A discussion in the comments to the previous post, "Chassidus & Chakira", highlighted the unfortunate fact that way Chassidus should ideally be viewed and properly taught, does not always coincide with the actual presentation of Chassidus in the "Chabad" educational "system" of today. The specific issue under discussion was whether or not it is the "official Chabad doctrine" to study works of Chakira.
No one ever claimed that Works of Chakira, or Musser, or Drush etc. are part of the official curriculum taught in Lubavitch Yeshivahs, however to say that study of such works is discouraged is absolutely wrong. On the contrary, Rabbi Chadokov [Hodakov], the head of the Rebbe's secretariat, a man of tremendous insight, the main implementer of the Rebbe's Hashkofeh on a practical level and an expert in the field of education, often advocated that both individuals and institutions should pay more attention to such works. In "The Educator's Handbook: principles, reflections, directives of a master pedagogue", a compilation of his advice and directives, there are many examples of this. While I will focus mainly on the example of Rabbi Chadokov, which is better documented, any Mashpia worth listening to shares and implements a similar attitude (see below.)
On page 180 in the section entitled "Senior Yeshivot" we find, "Seforim whose subject is religious awe, such as Reishit Chochma and Sha'arei Teshuva of Rabbenu Yona, should be studied, together with whatever deals in the most direct way with the fear of Heaven, (not that this should be integrated into the regular seder, for which we have no precedent in the yeshivah's history, although I have heard from mashpi'im that such seforim were in fact studied privately)."
Similarly on pages 181-2, "There are various more specialized pursuits within the
Torah that virtually remain a closed book and in which it is hard to find knowledgeable individuals-for example, Hebrew grammar, Midrash, Ein Yaakov, the history of the Jewish people, and so on. It is no secret that the Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, fully expected the students to study and be proficient in Nach, Hebrew grammar and penmanship, as well as Jewish history.
We must therefore expand our curriculum to include these subjects – albeit outside of the regular yeshiva schedule, or at times when there is no formal yeshiva program. Most effective for this purpose will be the teaming of students into pairs, each pair pursuing the specialty of its choice and studying it in sufficient depth to arrive at a reasonable degree of mastery.
For example, one pair might focus its energies on various aspects of "drush" – homiletic interpretation… Another pair might lean more towards philosophy and faith, which is the subject of such works as Duties of the Heart. Another idea worth considering is to put together an anthology – passages culled from various sefarim and dealing with various topics – to contain easy material as well as some which is more challenging – and to develop out of this a study manual, for the use of the group or the individual."
Regarding the education of girls we find, page 47, "The curriculum for the girls should include the following:
A: Specific topics from "Duties of the Heart," the section "Gate of Understanding."
B: Various aspects of hashkafa, from "Gates of Understanding, of Rabbeinu Yona.
C: Serious and intensive study of Pirkei Avot, whose subject is the fear of Heaven and the development of good character traits. Learning various sayings and aphorisms by heart." See pages 89, 94, 107, 112, 157, 172, 177 and 185 for more examples.
Secondly and indeed more obviously (to anyone who has learned Chassidus), implicit in every Chassidic discourse is the assumption that the student is familiar with the terminology and frame of reference, most of which is drawn from works of Chakira, Drush, Musser and Kabbolah (as exemplified in the previous post). In other words, if you are really trying to learn and understand Chassidus (rather than simply reading it parrot fashion) you must explore the various concepts drawn from that wider frame of reference. If you ignore this fact and ignore (or worse disallow) the study of these disciplines, your study of Chassidus is practically worthless. Contrary to popular supposition, learning Chassidus is not only about translating the words, but about understanding and assimilating the concepts, arguments and ideas to which those words refer.
In the words of Rabbi Chadokov, (page 182), "Where did the idea not to study such things come from! Did some committee form itself for just such a purpose, deliberate, and in its wisdom banish them from the curriculum?!"
Thank G-d, this is not a problem which exists across the board, there are many Mashpiem and teachers of Chassidus (Reb Yoel Kahn, Reb Meilich Zweibel, Reb Itiche Meir Gourarie, Reb Yossi Gourarie, to name but a few), who continue to teach Chassidus as it has always been taught, presenting it within its full context and frame of reference - which includes aspects of Drush, Remez, Musser, Chakira and Kabbola. I myself owe any understand of Chassidus that I have to masters such as these who take the time to explain each concept in its full depth, drawing on their thorough knowledge of the wider frame of reference and making their students aware of the need to use their private time to familiarize themselves (at least to some degree) with the relevant works. I strongly advise anyone who really wants to have an intellectually satisfying experience, to get hold of Reb Yoel's Shuirim. They are in widely circulated and some of them are available here.
In conclusion: Chassidus is considered to be a loftier form of study, providing its student with a more complete, balanced and astute worldview than can be attained through the study of Chakira, Musser or Drush alone. However, this does not mean that these disciplines are to be ignored, on the contrary they are complementary and in fact vital to the study and understanding of Chassidus. Indeed only through a full understanding of the wider context can one fully appreciate the true significance and novelty, which makes Chassidus so unique. Perhaps in my next post I will elaborate on this last point.