Home » David Werdiger, Religion and Jewish Thought, Simon Holloway

Who’s Got Moshiach?

July 26, 2009 – 11:20 pm57 Comments

800px-Chabad_Mashiach_FlagBelow are two articles on messianism in the Chabad-Lubavitch movement: Simon Holloway argues that since the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, messianism and fervour in the Chabad-Lubavitch movement have actually led them away from traditional Judaism. In contrast, David Werdiger argues that since the Rebbe’s death, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement has remade itself and continues to thrive, moving forward despite their profound loss.

A New World Disorder: Messianism and Fervour in Chabad-Lubavitch

by Simon Holloway

In the 12th century, Maimonides effectively created the first systematised delineation of Jewish dogma.

One of his thirteen “principles of faith” was the belief in the coming of the Messiah, along with the assertion that his arrival should be expected every day, irrespective of how long it takes. Such was the tremendous influence of Maimonides, many religious Jews today would not even think to question the possibility that every day is a day on which the Messiah may have only just arrived.

For members of the contemporary Hassidic group, Chabad-Lubavitch, this messianic expectation possesses a distinctly dynamic feel. With the belief that the Rebbe is always the Messiah of his generation, coupled with the belief that the seventh Rebbe (who passed away on June 12, 1994) is still the reigning Rebbe, many Lubavitch Hassidim today loudly proclaim their Rebbe, Menachem M. Schneersohn, as the Messiah, and await his “second coming”.

I would like it to be noted that I have referred to the Rebbe’s “second coming” honestly, and not in order that I might highlight the already obvious parallels with early Christianity. These parallels exist between every movement that possesses an immortal leader who suddenly… well, dies. Coming to grips with what happened on “Gimmel Tammuz”, the date of the Rebbe’s death, has proven an obstacle for many Lubavitchers, but an obstacle that is often circumnavigated. I remember, when I was attending a Chabad yeshiva back in 2002, my earnest answer to the simple question: “What happened on Gimmel Tammuz?”

“… Nothing.”

The reality is, for many Lubavitchers, nothing is indeed what happened. The number of Shluchim, sent by the Rebbe as personal emissaries around the globe, tripled within a short space of time. More and more people became observant (which is to say, Chabad) and, rather than abate, the messianic fervour with which many of his followers proclaimed him as their saviour increased seven-fold. All sevens are blessed, so they say.

These days, there are the so-called Meshichistim and the so-called anti-Meshichistim. It needs to be noted that the latter term is an out-and-out lie. The distinction between the two groups is so subtle that you need to actually be a Lubavitcher yourself in order to care about it. The Meshichistim chant “Yehi” (a chant that, in some communities, has become a creed: “Long Live our Lord, our Guide and our Teacher, the King Messiah for ever and ever!”), while the “anti-Meshichistim” don’t chant it. End of difference. Do the anti-Meshichistim deny the messianic status of their Rebbe? Don’t be absurd: the Lubavitcher Rebbe, according to the philosophy of Chabad, is the Messiah. Is it our obligation to impose this belief on the rest of the Jewish world? There, and only there, is the source of the debate – and the frequent antagonism between the two groups.

I often wonder now, as I wondered when I was a Lubavitcher myself, what the Rebbe would have had to say about this meshugaas. For much of the time, he was a staunch opponent of the addition “King Messiah” to the chant that his followers were singing, and the only time that he actively encouraged it was after his stroke. The Rebbe was in a vegetative state and his Hassidim, who could not (nor will not) acknowledge his inability to rationalise, were empowered by his sudden approval.

The story (for those of us who truly came to love the Rebbe) is a sad one. It is not, however, a surprising one. Rav Elazar Shach (whom I later came to realise was an absolutely outstanding Talmudic scholar – despite the fact that he has become a source of cheap ridicule by many Lubavitchers) opposed the adoration of the Rebbe from the beginning, and suggested in no uncertain terms that this was a development likely to lead them out of Judaism altogether. Such sentiments have been echoed in more recent years by another brilliant (although irritatingly polemical) scholar, Prof. David Berger. For some elements of Chabad, they may be correct.

There is a community in Tsfat whose adulation of the late Rabbi Schneersohn has reached epic proportions. Not content with denying his death, several individuals in this fervent city believe him to be alive and well, and living within the walls of “770”: the Rebbe’s offices in Brooklyn. Many such individuals refuse to visit the Rebbe’s grave (it is, after all, empty), address their questions to his books in a bizarre 21st century form of divination, and (in one dangerous instance) equate him with the corporeal incarnation of God. Coupled with the reverence given to his discourses (for which many neglect Talmudic study), the elevation of Sefer Tanya (the first Rebbe’s systematised theology) to the “Torah of Hassidus”, along with the highly sectarian nature of the Chabad festivals, the Chabad siddur, and the Chabad minhagim… maybe Rav Shach was not so off the mark?

Chabad-Lubavitch: moving forward in a new world

by David Werdiger

‘Gimmel Tammuz’ (as the day of the Rebbe’s passing is known) was a watershed moment for Chabad. Many Chassidim who had until then reasonably believed that the Rebbe was the Moshiach of this generation were challenged regarding how to interpret the event. In very simplistic terms, the Chabad community was split along what are known as “Meshichist/anti-Meshichist lines: those who believed that even after his passing, the Rebbe could still be Moshiach, and those who opposed that view, and felt the movement needed to accept that the Rebbe could no longer be Moshiach, and find a way forward.

The nuances of belief are far more subtle, and the perspective from the inside is that there are shades of grey in the spectrum of current Chabad-Lubavitch theology. There are extremists on either side of the fence, to the point where a small number believe that the Rebbe did not die at all, but rather was ‘concealed’ from us, and will soon emerge. Others believe that despite his passing, he is not disqualified as Moshiach, and through “tchiyat hameitim” (resurrection of the dead – one of Maimonides’ thirteen principles of faith), he can emerge as Moshiach. While this sounds a lot like Christian doctrine, there are some fundamental differences, and support for this notion among Talmudic scholars – here is not the place to expand upon that. On the other side, there is the firm view that the Rebbe is no longer Moshiach, yet there is no need to appoint a successor. There are variations within each broad faction regarding how to deal with the other. It is important to note that those in financial control of operations of Chabad are from the non-Meshichist camp (I much prefer non- to anti-).

