The Baal Shem Tov, or Besht —  the founder of Chasidism — 
met the soul of the Messiah during an ascent to heaven. 
The Besht asked him, "When will the Master come?" 
The Messiah answered, "When your wellsprings break forth to the outside!" 
(from a letter written by the Besht to his brother-in-law about one of his soul ascents) 


Egalitarian =

Sometimes "egalitarian" refers to gender equality. This meaning of "egal", gender parity or equality between men and women, is important. But equal empowerment between women and men can be explored in many ways in Jewish practice, and equal power is more important than literal equality. For example, whether women wear tefilin or not is not what's important, but whether women have the power to choose to wear tefilin is essential.

This kind of egalitarianism is about equality in receiving and creating Judaism. The first time I used the term "Chasidic egalitarian", however, I did have in mind a minyan in which men and women would both lead and count towards a minyan, in the traditional sense of "egal". "Chasidic egalitarian" was the name we used for that 1995 minyan.

Egalitarian can have a lot of other meanings, though. As it says on our homepage: is dedicated to making Chasidic songs and traditions accessible to everyone: women and men, religious or secular, however observant, whether connected to a Jewish community or not. I hope NeoHasid will connect with all kinds of Jews, regardless of their practice, including Orthodox, full-on Chasidic, even Mea Shearim-niks, many of whom may not embrace "minyan egalitarianism". But egalitarian can also mean access for non-Jewish people who are seeking spiritual resources, and it can mean recognizing the importance of many spiritual and religious paths for each of us. And egalitarian fits in with something larger than any of these things: an attitude towards the "more-than-human" world (Nature) that takes as its starting point our symbiosis with all life rather than our power over other species.

Equal empowerment is related to the Izhbitzer interpretation of the circle world of Moshiach-zeit described by Chazal (the sages). It means that each person stands in a unique relationship to God that is unlike anyone else's – hence the metaphor for the coming world (aka "the world-to-come", עולם הבא) is points on a circle, each with its own unique view of the center. Everyone is the one and only rebbe of his or her unique insight. Everyone is the student and disciple of everyone else.

This perspective is a challenge not only to traditional gender roles but also to traditional hierarchies of who is more religious than whom. It is a challenge, not a refutation; everything depends on what one does with those hierarchies. It is also a challenge to the classical rebbe model as well, in which the rebbe alone embodies the divine will, and everyone else serves that will as the rebbe's disciple. The whole Pszyscha-Kotzk-Izhbitz lineage is rooted in questioning that hierarchy, so we have "what to stand on", mah lis'mokh alav מה לסמוך עליו, as they say in yeshiva, to validate this perspective.

What was so special about that first minyan in 1995 is that diverse Yidn who would never have davvened together otherwise joined not just to pray but to learn from each other. No one was rabbi or rebbe, and yet everyone was a teacher in one moment or another. This is the passion behind NeoHasid - the belief that we can all learn from each other, teach each other, grow and go forward together in our spiritual and religious work, our avodah. That kind of egalitarianism is something that people can embrace regardless of their halakhah.

The only ideology on this site is to allow people from different Jewish realms and persuasions to stand in some fashion in equal distance to the source. It may never be possible for someone who didn't grow up in a Chasidic group to have the same relationship to the tradition as someone who did. But each of us can have our own intimate and unique prespective on these traditions, one which illumines Torah and emes/emet אמת, truth, for ourselves and others.

All this means, among other things, that has a complex relationship to Chasidus. But you can be fully Orthodox or Orthoprax, inside the frum community, and still have the same questions and challenges. My hope is that we find more and more ways to make such challenges fruitful and fructifying for each other in our walk on this path.

Reb Duvid



Design in progress © Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg 2006