Q. Why did the Vilna Ga’on object to the Chassidim so much?A. It seems to be part of a long-entrenched dichotomy. How do you serve God best? One view stresses the heart, the other emphasises the mind.
The early Chassidim tended to follow the first line, worshipping with their emotions and passions. The Vilna Ga’on preferred a rational approach, using the intellect to ascend higher and higher towards ultimate truth.
As time went on the two approaches found a modus vivendi and most Chassidic movements came to appreciate the importance of study and using the mind as well as the heart. The Mit’nag’dim (“opponents”) expressed their view in the creation of yeshivot, especially the famous Volozhiner Yeshivah in Lithuania. It taught that the world could only exist by virtue of Torah study, which showed how every halachah exemplified the grandeur and infinity of the Creator’s Mind.