Are you familiar with Chassidus? (Yes.)
How about Chassidus Chabad? Chassidus HaKlalis? (Yes, I think so.)
Are these two the same in your head? (I am not sure.)
Both the Baal Shem Tov and Alter Rebbe were innovators. The Baal Shem Tov founded Chassidus HaKlalis and the Alter Rebbe Chassidus Chabad. When thinking of these two great luminaries, a slew of connections come to the forefront of one’s mind, specifically in regard to Chai Elul, their birthdays. Yet, although many similarities are present between the originators of Chassidus, when getting to the root of Chassidus HaKlalis vs. Chassidus Chabad their likeness might be obscured by many distinctions. The external features of the respective Chassiduses might beg some questions:
Is Chassidus Chabad an offshoot of Chassidus HaKlalis, or is it an entirely different branch of Chassidus?
Are the other satellites of Chassidus more directly linked and related to Chassidus HaKlalis?
Other forms of Chassidus do appear more similar to the Baal Shem Tov’s — are they?
You are not the first questioner — this query has been pondered over by many.
You are not left to scour for the answer — the Frierdiker Rebbe answered this question, and the response was published in the HaTomim publication in Warsaw in Hebrew.
Though the majority of this letter have been translated to English and presented in Branches of the Chassidic Menorah, now, with Chassidic Menorah, a fundamental overview of the emergence of Chassidus, being prepared for reprint, Sichos in English shares an excerpt from the book, the entire letter that the Frierdiker Rebbe penned to the Rebbe in response to the above question, and the Rebbe’s response — in English!
These letters, pivotal to understanding the relation between Chassidus HaKlalis and Chassidus Chabad, provide the background of Chassidus, which makes it apparent that although external differences might beg some questions, at the root of it all, when understanding Chassidus, it is clear that Chassidus Chabad is a direct development from Chassidus HaKlalis, and inherently, they are one.
So, if you are familiar with Chassidus HaKlalis and Chassidus Chabad but feel fuzzy on the details, these letters are a fitting piece to learn in honor of Chai Elul.
And if you are not familiar with Chassidus, these letters, articulately explaining and laying out the background and root of Chassidus, are a great place to start.
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