Posts Tagged ‘Kabbalah’

Prominent Chassidic Rebbe Speaks Out Against Inappropriate Kabbalah Study

May 31, 2012

As we have discussed in the past (see, for example, here), even though the Chassidic movement broke with traditional Ashkenazic practice in certain areas, such as nusach hatefillah, nevertheless, in other areas some Chassidim maintained traditional Ashkenazic stances.

I recently saw a interesting report in a newspaper published in Eretz Yisroel, called בקהילה (Bakehilla), about the Sanzer Rebbe of Netanya, speaking out strongly against people getting involved in Kabbalah when they are not on the proper level to do so (בקהילה פלוס, כה אייר תשע”ב, p.15). Under a title of סוד ה’ ליראיו, it reported that the Rebbe strongly condemned the spreading of קבלה indiscriminately to the masses, and said that  people should first learn the whole ש”ס (Talmud) with תוספות, among other aspects of standard תורת הנגלה. He warned of serious danger in learning Kabbalah for people not on the level to do so.

That is in accordance with traditional Ashkenazic belief and practice, which limits Kabbalah study to people properly prepared for it (in the past this has been a point of contention at times between some Chassidim and non-Chassidim). The words would not have been so surprising to me had they been uttered by a non-Chassidic Rosh Yeshiva or Rav. But it was somewhat surprising at first to see such strong talk on the topic from a Chassidishe Rebbe. A pleasant surprise though.

Looking for info about it online, I couldn’t find a recent report like the one in the newpaper, however I did find one of the Rebbe delivering similar remarks (though milder and less developed than in the recent report), three years earlier, on the occasion of the yohrzeit of the דברי חיים of צאנז.  Looking further, I noted similar sentiment at the Wikipedia page of the Rebbe’s ancestor, the דברי חיים, as well.

In the course of my searching, I also found an interesting report from a few years ago in which the Rebbe spoke out against Chassidim who institute new customs, such as abolishing the recitation of ונתנה תוקף on Yom Kippur, as well as certain other controversial actions such as dancing in the streets before שבת.

Boruch Hashem, it is nice to see a Chassidishe Rebbe speak so strongly on such an important matter, expressing the Ashkenazic viewpoint so clearly and forcefully. Hopefully we will see more such manifestations in the future, אכי”ר.


רמח”ל היה יהודי אשכנזי – Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto was an Ashkenazic/Yekkishe Yid!

March 4, 2011

I have been gradually going through the great new work הישיבה הרמה בפיורדא (three volumes, Bamberger edition), put out by Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz a few months ago. At first, I hesitated in buying it, due to the price (which has since come down some) and due to my wondering if it was mostly a work of Yekkishe history, and therefore not of such great interest to the broader public, or to people who seemingly had no connection to Feurth, such as myself. At the end I did get a copy and am happy that I did so, because it is not just a narrow and boring work, relevant to a small group. Rather (as typical of the author’s works) it has broad relevance and there are surprises there, you see things you wouldn’t expect as well. There seems to be a chapter on every Rav/Rosh Yeshiva of Feurth. But Rabbonim from other parts of Europe are discussed as well, because the Rabbonim of Feurth usually held other positions in other places before and/or after they came to Feurth. And the broad discussions of various episodes in their lives reach far and wide.

As an example of one of the interesting tidbits in the ספר, in the course of a discussion of the controversy surrounding Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, it is brought out (volume I, p.426), that contrary to popular belief today that Ramchal was a Sepharadi (there are even Sepharadic botei medroshim that bear his name, according to Rav Hamburger), he was actually of Ashkenazic/Yekkishe background. Yes, that’s right. The great רמח”ל, author of Mesilas Yeshorim, and great Kabbalist, among other things. The name Luzzatto is an Italian version of the German name Lausitz, which is derived from Lausatia, an area in Germany, from which the family came. The Luzzattos later spread out in the Venice area, so they were an Italian-German Jewish family. Ramchal davened in the Yekkishe Shul in Padua where he was born, and we even have the machzor from which he davened, and one can see that it is a Ashkenaz/Yekkishe machzor, which includes the old Ashkenazic/Yekkishe nusach, such as the words וישמחו בך ישראל אוהבי שמך in the Shabbos shemoneh esreh.

Update: Columbia University concurs.

Askinu seudasa – The minhog NOT to say/sing it – אתקינו סעודתא – המנהג שלא לומר או לזמר אותו

March 4, 2011

אתקינו סעודתא, a Kabbalistic zemer in Aramaic from the Arizal, which is a few hundred years old,  is widely sung these days at Shabbos seudos, even in some non Chassidic places. Especially at סעודה שלישית. How many people understand it is another matter.

It  may be less well known that there are those who specifically have refrained from, or opposed such a practice.

It is hard for people to abstain when a group is singing something, with a lively tune, especially in our culture that puts such value on being part of a tzibbur and going along with the group. But people should know that there are differences of opinion about this practice.

What if your minhog is not to sing it? What if your father didn’t? Which is the case I found myself in. I felt that it was not my minhog, but didn’t fully understand why (beyond perhaps a vague feeling that ‘we don’t get into that heavy Kabbalistic stuff’, at least not in public). And then some could say, hey, your father didn’t sing it, but was he opposed to it, or maybe he just didn’t grow up with it? Is abstaining from something a minhog davka (specifically) not to do it, or just a neutral stance, no minhog on the matter either way, which would not be in opposition to someone adopting it if he wishes?

Recently, while glancing at a Torah journal by the name of צפונות, from ארץ ישראל in תשמ”ט, א, לד-ה, I noticed a piece there with a תשובה (responsum) from the  מהר”ם שיק, senior talmid of the חתם סופר, who was asked if it should be said.

The  מהר”ם שיק says that he doesn’t say it and neither did the חתם סופר. The reason he gives is that we are not on that level, just as it is brought down in Shulchan Aruch (שו”ע או”ח סימן ג, הלכה א)  that we nowadays do not say התכבדו מכובדים before entering the בית הכסא, so kal vachomer this שיר, which is even holier.

I asked רב בנימין שלמה המבורגר שליט”א about it and he furnished me with additional information on the matter, as follows.

The Chasam Sofer’s son, Rav Shimon Sofer, the מכתב סופר, reported that the Chasam Sofer did not say the zemiros of the Arizal אסדר לסעודתא, אזמר בשבחין, ובני היכלא because “עס איסט צו פיעל ארויסגעזאגט”  it expresses too much openly of matters that should be more hidden (brought in באר מרים introduction to מכתב סופר). Esoteric, Kabbalistic manners are not for every person. One should be on a high level, a holy person to get involved with such things.

מהר”ם א”ש, the famous talmid of the Chasam Sofer and Rav of Ungvar, didn’t say it either, as brought down here, a little less than halfway down the page, in the paragraph starting קודם סעודת צהרים, where it states לא מלאו לבו לומר האתקינו סעודתא ולומר דא היא סעודתא.

The בן איש חי brings (בן איש חי, שנה ב’, פרשת חיי שרה, סעיף יג) that even among Sepharadic mekubbalim there were those that refrained from saying it due to פחד. And he concludes by saying that ‘we are not נוהג to say it at all‘!. And he was a great מקובל!

Western European Sepharadim, in London and Amsterdam, also didn’t say it, as reported in sefer כתר שם טוב of רב שם טוב גאגין, חלק א’ עמוד רא

So quite a line up of gedolim there who didn’t say it, for various reasons. So there are definite grounds for a practice/מנהג to refrain. And if you refrain from it for the reasons mentioned by the above גדולי עולם, I dare say that you are definitely מקבל שכר על הפרישה (are rewarded for refraining).

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