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The Aha of Chassidut

A chassid was once asked: What is so special about studying Chassidut?

The chassid answered: Chassidut is the study of divine concepts, a foretaste of the Torah revelations that we will hear from Moshiach. The concepts of Chassidut are the same ones that Moshiach will teach, except that he will teach them on a much higher level. When Moshiach comes, G-dliness will be revealed to our fleshly eyes and we will have less need of direct teaching.

The questioner pressed further: If we are all going to be exposed to these teachings when Moshiach comes, and on a much higher level, why do we need to study them now?

The chassid answered: Those who study these concepts before Moshiach comes will have a completely different experience. They will open their eyes and say "Aha! So that is what I've been studying all along." Those who do not study Chassidut will experience the same revelations, but without the "aha."


To understand the significance of this "aha," let's return to the founding days of Chassidism, over 210 years ago.

In the year 5559 (1798), on the 19th of Kislev, Rabbi Schneur Zalmen of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe, was released from a Czarist prison. The Alter Rebbe, who is also known as the author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch, was imprisoned after he was slandered to the Czar on suspicion of spying for Turkey, an enemy of Russia. This accusation was brought due to his support for Chassidic settlements in the land of Israel, which was then under Ottoman control. In the end he was acquitted of all charges and released.

As the Alter Rebbe himself explained it, his imprisonment was due not so much to the Czar's suspicions but because of a heavenly kitrug, a charge against him and his activities. Up above, they did not appreciate the fact that the Alter Rebbe was teaching the long-reserved secrets of Torah to the masses. The Alter Rebbe was the first to give over the secrets of Kabbalah in a form comprehensible to the human intellect, using the tools of Chabad -- Chochmah, Binah and Daat -- wisdom, understanding and knowledge. In Heaven, this was seen as disrespectful to these lofty and hidden teachings. This heavenly complaint led to the Alter Rebbe's imprisonment. 

The imprisonment of the Alter Rebbe indeed threatened to destroy the Chassidic movement and the continued dissemination of its teachings. The Alter Rebbe took his release and exoneration as a heavenly sign to continue with his mission, with even greater force and energy. After his release, the Alter Rebbe began to expound on his teachings and broadened their scope more than ever before. For this reason, the day of his release, the 19th of Kislev, is known as the new year of Chassidism.

Why, indeed, did these teachings remain secret until the times of the Alter Rebbe, when they were placed in the public domain? The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that these teachings were brought out of concealment in the generations immediately prior to Moshiach, both as a foretaste and a preparation for the ultimate Redemption. Study of Chassidut is what gives us the strength to fight the darkness at the end of exile, and also builds our anticipation for the time of Geulah.

The 19th of Kislev, the new year of Chassidut, is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to strengthen in the study of Chassidut, to explore more of its profound ideas, so that when Moshiach comes we can all say "aha." This is what gives us the strength to end this exile and prepare ourselves for the ultimate redemption. 


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