Much thanks to the Rav for explaining the ways of mussar and chassidus, both in the simple context and in Kaballistic terms. I want to ask the Rav: How do those of Sephardic descent fit into all of this? Being that I am Sephardic, am I able to find my place within mussar and chassidus? If yes, how? Also, is there a unique path in our generation for the Sephardim, which they need to be particularly connected with?
- In sefer HaLikutim authored by a student and colleague of the Ramchal, it is written that that those of Sephardic descent are rooted in the kav yemin, the “right line”, which corresponds to chochmah (initial kernel of wisdom) and pashtus (simplicity). In contrast to this, those of Ashkenazic descent are rooted in the kav sm’ol, the “left line”, which corresponds to binah (expanded thought), reflection, sharpness of mind, analytical discussion.
Understandably, this is very general. For every rule, there are exceptions. So there can be binah within chochmah [and chochmah within binah. The term chochmah corresponds to av/father, and the term binah corresponds to ben/son.] There is a concept of ben/son that exists within chochmah, and vice versa]. Understand this well. This is apparent by the Sephardic sages who were more interested in pshat (simple meaning), cheshbon (logical reviewing) and dikduk (inferring). This is true both about those who were immersed in pshat (the simple understanding of Torah), and also those who were immersed in sod (the secret level of Torah).
- In our generation, where so many different kinds of Jews from all ends of the earth are gathered together in Eretz Yisrael, the Divine Providence [of G-d] has arranged that there be such a mixture. This contains good as well as bad. The deep purpose of all of this mixture is so that all of the different parts will become integrated with each other. There is an inner light shining which enables a connection and union between all of the ways together. On an inner level, this is the secret of unity (achdus). On the external level, it is a mixture of confusion. The inner implication of the term “Bavel” [the Talmud Bavli, which was composed in Bavel] is that it is all “balul” (mixed) with all parts of Torah: Chumash, Mishnah, and Gemara (as Rabbeinu Tam writes in Tosafos in Tractate Kiddushin). But on the external level, it is like the confusion by the Tower of Bavel, when Hashem confused their languages, causing them bilbul (confusion).
- One should hold strong to his own way [the Sephardic path] and then connect the other ways [of mussar and chassidus]. Praiseworthy are they, and praiseworthy are their portion, in that they [the Sephardim] merit to have simplicity (peshitus) and deep earnestness (temimus), for others need to have exertion for a long time, in order to get to such a level of peshitus and temimus.
The complete approach is for one to epitomize the teaching of the Sages [Chullin 5a]: “They are cunning with wisdom, and they situate themselves like animals [in order to acquire more wisdom].” [they have both sharp intellect as well as a simplicity].
A clear example of this was Chacham Ben Tzion Aba Shaul, who learned Torah from the sages of Porat Yosef, which was headed by Rav Ezra Attiah. However, he also combined the Torah teachings of the Chazon Ish with this approach. The result was an incredible integration of simplicity with cleverness, straight-headed thinking with sharpened thinking, logical review with insight, analyzing the nuances of the text together with inner creativity, in-depth thinking together with practical halachah, the pshat/surface understanding of Torah together with Kaballah/mystical parts of the Torah.