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I became a baal tshuva quite some time ago through the "yeshivish" derech, but for the last number of years have been becoming less and less religious, and losing enthusiasm and interest in Judaism. In an effort to "fix" this situation, I started exploring both Breslov and Chabad, which I hadn't been exposed to before and I find the "novelty" of both is stirring my interest. However, I'm a bit torn because they are different from each other and I can't really follow both, plus they each come with a different group of people I would hang out with. Also, I find myself hiding the fact that I'm interested in both when I am with each group. What should I do?

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Desert Start, Welcome to mi.yodeya, and thanks very much for the interesting and heartfelt question! I hope you find a good way for yourself, and I look forward to seeing you around. –  Isaac Moses Dec 20 '10 at 2:26
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10 Answers 10

I appreciate your dilemma. If the novelty of the approach is what is stirring you today, when it does become familiar and regular to you, no matter what approach it is, it will become boring and uninspiring. There are certain universal principles for growth that you will find in any legitimate approach that can keep the words of Torah "as fresh as the day we entered into the covenant with Hashem at Har Sinai".

In my opinion this is what your question should be:

What is the secret ingredient that never lets my service of Hashem become stale, boring, and uninspiring?

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This does ring true, because novelty seems to be playing a big part in my interest in Breslov/Chabad . One telling example... I like the shiurim on chasidus, because it's not at all like my previous experience with Gemara learning. However, davening in Breslov or Chabad minyanim seems to me the same as the davening I used to do before, so it holds little interest to me. –  Desert Star Dec 23 '10 at 13:56
    
Desert Star, the big problem with many approaches is when we become locked in. We make certain assumptions that we eventually canonize even though those assumptions were not necessarily accurate. A person must remain open in order to always learn and grow. –  Yahu Dec 23 '10 at 18:00
    
Open does not mean that one should not take the principles of Judaism too seriously, rather it means that one should be willing to accept that a cherished assumption regarding Torah and Judaism that he previously had (or that even thousands have) could be wrong, inaccurate, over-simplified, or legitimately alternatively understood. This attitude tends to bring Chidush into all areas of one's avoda all the time. –  Yahu Dec 23 '10 at 18:00
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Yours should be a journey of discovery, not simple menu selection. With time and investigation, you will find which of the two options you gravitate towards.

I would recommend spending some time with each group (not concurrently), learning the respective Chassidus of each, experiencing how the Chassidim interact among themselves and with others outside of their immediate circle, how they treat their families, the authenticity of their Jewish commitment, how secure they are in their beliefs etc. As a Chabadnik I'd love to say "sign up here", but you have to discover for yourself what resonates with you.

You mention that you find the Chassidic approach "novel" and you seem to hope this will reignite that spark of inspiration you're concerned you may be losing. From a Chabad perspective, we're not big into the "spark of inspiration". Yes, everyone needs a jump-start to get their Jewish juices flowing, but that's the infatuation stage each of us needs to mature beyond.

In his intro to Tanya, the first Chabad Rebbe posits that his philosophy is the "long-short" way. That means Chabad Chassidus is not keen on quick-fixes or snappy answers, but rather a slow and steady absorption of Jewish principles, until Hashem and His Torah become a tangible reality, rather than short-term inspiration fireworks.

So, give yourself a time-frame. In that time, spend the first half with one group of Chassidim and the second half with the other. Drop any preconceptions you have and just be open to experience and learn what each has to offer. At the end of the exercise, hopefully you'll be ready to make a decision.

While you're at it, say some extra Tehillim and ask Hashem to guide you on the right path. When you're sincere in your quest, He'll give you clarity.

Hatzlocha rabba!

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"The long path which is short" is a phrase found in Meseches Derech Eretz. –  Shalom Dec 21 '10 at 19:19
    
@ChabadRabbi, what do you think of the "Chavakuk" group? –  Desert Star Dec 21 '10 at 23:50
    
@ChabadRabbi, Also have you encountered others in my position and did Chasidus help them get back their enthusiasm? –  Desert Star Dec 22 '10 at 3:04
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@ Shalom: Yes, with a story behind it too : ) @ Desert: I really know nothing about the Chavakuk movement, but am generally wary of people who try have the best of all worlds, because they usually end up with little of any of the worlds. Yes, I do know people like you and, yes, Chassidus did help. Involved with one now, as it happens. –  ChabadRabbi Dec 22 '10 at 20:36
    
@ChabadRabbi Saying that Chavukuk or for that matter Rav Morgenshtern(who also has a blended approach) is only taking the best of all is unnecessarily demeaning, and frankly demonstrates an ignorance of what they are about. You would be better just saying that you have no idea or experience with them. –  Rabbi Michael Tzadok Apr 25 '13 at 11:47
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First ascertain for yourself what exactly caused you to grow disillusioned with your previous path. You may have already rationalized this, but it might deserve another look. If there are underlying issues behind it, you'll solve nothing by moving along to another path.