There are no survey or census figures to indicate what proportion of the global Chabad community sits where. It is probably reasonable to assume that statistically it follows something like a normal distribution, with most people in and around centrist views, and a small number of (loud) extremists at either end.

For an organization that had such a cult of personality around its leader to continue its momentum some fourteen years after said leader is no longer around seems quite paradoxical. To significantly increase number of shluchim and new institutions that have spread through the world during that period despite a huge controversy that seems to have split the movement is truly incredible.

Some might say that the Meshichists believe the leader hasn’t left, and therefore they continue with the same fervour. However, the personal relationship with the Rebbe has long been gone, and many of the young shluchim currently being sent out would barely even have memories of any direct interaction. In any event, that does not account for the entire movement, and there is no evidence that one faction has been more involved in the ongoing expansion than the other.

It seems to me that despite the fact that the Rebbe was the driving force of Chabad for over forty years, the influence of his leadership went far beyond him as an individual. What distinguishes great leaders (be they of corporations, organizations, or movements) is that they sublimate themselves to the cause, the mission. That way, when the leader moves on (for whatever reason), the mission continues unabated. So whatever your particular sub-theology regarding the Rebbe and Moshiach, the mission of Chabad continues on. The continued progress and success of Chabad is evidence that this must be ‘non-core’ rather than a defining theology.

The direction for the movement was clearly set by the Rebbe, and has not substantially changed. There are many volumes of the Rebbe’s teachings and correspondence, and these continue to be studied and used as a guide by Chassidim.

Over the years, Chabad has had no shortage of detractors and critics, and this certainly predated the Moshiach fervour of recent times. One of the teachers at the Yeshivah I attended in Israel over 25 years ago published dissertations, and proudly embedded in them his direct criticisms of various teachings of the Rebbe.  Rav Schach was certainly one of the most celebrated ‘anti-Lubavitchers’ of his time. I see parallels with the Slifkin controversy (particularly the excellent analysis Slifkin, Salem and the Senator), where a number of leaders of the ‘Yeshivah World’ sought to raise their profiles by jumping on the bandwagon of criticism of others.

What is one to make of this sort of opposition between Orthodox Jewish movements and theologies? The schism between Chassidim and Mitnagdim has been going on for centuries (interesting to note that the Mitnagdim (lit. opposers) define themselves by what they are not). The Chassidic movement posed a radical threat to the class-based world of Torah scholarship. But in the modern era, while most Chassidic groups kept to themselves and retained old-world garbs, Chabadniks dressed like contemporary Orthodox Jews and were unashamed to bring their message to the masses in a way the Jewish world had never seen. This certainly posed a renewed challenge to the ‘Yeshiva World’, and this should certainly be taken into account as at least part of the motivation for the ongoing opposition to Chabad.

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  • Chaim says:

    Simon Holloway – Your article is misleading and full of falsehoods. Defining yourself as a prior Lubavitcher does not qualify your beliefs and knowledge. Those who despise and make a crusade to discredit Lubavitch are suddenly amazing, intellectual greats in your eyes now… The fact is that there is a spectrum of beliefs and to most Lubavitchers it is irrelevant because they have a job to do – spread Judaism, educate Jews and bring Moshiach whomever he may be. They do this to this day in an even greater way than prior to Gimmel tammuz.

  • Chaim,

    You are correct: defining myself as a prior Lubavitcher adds no weight to my argument. Nor would being a Lubavitcher today, for that matter. You’ve left me guessing as to the nature of these falsehoods that fill my piece, but you mention intellectual greats and so I assume that my opinion on Rav Shach is amongst them. I must tell you, the process actually happened in reverse of what you suggest. The only reason that I, and other Lubavitchers, despised him in the first place was because he was on a crusade to discredit Lubavitch. Once I stopped caring about that one aspect of his life, everything else came into sharper relief. He was Rosh Yeshiva of a distinguished Talmudic academy, a major player in the political arena, and considered a Gadol HaDor by the entire ultra-Orthodox world. That is, with the exception of Chabad, of course, who felt snubbed.

    Believe it or not, but I’ve even heard Lubavitchers similarly dismiss the greatness of the Vilna Gaon, simply because he snubbed the first Lubavitcher Rebbe and referred to him as a heretic.

  • Chaim says:

    Simon – No one ever dismissed the greatness of the Vilna Gaon. the Alter rebbe was very clear about how great and pious he was. Lubavitvhers just wish that he had met with the alter rebbe to settle the disputes instead of hiding from him… as for Rav Shach – Again whether he is a Torah giant is not the question. He said terrible things about the Rebbe and the Rebbe was astounded that a frum Jew could speak like that. I assume you know the story about the tefillin…

    The falsehood – that every Lubavitcher chassid believes that post Gimmul Tammuz that the Rebbe is moshiach – absolutely not true. But no Lubavitcher will deny the possibility of it. and yes there are some crazy people who are Lubavitchers. Name a group or religion that does not have mentally disturbed people especially a religious, spiritual group.

    Where I will agree with you wholeheartedly is that if the Rebe thought that proclaiming him Moshiach would drive a Jew away from Yiddishkeit or Chassidus then he would definitively stop it in its tracks. His whole life was given over to G-d he would not hesitate for a second to sacrifice himself if it meant bringing one Jew closer.

    What was your connection to Chabad prior to Gimmel Tammuz?

    How much time did you spend in Yeshivah?

    Did you ever meet the Rebbe?

  • Eri says:

    This mag keeps getting better.
    Where is Zeider?

  • Chaim says:

    Simon – sorry about the spelling mistakes..

