The popular COL (Chabad On Line) Hebrew language site recently posted four clips from a documentary that portrays the life led by the Chassidim of Kfar Chabad in the mid 1960’s. The film is titled in German “CHASSIDISMUS – ODER DER FROHLICHER WEG ZU GOTT” (“CHASSIDISM – OR THE JOYFUL PATH TO G-D”), however the narration is in English.
The producer is identified as Kobi Jaeger, I don’t know he was but he seems to have a very good grasp of his subject, and in my opinion has generally succeeded in capturing the essence of the Chassidic ideal authentically and with an elegant simplicity, which reflects the purity of Chassidic life as it should be.
These are beautiful camera shots of real Chassisdim, Davening, learning, Farbrainging and working, epitomizing the ideal of “be’chol derochecho de’aihu” (“in all you ways you shall know Him”) – joyously serving Hashem with every breath. Here you can really see the Chassidus of the Bal Shem Tov as persevered through Chassidus Chabad, so that it may be manifest in every aspect of the human experience.
There are of course some inaccuracies, in the bar mitzvah scene the narrator describes the Chassidim as discussing the bar mitzvah boy’s merits, which is unlikely… Another inaccuracy, which must be pointed out is that in the second clip, where the Chassidim are learning the introduction to Shaar HaYichud VeHemunah, which explains the concept of G-d’s unity and the nullification of all existence in great depth, the narrator says that “chassidic thought is contained in parables and anecdotes”. While this is a true statement, it does not do justice to the intellectual effort required to assimilate the highly abstract concepts that are the subject of the Chassidic discourses that are the subject of the relevant footage.
Nor is the anecdote about the man who finds a wallet, illustrative of the subject matter of “the Rabbi’s words” which the Chassidim gather each evening to discuss. Similarly in the scene where the girls are being taught about the ten Sefirot (which are so central to Jewish mysticism and Chassidus) and the relationship between the intellectual Sefirot and the emotional ones; while the accompanying anecdotes are nice, and do to some degree illustrate the fundamentals of Chassidic thought, they do not at all reflect the true depth and complexity of what the instructor is really saying.
The narration is peppered with Chassidic sayings and anecdotes, and although they are not necessarily exact renditions, they do (generally) authentically reflect the basic principles of Chassidic Philosophy. Watch and Enjoy!
I have only uploaded the first two sections, the rest can be downloaded here.
Below are some of my thoughts, please share your own in the comments section below.
In today’s world we often lose sight of the simple truths by which Chassidim once lived. Part of the authenticity that must try to preserve, is that these truths were not abstract ideas that they studied, but were rather woven into the very fabric of their lives.
Once upon a time people acted out of conviction, served G-d out of conviction, lived their lives out of conviction… but today the Chassidic way of life has become increasingly complicated. So many other factors are involved, some of them social, some of them political; some more obvious some less so.Each of us has opinions about what should be done and what shouldn’t be done, we analyze each other and ourselves… this is not all bad bad, but we have to some degree become to sophisticated than is good for us. It is high time that we start getting back to basics. As scary as it sounds, we must personaly invlolve ourselves in doing what G-d wants us to do.
A Chassidic concept is not just intellectually stimulating; Davening, learning and working, are not just things that we have to do, simply because the situation demands it. The Rebbe Rashab once explained (Toras Sholom) that a pnimi is someone who is totally absorbed in what he is doing. When one davens, learns or works, one must be totally involved in that particular service. Each is a worthy endeavor in its own right, and if we do not commit ourselves to the moment, we are simply going through the motions.
In the modern world we are constantly rushing and our minds often seem to be a step of the moment, thinking of the next step rather than the now. If our minds are not in the now, then the now is compromised. Our service is not true and complete, neither can we enjoy it and celebrate it for what it should be.
These Chassidim were authentic, to them G-d was real, and their lives were simply extensions of that reality. These Chassidim realized that every moment was Divine, and they rejoiced - as we should - for the opportunities that G-d gives us to serve Him.