Thursday, December 08, 2005

Chassidim & Misnagdim

Riding on public transportation on Wednesday morning, I came across a teaching in the Gemara (Sukka 28a) that serves as the basis for one of my favorite jokes about the difference between Chassidim and Misnagdim. The joke goes something like this...

A Chassid and a Misnaged were sitting next to each other in front of an open Gemara, learning together in chavrusa. The chassid looks over at the Misnaged and excitedly says, "Do you see this!!!? It says, 'They said about Yonason ben Uziel, that when he sat and studied Torah, any bird that flew over him burst into flames.'"

The Misnaged, apparently not impressed, responds, "Nu, so what is your point?"

The Chassid repeats the line once again, "They said about Yonason ben Uziel, that when he sat and studied Torah, any bird that flew over him burst into flames."

Sitting stone-faced, the Misnaged responds, "So......"

Exasperated at his chavrusa's indifference, the Chassid explains, "Can you imagine the deveykus of this tzaddik?? He learned with such intensity and fervor that a pillar of fire shot out of the sefer before him and incinerated the birds flying over him! You are not impressed with this??"

The Misnaged responds, "Why would I be impressed with this?? I want to know whose birds they were and how much the owner gets in damages!"


At December 8, 2005 at 7:15:00 AM EST, Blogger Zoe Strickman said...

I'm glad you posted that. I heard this joke about a year ago and I loved it then just as much as I loved reading it now on your post. I am glad that mamesh Torah jokes are going around. People are actually learning Torah while getting a good laugh too. :) -Zoe

At December 8, 2005 at 7:22:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Glad you liked it, Zoe :)

At December 8, 2005 at 3:27:00 PM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Or, as the Kotzker said:

A Misnaged has fear of Shulchan-Aruch; a Chassid has fear of G-d.

At December 8, 2005 at 9:38:00 PM EST, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

The Brisker would ask:

Did the bird have Kavana to self-ignite in mid-air? If the bird didn't have kavana, would it still have blown up?

What day of the week was it -- was there an issur of causing the bird to explode on shabbat?

Tzar Baalei Chayim?

Bal Taschit?

GH would say this was a myth/moshol anyway for learning intensity, and it never really happened.

At December 8, 2005 at 10:32:00 PM EST, Anonymous old-fashioned Jew said...

chabakuk elisha said...
Or, as the Kotzker said:

A Misnaged has fear of Shulchan-Aruch; a Chassid has fear of G-d.

Oy vey iz mir - CE - you took offense in the chazonus discussion recently about a reference to Hassidic propaganda - but there you go again with those disgusting stereotypes. Do you think it's right to say such things ? Or do you think you have carte blanche to spread all kinds of untruths about Misnagdim, since they stubbornly refuse to accept Hassidism and want to just stick to old-fashioned Judaism ?

At December 9, 2005 at 12:36:00 AM EST, Blogger Hirshel Tzig said...

old fashioned

stereotyping is perfectly fine, why you've just done it by calling his comment "propaganda"!

of course what did the Kotzker know?


At December 9, 2005 at 1:03:00 AM EST, Anonymous old-fashioned Jew said...

1) Give me a mokor that the Kotzker said that. It doesn't sound like him. I think he was too emesdik and critical of his fellow Chassidim to make such a stupid and incorrect statement.

Also, if you guys on this blog are becoming such big Kotzkers all of a sudden, I challenge you to print some of his strong criticisms of Chassidim - or do you just pick out something that makes you look good ?

2) If you want to believe that all Chassidim fear Hashem and Misnagdim don't, just the Shulchan Oruch (whatever that means - who's Toyrah do you think is in the Shulchan Oruch anyway ?), you can believe that. Hey man, it's a free country, you can believe any baloney you wish.

At December 9, 2005 at 7:58:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Jameel: I liked the Brisker questions you posted :) Have a good Shabbos!

