The definition of a Chassid-May the real Chassid please stand up!
by Rabbi Yaakov Goldstein
The Rebbe Rayatz states that the Alef Beis of Chassidus is the service of prayer as well as refining one’s character. This really got me thinking, as it basically means that having knowledge of the revealed aspects of the Torah, no matter to what extent, and being involved in spreading its teachings to the masses, no matter to what extent, does not make one a Chassid, and in fact he has not even begun the Alef Beis of Chassidus. Furthermore, one can argue, that having vast knowledge in Chassidus and Kabbalah and being an assiduous learner and preacher and author of it, still does not make one a Chassid, and in fact he has not even begun the Alef Beis of Chassidus. Being an expert in the history of the Hasidic movement and knowing thousands of stories in detail which you can tell over to others, still does not make one a Chassid, and in fact he has not even begun the Alef Beis of Chassidus. Being an expert on the life of the Rebbe and knowing his every action, still does not make one a Chassid, and in fact he has not even begun the Alef Beis of Chassidus. Expressing one’s great love for the Rebbe, and glorifying him with the most magnificent terms, still does not make one a Chassid, and in fact he has not even begun the Alef Beis of Chassidus. Having expert knowledge in the Torah’s of the Rebbe and spreading it to the masses, still does not make one a Chassid, and in fact he has not even begun the Alef Beis of Chassidus. Being extremely meticulous and careful in every single mitzvah, trying to be stringent in every detail, still does not make one a Chassid, and in fact he has not even begun the Alef Beis of Chassidus. Walking, talking, dressing, and acting, in the way accepted amongst your Hasidic sect still does not make one a Chassid, and in fact he has not even begun the Alef Beis of Chassidus.
All the above are things that Chassidim are expected to do and need to do, however do not yet begin to define him as a Chassid. Being a Chassid first and foremost means that one practices the Alef Beis of Chassidus, and the Alef Beis of Chassidus is as related by the Rebbe Rayatz above, to place effort into one service of prayer and to refine one’s character traits. That one arouses passion and love in his heart for God, and that one naturally feels pain from sin from the fact that it separates him from his lover. That one recognizes how truly low and distanced he is from God on an emotional level and perhaps also in a practical level due to sinful behavior. That one use this feeling of loneliness and distance to arouse a passionate desire to cleave to God after understanding that despite all this, God loves him and God wants him and will accept his love from him. That one recites the words in prayer with tears and emotion and absolute concentration. That one work on his character by recognizing that he is truly not really better than any other person, and his success in whatever he is successful in is likely due to his lack of challenges that God has provided him, as well as his naturally born intuitions and God-given skills, or perhaps ulterior motives, and not due to anything that he can truly pat himself on the back for. He has no idea which people are truly the masters of effort and work who have pushed past their challenges and setbacks and given up a lot more for God than him, and therefore he has no right to feel better than another, and this is in the eyes of God alone to judge. He mends his character by being merciful to others and treating others with kindness and respect and benefit of the doubt, being careful not to offend them or hurt their feelings in any way. He mends his character by truly feeling pain of another Jew’s tragedy or matter of pain and suffering, and truly feels happiness for another Jew’s success and good luck. He mends his character by reaching out to a fellow Jew out of true care for his physical and spiritual well-being. He mends his character by praising others and speaking of their good qualities and trying to bring out the good within them. He mends his character by not allowing himself to feel the pangs of jealousy of another Jew who is being more successful in his field than he is and perhaps is even taking away his clients. He mends his character by not God forbid speaking or thinking derogatorily of others and putting others down. He mends his character by looking up at every Jew and seeing what he can learn from him and gain from him. He mends his character by pushing himself to do the right thing that God wants of him not because of promises of fame or reward but simply because of his absolute subservience to God and love for him. He mends his character by not viewing himself as the greatest gift to mankind and as the one most excelled in his field and is always open to gain from others.
That is a Chassid and that is the Alef Beis of Chassidus. Let us begin to do it and finally become a Chassid!
 Sefer Hasichos of the Rebbe Rayatz, Sichas Simchas Torah 5507, recorded in Sefer Hatoldos Admur Hazakein Vol. 3 p. 612
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