The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Kapote Conundrum

In a conversation with a friend, the son of a very successful shliach, (the truth is, that what a successful shliach is a matter of dispute in and of itself, but for the purpose of this post, we will assume that it is one who has a large Chabad House with many members and Ba'alei Teshuvah) the question came up:

When working on Shlichus, what is the goal? Do we want to make full fledged Lubavitchers, and if so, how far do we push this desire?

Before continuing this post, however, there a few different factors that the reader must assume:

That Chabad Chassidus is vital to every Jew and that it ought to be shared with others.

(Or rather, being a Lubavitcher I feel that what I have is a desirable path in divine service and therefore work with the tools that I have available)

-This isn't such unique phenomenon, look at any 'Litvishe' Kiruv group . . . they sell the standard Gadol line of thought, complete with nusach Ashkenaz and the like to all who they encounter -I doubt the YU students who make yearly Pesach Sedarim in Belarus take into account that there were whole cities in that area made entirely of Chabad Chassidim- and the truth is, to do anything else borders on the inane . . . One can hardly be successful if he must first delve into the often vague family tree of his congregant before further growth can be achieved.

"Let's see here, you said you only know that your great-grandmother's uncle was from Vitebsk . . . so you could be a Lubavitcher, or a Litvak . . . but then again Vitebsk was a large city, so your roots could even go back to . . ."

(This not to make light of those who have researched their family's past and wish to follow in the path of their forefathers, such a move is beautiful testament to one who truly wishes to give honor to his forebears and for what they stood.)

In other words, before this note further distracts us, please assume that you are a Lubavitcher . . . (You're telling me that you aren't yet?!)

My friend stated, that while making a full fledged Lubavitcher is ideal, too often this becomes the goal, while eclipsing the need for other, more basic needs.

The end result; a guy with a beard, hat and Kapote, who can't read Hebrew, and thinks that now that he has the Shmonah Begadim, the full garb, he can express his (often ignorant) view on all matters . . .

Keep them good Jews with leather Yarmulkes and Armani Shabbos suites and life will be much easier, for everyone. If an exception comes, someone who is ready for the full deal, then of course we take him up a notch . . . but not as an automatic next step.

To a certain degree he's right.

Personally, I am not bothered by a person with a Kapote who must break his teeth on Aleph-Beis -some people just haven't been blessed with the skills to learn new letters, Kapote or not, these guys won't be getting much further- and even more so, I feel that to a certain degree, the Rebbe does want Kapotes. But to slap on the sirtuk is a big move.

Too often, with kapote comes all the problems. When one has been fully initiated into the chassidic life, the rosy colored view of those early years begins to fade.

A certain Ba'al Teshuvah once said,

"When I came into 770 with jeans and a ponytail everyone came to help me, now that I come in with a beard and a hat, nobody turns his head."

Chassidus is perfect, we as Chassidim are (far too often) not.

The infighting, politicking, and vile rancor that we spew at each other can be frightful. Is it right to take someone down that path?

I am not suggesting hiding the truth, preventing the person from increased spiritual growth or pretending that everything is peachy keen (That's where half the problem comes from -the initial denial of the truth) . . .

As a Ba'al Teshuvah, my first year in Yeshivah was very difficult . . .
Yet as a Ba'al Teshuvah, how can I not help someone take a step forward.
When I first became frum, I was given the option of going to a Jewish High school or taking the full leap into Yeshivah (True it was Mesivta, high school, and I took secular studies, but the difference between the two is very great).

I shudder to think how I would have turned out had I not gone to Yeshivah . . .

My friend would argue that I fit into the group that is ready for the extra step, perhaps he's right . . .

Yet we all have to grow, Judaism can not stagnate, and if someone has moved up to becoming a frum, friend of Chabad, then at some point, wouldn't he be ready for the next step?

What do you think?

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Sefirah said...

an on a further note, welcome home to my dear sister sefirah

yitz said...

First, let me state at the outset that I am not a Lubavitcher, although I owe a personal debt of Hakaras HaTov to the movement for some of its work decades ago, which helped me on my path to Yiddishkeit.
I think the most important thing is to help bring a Jew to Torah & mitzvos, pure, unadulterated version. Let him then choose his minhagim, if he wants to try to trace his own roots, join Chabad, join YU, become a Sefardi, or whatever. Anything else, IMNSHO, is not kiruv, but rather selling an agenda; which, unfortunately, too many people are guilty of.
My 2 agorot!

yitz.. said...

(kodem kol, like Yitz above, I am not chabad. I do learn a lot of chabad chassidut though.)

rather than:
That Chabad Chassidus is the ideal

I think you should say: "Chabad Chassidut is vital to every Jew."

ideals confuse reality.

I think, if the Shaliach is doing their job, being a true shining example of what it is to be a Jew, then he will always focus his 'flock' on Torah and Mitzvot, and the step to being Lubavitch/wearing the uniform will happen naturally on its own, at the right pace for each person. When that Shaliach sees people focusing on the exterior/uniform, it's his duty to refocus his congregants.

