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Parshas Tzav - Chassid Meets Misnaggid        15 Adar II 5779

03/22/19 09:35:49


Parshas Tzav – Chassid Meets Misnaggid

Last Shabbos I experienced the ironic situation of two events coinciding thousands of miles apart. My son’s Litvisha Yeshiva in Israel chartered a plane which flew the entire student body and administration to Mezibush in the Ukraine in order to spend Shabbos at the site of the founder of Chassidus, Reb Yisrael ben Eliezer, more commonly known as the Besh”t or the Baal Shem Tov. While in Mezibush, they also visited the gravesite of Reb Levi Yitzchok of Birditchiv. Both the Baal Shem Tov and Reb Levi Yitzchok of Birditchiv were icons of the Chassidic world and movement. The Lithuanian-style Yeshiva received an infusion of fervor, drawing powerful energy from the aura of the Chassidic masters hundreds of years since their passing. That very same Shabbos, thousands of miles away in San Diego, my wife and I hosted a Belzer Chassid from Borough Park for Shabbos who was stranded here while on a business trip. The Chassid dressed in full regalia - bekesha with his shtreimel - celebrated, experienced, and received an infusion of some Litvishe Judaism.

While a student, I primarily studied in Lithuanian-style Yeshivos which adhere to textually- based learning. This style of learning is in contrast to the Chasidic style of service to Hashem that puts a greater emphasis on singing, dancing, and eating. The Chassidic movement was founded a little over three hundred years ago, circa 1700,by the Baal Shem Tov. The Lithuanian leadership at the time took exception to this newly-founded manner of Avodas Hashem (service to God) and vehemently opposed it, and hence becoming known as the ‘Misnaggdim’ - the ones against. I don’t claim to be a historian, but the separation between these two groups remained steadfast for about two hundred years, until the crossover began, creating a growing acceptance to the Chasidic manner. After the Holocaust, whereby both the Yeshiva and the Chassidic worlds were decimated, the feelings of difference dropped and the acknowledgement of each movement took hold. While each rebuilt independently, by the early 1970s the groups merged in certain areas of Jewish life. Orthodox Jewish leadership was shared between the Roshei HaYeshiva and the Grand Rabbis of the various sects of Chassidim. Chassidim began enrolling in some Litvishe Yeshivos, while many Litvish or Yeshivish individuals began to undertake certain customs and practices from the Chassidim.

Two differences stood out during the visit of the Belzer Chassid: one food the other prayer. He did not know where he would end up for Shabbos and brought food in just in case he would end up staying in a hotel room by himself on Shabbos. Through an old SEED bachur, he connected to me, and we hosted him for Shabbos, along with all his ‘heimishe’ food. The loose meaning of ‘heimish’ is ‘from the home’, but its intended meaning is food that would be acceptable to certain standards of Kashrus. The following may seem odd to some readers, but he chose to eat his food and it did not bother us one iota. To the contrary, I wanted him to feel at home; whatever it takes to make a guest feel welcome is certainly worth that effort. The fact that he ate food with Hechsherim that he uses did not bother me. We shared beautiful Shabbos meals together, albeit with different foods. The kuntz/trick is to find the commonalities and not the differences. We became good friends over a Shabbos through demonstration of genuine respect and admiration for each person’s right to his or her standards. Such overt respect builds deep appreciation for mutual understanding and friendship.

The other difference is that many Chassidic dialects pronounce the Hebrew vowel ‘oo’ as ‘ee’, hence the word ‘hu’ is pronounced as ‘he’. Even though ‘hu’ in Hebrew means he and the word ‘he’ in Hebrew means she, it is still an acceptable pronunciation. In fact, Jews throughout the world have different pronunciations, yet all such variances are all acceptable for the constituents of that group. To put this in perspective, Chassidim are not the only group who use that pronunciation. Temani -Yemenite - pronounce every ‘hu’ as ‘he’. This is not something relegated to Chassidim; this case and all other examples are fueled through the local influence and traditions that were maintained and held onto throughout the exile and diaspora. While we are aware that Krias HaTorah should be heard within each group’s custom and dialect, an Ashkenazic non-Chassid will fulfill his obligation even when hearing a different-sounding word. In Sefer Vayikra we are challenged by the many times these words are used, particularly with regard to the sacrifices.

In this week’s parshas Tzav the Torah in Vayikra 6:18 uses the word ‘he’ for a sin offering while in 7:6 the word ‘Hu’ is used in describing a guilt offering. The Gemara Zevachim, 10 Rabbi Eliezer, says in the Mishna that an asham – a guilt sacrifice - slaughtered not for its sake is also invalid. The Gemora cites a braisa, with a dialogue between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua about the status of asham. Rabbi Eliezer says that both asham/guilt and chatas/sin are brought for transgressions. Just as a chatas is invalid when slaughtered not for its sake, so, too, an asham is invalid when slaughtered not for its sake. Rabbi Yehoshua replies that a chatas/sin is different, since its blood is applied on the top half of the Altar. Rabbi Eliezer replies that a pesach is also invalid when slaughtered not for its sake, although its blood is not applied on the top half, proving that this distinction is irrelevant. Rabbi Yehoshua replies that the pesach has a set time, while an asham does not. Rabbi Eliezer replies that a chatas does not, and still is invalid, proving that this distinction is also irrelevant, but Rabbi Yehoshua replies that he can repeatedly challenge both the chatas and pesach source with each one’s respective distinction. Rabbi Eliezer offers another argument from these verses. Just as the verse of chatas says chatas hee – it is a chatas, and the verse of the pesach says pesach hu – it is a pesach, and these teach us that they are only valid when offered for its own sake Therefore, the verse of the asham which says asham hu is an asham, teaching us that it is invalid when offered not for its sake. Rabbi Yehoshua replies that while these verses of chatas and pesach are in the context of slaughtering, which are required, the similar verse of asham is in the context of placing the sacrifice on the Altar. If the sacrifice is never placed on the Altar, it is still valid, so that verse cannot be teaching anything that will invalidate it. Rabbi Eliezer finally says that the verse says kachatas ka’asham – like the chatas and like the asham. This association of the two teaches that they are equivalent; both are invalid when slaughtered not for their sake. Therefore, the pronunciation can go either way.

The Jewish people have endured a long Galus/exile and have developed in many different yet complimentary ways. Whether Sephardim, Ashkenazim, Chassidim or other variations, we are a part of each other for better or for worse. As far as Chassidus and Misnaggdim are concerned, I think in today’s world there is a little Misnaggid or Litvak in every Chassid and a little Chassidus in every Litvak. Am Yisroel Chai!!!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sun, May 24 2020 1 Sivan 5780