Chassidic story & lesson for Parshas Shemos-The origin of the souls of Chassidim


Chassidic story & lesson for Parshas Shemos

In this week’s Parsha, Parshas Shemos, we learn of the plight of the Jewish people in their period of slavery in Egypt. Aside for the suffering of the actual labor, they also suffered tremendous loss of life especially of their young. It is told in the Midrash[1], that if they did not reach the quota of bricks per day then they would be tragically forced to enter infant children into the mold of bricks in order to fill it up and reach their quota. Upon Moshe Rabbeinu witnessing this, he turned to God with a complaint, saying that God is causing evil to the people. God replied to him that these children were not destined to live because they would become a source of evil and punishment for the Jewish people, and therefore they should not be saved. However, God offered Moshe that if he wants to try to save one and see what happens, that he may. So, it was on one occasion, that Moshe tried to save a young infant boy who was entered into the brick mold, and indeed was successful in doing so. While Moshe certainly acted out of pity and love for the Jewish child, Hashem was not as thrilled with what he did, due to the reason He explained above. Moshe however in his great pity and mercy saved him and tried to take personal supervision over the boy. In the end, this boy ended up being an infamous man of evil by the name of Micha, who was responsible for creating the golden calf and the infamous Pesel Micha recorded in Shoftim chapter 17. As the Talmud[2] states, he was also the father of the other infamous man of evil, Yeravam Ben Nevat, as Micha’s alternative name was Nevat.


In the following story with the Alter Rebbe, we will see a similar idea Lehavdil, that there exists a supernal mud in the heavenly world from where the souls are chosen from and that just as in the above story with Moshe, he unfortunately was not allowed to save whomever he wanted, so too the Alter Rebbe was “not allowed” to bring whomever he wanted towards the path of Chassidus, as it was only destined for certain handpicked souls from the supernal mud from where the souls derive.

“The mud that is under the Kisei Hakavod that from there come the souls of the Chassidim”

The Chassidim of the Alter Rebbe were taken from the supernal souls of Chassidim:

The following story was related by HaRav Yosef Tzevi Halevi Segal Shlita by a farbrengen of the 24th of Teves, as he heard it from the famed Mashpia of Toras Emes, Rav Moshe Yehuda Reichman, the son in-law of Rav Zalman Havlin, and brother in-law of Rav Alter Simchovitch:

The excommunication of Rabbi Pinchas Reitzis by his father Rav Henoch Shick:

Rabbi Pinchas Reitzis, who was the son of Rav Henoch Shick, the chief Rabbi of the city of Shklov, was ostracized by his father after it was discovered that he decided to join the Hasidic movement. After a few years in which father and son were not on talking terms, Rav Henoch Shick, the father of Reb Pinchas, was curious to know what had ended up with the son, and decided to spy on him and his actions. He noticed that his son was not only still observant of Torah and Mitzvos, but furthermore was very scrupulous in its observance, and perhaps even more than he. Bewildered by what he saw, he confronted his son, breaking the no talking rule that was set by the general excommunication of the great rabbis of the Lithuanian cities against the Hasidim, telling him that he thought that he would not be fulfilling any Mitzvos if he is affiliated with the Hasidim and certainly not perform them with such meticulousness, as after all, for what other reason were they placed in excommunication. So, his son Rabbi Pinchas, calmly explained to his father that he, as well as his Lithuanian Rabbinical colleagues, are completely mistaken in their understanding of the Hasidim, as in truth they are very God-fearing Jews, and the entire excommunication is based on misinformation and lies. Rav Henoch Shick, who knew that as a Rav and Dayan he must do proper investigation prior to taking action against any individual, and especially an entire group, decided that according to Halacha he must make a proper inquiry into this before joining the bandwagon of excommunicators. And, so it was, that after a proper investigation he indeed discovered that what his son has said is true and that the Hasidim are very great fearing men, and that their leader the Alter Rebbe is a most righteous and God-fearing and scholarly individual. Rav Henoch eventually decided that he would like to meet this great leader and asked his son Rav Pinchas to help facilitate it.

The great meeting between the chief Rabbi of Shklov, and the Alter Rebbe:

So, after several months it was discovered that the Alter Rebbe would be traveling towards the vicinity of Shklov, and Rav Pinchas arranged for his father to stay for Shabbos in the city that the Alter Rebbe would be staying in, and he would then arrange for him to enter into a private audience with the Alter Rebbe after the leave of Shabbos. So it was, that Rav Henoch Shick participated in the various talks and Hasidic discourses that were delivered by the Alter Rebbe throughout that Shabbos, and to say that he was impressed was an understatement. He was absolutely blown away by the vast knowledge and depth of thought that the Alter Rebbe expressed both in the revealed and concealed aspects of Torah, and was visibly overcome with an utter magnetic attraction to become a follower of the Alter Rebbe and connect to his soul, following in the footsteps of his own son. And so he decided, that when he would enter into the private audience with the Alter Rebbe after the leave of Shabbos, that he would ask him to accept him as a Hassid.

