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cynical Jews and Chassidic rebbes


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Shevat 15, 5778
I was going through history, and according to the Midrash, people suspected Moshe Rabbeinu of "starting" with their wives. Yeravam gave Shlomo Hamelech Mussar that he’s taking away the place from Olah Regel. in the past, the Netziv brought his son to Volozhin and people protested. In Radin, the Chafetz Chaim Brought in R Yeruchem Levovitz, and people had what to say. Wouldn’t it be better to be like Chassidim- ex: Lubavitch, Sqver, or Gur- that if the Rebbe says something, the people just respect and listen, and no one would open their mouth?
We Jews are a critical nation, and an Am Kshei Oref ("stubborn people"), and like the angels “Kulam potchim et pihem” (we like to express our opinions)! Apparently Hashem likes us that way, for He chose to create us with these extreme traits, as the Maharal writes on the gmara, “Israel is the most brazen of the nations!” (Beitza 25b). We all know that this critical thinking of ours is very positive in learning gemara and clarifying issues of belief, winning Nobel and hi-tech prizes as well as Israeli wars, and it served us well historically, not to go blindly after new “isms” and ideologies. The Kuzari points out that our trait of skepticism and critical thinking, davka proves that when we accepted Hashem and His miracles, we must have been really convinced, for we Jews aren’t persuaded easily! R. Chaim of Volozhin explains that what we should “mitavek b’afar ragleihem” (Avot 1, 4) of our sages, means: “to wrestle/argue with your teachers’ ideas” (yes even arguing with his teacher, the Vilna Gaon!), yet remembering that we are always like dust to their feet. On the other hand, like you inferred, maybe sometimes we take it to an extreme, so the Chassidic approach sort of evens it out. Rav Kook writes that inevitably there needs to be different sects in Judaism, so in the end, we balance each-other out.
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