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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Who We Are (2/12)
Section - Question 2.17: How does a Chassid differ from Misnagid?

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Top Document: soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Who We Are (2/12)
Previous Document: Question 2.16: Why shouldn't I say "ultra-Orthodox", "Reformed Judaism", or "Humanist Judaism"?
Next Document: Question 2.18: What is a "Torah Jew?"
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                                  Answer:
   
   Chassidism comes in many forms. However, all chassidic leadership is
   characterized by an extraordinary magnetism, given expression through
   various activities and symbols. The zaddik (chassidic leader) is
   believed in, devoutly admired, and obediently followed. There is a
   dynastic style of leadership often developed, with generation after
   generation of a certain dynasty of zaddikim following in the main its
   own specific interpretation of the chassidic way of life and communal
   cohesion (which has resulted in the various sects of Chassidism). The
   zaddik provides the spiritual illumination for the individual Chasssid
   and the Chassidic community from his own all-pervasive radiance,
   attained through his mystic union with G-d. In the eyes of his
   followers, the zaddik is a combination of confessor, moral instructor,
   practical adviser, theoretical teacher, and exegetical preacher. Some
   specific distinguishing characteristics of Chassidism is an emphasis
   on the importance of a personal/ emotional/ ecstatic touch to the
   doing of the mitzvos, the reliance on a Rebbe (especially for any
   important life decisions), and the telling of tales.
   
   Misnagidim/Mitnagedim, on the other hand, is a designation for the
   opponents of the Chassidim. Although they have some common
   characteristics, Misnagidim tend to have a pronounced skepticism and a
   severe criticism of credulity and authoritarianism. Although
   originally the name arose from the bitter opposition to the Chassidic
   movement, in the course of time it lost its connotation of actual
   strife, and became a positive description. Elijah b. Solomon Zalman,
   the Gaon of Vilna (1720-1797), gave impetus to the rise of the
   Misnaggedim, and the way of life became characteristic of Lithuanian
   Jewry. After the death of Elijah the Gaon of Vilna, the struggle
   between the Chassidim and the Misnaggedim assumed even more bitter
   proportions, with mutual recrimination, but by the second half of the
   19th century the hostility began to subside. One of the causes of the
   cessation of hostilities was the common front that both formed against
   the Haskalah [enlightenment and emancipation].
   
   Here's another way to look at it. Chassidim see the point of Judaism
   in terms of being close to G-d (deveiqus, attachment). Misnagdim see
   it in terms of self-perfection (temimus, wholeness and perfection).
   This is why a chassid would be more concerned about being able to have
   proper concentration and focus (kavanah) for prayer, while a misnagid
   would be more concerned about the proper time (zerizus and zehirus,
   promptness and care for detail). In reality, these are two aspects of
   the same idea, but stressing different aspects leads to differences in
   practice and mindset.

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Top Document: soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Who We Are (2/12)
Previous Document: Question 2.16: Why shouldn't I say "ultra-Orthodox", "Reformed Judaism", or "Humanist Judaism"?
Next Document: Question 2.18: What is a "Torah Jew?"

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