KABBALAH AND HASIDISM:
What they have in common,
and what they differ from ?
1) What do KABBALAH and HASIDISM have in common?
The Book of ZOHAR reveals that the TORAH consists of a BODY and a SOUL, i.e. an APPARENT DIMENSION and a HIDDEN DIMENSION.
The apparent part of the TORAH concerns the stories which are contained therein as well as the MITZVOT that apply in the apparent reality of the world. It is called גופא דאורייתא ‘the BODY of the TORAH’.
The HIDDEN DIMENSION is called the 'INTERIORITY of the TORAH': it consists of striving to understand the profound reasons that are hidden in the MITZVOT and in the physical world as a whole. This part which KABBALAH and HASIDISM deal with is also called נשמתא דאורייתא ‘the NESHAMA (SOUL) of the TORAH’.
NESHAMA brings life to the body and gives true meaning to its existence. Studying the INTERIORITY of the DIVINE MESSAGE gives a new dimension to the TORAH and the MITZVOT. It reveals how, through the TORAH, the CREATOR addresses ISRAEL and humanity.
Moreover, just as the TORAH has an APPARENT DIMENSION and a HIDDEN DIMENSION, also does the world as a whole, and in particular the SOUL of every human being.
The study of the TORAH’s INTERIORITY allows us to discover this HIDDEN DIMENSION of the world and of the SOUL, and it gives a true meaning to life.
2) How are KABBALA and HASIDISM different ?
In an nutshell, it can be said that KABBALAH strives to raise the SOUL to the HEAVEN, while HASIDISM tries to bring the HEAVEN down to mankind. The study of one of them does not exclude in any way the study of the other, and each of them is part of what is known as Jewish mysticism, which constitutes the SOUL of the TORAH.
While KABBALAH is primarily concerned with the spiritual nature and evolution of the Universe, HASIDISM focuses on the relationship that each being must establish with the CREATOR.
KABBALAH is characterized by its intellectual, objective and factual approach, while HASIDISM tends to move the emotional fiber of the being.
A classic teaching of the KABBALAH says: 'Through Ten EMANATIONS [SEPHIROTH], THE ETERNAL maintains the World'.
A classic teaching of HASIDISM says: 'The most important thing is to remember that G-d created everything and that HE is everything'.
INTRODUCTION TO TANYA
TO THE TREE OF LIFE
From the outset of his work therefore Rav Shneur Zalman made plain that the Tanya is a guide for those he called "Beinonim". Beinonim, derived from the Hebrew Bein, which means "between", are individuals who are in the middle, neither paragons of virtue, Tzadikim, nor sinners, Resha’im. Beinonim are a unique type, deserving of their own book, which is the Tanya.
Tzadikim have a different book that includes other lessons and counsels.
A person with the status of Beinoni was created with limited abilities. He can’t become a Tzadik, but this in no way diminishes his value. In fact, he is no less important in Heaven than a Tzadik, as he fulfills the will of HASHEM, and gives as much pleasure to HASHEM as a Tzadik.
HASHEM loves human effort and toil, and many individuals who reach the Tzadik level no longer strain to achieve holy behavior. A Beinoni must always exert effort. The special struggle of the Beinoni makes him more treasured than many Tzadikim, who always are perfect, as it gives the ALMIGHTY pleasure to see effort exerted on His behalf. Therefore, if you are a Beinoni, as all of us can be, realize that you have a special role in the kingdom of Heaven, embrace it, and learn the Tanya to glean insights how to improve your service of G-d, Avodat HASHEM.
Ways to reach HASHEM
The title page of the Tanya states that it is based on the verse “Ki karov elecha hadavar mi’od bificha uvilvavcha la’asoso,” (Devarim 30:14) “For the matter of serving HASHEM is very close to you, it is in your mouth and heart to fulfill it,” and on sacred teachings that explain in a “long and short way” how Service of HASHEM is truly very close to us. One might think that it is very difficult, almost an unattainable feat, to fulfill all the commandments of the TORAH. The Tanya will show us that this is not the case; it is rather very close to us, and very attainable. Through the Tanya’s concepts we will be able to see that complete service of Hashem is very accessible to us.
The Tanya details a long way of arriving at the proper service of HASHEM, but also a shorter path as well. Its form is to begin with many questions and then, beginning with the second chapter and then throughout the rest of the book, provide answers.