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On Studying Chassidus: Chapter Fourteen

On Studying Chassidus: Chapter Fourteen


All the foregoing was an explanation of Chasidus in its role of discussing the esoteric aspects of the Revealed Law. The Revealed aspects of these laws are clearly understood in their detailed logic and manifold applications in practical law. Only, it is more difficult for a person to understand the hidden aspects of the laws with the same consummate clarity that is possible with their Revealed aspects. But this concerns only the first facet of Inner Torah—that which expounds and elucidates the inner meanings of Revealed Law (above ch. 11).

Though these concepts are spiritual and delicate to the extreme, the very fact that the Revealed aspects of the law are comprehensible assists in understanding the esoteric aspects. Despite the difficulties, we do have tangible points of reference in the Revealed Law, and by dint of effort we may arrive at thorough understanding.

The other facet of Chasidus discusses topics like creation ex nihilo; permeating and encompassing light; light, life, and power;1 power and ability. On cursory examination, it would seem that these subjects are devoid of concrete parallels. Let us take an example:

We have mentioned ayin and yesh, nothingness and existence. Regardless of mental endeavor, it remains difficult to conceive of nothing. Even the first state of existence called hkuhv hiyuli by Nachmanides2 has little meaning for the ordinary mind. So much more difficult is conceiving the existence of nothing, which is obviously the negation of existence, and that Creation derives from this non-existent. Understanding permeating and encompassing light, their differences and congruence, and understanding topics like the examples cited, which are the focus of the second facet of Chasidus, seems virtually impossible. Nonetheless, even this field of Chasidus can be fully grasped by the mind in a manner appropriate to the study.

Ibid., ch. 17, ff.
Gen. 1:1. [Bara, “The Holy One created all creatures from absolute nothingness. We have no word in the Holy Tongue for the derivation of existence from non-existence except bara (created) . . . He brought forth from absolute nothingness a very delicate element. It has no tangibility but is a power of bringing forth, prepared to assume a form and proceed from potential to actual. It is the prime matter called by the Greeks hyle. After creating this prime matter He created no more, but formed and made from it. He brought everything forth from it, endowed them with forms and perfected them.”]
Translated by Zalman I. Posner. Rabbi Posner (1927-2014) was a noted author and lecturer. He was rabbi of Congregation Sherith Israel of Nashville, Tennessee, for 53 years and co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Nashville.
A Chassidic discourse by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch.
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