As you can imagine, the fact that the chief Rabbi of the city of Shklov had come to taste from the teachings of the head of the “cult,” as they were described by the opposition camp of which Rav Henoch Shick was a leading figure in, made waves amongst the Hasidim. Aside for Rav Henoch Shick being one of the greatest recognized Torah scholars of his time, he was also the chief Rabbi of one of the greatest strongholds of the opposition camp only equal to that of Vilna, and hence the joy of the Hasidim could know no bounds seeing that they had “caught a big fish,” and all were anticipating for the historic meeting that would take place after the leave of Shabbos.

The Yechidus of Rav Henoch Shick with the Alter Rebbe:

It was now the leave of Shabbos and the time came for Rav Henoch Shick to enter into private audience with the Alter Rebbe. The multitude of Hasidim stood outside waiting in anticipation for what may come of this meeting. After a lengthy discussion of trading deep Torah thoughts Rav Henoch Shick informed the Alter Rebbe of his inner desire to become a follower of his, and asked him “please take me under your cloak” and become my Rebbe and accept me as a Chassid. The Alter Rebbe, taken aback by his request, placed his holy hands by his forehead and entered into a state of Dveikus. After some time of remaining motionless in this position the Alter Rebbe removed his hand from his forehead, and said to him as follows: “One of the holy and famous Jewish poets of medieval times states in his liturgy that the souls of Hasidim grow from the clay that is under the Kisei Hakavod/heavenly chair.[3] I see that your soul does not come from that clay and therefore I am unable to accept you to become my follower.” So it was, that Rav Henoch Shick never became a follower of the Alter Rebbe although always remained an avid fan and admirer of him.

The Divine lesson from the story:

There are several lessons that can be learned from the above story:

  1. We are all part of God’s army: From the fact that the Alter Rebbe refused to accept Rav Henoch Shick as a Chassid under the above pretense that Hasidim come from a special area of souls, we can learn that every sect in Orthodox[4] Judaism has a root and source in holiness to which its followers belong to, and one should never act or feel that his sect owns the true perspective of Judaism and others are false. Rather, every sect is part of a branch of the collective Menorah of Jewish souls, which come to complement each other, and hence we should focus on trading and sharing our Torah thoughts and goals with each other to help complement and build the general form of this Menorah, and not view it as competition for who holds onto the true method of divine service.[5]
  2. As a Chabad Chassid, you have a special merit and responsibility: From the above story we can learn that every person who has merited to be a follower of Chassidus Chabad and the Chabad Rabbeim, was handpicked from the mold of souls that belong to the Hasidim. Hence, not only are we all spiritual brothers coming from the same root, but also carry a special spiritual family relationship with our Rabbeim, who chose us to be their followers. Our relationship with them is not one of mere coincidence but of deep soul root that has merited us to become their follower. This relationship demands of us to own up to that merit and give ourselves over to the philosophies of Chabad and the mission of our Rebbe, as a son would do for his father.



[1] See Rashi on Sanhedrin 101b based on an Agada

[2] Sanhedrin 101b

[3] See Otzer Hatefilos Yotzer of Shabbos before Shavuos Letter Tes “the clay of the future world from which the Hasidim grow from”

[4] As for conservative and Reform Judaism, the following interesting story is told: Rabbi Simcha Wasserman, the son of Rav Elchonan Wasserman, was once at a convention of rabbis in California which included Chabad emissaries, as well as reform and conservative rabbis. Rabbi Wasserman, who was seen talking and acting friendly with the Chabad Rabbis, was asked by a colleague who was a conservative Rabbi as to why he is so friendly with Chabad, as after all he is part of the Lithuanian camp who oppose the Hasidim. So, Rabbi Wasserman answered him that the Jewish people are like an army, and just like in an army there are many different positions that need to be filled, each one being equally vital for the war effort, so too the Jewish people collectively are part of the Army of God and each sect of Judaism fulfills a different position in that Army. Hence, while he and Chabad may have different views on many subjects nonetheless, they are both part of God’s army. When the conservative Rabbi heard his answer, he asked Rabbi Wasserman as to which part of the Jewish army of God does the conservative movement correspond to? Rabbi Wasserman smiled and answered his friend that every Army contains deserters during battle, your group corresponds to the deserters of the war effort.

[5] Indeed, when the Alter Rebbe was interrogated by his second imprisonment in 1800, he explained to the government in a written response that there exists souls of Hassidim and souls of Misnagdim, and both are true and authentic sects in Judaism, and that he is not coming to replace them, but simply to cater to the souls of the Hasidim.

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