    I forgot:

    “neglect Talmudic study” – this is antethetical to Chabad Theology. Because some individuals act in a certain way does not mean the whole movement does so.

    “the elevation of Sefer Tanya (the first Rebbe’s systematised theology) to the “Torah of Hassidus” – not entirely sure what the actual problem you are insinuating here… The Tanya if you learn its background is a spiritual prescription to be a better Jew. It is learned daily to reinforce and refine your behaviour and relationship to Hashem.

    “the Chabad siddur” – is the nusach Ari which many Chassidim and Sefardim use. The Chabad issue was researched thoroughly by the first Rebbe from 60 edition to find and fix printing mistakes, and improve grammar.

    Chabad festivals, Chabad minhagim… Do you believe Sefardim and Ashkenazim are different religions too?

  • Almoni says:

    What I’d like to know, from a historical-sociological perspective, is this current round of Messianism-non-Messianism the same as the Shabbati-Tvi cult?

  • Chaim says:

    Shabbatai-Tvi openly went against and changed the laws of the Torah and in the end converted to Islam.

    There has never been any sign Lubavitch Chassidim had come close to this.

    Misnagdim thought the original Chassidim were similar to Shabbatai-Tvi and this too was never realized.

  • No two historical events are ever the same. You can draw parallels, if you are so inclined, between Lubavitch Hassidism and Shabbetai Zvi (or early Christianity even), but such parallels will then exist with a number of other movements and ideologies as well. There’s no point hinging an argument on who has greater respect for Torah, given the intangibility of “Torah”. Many consider the Lubavitcher Rebbe to have significantly degraded the halakhot of Sukkot when he recommended his followers not to sleep in the sukkah, for no greater reason than the fact that “they are holy”.

    Chaim, I’m not going to respond to your questions regarding my religious life, except to say that I was never fortunate enough to have met the Rebbe in person. As you said yourself, my own experiences neither add to nor detract from my argument, and there’s no need for this to get unnecessarily personal or individualistic. I would, however, like to respond to David’s point regarding the Mitnagdim, by saying that this was not a name they chose for themselves. For the record, the term Hassidim was also first used by its opponents, as a sneer. Such is often the case with labels of identity.

    I would also like to make clear something that I said in my second-to-last paragraph: “For some elements of Chabad, they may be correct”. I have not suggested that Chabad, as a movement, is moving away from Judaism. I am, however, saying that certain elements of Chabad (such as can be found in Tsfat) are moving into a type of Judaism that is so markedly different from any other that it may even eventually lose the name. You will never encounter a Lubavitch institution that denies the Rebbe’s messianic status and, for that reason, even the difference between the moderates and the fanatics is simply one of degree.

  • TheSadducee says:

    But isn’t the fact that no Chabad institution will deny Schneerson’s messianic status the critical issue here?

    What is the argument for not denying it? He died, he did not redeem Israel etc – I’m not sure how anyone can sensibly argue that he can possibly be Moshiach?

  • Noah says:

    Dear Simon,

    I would like to address 2 points in your article:

    1) To suggest that the Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevitch was right about his views in regards to the Rebbe… I’m mean, do you know what the controversy between him and the Rebbe was about? It started way before the issue of idiolization. Have you read the 150 Pages (!) of the Rebbe’s talks from the years 1975-1991 about him and his views. Do you know how much anguish he caused the Rebbe? This is not just the Chassidim! The Rebbe publicly refused to refer to him by the name of “Bnei Torah” instead called him a “Midyanite”, and the messenger of the Samach Mem (1990).

    2) But that’s not the only problem I have with what you have written above. From the “spirit” of your writing I (i.e the idiolization of the Rebbe) I can see that you lack basic understanding in the connection between a Rebbe and Chossid, and I’m not refering only to Chabad. However, I simply don’t have the time to explain this at length.

    Keep on writing about these important issues!

    (sorry for the spelling mistakes..)

  • I don’t know whether or not you are a mathematician, Noah, but perhaps you are familiar with Fermat? He conjectured that, while squared numbers can be separated into the additions of two other squared numbers (eg: 5² = 4² + 3²), that is impossible for any power higher than two. It’s known as Fermat’s Last Theorem and, until the 20th century, nobody had been able to either prove or disprove it.

    I mention this because, in his original publication in 1621, Fermat claimed in the margin to have formulated a proof for his own theorem. It became a rather famous claim because he never published it. His excuse? “This margin is too narrow”.

    I have no objection at all to you finding errors in my article, but you’re going to have to do better than simply say that they’re there and then claim that you don’t have the time to elaborate on that point. Maybe you can write back when you do have a moment? Otherwise I’m only going to assume that, like Fermat, you have a belief that you’re correct, but not a lot of evidence to back that up.

  • Simon,

    I’m not sure about the origins of the term ‘mitnaged’ – would be curious to see your evidence of this. In any event, it is a badge worn with pride by most mitnagdim. Of course I would put anyone who calls themself an ‘anti-meshichist’ in the same basket as someone who is identified by what they are not, or what the oppose.

    You’ve really over-simplified the issue of sleeping in a sukkah that was one of the major rifts (halachic, anyway) between the Rebbe and the Yeshivish World. “Because they are holy” doesn’t quite encapsulate the many pages written on the topic. I recall the same magid shiur I referred to in my post telling me that during the sicha where the Rebbe first introduced the idea of not sleeping in a sukkah, the main table at the fabrengen collapsed and fell. To him, this was a message from God that the Rebbe was teaching a false Torah.

    Finally, your suggestion that no Chabad institution would say that the Rebbe is not Moshiach is incorrect. I can’t speak for any of them personally; hopefully someone will step up and clarify this important point first-hand.

  • TheSadducee says:

    David

    Your last paragraph is a little unusual and seemingly disingenous:

    1. You make a definite claim (“no Chabad institution would say that the Rebbe is not Moshiach is incorrect”);
    2. You provide no evidence to back this claim up and you decline to speak for any of them;
    3. You then hope that someone else will step up and back up your own unsubstantiated claim.

