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On Studying Chassidus: Chapter Fifteen

On Studying Chassidus: Chapter Fifteen


It is a basic premise that intellectual activities are divided into categories that vary with the powers through which these activities are manifested. The wisdom (or science) of deed differs from that of speech, and speech from that of thought. All three—deed, speech, and thought—comprise the soul’s auxiliary-powers, not its essence-powers. They are inferior in grade to emotion, and are called garments of the soul. The soul reveals itself and acts through them, but they are not independent entities.

Emotions, on the other hand, are essence-powers. They do have a sort of embodied existence (kindness, severity, mercy, etc.), but this materialization is only relative to intellect, which is on a higher plane of abstraction. In comparison with the garments though, emotions are considered essence.

This principle of variation is expressed, too, in the categories of intellectuals. Chacham, maven, and daatan vary in magnitude. The ideal, the perfection of intellect, is inclusiveness—concept containing in itself comprehension and concentration; comprehension containing concept and concentration, etc. Still, each of the three components of intellect possesses its particular, essential character. Concept is the original, seminal idea; comprehension is grasp and development of the nucleus; concentration is the profundity of the idea. The fulfilment of each lies in its being complemented by the others. The ideal concept is realized in its development and depth; comprehension is real when accompanied with awareness of the concept-nucleus and depth; Concentration is perfected through the fusion of all three. Nonetheless, each retains its distinctive trait; between each of them, there is a difference in standing.

Just as differences exist in the components of the intellect, the instruments of ideas, so are there differences in the subjects in which the mind is engaged.

The various sciences of mechanics, art, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, the study of the soul, and the study of Torah—these are a few fields of study, all possessing obvious and unique qualities defining them. The peculiar nature of each necessitates systematic study with requisite preparations and introductions relevant to each.

By the same token, Chasidus has its own indispensable preparatory steps. With the proper introduction one may profitably engage in this study, grasping well even the most abstruse topics.

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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