This Motzay Shabbos we celebrate a most momentous occasion. A great milestone. The 200th הסתלקות/הילולא of the Alter Rebbe. The one who started it all. The one who opened our souls, minds, hearts, and eyes. At a time like this, we must offer up our deep appreciation and thanks - together with resolutions to continue strongly striving for, and living the life, he demanded from us. Moreover, to spread his teachings and that which he stood for, throughout the world. Appreciation can only follow awareness. To develop awareness we need to contemplate. Where to begin? The most oft-repeated teaching of the Alter Rebbe, which we have all heard from the Rebbe, was .אז מען דארף לעבן מיט דער צייט One must live with the times, meaning the Parsha of the week. (See היום יום ב' חשון.) Being disciples of the Alter Rebbe, naturally, this is where we will begin. The Parsha, שמות, contains a narrative which played an integral part in a historical event of the Alter Rebbe's life. In this story of the Alter Rebbe, which is one of my personal all-time favourites, he repeats a marvellous cardinal teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, which the Alter Rebbe heard from the Mezritcher Maggid, his teacher.[The Friediker Rebbe related the story in Chicago, seventy one years ago, פרשת שמות תש''ב. (Printed in ספר השיחות תש''ב, pg.45-50.)] This is the well-known story about The Debate of Minsk,ויכוח מינסק . In 1783, in one of the famous public debates where the Alter Rebbe faced the opponents of Chassidus - the "גאוני עולם" (super genius scholars) from the surrounding cities, and addressed their issues and arguments against the school of thought of the Baal Shem Tov and Chassidism. Briefly, amongst the fundamental objections were two, which, primarily contended that Chassidus seemingly undermines תלמידי חכמים and Torah scholarship. 1. According to Chassidus even the עמי הארץ/אנשים פשוטים, the masses and simpletons should put great emphasis on their Davening, because of its supreme importance. But, the מתנגדים argued that this gives the simpletons and boors positive encouragement, affirmation and value; thereby lowering the worth of theתלמידי חכמים , when, truth be told, the גמרא states clearly that “Punishment comes to this world only because of the עמי הארץ, ignoramuses!” (What good is there in them? Surely scholars are greater than illiterates?) 2. According to Chassidus even a גאון, a Talmudic Genius, and צדיק, a Saint and Righteous person, must do Teshuva. If so, the מתנגדים claimed, here too, with this concept, תורת החסידות degrades and diminishes the honour and respect due to Torah Scholars, when in truth, they are the very foundation and "builders" of the world! (What are Torah Scholars doing so wrong that they must repent?) The Alter Rebbe answered both questions, with a teaching of the Baal Shem Tov. He explained how the very foundation of Chassidus stems from a story of this week’s Parsha, the story of the burning bush as understood in the light of Chassidus. “An angel of G-d appeared to [Moshe] in the heart of a blazing fire from the midst of a thorn bush. As [Moshe] gazed, he saw that the bush was on fire, but the bush was not being consumed. Moshe said, “אסורה נא!” “Let me turn away from what I am doing here [tending to the sheep] and go over there to behold this remarkable sight. Why doesn’t the bush burn?”” (Exodus 3:3) This was Moshe Rabbeinu’s exceptional first Divine encounter. The teaching of the Baal Shem Tov consists of two parts:
1. The inner meaning of this revelation.
2. How it affected Moshe Rabeinu.
[(3. Why he merited this revelation in particular in the first place is not addressed here. 4.One should know, that in a sense, the whole episode of the burning bush is only a prelude to what follows immediately after, which is the גילוי of "וירא ה'... ויקרא אליו אלוקים" which is likewise not addressed here .)] The inner meaning of The Burning Bush
The blazing flame of the burning bush symbolises the fiery heart of the "אנשים...
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