    If your going to make a claim that Simon’s assertion is incorrect why don’t you back it up with some proof or do the honourable thing and retract it?

  • Sadducee,

    My claim is based on my inside knowledge of Chabad, having been brought up in and continue to be an active part of the Chabad community. As a current Chabadnik (rather than a former one), I stand by my cred in making this statement, which is about the organization as a whole.

    However, the claim was made about Chabad institutions, and I can’t personally speak for them because I don’t head them, hence I called upon someone with the correct authority to do so.

  • David,

    I retract the confidence with which I made that claim: I thought that Allan Nadler mentioned as much in his introduction to The Faith of the Mithnagdim, but cannot find a statement there to that effect. Irrespective of the word’s origins, that people should come to lay claim to a negative identification and find comfort in what they are not is not so strange. We do it every morning in ברכת השחר.

    I also would like to note that I’ve not read the Rebbe’s sicha that concerns sleeping sukkot and so, yes, it was very much a simplification. My point in that regard was merely the intangibility of this thing called “Torah” (one man’s Torah is another man’s kefirah), and not actually a critique of Chabad halakha.

    Your teacher, 25 years ago, who published direct critiques of the Rebbe sounds very intriguing. I am sure that you would agree that his attitude, while perhaps refreshingly academic, is also somewhat extraordinary? I think that such a perspective from any Hassid is generally anathema. Indeed, although I only spent four months with the Litvaks (the “snags”), I saw a similar degree of reverence there.

  • Sorry, my comment came in late: the claim that I was retracting concerned the provenance of the word “mitnaged”. I still stand by my assertion that the least meshichistic yeshivot simply don’t advocate the Rebbe’s messianic status, but that none of them deny it.

  • Isn’t the internet a wonderful thing? “Dictionary of Jewish Usage”, by Sol Steinmetz, says ‘mitnaged’ is a term used by Chassidim to their opponents within Orthodoxy. How much credibility you give this source is up to you. Whatever its origin, the term was happily adopted by the Mitnagdim themselves. While I say it every morning in Birchot Hashachar, people don’t ever refer to me as a non-Gentile, non-Slave, or non-Woman. The usage and intent is very different to ‘mitnaged’.

    The attitude of the teacher in that Yeshivah so many years ago (where I spent a year) reflected what I felt was the defence of the Yeshivish World against the threat of Chabad. How many of the vocal critics of Chabad were doing it for purely altruistic reasons?

  • TheSadducee says:

    David

    I’m not sure we are reading the same thing?

    I was talking about your last paragraph from your post @2.21pm which was addressed to Simon.

    You stated:

    “Finally, your suggestion that no Chabad institution would say that the Rebbe is not Moshiach is incorrect. I can’t speak for any of them personally; hopefully someone will step up and clarify this important point first-hand.”

    You admit that this is specifically referring to institutions in your post @2.53 and then say because you are not the head of an institution that you wont speak for them etc.

    But you already have spoken for at least one of them because you’ve made the claim above.

    I’ve asked you for some proof.

    All you have responded with is a statement that you are involved with the Chabad sect and then implied that as part of the community as a whole there might be someone who denies it – again without actually providing any proof for this claim either.

    Can you point out one documented example, easily obtainable I’m sure from your lifetime of Chabad activities, of a current member of the sect in good standing, since 1994, asserting the Rebbe is/was not the Moshiach?

  • Noah says:

    Hi Simon,
    Dear Simon

    You comment only about my second claim, about which I stated that I don’t have time to address now, because in my opinion it is a detailed subject,

    However you don’t mention anything about my first comment which I personally think is some strong evidence that you may need to do some research about the Ponovitch-Lubavitch controversy (and maybe some other issues?)

    To Mr David Werdiger:

    I don’t know where you are living now, but I am a 21 Year old Lubavitcher Yeshiva student who has learned in Chabad Yeshivos in: Australia, Montreal, New York, Israel, Brazil and in all the Yeshivos I was in, the Rabbi’s were very serious and vocal about the Rebbe being Moshiach. Please, stop hiding behind the bush!

  • Sadducee,

    As Australians, we know the policies of our government are, but only a few people have the authority to speak for them.

    As a Chabadnik, I know what policy is. I can tell you that the leadership of the Chabad shul that I attend every day will not be one to put up it’s hand and say “the Rebbe is not Moshiach”. I know of plenty of other institutions who would, but can’t speak for them.

    There is a letter written by a shliach in the US to his son which has been widely distributed within the global Chabad community, and I will quote just one small paragraph which should give you some greater certainty regarding this issue. He’s talking about the assertion that the Rebbe was b’chezkas Moshiach:

    “Many Chassidim who had adopted this (mistaken) view realized immediately after Gimul Tamuz that they had made a serious blunder; they admitted it, and publicly changed their views. Others, unfortunately, did not have the intellectual honesty and moral integrity necessary to make such an admission.”

    I can probably send you the whole thing if you want to read it – it’s about 12 pages worth all together.

  • Noah,

    There are plenty on both sides of the fence. No need to name names in a forum like this.

  • Noah says:

    Dear David,

    How do you know who wrote that letter, it was published anonymously and could be written by anyone.

    I did research about that letter and discovered that it was written by non other than R’ Shmuel Kaplan from Baltimore. Ye, the guy who walked out of Yeshiva a month ago because some one was wearing a Yechi Kippa.

    Do you think he is mainstream and moderate?…

    Face it: 95% of Lubavitcher’s will tell you that the Rebbe is Moshiach. The other 5%, will admit it deep into a Farbrengen.

  • Noah,

    It is indeed a quote from Shmuel Kaplan’s letter. I wouldn’t call him an extremist.

    Based on my knowledge of the global community, 95% is overstating things. I’m not one who koch zich in politics, so my view is just a guess/assumption, and I said as much in my post.

    To make a reliable statement about the proportions of Chassidim on either side of this issue would need some formal research, not just anecdotal evidence. I’d love to hear from someone who has actually done this.

