Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Neo Chasidus is all about feeling good.

Good old Jewish Action has a cover story this month about something called "Neo Chasidus" The article, like most conversations about Hasidut, is overloaded with mumbo jumbo buzzwords that don't mean anything. Inner light. Soul of the Torah. And so on

From what I can gather, Neo-Chasidus is when an ordinary MO kid chooses to grow out his payis and spend an inordinate amount of time sitting in a circle singing Carlebach songs. It also has something to do with using instruments during davening on Rosh Chodesh and fabrenging whenever possible. Part of this is also pretending that your "spirituality" has been enhanced and that all the singing, and dancing and, you know, all that feeling, has brought you closer to God.

Naturally, YU is all over this trend and has brought in a legitimate heavyweight, viz Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, to look after all the little Neo Hasidim running around its campus. They sing, and they dance, and - most importantly, judging from the article - they congratulate themselves on how warm and soulful they are vs. the chilly, cold, dry iterations of Judaism they've left behind

It's hard for me to take any of this too seriously. For starters, I don't agree that the styles of Judaism they reject are flawed. The coolness and the dryness are features, not bugs. I prefer the Angelican High Church to the snake charmer's basement.

Moreover, from where I sit this looks no different from, say, the Black Pride movement that got everyone wearing dashikis. For some people, there's something appealing about "authenticity" and because authenticity is a chimera, you approximate it by embracing various affectations. So George from Manhattan becomes Kwami and starts keeping Kwanza and tells himself this is precisely how his ancestors behaved. Sam from Teaneck, now Shmuel, is doing the same thing, as a result of the same forces, when he puts on a gartel and announces himself a Neo-Hassid. And never mind, that no one in George's family tree is from West Africa, or that Sam is a descendant of Misnagdim.

Now of course, I think all of this is perfectly harmless, and of course anyone can choose to embrace any fad they wish. I only object when embracing the fad involves making false statements. Own a pet rock if you wish, but don't promise me that the thing can think and breathe.

Likewise, grow out your payis and become a full-fledged hippie if that's what makes you feel good. Just spare me the nonsense about how the affectations you've embraced are so much more than an exercise in feeling good.

Judaism, please recall,  is about torah, tzedaka and avoda. If acting like some 21st century approximation of a Polish farm boy makes you learn more Torah and do more good in the world, that's excellent. But if, it doesn't (and in most cases it doesn't) let's just be upfront about that, ok?

  Search for more information about Neo Hasidut at4torah.com

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