I also think this point is obvious and talking about it is only productive in aiding people in pointing fingers. (just as a uniform is primarily helpful in causing people to point fingers)

This whole issue only comes up when Shlichim stop thinking of Jews as individuals and seek to 'assembly line' the process of hafatzat hamaayanot, something that really cannot be industrialized. How can someone ask the question: "What should be the goal of shlichut?" How could the goal ever have become blurred to begin with??? It's so pashut. Jews doing mitzvot and learning Torah.

this is my l'chatchilah ariber response to your question.

ps. it goes without question that when I say Torah and Mitzvot, I mean Torah and Mitzvot infused with the intensity of Chabad Chassidut..otherwise, what's the point?

Hirshel Tzig said...

Ah, yes, what to do..

What do you tell a guy who says: Rabbi I wanna be like you! dress like you, beard like you, and everything else like you, you say "DON'T?" wait? and that's supposed to stop him?

yitz said...

To yitz...[the one WITH the dots], who wrote: Chabad Chassidut is vital to every Jew.. Oh really? Was it vital to Moshe Rabbeinu, Rashi, Rav Yosef Karo, Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, the Baal Shem Tov? Is it vital to HaRav Ovadiah Yosef, the Amshinover Rebbe, Rav A.L. Steinman, the Gerer Rebbe, etc. etc.? Methinks not!
I would perhaps at the most say, "Chabad Chassidut OR ITS EQUIVALENT is vital to every Jew," AND there are many equivalents!
Hirshel, for you I have a story, told to me by a Lubavitcher:
A young man became a Baal Teshuva and decided he wanted to become a Gerer Chassid. He enrolled in the Gerer Yeshiva, strove valiantly in his Torah-learning, & was able to maintain a competent enough level of learning to stay there.
After a number of weeks there, he approached the Mashgiach & asked him if he can start to wear the hat [with the brim] "that goes up." The Mashgiach says no, you haven't been here long enough. A few more weeks go by, & he asks again. Okay, now you're ready, is the answer.
After a few months, he asks if he can wear the coat "that goes down" [kapote]. Again, "you haven't been here long enough for that." A few more months go by, & his request is granted.
After about six months in the Gerer Beis Medrash, he asks if he can wear the "pants that go up" [knickers]. "Oh, no, you're definitely not ready for that!" A few more months go by, he asks again, & again the Mashgiach refuses. After a few more weeks, the young man decides, "I can't take it any more. I've been here almost a year, what does he think I am - a fly-by-night?"
So he decides to buy the short pants,'s he gonna wear them to the Yeshiva, when the Mashgiach sees EVERYTHING!? So he decides he'll make a go for it. He puts them on, & when he enters the yeshiva, makes a mad dash for his Shtender, hoping the Mashgiach won't notice him.
After a few minutes, his Chavrusa tells him that the Mashgiach is motioning to him to come over to him!!!
Uh, oh! What's gonna be??? He turns around, & sure enough, the Mashgiach is beckoning him to come over. "Oy, vey, I'm finished!"
But there's no choice. As he heads over to the Mashgiach, the latter extends his hand, & shakes it as he approaches. "Mazel Tov! I see you've finally learned to get dressed without me!!!"

Mottel said...

Yitz (WITH the dots):
I have changed my post to read as you suggested.

Tzigele: Do you think that the person should be discouraged anyhow?

Yitz (with out the Dots):
The main focus of Lubavitch is hafatzos hachassidus b'chlal and a Chassidus Chabad b'frat.
Why? Because in order to truly reach the chutza, the outer limits of the world, one must also be able to to reach the outer limits of the mind . . . Chassidus Chabad with its stress on arichus habiur and havana v'hasaga is what is able to accomplish this goal.
This is not to negate the intrinsic ma'alos of other chasddusin . . .
The only catch is that in order to have hafatzos hamayonos, we need hafatzos hayahadus first. Chassidus is great, but a person who thinks chassidus, but is m'chalel shabbos afterwards is missing the point. (This does not negate the teaching of chassidus to those who are not yet religious, only that the teaching must bring to ma'aseh b'poel)

In other words, the Rebbe wants every Jew to grow. A person who doesn't eat matzo on Pesach should eat Matzo, one who does it it should put on tefillin from time to time . . . someone who only goes to a shiur gemara once a week should go twice . . . someone who doesn't learn mussar should. Someone who learns mussar should learn chassidus etc. etc.
Someone once asked the Rebbe if he should change his hat to a Lubavitcher one. The Rebbe told him that a person who wears my hat is not a chossid. A person who wants to grow I am happy to call my chossid.
The Rebbe doesn't want everyone to start shaking Lulav the way we do, or rap the retzuas of his tefillin around his hands as we do.
But Chassidus must be learned!

