A PANACEA FOR THE BITACHON-CHALLENGED
By Rabbi Zalman Goldberg
Among the directives that the Rebbe gave us in the area of strengthening Bitachon in Hashem was the instruction to study abundant Chassidus. There were those who the Rebbe instructed to study Shaar HaBitachon, some were directed to learn Chapter 23 in T ’hillim, others were advised to contemplate the content of the beginning of Chapter 41 in Tanya, and still others were told to meditate on the concept of Hashem’s Hashgacha Pratis and of Hashem’s kindness.
The instruction to learn a lot of Chassidus “בשופי-in copious amounts” in order to strengthen one’s Bitachon seems somewhat strange, for what is the connection between trust in Hashem and the general study of Chassidus? Shaar HaBitachon is of course the foundation of the concept of Bitachon; Chapter 23 in T’hillim also specifically relates the reliance of David HaMelech in Hashem, and Chapter 41 in Tanya addresses Hashem’s omnipresence and interest in the lives of every individual Yid. But the general study of Chassidus doesn’t seem to address any specific Bitachon related ideas.
There are three liquids1 which describe Torah; water, wine and oil. Water refers to the revealed part of Torah, which, like water, flows down from on high to our world. Wine denotes the concealed aspect of Torah which becomes revealed, just like wine is pressed and comes forth from inside the grape. Oil signifies the deepest level of the secrets of the Torah, Chassidus. (For more about the difference between the two levels of the esoteric parts of the Torah, oil and wine, see Kuntres Inyana shel Toras HaChassidus.)
There is a very basic difference between water, wine, and oil. The first two have an effect only until whichever level they reach. A river can provide water only until the point that it reaches; a person or thing which comes only partially into contact with water will remain wet only to that extent. The same applies to wine.
The parts of the Torah that correspond to water and wine are expected to be limited in their effect on the one who studies them. They may teach and inspire the student, but not in a permanent and ongoing manner. While studying Nigleh a person attains certain pieces of knowledge, but there’s a big chance that the person’s life will not revolve around this newly acquired knowledge. The same is true with the concealed parts of Torah which are likened to wine; the effect will be more inspirational, but after the inspiration wears off, the person’s life will continue on as ‘normal’.
Oil, on the other hand, is noted for permeating and completely affecting whatever it comes in contact with. Even if only a small part of an object becomes oily, the oiliness will be felt all over the article. Chassidus is the same; anyone who truly studies chassidus properly will (over time) become totally transformed. Chassidus will reach the entire person with all his dimensions until the person becomes a ‘chassidus person’ all around.
With all other studies, the particular study being focused on will show to an extent, but then there is a point where the person just becomes himself and his earlier study has been retired. Not so with chassidus, the study of which gives a non-stop supply of G-dliness, applicable to every facet of life, guiding one’s every step and ultimately engulfing the student in a new G-dly reality.
Reb Meir Blizinsky2 was heavily involved with delivering shiurim in chassidus, both privately and publicly. Once, a Yid who was unfortunately very antagonistic toward Torah and Mitzvos happened to walk into one of R’ Blizinky’s shiurim. Intrigued, he inquired about the time of the next shiur and attended it as well. After an extended period of time that he was present at Reb Meir’s shiurei chassidus, he approached Reb Meir and requested a private class, in addition to the public shiurim he was attending. Reb Meir agreed, on condition that it take place Shabbos morning. This Yid arrived every Shabbos morning before 6 a.m. and studied with Reb Meir until 9, when he accompanied Reb Meir until the shul and then continued on his way.
Reb Meir had already brought myriads of Yidden closer to Yiddishkait through his shiurim. This student, however, was receiving personal attention for 3-4 hours weekly and nothing was advancing in his fulfillment of Mitzvos. Even more so, Reb Meir once stepped out during the chavrusa and upon returning saw him extinguishing a cigarette which he had lit while Reb Meir left. At one point, when Reb Meir attempted to raise the subject, the man refused to listen.
Reb Meir then wrote a letter to the Rebbe questioning whether he should continue learning with this individual or not, being that the study was not at all being effective. The Rebbe’s response was to continue, but under no circumstances should he talk about performing mitzvos.
After one and a half years of learning together in this manner, the Yid suddenly asked Reb Meir to guide him in writing a letter to the Rebbe. The Yid explained: “When I first joined the class, I was enthralled by the content and I wanted to continue studying. After some time I was torn; on one hand, the study was exceedingly captivating, on the other hand I realized that this is the truth but I did not want to commit myself to a life of being observant. I was about to stop our study, when I came up with a plan; I would place a total separation between my mind and my emotions, so that the study will just be intellectual and theoretical with no real life implications. These thoughts took place just when you started to talk to me about Yiddishkait, and by some miracle you stopped, because if you would have continued talking about Mitzvos I would have ceased our study session entirely. Despite my resolution to keep the subject matter theoretical, my conscience left me no rest. Although I don’t want to be observant, I have this urge to observe something in Yiddishkait. So I’m writing to the Rebbe for advice.”
Eventually this man became a frum Yid. And this holds an important lesson for us too. If a person who opposed the lifestyle that Chassidus advocates was brought closer to Hashem through properly studying Chassidus, how much more so anyone else, who doesn’t harbor such antagonistic feelings toward Yiddishkait, should surely be completely transformed through the proper study of chassidus.
In order to maximize the influence of chassidus, we must strive to ensure that the study of chassidus is pure. This can be understood by prefacing that just as there are three separate parts of the Torah, water, wine, and oil, so too in the oil part of the Torah there are three parts: water, wine, and oil of oil. When water or wine are mixed into oil, it can result in their temporary slowing down the effect that the oil has and thus the permanent permeation of the oil may be temporarily hindered. If chassidus is chas v’shalom studied as an intellectual pursuit, the very metzius of the person that was supposed to be permeated by the study of chassidus will actually be strengthened. Instead of being immersed in G-dliness, the ‘self’ will be fortified and for the meantime be alienated from Hashem.
This is why in this week’s parsha, the oil for the menorah needed to be the first drop of oil, teaching us that the oil used for permanently changing and influencing our lives must be pure oil, with no ‘self’ mixed in.
This may explain the necessity of learning Chassidus in strengthening our Bitachon in Hashem. Generally speaking, the goal of Torah is to connect us with Hashem. In truth, any part of Torah has this potential, as long as the student appreciates that the essence of Torah is that it is the Wisdom of Hashem, and that on a higher level, Torah represents Ratzon Hashem. Nevertheless, on a practical level, this aspect of Torah may not be readily appreciated when studying Nigleh, the exoteric parts of the Torah. Although the status of Torah as the Wisdom and Will of Hashem remains a fact, it will not necessarily be felt in a revealed way. Only the study of Chassidus (oil), addresses this concept and causes our whole being to reflect G-dliness, and in a pure manner.
So anyone who studies Chassidus with purity, allowing it to define who he is and what he represents, will enjoy a life of G-dly reality in all circumstances. Never will there be a reaction of anger or frustration. Only joy will be expressed. The first reaction will become one of, “How does Hashem want me to behave?” rather than the natural reflex to whatever is happening. In other words, Chassidus provides an atmosphere in which Bitachon thrives and grows unhindered. The more ‘oil’ a person has, the stronger his reliance on Hashem will be in real life.
Rabbi Zalman Goldberg is a well sought after speaker and lecturer on Chassidic thought. His writings and recordings on the topic of Bitachon can be accessed at http://www.gotbitachon.com.
1) לקו’’ש ח’’א ע’ 170 ואילך.
2) בדרכי החסידים ע’ 231.
Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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