At December 9, 2005 at 8:54:00 AM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Are you a Misnaged? I didn't think there were many left... For those who need everything explained I will just say that the Kotzker is not talking about a cholent fresser, rather, he's
talking about a REAL chossid.
I hardly consider the Kotzker's comment propaganda, but if you think that your remark that I took issue with is comparable to the Kotzker's remark - which is not in any way gratuitous, rather, it highlights a significant, perhaps subtle, point - than you must have been making a very profound subtle point that I failed to grasp; I sdon't see the comparison.
The Kotzker's quote is easily found by anyone who cares to find it - I have no Kotzker seforim with me at work so I won't be able to help you with that right now, but it's not an obscure quote.
Apparently, you have little knowledge of Chassidus or the ideological debate between Chassidim and Misnagdim - but if you are interested there are many books that you can research. A think there is a useful kuntres called "Vikucha Rabba" that could help enlighten you as well.

All the best!

At December 9, 2005 at 1:58:00 PM EST, Anonymous OFJ said...

"Are you a Misnaged? I didn't think there were many left... "

Sure, we still exist. Should I tell you about the meeting we had in a phone booth last week ? ;-)

"the Kotzker is not talking about a cholent fresser, rather, he's
talking about a REAL chossid."

Okay, I accept that there is a difference between cholent fressers and 'real Chassidim'. In other words, some Chassidim may wear the garb or otherwise identify externally, but don't go beyond that, while others are really into Chassidism, and internalize it, however they may define it.

Similarly, to be honest, you should also differentiate between different types of Litvaks or misnagdim. Some might come off as arrogant (like some Chassidim) and fearing only the shulchan oruch (whatever that means), but others are fine and precious Jews. To stereotype and bash all Litvaks of today as being like the worst Chassidic stereotypes of over two hundred years ago (which even then were only partially true, if at all), is not true and way off the mark.

"Apparently, you have little knowledge of Chassidus or the ideological debate between Chassidim and Misnagdim - but if you are interested there are many books that you can research. A think there is a useful kuntres called "Vikucha Rabba" that could help enlighten you as well."

I have plenty of knowledge of it. There are two fine chapters in the sefer Hagaon that explain the POV of misnagdim, and more elsewhere as well.

The main thing is that people should realize that two hundred plus year old stereotypes are not accurate in all cases (though they may be in some), and not necessarily accurate forever.

At December 11, 2005 at 7:10:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...

Hey, guys, calm down - this was supposed to be a joke, remember? I think to put the issue into perspective, we need some sage wisdom from Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach Zt"l:

The big fight between the Mitnagdim and the Chassidim was one hundred or two hundred years ago, when the Mititagdim were saying that the Chassidim don't learn enough. Today, nebach, the Mitnagdim aren't leaning so much
either, and besides, the Chassidim are really learning a lot.

The Chassidim are saying that the Mitnagdim don't daven; but the
Chassidim are talking a lot in the Beis Midrash also. Okay, both
of them are very holy; I'm not talking about that, but I heard
a very good thing.

A rich man had a beautiful daughter, and he took a son-in-law. This boy says, "I never eat dairy, I only eat fleishig [meat]."

"What I don't do for my daughter!" the man said.

So he made a special table because the son wouldn't eat with
everybody else; he ate meat for breakfast, for lunch, all
the time.

The rich man had a second daughter, and she
married a boy who said, "I only eat milchig [dairy]", so the father said, "Okay, I'll get you an extra table."

So they're sitting at two separate tables. Suddenly the father lost his money, and
all they were eating was potatoes.

The first son-in-law is eating
all [his] potatoes fleishig, and the second is eating all [his] potatoes milchig.

The father-in-law walks in and says, "Why are you sitting here?" and he answers, "I only eat fleishig."

So he says, "But you're eating
all potatoes!"

So the son-in-law answers, "But they're fleishig".

He goes to the second son-in-law and asks, "Why don't you sit

And he answers, "I'm only eating milchig".

"What are you eating?"

"All potatoes."

"You're eating all potatoes?!
Can't you two get together? On the potatoes at least?!"

At December 12, 2005 at 2:30:00 AM EST, Blogger MC Aryeh said...

Thanks for the laugh, ASJ. I feel like that is reality sometimes in the Torah world. Great story, Yitz! Thanks for sharing it...

