CHESSED LE UMIM CHATAS
You have more credibility with him than I do and he has written off the entire movement and it's towering personalities as an illegitemate reformation of his dearly beloved Judaism."
An intriguing concept. What Chaim seems to be saying is that if I try to persuade DovBear of the validity of Chassidus it will have greater weight than if someone such as himself makes the attempt.
Given DovBear's chosen blog name, I believe that he is much more knowledgeable about Chassidus than I ever could be - Dov Baer was the oldest son of Shneur Zalman, who succeeded his father as leader of the Chabad movement. The choice of the name 'Dovbear' for his blog suggests a more than passing familiarity not only with Chassidus, but also with Lubavitch.
It will also be remembered that Shneur Zalman is the author of Tanya, that being a fundamental text of Chabad, which I have mentioned reacting strongly against in the past.
[Rather than going into any detail over that incident, I'll just say one word: klippos, klippos, klippos, klippos, klippos, klippos, klippos, klippos, klippos, klippos, klippos, klippos, klippos, klippos, klippos, klippos, klippos, klippos!]
I believe that DovBear will get the best impression of chassidus from interacting with chassidus and Chassidim - just as I fear that whatever not so favourable impression he may have gotten of chassidus was from interacting with chassidus and Chassidim. Alas, Chaim, it will still be up to you and others within the Chassidishe velt to impress Dov.
[As we say in Tamarao, "Angsuo atawa peksuo, kutamto bage na kayo" (red affair (a happy event) or white affair (mourning), it portions entirely to you).]
Further to the phrase ‘Chessed le umim chatas’.
Chatas is derived from cheyt, indicating that something is not up to snuff, does not measure up, is insufficient. There is also a connotation of unintentionality, as the term chatas is a sin offering, meaning an offering to atone for an accidental sin.
In the discussion between Herod (disguised) and Baba ben Buta (recounted in Bava Basra 4), Baba ben Buta said: “Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rab -- that Daniel was punished because he gave advice to Nebuchadnetzer, as it is written, “ ve chata’ach be tzedkah ferok… teheve archah li shelevsach (atone for your sin through tzedaka… that you may have tranquility for a long time).” And twelve months were gained by Nebuchadnetzer.
There is a question from this, namely ‘how do we know that Daniel was punished for giving that advice?'
Thus: 'va tikra Ester la Hasach' (and Ester hailed Hasach), from which we can understand that as regards Daniel, the name Hasach suggests ‘Chaschuhu’ - they cut from him (his greatness).
But also it is explained as meaning that governmental affairs were decided (hasach) by recourse to his advice.
In that case, how also can we know that he was punished?
By reason of him being thrown into the lions den do we know this.
This whole discussion raises a question, namely how sincere is the sin offering if one thereby seeks to engineer amelioration? Or, put differently, if one from whom one can presume an ulterior motive performs a good deed, what is the weight of that deed?
One of the constants in the Talmud is the presumption of a certain validity given to Jews, and the equal assumption of a flawedness to Gentiles. This is because one should be able to take for granted a commonality of motives and ideals among one’s own, but one necessarily has to question whether an outsider shares those motives and ideals. In the case of Jews, there is the assumption of a responsibility towards God which should inform much of their habitus, and the concept that service of the divine is not a bargain with each side benefiting from the deal but rather that one performs such things as tzedaka because they are the right thing to do (the idea being that giving to the poor both rectifies an imbalance and fulfills a task entrusted, besides being an act of faith.
Plainly put: A Jew is supposed to perform chessed because it is inherent in being a Jew.
[Whether such a chezkas kashrus actually worked out in practice is a different subject, as is the question of Jewish persons whose actions placed them outside of civilized society.]
In terms of actions with an ethical or moral base, most Gentiles in that age were bribing their idols to do things for them, ergo the motives that caused Jews and Gentiles to act charitably had to be assumed to differ. The presumption of an ulterior motive to the Gentile’s actions is encapsulated in the phrase ‘chessed le umim chatas’ – charity among the nations is flawed (their good deeds lack something). One can assume that a charitable act committed by an idolator necessarily has an ulterior motive, because the pattern of bribing the idol in return for rewards not only inculcates the attitude that doing good gets rewarded, but also posits a bargaining position vis a vis the divine.
Both of these ideas are farkert.
And, unfortunately, common.
Hence the popularity of segulos.
Engaging in prayer or ritual with the intent of profiting thereby is, more or less, tantamount to superstition and witchcraft, and decidedly against the spirit of Judaism.
A rereading of both the Chapters of the Fathers and the book of Iyov will make much clear. One acts a certain way because it is right to do so, and one should not think in terms of reward
[In light of how much Iyov lost, that it all turned out rather well in the end should perhaps be considered the booby prize.]
Yonah, on the other hand, will teach how unpredictable things can be.
On a different note: there were two comments on Dovbear's blog that particularly caught my eye.
Mar Gavriel wrote:
"Right. One of the most chilling pesukim in this morning sedro (which I leyned at the Kotel, as I often do) is: וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-יִקַּח אֶת-אֲחֹתוֹ בַּת-אָבִיו אוֹ בַת-אִמּוֹ וְרָאָה אֶת-עֶרְוָתָהּ וְהִיא-תִרְאֶה אֶת-עֶרְוָתוֹ, חֶסֶד הוּא--וְנִכְרְתוּ, לְעֵינֵי בְּנֵי עַמָּם; עֶרְוַת אֲחֹתוֹ גִּלָּה, עֲוֹנוֹ יִשָּׂא."
I am somewhat unclear about the connection between psook 20:17 ("ve ish asher yikach es achoso bas-aviv o vas-imo ve etcetera) and preceding commentaria in that thread. On one level I can understand the reference, but nevertheless I seek explication. Zeit azoy git, tayere Mar Gavriel.
The other comment was:
"careful now - you might have a problem of hatmana b'davar hamosif hevel (or maybe its just samuch and OK)"
Hatmana refers, among other things, to the box with hay or straw used in country districts of the Netherlands in olden days to preserve the heat in a pot of food. The hay or straw insulated the vessel and thus kept the food warm. The writer of the comment seems to posit that kedusha is an active force, energy (that can be added, affecting an increase in heat), rather than necessarily a passive state. Which is fascinating.
[Of course, the statement hatmana be davar hamosif hevel also brings up such things as bishul akum, blech, stirring up ashes, kliim both sheni and shlishi, and much else involving shabbes food and kashrus - so much material that I might do a separate posting at some point, bli neder.]
Then I saw the name with which he had signed himself (michael ben drosai), and nearly bust a gut. Who else could make a shabbes-food related comment but someone with that nom de guerre? How absolutely perfect. And how utterly delicious.