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What is a Chassid?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

In its most commonly used form the title Chassid lends itself to someone who is a member of the Chassidic movement. Chassidim (plural for Chassid) are easily noticeable by their unique Chassidic attire (fur hats [and/or black tophats/fedoras] and long coats) and strict adherence to Jewish law.

In classic Jewish literature the term Chassid is used to describe someone who is pious, perfect, and/or goes beyond the letter of the law. The modern Chassid wouldn't claim to be pious, and definitely not perfected, but he does attempt to live Judaism beyond the letter of the law, with added kindness, joy, passion and observance.

In his book Hayom Yom the Lubavitcher Rebbe writes: The term "chassid" is an ancient one that the Sages had even applied to Adam.1 It describes perfection and excellence in intellect or in emotive character-traits, or in both. However, in Chabad Chassidic doctrine the appellation "Chassid" refers to one who recognizes his own essence-character and his standing in the knowledge and study of Torah, as well as his situation in observing mitzvahs. He knows what he lacks and he is concerned and takes pains to fill that void. He is diligent in obedience in the manner of "accepting the yoke."2

One may say that a Chassid is madly in love, and his beloved is Judaism: it's People, it's Torah and it's (understanding of) G-d. Like an avid lover the Chassid will go out of his way to eagerly and happily do anything for his beloved, and is constantly working on perfecting his relationship.

See also What is a Chassid? from Chabad.org

Footnotes

  • 1. Talmud tractate Erubin 18b
  • 2. Hayom Yom 21 Adar I

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