by Rabbi Sholom Avtzon
As Yud Tes Kislev is in two weeks, I am presenting a story about what learning Chassidus is all about.
Reb Chaim of Volozhin once asked the Alter Rebbe, I understand that you feel that learning pnimius haTorah or as you call it Chassidus, is extremely important. You feel, that will safeguard that the learning of Nigleh is also done properly. This I can understand and perhaps even agree to, [especially as they painfully were aware of how the maskilim were influencing extremely bright young talmidei chachomim to become lax in their observance]. But I don’t understand why you focus so many hours a day to it.
The gemorah [Shabbos 31A (the bottom few lines)] states the importance of a person setting a time to learn, their yearning for Moshiach, and understanding your learning thoroughly. The gemorah then states, but if one is missing the attribute of Yiras shomayim (fearing the heavens), all those wonderful categories won’t help him.
The gemorah then compares Yiras shomayim to a preservative, with the following analogy. A person instructed his worker to store a kor of wheat in the attic. Some hours later, the worker dutifully informed his boss that he had completed the work and everything was taken care of.
The owner then asked the worker, “Did you mix a kav of chumtin (soil that has high concentration of salt content, which will help preserve the wheat from infestation)? The worker replied, No, [I wasn’t instructed to].
To which the owner replies, “If not, it would have been better if you didn’t put anything away, [as now it can all spoil]!”
Reb Chaim then said to the Alter Rebbe, the Talmud tells us that the small measurement of a kav of chumtin can protect an entire large kor of wheat. Now a kav is 1/180 of a kor. (As a Kor is thirty seah’s and a seah is six kavin. In liquid measurements it would be 41 ounces mixed with 7439 ounces or a third of a gallon mixed into slightly over 58 gallons). In other words in time that would translate as follows; one minute of Chassidus for every three hours of the day or eight minutes of pnimiyus hatorah would suffice for an entire day.
The Alter Rebbe replied, that is definitely so, a small amount is sufficient enough to protect the entire pile; but that is only concerning the amount of chumtin needed to protect it. However, the Gemorah states that the owner asked the worker, “Did you mix it thoroughly”? In other words, the chumtin has to be mixed throughout the entire kor, and that takes hours. If one would just take that small measurement of chumtin and place it on the side of the kor, it would only protect the wheat that it is next too.
The Alter Rebbe concluded; So too with the learning of Chassidus; yes one can learn a few minutes a day and it will suffice to maintain his connection to Hashem, only if they take those few minutes and “mix and” apply it to their entire day.
Taken from Reshimos Devorim by Rabbi Yehudah Chitrik, (story # 51 in section Alter Rebbe in the new one volume edition).
Rabbi Sholom Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their Chassidim. He is available to farbreng in your community and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.