Day 45 of the Omer

עַד י"ב בַּחֹדֶשׁ — וְעַד בִּכְלַל — אֵין אוֹמְרִים תַּחֲנוּן.

[From the first of Sivan] until the twelfth inclusive, Tachanun1 is omitted.2

זְרוֹק חוּטְרָא לַאֲוִירָא אַעִקָּרֵיהּ קָאֵי. נַחֲלָה בְּלִי מְצָרִים הִנְחִילוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ הַקְּדוֹשִׁים לִכְבוֹד חֲסִידִים הָרִאשׁוֹנִים, אֲשֶׁר בְּנֵי בְנֵיהֶם וּבְנֵי בְנוֹתֵיהֶם לְדוֹרוֹתֵיהֶם, בְּאֵיזֶה מְדִינָה וּסְבִיבָה שֶׁיִּהְיוּ, יִהְיֶה אֶצְלָם אוֹתוֹ הָ"עִקְּרֵיהּ", וְהוּא הַמְשָׁכַת פְּנִימִיּוּת הַלֵּב אֶל צוּר מַחְצַבְתּוֹ. לִפְעָמִים הָ"עִקָּרֵיהּ" מְכוּסֶּה וְנֶעְלָם בְּכַמָּה לְבוּשִׁים, וְזֹאת הִיא עֲבוֹדַת הֶחָפֵץ בַּחַיִּים לְהָסִיר אֶת הַכִּסּוּיִם וּלִקְבּוֹעַ לוֹ זְמַנֵּי לִמּוּד בְּתוֹרַת הַחֲסִידוּת וְלִנְהוֹג בְּמִנְהֲגֵי עֲדַת הַחֲסִידִים.

[There is a maxim of the Sages:]3 “If you toss a stick into the air, it will land on its base.”4 Our forefathers, our holy Rebbeim, bequeathed “an unbounded inheritance”5 to the early chassidim — that their descendants throughout the generations, regardless of country or environment, would always have that fundamental home base — the heart’s innermost desire to be drawn to the Divine Rock from which it was hewn.6

This home base may be layered and hidden under several coverings. It is thus the life-task of whoever “desires life”7 to remove those coverings — to fix regular times for the study of Chassidus, and to observe the customs of the chassidic community.8

A Mini-Farbrengen

Shortly after his bar-mitzvah, a bright young student began studying Chassidus seriously. He first familiarized himself with terms such as yichuda ila’ah (the higher level of G‑d’s unity) and yichuda tata’ah (the lower level of G‑d’s unity), but also with terms such as tikkun hanefesh habahamis (rectifying one’s animal soul), beirur hanitzotzos (the refinement and elevation of the Divine sparks hidden in one’s material environment), avodah becho’ach atzmo (Divine service initiated by one’s own efforts), and so on.

Being an inquisitive youth, he also looked into the writings of the medieval Jewish thinkers of the Chakirah School, such as Rav Saadiah Gaon, Rambam, and R. Yosef Albo. There he found an entirely different lexicon: mechuyav hametzius (the concept that G‑d’s existence is a logical imperative), amitas metziuso (the true nature of His existence), ein lo techilah (the concept that He has no beginning), and the like.

He began to wonder: Why do the texts of Chassidus focus primarily on the human being and his efforts to refine the world, while Chakirah texts are primarily concerned with questions of G‑d’s existence and uniqueness?

The question troubled him for several weeks, until he finally asked his mashpia, the spiritual mentor in his yeshivah. With a gentle smile, the mashpia gave him a brief and somewhat cryptic answer: M’ret nit vegn zich; m’ret vegn yenem — “People don’t speak about themselves: they speak about others.”

In the course of time, the intent of this phrase dawned on him. The starting point for the thinkers of the Chakirah School is the reality of our own existence. Their efforts and writings therefore focus on knowing more about G‑d. Chassidus, by contrast, sets the initial frame of reference as G‑d.9 The efforts of those who study its teachings therefore focus on drawing an awareness of Divinity into their physical lives, and into the world at large.