  • I would also love to hear from somebody who has done that sort of research, which is why I specifically mentioned institutions and not individuals. There are certainly individuals who believe that the Rebbe is not, nor ever was, the Moshiach – but, so far as I am aware, they are as marginalised as that fellow in Tsfat who thinks the Rebbe is God.

    Noah, I shall have to look more into the nature of Rav Shach’s dispute with the Rebbe, and vice versa. So far as I am aware, the Rebbe finally lost his patience with Rav Shach around the time that the Rav began criticising Chabad Chassidim. Yet, the passion with which the Rebbe condemned him seemed to belie the most recent comments as having been the cause of his fury. Despite him not having spoken out for a long time, whenever “that man in Bnei Brak” insulted him (declaring his wine unkosher because he had blessed it, etc), it was obviously getting to him. I don’t blame him, but I also think the Messianic business was what most brought out the animosity of Rav Shach, compared to which the prior argumentation was really akin to the same sorts of disputes that arise all the time in ultra-Orthodox communities. Not deferring to “experience”, but I spent 14 months in Mea Shearim, and I saw much of that level of antagonism.

  • TheSadducee says:

    David/Simon

    Great topic and its good to see this being discussed openly and frankly in the broader community. Thanks for the good commentary and insights.

    @Simon – I’ve flicked you an email to your USyd account, send me a response if you get a chance.
    @David – feel free to contact me to discuss my concerns further.

  • Sadducee – my e-mail is david [at] billing dotcomdotau

  • I didn’t get your email – try simon at benabuya dotcom.

    In lighter news (and no, I am not trying to sabotage this post), has anybody else ever noticed that the crown on the yellow Moshiach flag looks like it has four smurfs inside it? I can’t get that out of my head.

  • Chaim says:

    Simon – My point about your religious background is that at least twice you have defined yourself as a previous Lubavitvher yet a relatively fleeting time spent at a Baal Teshuvah Yeshivah does not give you the ability to fully understand or appreciate what a Lubavitcher is.

    As to whether Chabadniks would deny it – NO – They would never deny it because they can not. The is a opinion in Halacha (although some dispute it and some non-Lubavitchers except it) that Moshiach can come from the dead. No Lubavitcher can deny the possibility of the Rebbe being Moshiach especially since currently they is no one individual who could compare being a Torah Giant, A world leader in Judaism over more than just Lubavitchers. (I don’t have the time and place to describe the relationsip the Rebbe had with Israel and its prime ministers – including Golda Meir, Rabin, Netanyahu…)

    This does not mean that the Rebbe being Moshiach defines them. This is where the current split is. Main stream Chabad say yes he is or could be Moshiach but as Chassidim this is irrelevant because we have a mission to do and that takes priority, while persisting to put the notion that the Rebbe is moshiach at the forefront is distracting, selfish / arrogant and misguided.

    As for the origin of the names Mitnagdim and Chassidim – My understand is that both came from those opposing Chassidus. I did see this recently and will find the source. (the book had both primary and secondary sources)

  • Chaim,

    As far as I am concerned, it is fundamentally impossible for the Rebbe to spring back to life and lead the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. Not because I don’t think there are sufficient halakhic sources for such a phenomenon (perhaps there are), but because I think the whole idea smacks of nonsense. I don’t believe in this notion of a Messiah and I think you’ll find, if you reread my article, that I’ve not critiqued Chabad for veering outside of an halakhic system so far as this belief is concerned. I don’t really care whether they have or they haven’t in this regard, given that I don’t ascribe any legitimacy to the eschatological claims that this system makes.

    My criticism of Chabad (specifically of the meshugaim in Tsfat) was formed on the basis of other issues. Their sectarian nature is a main one (although this is a sociological phenomenon, not a theological phenomenon) as is their mindboggling denial of the Rebbe’s death, coupled with a bizarre belief in divination.

    If anybody is having difficulty figuring out who better to pick for a Messiah (and, given that it’s only Lubavitchers who seem keen to identify him, it’s no surprise that they’re having difficulty), that’s their affair. The moment they want to start choosing dead people, they’ve a whole smorgasbord from which to make their selection, and I wish them the best of luck.

  • TheSadducee says:

    I think Simon is correct with regards to the final paragraph – if people hold out the option that a dead figure could be Moshiach then there are plenty of candidates which could be argued for as opposed to the late Rabbi Schneerson – I think this is a particularly dangerous (for one’s faith) area of speculation.

    It is also a reflection of the crushing psychological blow caused by the death of a major figure in a sect i.e. a reaction to the loss of the central focus of the personality cult.

    I think the healthiest solution for Chabad-Lubavitch would be to appoint a new rebbe and move on.

    As to the initial paragraph written by Simon, I disagree with your opinion re. Moshiach but respect the fact that you hold an alternative position.

  • Mordy Goldman says:

    Simon,

    I have 1 question from you, I’m a neutral lubavitcher and I have no particular sway in either direction, I dont mind saying yechi, I dont mind moshiach not being the rebbe, although I feel he is the most qualified … regardless.

    I know that the Rebbe in 1951 after the passing of the Friediker Rebbe clearly declared that his father in law was Moshiach, a person whose grave he visited no less than once a month. I have too much respect for the Rebbe to think he made a blatant mistake in simple jewish texts. Misnagdim often say that Lubavitchers’ fundemental flaw is that they believe a dead person can be Moshiach, but as yet I have never ever seen any evidence anywhere that this is not possible. Please enlighten me where you see this.

    Note: this is not a political question, it a simple torah question. Prove that moshiach must be alive in order to qualify.

  • Mordy, I’m sorry but you have misunderstood me. I have no opinion regarding whether or not a dead Messiah is permissible according to halakha. The only person, so far as I am aware, who even bothered to clarify the halakhot of the Messiah was Maimonides, and people have been very astute with their interpretation of his wording, saying that he only invalidates candidates who were killed (eg: Jesus), but that he doesn’t invalidate candidates who died of “old age”.