Spend some time thinking about your life. Get in touch with your emotions and try to identify issues that may be causing you sadness or anger. Talking to a good therapist helps with this.

I'm not making any assumptions about you. All I'm saying is: don't make assumptions about yourself either. Sit down and review. It's hard work but it's critical. Good luck to you.

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You're not alone. I read (need to find where) about a large number of young people (especially in Israel) whose ideology is known as "Chavakuk" -- a combination of Chabad, Breslov, and Rav Kook.

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Here, maybe? theantitzemach.blogspot.com/2010/08/why.html –  Dave Dec 20 '10 at 3:02
    
That wasn't where I'd read it, but yasher koach on pointing to the phenomenon. (I think I might have read it in Tradition.) –  Shalom Dec 20 '10 at 4:02
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A shul like this one very much reflects a "warm Hassidic fusion" brand, as opposed to a single strain: tiferesyisroel.org –  Shalom Dec 20 '10 at 4:03
    
@Shalom, how did you hear about that shul? –  Desert Star Dec 20 '10 at 12:34
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@Will - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bat_Ayin#Demographics –  Adam Mosheh Mar 21 '12 at 20:12
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Many lost souls end up in Chevron and are very happy there.

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identifying yourself with one group doesn't mean you have to abandon the other or change your customs, first of all don't change your family custom, also even someone who strongly identifies himself with one group doesn't mean he can't leran from other, I have sepharadi friends who doesn't identify themselves with habad but learn tania, I see sepharadim who go to shiurim breslev, and hasidim in the mosae shabat shiur of the rav ovadia, and in general people in israel respect each other and read hidushim no matter which sect brought it, it is common to see in the same bet hacneset the flyers for the parasha of the rav shemuel eliahu and/or habad and/or breslev and/or litaim etc

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Well my family custom is to marry non-Jews... :) –  Desert Star Dec 20 '10 at 18:26
    
very funny, but going against the torah is not considered a custom at all, it could be considered a custom only what the bene tora do –  Avraham Dec 21 '10 at 10:10
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well you said "first of all don't change your family custom"... my point is that this does not really apply to me –  Desert Star Dec 21 '10 at 16:12
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You might find yourself in Tzefas (Safed). There are many Hasidic-Fusion types there as well.

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SOME Chabad people In Tzfas are very Hashkaficly Problematic –  SimchasTorah Dec 21 '10 at 5:34
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Very true. I meant those who are a bit more of a fusion. –  Yahu Dec 21 '10 at 6:04
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Thank you for sharing honestly your perception of one of the most important questions in our generation: "How can I determine who my Rabbi is?"

In 1989, when I posed this question to the Rosh Yeshiva of the Breslov Yeshiva in Meah Shaarim, Rav Michel Dorfman z"l (born in the Ukraine in 1913) he answered:

"I don't know who your Rabbi is, but I can tell you what I did when I had the same question: I asked one of the Breslov chassidim of the previous generation -- Rav Avraham Sternhartz ztz"l -- and he told me: 'There are four words of tefila we say in Maariv and in Kriyath Shema every night that will help a person find his derech [pathway] in serving Hashem. 'Vetachneynu b'aitza tova mil'fanecha' -- establish us before You with good counsel'."

Rav Dorfman explained [and demonstrated) that if you say those four words with careful attention and listen to the sound of your own voice when you say them, lifting your face upward, closing your eyes, and repeating them once or twice, even with a slight, quiet nigun, this will help you find your teacher/derech.

Based on the consistently practical, insightful, and compassionate answers he gave me, I decided to accept Rav Dorfman as my teacher and I taught Torah under his auspices for 18 years until his passing in 2006. I've been studying with his Talmud muvchak, Rav Nasan Maimon, ever since.

Wishing you light to your path!

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Welcome to Mi Yodeya, A. Morgenstern, and thank you for your answer. Please have a look around the site: you may find other questions you can answer, including some of the 51 chasidut questions. –  msh210 Apr 23 '13 at 14:38
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Personally I would suggest looking into Rav Morgenshtern. As in this sample here, he blends Breslov and Chabad Chassidus with his own encylopedic knowledge of Kabbalah quite well. I don't see why either branch of Chassidus has to be exclusive of the other, as they are both expounding on the teachings of the Besht in their own way. Further it could be well argued that to truly learn either would take a lifetime, so how could you choose in the meantime? I wish you well on your journey.

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You say you became a BT using the yeshivish derech which I take to mean 'nigla'. Now you are trying to experience chassidus which is a type of 'nistar'. In other words and I am sorry for putting it like this you found you couldnt walk so you decided to run. The rebbes of breslov and chabad were both very great people and new 'nigla' as well and wrote seforim on it. These seem to be the only two chassidus which keep to the orginal way of learning kabala. All the others have dropped kabala and keep to nigla, and are basically not really chasidim at all. So to answer your question whom should you choose between breslav or chabad or both. My answer not being a chosid would be neither. Otherwise I would go for which people's company you prefer and who is more likely to be mekarev you.

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