Far from Coincidence

In a letter1 to R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, written after his release from prison on Yud-Tes Kislev, the Alter Rebbe described the moment at which he was informed of his release by the czarist authorities as follows: “As I was reciting Tehillim, reading the verse that begins,2 ‘He has redeemed my soul in peace,’ and before I began the following verse, I went forth in peace through the G‑d of Peace.”

The connection between Yud-Tes Kislev and peace ex­plains an important effect of the new approach to teaching Chassidus that was introduced on that date. Before Yud-Tes Kislev, fragmentation was rampant in many areas of Jewish life; the teachings of Chassidism, as we shall see, bridged gaps on all sides.

Oneness in the Torah

The study of the Torah is broadly divided into two dis­ciplines: nigleh (“the revealed dimension” — Torah law) and pnimiyus haTorah (“the inner dimension of Torah” — the mysticism of the Kabbalah.)

Before the rise of Chassidism, the study of pnimiyus haTo­rah was not as widespread as that of the Talmud. Scholars whose entire lives were devoted to the study of the Talmud and its commentaries may never have been exposed to the mystical teachings of the Kabbalah. Even a sage who studied both areas and whose appreciation of Torah law was influ­enced by his study of pnimiyus haTorah, considered the two to be separate disciplines. The teachings of the Alter Rebbe integrated both realms of study, joining “the body of Torah” (nigleh) with its “soul” (pnimiyus haTorah) to form one cohe­sive organism.3

Oneness in Our People

A similar pattern can be seen in Jewish communal life: the revelation of chassidic teachings brought our people closer to each other, erasing previous differences. Before the rise of Chassidism, the common people, the amcha Yidden who were the broad and solid base of every Jewish community, felt estranged from the scholars and Torah leaders. Though scholars taught them Torah and no doubt taught proper con­duct by example, scholars maintained their distance, closeted away with their learned books, uninvolved in the affairs of the common people.

Chassidism brought these two groups together. Scholars began to show concern for the material, as well as the spiri­tual, welfare of the common man.4 And they began to gear their teachings to the level of those less learned, clothing the ideas of Torah — even the mysticism of pnimiyus haTorah — in language that ordinary people could relate to.

Oneness in Our Souls

The impulse toward unity initiated by chassidic thought also affects our personal divine service. The service of G‑d finds expression through two seemingly separate channels, intellect and faith. At one level, our conduct is governed by our minds; faith connects us to G‑d through an expression of the soul that transcends the limits of our minds.

Chassidic thought enables us to see that these two chan­nels are not contradictory, and shows us how to integrate the two so that we can develop ourselves fully. The transcendent quality of faith can also permeate the realm of intellect, thereby enabling even the mind to apprehend the spiritual.

An Expression of the Essence

The unity with which Chassidism was able to suffuse Judaism and Jewish communal life results from its emphasis on the essential core of the Torah and of the soul. Only a superficial perspective can perceive nigleh and pnimiyus haTo­rah as separate disciplines. Focusing on the essence of Torah enables us to appreciate how its revealed and mystical planes enhance each other, making a complete bond with Torah possible.5

Likewise in the area of Jewish oneness: Differences between people are perceived only when one looks at their intellectual and emotional characteristics, for at that level, no two people are alike. At the level of the essence of souls, however, we are all joined in a fundamental unity. Both scholar and common man possess the same fundamental G‑dly spark.

And likewise with regard to every individual: Focusing on the essence of the soul enables us to perceive the human per­sonality as a unified whole, in which faith and intellect com­plement each other to enable the individual to develop an all-encompassing bond with G‑d.

“Spreading the Wellsprings Outward”

The above emphasis of chassidic thought on the essence of the Torah and the essence of the soul makes it possible to “spread the wellsprings of Chassidism outward.” In its broad­est sense, this means extending the teachings of Chassidism to individuals who are estranged from their Jewish heritage.

Chassidus enables even a person with a limited under­standing of Torah to appreciate the Torah’s deepest truths because Chassidus relates to the essence of the soul, a poten­tial which remains active in every individual no matter how he conducts himself in his daily life. Regardless of his level of observance, every Jew shares an essential connection with G‑d.6 Chassidic thought can nurture this essential connection and bring it into expression in one’s daily life.

The Era of Redemption will witness the ultimate expres­sion of the essential bond our world shares with G‑d. By “spreading the wellsprings outward,” revealing this essential connection within the Torah and the Jewish people, we can anticipate this era and hasten its coming. May this take place in the immediate future.

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos,Vol. XV, Parshas Vayishlach