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THE TIGHTROPE WALKER

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

There were rows of books neatly arranged on shelves, but in the synagogue of the kabbalists, there were piles of books scattered on tables and floors." The Baal Shem Tov teaches the tightrope walk required to be both organized but fiery. On Hayom Yom's entry for 7 Tammuz.

by Bing AI

"My revered father, the Rebbe [Rashab], once stated: “[To] Chassidus [can be applied the statement], ‘The beginning is rooted in the end and the end in the beginning.’ This is the level of Divine influence called iggulim, in which beginning and end are indistinguishable. Nevertheless, this having been said, the main thing is seder — ‘structure.’


“The Baal Shem Tov was an organized person; the Maggid of Mezritch was particular about orderliness; and my great-greatgrandfather, the Alter Rebbe, taught his chassidim to be orderly. We see this in his maamarim, letters, and niggunim. The chassidim who had a fixed time to visit Liozna — or later, Liadi — were not allowed to change it without permission from the Alter Rebbe. To receive such license, one had to provide a reason.


“The Alter Rebbe established a special committee, headed by his brother, R. Yehudah Leib, to maintain order among the chassidim. And he had a separate committee, headed by the Mitteler Rebbe, to guide the younger married men of the community.”"


This entry teaches us about the importance of balance and harmony in Chassidic life. On one hand, Chassidus reveals the infinite and transcendent light of G-d that transcends all boundaries and limitations. This is called iggulim, meaning "circles", which imply equality and unity among all levels of existence. On the other hand, Chassidus also emphasizes the need for seder, meaning "order" or "structure", which implies hierarchy and differentiation among various aspects of creation. This is called yosher, meaning "straightness", which implies a linear progression from higher to lower levels.


Chassidus teaches us that we need both aspects in our service of G-d: we need to connect to His essence that is beyond all definitions and categories, but we also need to follow His will that is expressed in His Torah and mitzvot that define our roles and responsibilities in this world. We need to be inspired by the light of iggulim, but we also need to be disciplined by the vessels of yosher.


This balance also relates to Moshiach and his mission. Moshiach will reveal the light of iggulim in the world, showing how everything is part of G-d's unity and purpose. He will also establish seder in the world, ensuring that justice and peace prevail among all nations and peoples. He will teach us how to integrate both aspects in our lives, so that we can serve G-d with joy and devotion.


One way to illustrate this point with a story is to tell about how the Baal Shem Tov once visited a town where there was a dispute between two groups of Jews: one group followed the strict letter of Jewish law (halachah), while the other group followed the spirit of Jewish mysticism (kabbalah). The Baal Shem Tov asked them to show him their synagogues. He went first to the synagogue of the halachists, where he saw rows of books neatly arranged on shelves. He then went to the synagogue of the kabbalists, where he saw piles of books scattered on tables and floors.


The Baal Shem Tov said: "Both groups are missing something essential. The halachists have order but no light; they follow G-d's law but they don't feel His love. The kabbalists have light but no order; they feel G-d's love but they don't respect His law. They need each other: the halachists need to learn from the kabbalists how to infuse their service with warmth and passion; the kabbalists need to learn from the halachists how to channel their service with discipline and structure. Only then will they be able to serve G-d in a complete and balanced way."


The Baal Shem Tov then asked them to join him in prayer, and he taught them a new melody that combined both aspects of iggulim and yosher. As they sang together, they felt a new harmony and unity among themselves and with G-d. They realized that they were all part of the same circle of G-d's love, and they all had a place in the same line of G-d's will. They thanked the Baal Shem Tov for his wisdom and guidance, and they resolved to study and practice both halachah and kabbalah together, in preparation for the coming of Moshiach.

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