Thoughts On The Asifa Part 1

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.