My question is slightly different.
There is no doubt in my mind that a m'kurav should be taught chassidus. My friends father makes more then sure that his congregants learn. The question is, as Chabad Chassidim, do we try to bring others that extra step forward.
I could have ended up a stam Orthodox guy, with a love and respect of Chabad . . . but with out the nafshius'dike farbund tzum Rebbe'n.

As to your remark "Was it vital to . . ."
There are a couple of points to keep in mind.
1. Before hisgalus hachassidus there was no need for it. I assume that you feel chassidus haklolis is important to every Jew. The same question you ask on Chassidus Chabad is the one asked on Chassidus haklolis . . . the answer is the famous moshel of the Alter Rebbe (The crown with the diamond etc.)
Those that didn't have chassidus available didn't need it.
Now that it's here . . .

Rebbetzin Sussia Schochet (the mother of all the Schochets -Emanuel, Ezra (the Rosh) etc.) Once asked the Rebbe why her sons needed to grow beards. Growing up around Yekkishe Yiddin, there were many choshuvei yirei shomayim with out the yud gimel tikunnie dikna.
The Rebbe told her (if my memory serves me exactly) that these days a beard is needed to to have yirei shomayim (Would you rather eat from a shochet (The job, not the name) with a beard or with out?
2. Those alive today, therefore, do need Chassidus Chabad. The Gerrer Rebbe should still be the Gerrer Rebbe. He needs to teach his chassidus, follow his customs etc. But Tanya darft er eichet lernin . . .
(Of note, the Beis Yisroel, z"l, once said that a person who doesn't learn the first 12 chapters of Tanya can't be a yirei shomayim.)

I love the story you bring by the way!
L'chaim Yidden.

yitz.. said...

@Yitz the dotless

I wasn't stating a universal fact, I was suggesting a different wording for someone who DOES think Chabad Chassidut is vital to all jews. It just changes the focus from 'Chabad is the ideal' to closer to what it really is, 'i feel that it is vitally important to bring Chabad Chassidut to every Jew.

Secondly, Moshe received kol ma she atid l'chadesh---so you can't say it wasn't vital for Moshe Rabbeinu. Further, the Torah is a complete whole---it wouldn't be the Torah without Chabad Chassidut too.. so yes, it was vital to Rashi and Rav Yosef Karo. Elu v'Elu divrei Elokim Hayyim. I'll share something perhaps known to you but I just noticed this month: Divrei Elokim Hayyim is roshei tevot Echad.

Lastly, my personal understanding is that anything beyond HaShem+Torah/Mitzvot+Yisrael is a diversion. If you want to tell me Chabad Chassidut isn't a part of the whole of Torah, then we disagree. I don't think sifrei kodesh have 'equivalents' only relevancies (Not all sefarim have the same priority for every neshama).

redsneakz said...

With respect to yiddishkeit, I'm still an am ha'aretz, so forgive me for chiming in here - but didn't the Besht want all yidden to experience the Chasidic way? Even those of us who "break our teeth on the Alef-beis" are still making an effort.

So, putting on the "uniform", as it were, might put you on a path to think that you're a great Chosid - or it might put you on a path to TRY to be a great Chosid. It's not a conundrum at all. A master's degree, you can still be an am ha'aretz.

Mottel said...

First off, nice to meet you and welcome to my blog.
No need to cal yourself an Am Ha'aretz, from your very comment itself we can see that you know something. (Anyhow, on a deeper level, we can say that an Am Ha'aretz is someone who puts himself solely into artzius'dike (Earthly, i.e. mundane) things. It seems to me that you are a far deeper person then that.)

The 'uniform' can be very powerful, and if a person feels that putting it on will effect him to do more good, 100% He's ready in my books.
The question is, rather, how much do we (shluchim etc) try to impress the importance upon him?

redsneakz said...

Thank you, and I'm only a little teensy weensy bit knowledgeable. And I do daven with a Chabad minyan here.

That's a harder question - whether to encourage someone to engage with the outer trappings of being a Chosid, but one worth thinking about. Let's look back at the Alter Rebbe. On the one hand, he set up the chadorim - but on the other hand, he sent his talmidim not just to bring Jews all the way to Chassidus, but to bring them to Yiddishkeit. I'm sure that among the tanners and pitch makers, there were those who spoke only Yiddish and had about enough Hebrew to say Tehillim and daven a little bit.

So we're in the same situation today. The Rebbe has sent out the shluchim, not just to make Talmidim, but to bring Jews home. And if someone grows his beard, wears a hat and a kapote, and speaks only English and knows enough Hebrew to say Tehillim and mumble some of the prayers, as long as he really means them, who are we to call it a conundrum?

I guess what I try to teach myself is that for every accomplishment I make, there are three that I haven't done yet. Am I ready to be a Chosid? No, probably not. But I think that my rabbi can call himself a success with me.

Mottel said...

As of note, I would imagine that the 'chassidic' form of dress was common even amongst those 'ignorant' inspired by the Alter Rebbe.
As well, I'm sure you are an extent either way. Anyone who grows is a success . . .