One Example: If a guy has trouble saying “I love you” to his wife, what Maamarim might address that by talking about the properties of chessed and yesod, the sefirot corresponding to love (chessed), vulnerability, connection and sexual intimacy (yesod). Once those Maamarim were identified, I thought they might begin to figure out different experiential exercises that can inculcate these concepts and values (articulated in the Maamarim) into the person. After all, people are not brains walking around on bags of meat and very often, emotional pain and trauma that is lodged in the body will only exit by engaging the body.

But none of this happened. Nothing close to it. It pains me deeply but there it is. Many people refused to even go because the Rosh, a wonderful human being and incredible Talmid Chacham (someone who has shown me incredible kindness) has serious anger and communication issues. Others messaged me they won’t go because some of the Rabbanim won’t talk to the other Rabbanim outside of public functions and scheme against the others. Hardly the paragons of healthy happy Jews.  Personally, while I hear that, the value of “accept the truth from those who speak it” would outweigh this if not for the fact that there was no attempt at listening and receptivity to people’s needs nor any attempt at articulation or systemization of Chassidus to address people’s needs.

4 – I feel it prudent to point out that Chabad has never been one to tout Daas Torah and intellectual subservience to Torah Scholars. Think Zalman Moshe and Reb Mendel – need I say more? Therefore I feel it wise to address the Asifa’s points substantively, as I just did above.

5 – Claims that meditation is passul (invalid and unholy) will not hold water. The Rebbe himself, was one of the biggest proponents of using powerful techniques that all sorts of unsavory groups used. The Rebbe didn’t care who created them or how they were currently being used.

2 – There is a serious miscommunication going on. Many people and Rabbi’s see guys going to Shofar and only hear, “I want to feel good” when in reality, guys are saying, “I want to feel” period. They are scared to even feel any emotion. By feel, I mean to reflect on it, give it space and honor it, instead of shutting it down since it doesn’t fit with toxic notions of bittul or kabbalas oyel that they were taught.

In fact, some guys are simply saying, “I want”. Forget about feelings, they’ve never allowed themselves to just be and exist without constant berating and beating of themselves.

Lastly, some guys, by going to Shofar, are simply saying, “I”. They can’t even conceive of having a desire. They are battul be’metziyus. Of course, they’re not emotionally (or intellectually but that’s a different story) resonant with that bittul bemetziyus so they suffer as do their families and friends.

3 – It saddens me to say this and I know this will make some people mad, but it must be said. The Rabbanim last night wasted a wonderful opportunity. Instead of showing up receptive and listening they showed up talking and lecturing. I was hoping to hear, “Ok Chevra, you got our attention. We obviously (as evidenced by over 1800 men going to Shofar) failed to provide for your needs and wants via Chassidus. So help us understand what you feel is missing, help us understand your pain so that we might come to appreciate your suffering and perhaps begin to help you recover.

I thought there might be a hat going around so that people could put in anonymous comments, real questions and burning issues that bother them.

I thought perhaps, there would be an all night marathon of learning and study groups to begin the process of placing various Maamarim and sichos into different slots of issues.

So much has been going on and so many ideas and claims are being thrown around that it’s hard to get clarity. As my thoughts are somewhat disorganized I will do a point-by-point analysis instead of an essay. I will only be addressing those claims leveled against Shofar that are also leveled against overall therapy and mental health. Perhaps I will explain my thoughts on Shofar a different time. But for now, I want to solely discuss the claims, explicit and implicit, made by the Asifa.

  1. Does Chassidus have all the answers? We need to scrutinize this statement quite closely. It is my belief that given the current method of teaching Chassidus, we can safely say, “Chassidus might have all the answers but Chassidim certainly don’t.”

That is to say, we have not yet articulated a clear coherent method for dealing with real life and mental issues via Chassidus. Many people would say we should not be focused on that in the first place. A close friend and mentor said,

“The Alter Rebbe writes in the Hakdamah “ve’eitzah nechonah le’chol davar ha’kasheh alav BAAVODAS HASHEM”. A whole litany of Rabbis invoked this verse in a letter condemning COTS.

But why does he add the two qualifying words “ba’avodas ha’shem”? We are all told about how the Alter Rebbe considered for 6 weeks before writing a certain “vav”… So certainly when it comes to two full words they are precise and layered with meaning.

The answer is one of two.

Option #1) He is teaching us that any problem a yid ever has (“kol davar ha’kasheh alav”) is inherently a part of his “avodas hashem”.

Option #2) The Tanya is telling us that he addresses ONLY issues that are in the realm of Avodas Ha’shem.

Well, according to the first option, Tanya has the answers to a broken leg too, which, everyone agrees is ludicrous.

So we are forced to the second option.

The question now begs itself: the words “ba’avodas ha’shem” are to the exclusion of what?

I maintain that they exclude a person who is struggling with issues of humanity. These are not “avodas ha’shem” issues, for only a human being can serve Hashem, not a half human. In other words, when a person’s Nefesh Ha’behamis is damaged, he is traumatized, injured, etc. the Tanya never claimed to address him! The Tanya only claims to address a HUMAN BEING who is encountering issues in his “Avodas Ha’shem.”

I am inclined to agree with him for the time being. Especially as nowadays, it is my firm belief and experience that, not just is Chassidus not being articulated in a way that can address all problems – quite the contrary. It is being taught in deeply toxic and harmful ways.

Even if Chassidus was meant to address all mental psyche-related issues, there is much work to be done before we can, in good conscience, direct people with real issues to Chassidus for answers.