    This is not my issue with Chabad. I don’t care whether or not there is room within the texts to allow for what they believe. There are people who say that there is and there are people who say that there isn’t. You’ll have to ask one of those people if you want an answer to your question.

    As for the Rebbe’s statements regarding his father-in-law: to the best of my knowledge, this was very much a first within Chabad theology. A Lubavitcher better versed in Chabad doctrine will have to refute me, but I am not aware of any Rebbe prior to the current Rebbe suggesting such a thing. Again, whether or not that means anything to you is up to you. It means nothing to me: my concerns are sociological only.

  • Chaim says:

    My points were direct responses to something you wrote.. I imagine you also don’t care about whether another Tzadik from another generations (even Moses) would be better suited as this is an old argument discussed in many places. So I am not going to discuss that I see you don’t even believe Moshiach is an actual person but rather an era? Do you actually believe in resurrection of the dead either?

    Having said that if your main concern is that sociologically Chabad is separating and distancing itself from Judasim, we can address that.

    Historically Chabad has always strived to integrate. Tha Alter Rebbe when he was the ‘leader’ of Chassidism in general was one of the few to protest the Chassidism staring separate community counsels or even shuls. He was one of the few to oppose Napoleon because he felt Jews would assimilate even though materially they would be far better off. You can read first hand his letters admonishing followers from separating or reacting against misnagdim. Chabbad rebbes were subsequently involved in all European community counsels, government representation.

    this Rebbe sent emissaries all over the world to far communities separating them from families and communities in order to reach out to fellow Jews – the opposite to exclusiveness. Chabadnicks in Israel seve in the army and are involved in all matters of Israeli society.

    They alone among haredim wear modern suits, are encouraged to work and to have relationships with all Jews including non frum Jews.

    Since 3 Tammuz this has only increased. Look at Australian Jewry. Do you think Chabad has separated or drifted from the rest of the community? It has been 15yrs since 3 Tammuz.

    At all official Chabad gatherings Yechi is not said. If you look at the direction over the last 15 yrs. Less people in general are saying Yechi. The idea of the Rebbe being Moshiach is less emphasized in most communities. Yes there are fringe groups and section eg Tzfat (the man who held the sign “Hashem Tzidki” – who I personally saw and met is mentally unstable and was rebuked severely even by the Tzfat community). Your arguments are against a small minority of Chabadniks. Most Chabadniks believe the Rebbe “died” – we wont go into theology about death.

    I imagine either Moshiach will come and it will be the Rebbe soon or you will see over the years more distancing from this notion and eventually Chabad will look back and say “at that time he was but can not be now”. Once a generation passes it is inconceivable that anyone can say the Rebbe is Moshiach or you would have the argument that any past Tzadik could be.

    If you want to look at Jewish society now and point fingers as to who is separating and being lost to Judaism – Look at Reform Judaism. Intermarriage rates – 50-90%. Children growing up without any Jewish education at all.

    Ps: the notion that their Rebbe is Moshiach is much older and not exclusive to Chabad.

    TheSadducee – you don’t understand what a Rebbe is. It is not simply a leader of a group who can be appointed.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Chaim

    Why dont you elaborate for my benefit on what a rebbe is? I was under the impression that they are ordinary human beings like everyone else but it appears that you are implying otherwise.

    Do they have supernatural or extraordinary powers? Are they biologically superior? Are they closer to Hashem than you or I? Are they appointed by Hashem and how is this determined?

  • Chaim says:

    TheSadducee – sure. I thought something in his own words may be better. I would be glad to answer any specific questions you still have.

    A letter written by the Rebbe several months after the passing of his father-in-law and predecessor, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch. Dated “Tammuz 3, 5710.” (1)

    Many seek and propose to explain the qualities and greatness of Chabad Rebbes in general, and, in particular, the Rebbe of our generation, my father-in-law, hareini kaparat mishkavo, (2) in various areas: as a man of self-sacrifice, Torah genius, lofty character, prophetic ability, miracle-worker, etc., etc.

    These qualities are further magnified when viewed in the light of Chassidic teaching, which explains what is true self-sacrifice, true Torah genius, and so on.

    And yet, none of this addresses the primary quality of the Rebbe–a quality which is not only primary in essence, but which is most important to us, his chassidim and followers, namely: the fact that he is a nassi, and particularly a Chabad nassi.

    A nassi, broadly defined, is a “head of the multitudes of Israel.” (3) He is their “head” and “mind,” their source of life and vitality. Through their attachment to him, they are bound and united with their source on high.

    There are several types of nesi’im: those who supply their constituents with “internalized” nurture, (4) and those whose nurture is of a more “encompassing” nature. (5) This is further divisible into the particulars of whether they impart the teaching of the “revealed” part of Torah, its mystical secrets, or both; whether they offer guidance in the service of G-d and the ways of Chassidism; whether they draw down material provision; and so on.

    There are also nesi’im who are channels in several of these areas, or even in all of them.

    Such was the nature of the leadership of the nesi’im of Chabad, from the Alter Rebbe (6) to, and including, my father-in-law, who embraced all these categories and areas: they nurtured their chassidim in both the “internal” and the “encompassing” qualities of their souls; in Torah, divine service and good deeds; in spirit and in body. Thus, their bond with those connected with them was in all 613 limbs and organs of their souls and bodies.

    Each and every one of us must know–that is, dwell upon and implant the awareness in his or her mind–that the Rebbe is our nassi and head: that he is the source and channel for all our material and spiritual needs, and that it is through our bond with him (and he has already instructed us in his letters how and by what means this is achieved) that we are bound and united with our source, and the source of our source, up to our ultimate source on high.

    FOOTNOTES
    1. June 18, 1950. The letter is printed in Sefer HaMaamarim 5710, p. 254 and in Igrot Kodesh, vol III, p. 331-332.
    2. “May I be the atonement of his rest”–traditionally added to the mention of one’s parent or teacher within a year of his or her passing.
    3. Tanya, ch. 2.
    4. E.g., developing their minds and hearts.
    5. E.g., stimulating their faith.
    6. The founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812).

  • Chaim says:

    One other source. A Conversation with the Rebbe asking him most of your questions… it may be easier to connect to..

    http://www.cuchabad.org/templates/articlecco_cdo/AID/168147

  • TheSadducee says:

    Chaim

    Thanks for the references – interesting idea.

    One question – if the rebbes have these powers/abilities how do you know which rebbe is the correct one to follow?

    Why Chabad rebbe as against Gerrer rebbe or Satmar rebbe?

  • Chaim says:

    Great question.

    You need to research who they are, what they teach, what they promote and decide can you connect to them (and they to you) and will they make you a better Jew, closer to Hashem, as well as bringing out the best qualities in yourself?

    The Chassidic groups are different in what they emphasize and who the accept.

    Not all Rebbes are equal in the “powers”, some are really just a leader of a group, but there are true Rebbes out there in the way I meant – just not a Rebbe for Chabad right now.

  • Chaim,

    Re: Reform Judaism, I agree with you completely. Nonetheless, this article was not about Reform Judaism (which doesn’t exist in Australia), but about Chabad (which does). Reform is an American organisation, and Progressive Judaism in Australia is as different from this organisation as is Chabad in Australia from Chabad in Tsfat. You are also correct in stressing the fact that Chabad in Australia is more centrist than their Israeli counterpart, but that still brings me back to my initial assertion that it is a question of degree.

    If you find concerning a disavowal of the divine nature of Rabbinic halakha, then the differences between Progressive Judaism and Reform Judaism are also a question of degree – although this is a debate for a different thread. My concern in the above article has been with the denial of the Rebbe’s death and the belief in his imminent return as the Messiah. I think you would probably agree with me that, in that regard, the difference between the most fervent Meshichist in Tsfat and the most virulent anti-Meshichist in Baltimore is a question of degree as well.

  • Chaim says:

    Simon – In Perth it was always called reform but I see it did change its name now… Glad to be corrected.

    Also by the way I did see the smurfs.

    I would have to disagree completely with the difference in the Chabad groups. The leadership in Chabad with the majority of Chabadniks believe the Rebbe died on 3 Tammuz. A very small minority do not. This is not a question of degree.

    As to his imminent return (with resurrection of the dead)as Moshiach, I still believe that the majority of Chabadniks believe this to be a possibility with a spectrum of how strong that belief is and with a spectrum of emphasis placed on this belief. For 90% of Chabadniks (in my experience in Australia, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, LA – i.e. mainstream communities)it is a very low if not insignificant part of their belief system or their practical observances.

    I understand your thesis is that Chabad is sectarian and close to becoming a splinter group off Judaism. My point is as 3 Tammuz becomes more distant Chabad in general is moving away from this belief and as time goes by (if moshiach has not come) it will be a thing of the past. Chabad has a long history and the notion of the Rebbe being moshiach is only 20yrs of that history.

    In many way Chabad has been a force unifying different religious groups – modern orthodox, Haredim, secular Jews because they have individual things in common with each group and can converse comfortably without maleficence or suspicion with each group (at least from the perspective of Chabad).

  • Noah says:

    Hi Chaim

    First I must compliment you on bringing the letter of the Rebbe from the 3rd of Tammuz 5710.

    In your last comments you try say that most of Chabad do not believe the Rebbe is alive and most of Chabad do believe the Rebbe is possibly Moshiach but that this belief is not a fundamental part of their life.

    As David said above, unless someone goes around and actually counts, this is all assumptions, and I have been in more places then you, notice that most of the communities you mention that youv’e been in are in the U.S.A and are very small communities. I personally have been in: Australia (S&M), Montreal, New York, Israel (Bnei Brak, Tzfat), Brazil, France… and the list goes on, so what? Is Chabad theology based upon what this or that Chassid says? No!

    Chabad theology is based only upon the Rebbe’s teachings, and the Rebbe – in the last teachings we heard from him – clearly says that Moshiach is on the way and the Rebbe identified Moshiach’s name as “menachem” and “mendel” in countless discourses. Furthermore the Rebbe promoted his Father-in-law the Previous Rebbe as a possible candidate to be Moshiach after his Father-in-law passed away in 5710. When asked about this, the Rebbe responded a detailed answer which is not next to me.

    To summarize:
    Moshiach’s coming immediatley (and his identity) is the focus in Chabad (Chabad theology = Rebbe) today.
    The Rebbe promoted the possibilty of someone being Moshiach even after they died.

    Another point:
    According to the way you write about Moshiach and the Rebbe it seems like you don’t understand basic concepts that the Rebbe introduced or emphasized in our generation as we are getting close to Moshiach: Dor Hashvi’i, Dirah Betachtonim etc. Meaning: Moshiach is not just a side issue when talking about the Rebbe, Moshiach is everything. The Rebbe’s first discourse was about the fact that we (him & us) have a mission to bring Moshiach. Moshiach is the central theme of the Rebbe and our generation.

  • Chaim says:

    Noah – I mention some communities I have lived or spent significant times who I consider mainstream Chabad these days not where I have been although that is irrelevant.. Crown Heights is a smorgasbord filled mainly with visitors and has attracted extreme Meshichists so much that many Chabadniks try and avoid it these days. I also lived in Israel for two years.

    You bring points which are debated. I am not going into the debate with you whether the Rebbe is / can be Moshiach or whether he should be publicly identified. Most Lubavitcher believe there is a body buried at the Ohel.

    Most yunger people these days base their relationship with the Rebbe by learning his words (or fragments) but have mainly virtual relationship based on multimedia again in fragments. This is different to a 60yr Lubavitcher who met with and asked the Rebbe face to face. These days the Rebbe is not physicality around to rebuke us for our shtus like he clearly did in the early 90’s.

