidic movement is to offer the Jewish mystical tradition in a new, internal form that speaks to every person. This would awaken spiritual awareness and feeling of God, through understanding of its mystical thought. Mainstream Hasidism relates this mystical revival through charismatic leadership and understanding based faith. The path of Schneur Zalman differs from other Hasidism, as it seeks to approach the heart through the development of the mind. Chabad writings of each generation of its dynasty, develop this intellectual explanation of Hasidic mystical ideas, into successively greater and more accessible reach. In recent times the last two Rebbes expressed the spiritual warmth of Chabad in terms of daily reality, language and relevance, in the Yiddish translations and memoires of Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, and especially the Likkutei Sichos of Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

Chabad Hasidus and other dimensions of Jewish thought. Because the approach of Chabad explains Hasidus in intellectual form, it can incorporate into its explanation the other aspects of historical Jewish thought. Complimentary or initially contradictory explanations of Jewish thought from Rabbinic Judaism, Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah can become synthesised into one unity. It can connect the different disciplines of mysticism (Kabbalah) and Jewish philosophy (Hakira), by relating to a higher, essential unity in Divinity, that harmonises diverse ideas. This approaches classic questions of theology from a different route than Hakira. The Jewish philosophers of the Middle Ages, such as Maimonides, reconciled Judaism with Greek philosophy. Their explanations of the nature of the Divine, are related from man's independent understanding from first principles. Hasidic thought looks to the inner meaning of Kabbalah, a conceptual system of metaphysics from mystical encounters with revelation. The insights it brings to theological questions, brought out in its Chabad explanation, are related from a mystical, higher reality "from above". When Hasidic thought addresses traditional questions, such as Divine Providence, immanence and transcendence, it offers "Inner Torah" explanations of spirituality, that can also be harmonised with the explanations of the "Revealed Torah". It is the ability of Hasidic thought to bring the abstract, esoteric systems of Kabbalah into conscious perception and mystical faith, by relating them to man's inner psychological awareness. The ideal of the Chabad approach is to articulate this spiritual perception in terms of man's understanding and knowledge.

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