Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “What did Chasidim bring into the world?”

A Kabbalistic answer was given by Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch of Ziditzov to the question ”What did Chasidim bring into the world?”

He said, “Let us imagine someone returning from a long journey to a distant land and telling us that he saw a bird with a human face and the legs of a horse.

Afterwards, someone else goes to the land and, upon returning, says that, indeed, he saw the creature.

But it didn’t have the face of a human, although there was a certain resemblance; and the legs were, in the abstract, like those of a horse, even if not at all identical.

Hearing this, there were more people prepared to believe the story.

But there still remained many skeptics.

Whereupon, a third person made the same journey and brought the very bird back with him.

This, of course, was decisive.

So, too, there are three levels of insight into the mystery of God.

First, there was the level exemplified by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who came and told us about the Divine presence in the Zohar, which is full of such fantastic tales, strange configurations, images, and countenances that one could hardly believe him.

Then, after a number of generations, came the level exemplified by the Ari; and his pupils wrote down the evidence he conveyed with all its greater attention to detail.

Finally, the Baal Shem Tov came, and he exemplified the third level and brought the reality of the Holy One, blessed be He.

And it was no picture or abstraction of Divinity, but an actuality, and all that was required was that one should look at it and see it for what it was.”

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz