By Levik Dubov
I loved the irony. It was intense, yet settling; theoretical yet practical. We were in a quiet town about 60 miles from Crown Heights, yet in a Yeshiva-like atmosphere. It was warm despite the 2 feet of snow piled outside!
These were my thoughts as we completed a remarkable 5-day experience with Rabbi Manis Friedman, the renowned scholar, author and counselor from Minnesota.
Sure, I’ve learned Tanya and Ma’amarim before, but never like this! We discovered questions behind the questions, and layers of understanding beneath the answers.
In these few short days I found myself astonished by how practical a change chassidus can bring to my life. Though Chassidus discusses life, purpose and reason, it is not just philosophy.
It isn’t psychology, yet it can analyze, evaluate and communicate to every fiber of our being. Chassidus is truth, and truth can be applied to everything.
I recall the first question Rabbi Friedman asked his anticipating audience…
“When was the last time you learned anything?”
It was a startling question, but he went on to explain how the key to fully understanding is first knowing. And how a question is only a good one after you know what it is you are asking about; once you know the source of what we believe to be true. Rabbi Friedman stressed that the key to learning is not only to ask, but to absorb. There should be no questions until you really hear – her un derher – the story.
Few words can describe the sense of clarity and opportunity we experienced. One friend expressed what we all felt when he remarked, “This is Chassidus 101. I wish I had heard this years ago!”
“The neshomo’s influence enables the mind to engage the body”
Many topics were covered- some planned, others spontaneous. Rabbi Friedman addressed Chassidus and how in order to appreciate Chasidus we must understand what Chassidus brought to Yiddishkeit that was missing before.
He gave us fresh perspective on matters like science and how even the most secular scientist must ask why an “only” existence would be prompted to change. He helped us rethink the Mumbai massacre by appreciating the unique and truly historic Kidush Hashem that it brought.
Rabbi Friedman answered questions like:
* Living Life on Purpose: What’s the difference between living and just trying not to die?
* Free Choice: Is there a difference between bechira and bechira chofshis? And can your bechira affect me?
* Happiness: How did Chassidim remain happy in spite of the unthinkable yissurim they experienced?
* Good: If nothing is bad, and everything is only good, then why can’t we always see it?
* Prayer: Are we allowed to ask G-d for less “good” than He has given us?
* Action: Why can’t we just be “spiritual”?
* Self-Control and Addiction: How do we become objective in a subjective world?
* Marriage: Forget the theoretical. How about the reality? What are the true marital roles of man and woman?
* Chinuch: How will we raise our children in a society where we are no longer their sole influence?
* Relationships: How do we learn to like the people we love?
* Personality, Talent, and Creativity: Does it even matter?
* Moshiach: What’s different now? Why would we assume that we are close to the eternal dream?
* E-Myth: What should be a Shaliach’s primary and only occupation?
* World Peace: What is the real difference between Goodliness and G-dliness?
As we were about to depart Rabbi Friedman turned to us and asked “Why doesn’t this happen more often?”
I think it should. It must. Rabbi Friedman is a genuine mashpia with a realistic understanding of not only today’s Chassidim – but also their potential.
It’s about time we learn how to be that change we wish to see in the world!