At December 12, 2005 at 7:20:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Glad you liked it MCAryeh ;)

At December 12, 2005 at 1:51:00 PM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Just a claification:

Misnaged does not = Litvak
Chassid does not = Long coat, or whatever.

The Kotzker's remark has to do with a difference in attitude - that is that the one of the primary areas that the revolution called chassidus came to correct was to reestablish how Halacha is all about connection to G-d, which was, and is (including by people who by modern standards may be called "chassidim"), often forgotten.
His point was to highlight the error of getting lost in the details of the Halacha, but forgetting that it's all about connecting to G-d. That is to say, Halacha is not about the physical, rather it is about the spiritual.

To illustrate the point I will repeat an example that I heard from Rabbi Chaim Kramer:
Two chasanim (grooms) and kallos (brides) were engaged. As the wedding dates neared each bride gave her chasan a list of things she wanted him to buy.
One chasan was extremely careful about everything that was on the list, but hardly thought about - and never called - his bride.
The second chasan may or may not have been as careful about the list, but he never stopped thinking about his kala, and made sure to call her every night.
R' Kramer's example illustrates how our Yiddishkeit should be - everything and anything we do should be with G-d in mind, not just because it is on the list, a.k.a. Halacha.

I'm sorry if someone was insulted somehow by the Kotzker's comment - but I can't figure out way anyone would be...

At February 23, 2006 at 10:10:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You all seem to misunderstand the whole issue....the Misnagdim that are left today....and there many,many, many of them....are not the Vilna Gaon sort of Misnagdim....rather they are one of two sorts.....the Halacha Misnagdim---who believe you cannot change Minhagim, just stam.....and there are also the idealogical misnagdim....that would probably sympathize with R' Emden on many many issues...these are hte people that believe that Chassidism has a lot of Deos Zaros.....the underlying issue is whether Chassidus helps the one and most mportant thing which all jews were placed on this earth for....for which everything we read about every Shabbos happened.....the truthful traqnsference of hte Mesorah as it was given on har sinai.....Chassidus is looking for a better way to reach God, so it improvises so that each person can feel God....but we are not hear to have a feeling of God in us....we are here to carry on the mesorah.....Fear of God and love of God are not fuzzy feelings....they are imperatives to the first few pages of the Aruch Hashulchan or hte Orchos tzadikkim......or Mishlei or Tehilim. Reshith Chachma.....please finish......and _______ Reshis daas???

Look in the Chofetz Chaim's list of Mitzvos and under ahavas Hashem he has understanding God....

The difference between Chassidus and Kabbala is that Chassidus does not care about a person's udersatnding of Emes....but about The person and his Godliness....which might just be psychological.....Zohar believes in getting to God thorugh unerstanding the different stages of hte world...but zohar is not Chassidus, chassidim dont sit and read zohar......Sichos is not Kabbala......

Read the Tana d've Olam Habbo you are judged by how many subjects you studies...not het fuzzy feeling you had when you davened......

Finally.....Jews don't keep the Torah because they wanna get close to God....they keep in Because we madea Bris with God.....and we must uphold that Bris at the pains of Schar veonesh.....and perhaps simply because its a Bris with God...its our very purpose of living.......a pewrson knows nothing but that which is in the Bris....especially about God...the Rebbe, the amora, the tana, and the schnorrer in your little town can all know things only by the mesorah.....Ruach Hakodesh ncannot b attained without mesorah...netierh can hte mesilas yesharim...and look at hte gemara...the end of those stages is ruach have to go thourh all teh styages before you get there....and even till you get to Chassidus[the real one]....
Therefore, all these ideas that are not from Har sinai that are found in Chassidus...and if they were, they wer def. not part of hte mesorah from har sinai that we receieved seem to some to be antithetical to everything Jewish.

At February 11, 2009 at 5:33:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Kedushas Levi writes everal times in his sefer that we are not meant to serve Hashem because of how good it makes us feel. He says that this approach is an avodah but its a much lower form, it centers on me delighting and enjoying rather than the higher level, which is serving hashem and giving Him a nachas Ruach


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