    What I do know is that if the Rebbe though for 1 second proclaiming him Moshiach would drive away a Jew from Judaism he would not allow it. There are many letters to this extent including where the Rebbe did not allow a Chabad house to open in some cities because of the effect it could have on the community.

    I did not say Moshiach is not a central issue – it clearly is. I distinctly was talking about proclaiming the Rebbe is Moshiach.

    In the month of Iyar, 5744, Rabbi Wolpo wanted to print his book “Yechi Hamelech,” in which he attempt to demonstrate, with numerous hints, that the Lubavitcher Rebbe is Moshiach. After he sent the Rebbe the book’s proofs, he immediately received the Rebbe’s answer, written in the Rebbe’s handwriting, and read over the telephone by Rabbi Hodakov. The Rebbe’s words were:

    “Telephone him in my name the following:

    “It is apparent that he is feigning as though he doesn’t understand what I already answered before, that it is possible to do much damage to Chabad, rachmana litzlan, and to the spreading of the wellsprings, through writing on this theme – and my intention was mainly to him; enough said.

    “Now I warn him that he must stop speaking, writing, and how much more so, publicizing, especially in print, anything pertaining to Moshiach – whether in his own name, under an assumed name, through an intermediary or the like – with whatever kuntz he may concoct, and in whatever format or manner that may be. And if, chas v’sholom, he goes ahead and does anything in this regard, he should know clearly that this is a specific and general war against me.

    “Obviously the above includes any interpretations of matters regarding Moshiach in the Rambam or other Seforim, Chassidic discourses and anything of the like.”

    In the month of Tamuz, 5744, Rabbi Wolpo wrote to the Rebbe asking forgiveness for the aggravation he had caused the Rebbe through his efforts to publish his above mentioned book, but he again attempted to “prove” to the Rebbe that people really “needed” his book. The Rebbe responded:

    “1) Obviously, in everything I wrote and said regarding the above there was absolutely nothing at all the opposite of a blessing, chas v’sholom v’chas v’sholom, and even now there is none, chas v’sholom v’chas v’sholom. However:

    “2) When something is ‘publicized,’ and especially when it is printed, what is pertinent is how it will be interpreted by the reader – and not the author.

    “3) It has come to pass that because of his activities (speaking, printing, and behaving) – he fuels divisiveness, etc., and hundreds of Jews (and more) have stopped learning Chassidus, and now oppose the Baal Shem Tov and his teachings in actuality, etc., etc.

    “4) Among these are some who until he began doing such things were involved in spreading the wellsprings .

    “5) Some seek the slightest hint or pretext which can be used to enlarge the bonfire.

    “6) In the pages which he enclosed there would be no need for such people to search for hints and pretexts , for they are all permeated with this material, and automatically his effort would only lead to a continuation of the same result, another battle against disseminating Chassidus, and even more people will be estranged from learning Chassidus – may this never happen…!

    “All the above is obvious, and therefore it is extremely astonishing that he tries to explain to me the opposite!”

    After receiving the Rebbe’s holy answer, again Rabbi Wolpo had the chutzpa to “explain” to the Rebbe the value of his book, and he again continued “sparring” with the Rebbe – insisting that no one should be “ashamed” of the halacha. Again he received the Rebbe’s holy reply:

    “What I wrote was not just a precaution, lest perhaps… Rather, it was founded on what is public knowledge – that thousands, and more, have stopped learning Chassidus and now clash with the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, etc., because of talk and publications from you alone.

    “As for the ’simpleton’s question’: How can it be proper not to spread the halacha?

    “Let me ask you: When speaking to a rich man in the United States for a donation… do you tell him that one who strikes a match on the holy Shabbos is censurable by stoning, and if the Sanhedrin was in power, as you long for it to be, you would be among those who would stone him, rachmana litzlan – as provided for by a clear halacha in the holy Torah? And would you tell this to him even when you were visiting him on the afternoon of Shabbos Eve?

    “Certainly, if you answer my question, I will, bli neder, answer you.”

    There is plenty more……….

  • Noah says:

    Hi Chaim,

    Your missing the point:
    Chabad theology is based upon the Rebbe’s teachings, therefore your first number of lines in your answer were unnecessary.

    Regarding the Rebbe’s views in 5744 (1984-85), against publicizing that he is moshiach, well my friend, I don’t know where you have been hiding since then but things changed drastically starting from a year later exactly (Simchat Torah 1986) the Rebbe says:

    “The leader of the generation is the Moshiach of the generation, and I will have no “faribel” (problem) if people will understand this in the most simple way, because this is the truth, that the leader of the generation is the moshiach of the generation.”

    2nd of Nissan 5748: The Rebbe says that the that the people must proclaim “Yechi Hamelech” and that through that the add life to the leader of the generation.”

    I just bring you 2 quotes, in order to show you that from 5744-5 to the years after that, the Rebbe changed his policy drastically from criticizing and berating someone from hinting the fact that he is Moshiach, and then a year later the Rebbe is saying that he has no problem with the fact that people will understand and explain that he (the Nasi Hador) is Moshiach.

    By the way from those years onwards, the positive letters and discourses about the identity of Moshiach started getting better and better… if you would, I could send you a compilation.

  • Chaim says:

    you are are deceiving yourself and misguided.
    I will stick with Yoel Kahn who absolutely refutes your standing.

    On 2 Nissan 5748, the Rebbe spoke regarding the need for the people to proclaim the general “declaration” of “Yechi Hamelech,” “Long live the King.” Regarding this, in simplicity, it is impossible to say that this was any kind of “directive” for Chassidim to actually declare this in reality.

    First of all, in all the time from 2 Nissan 5748 until 27 Adar I 5752, the fact is that no one was so audacious as to “announce” this in the Rebbe’s presence, for it was known that to do this was against the Rebbe’s will (except on one occasion, when the few who attempted to nevertheless do so after 28 Nissan 5751 quickly discovered exactly how much the Rebbe disapproved of their conduct)!

    Secondly: This is no different than the many other Sichos in which we find expressions that are “declared” and “announced” – for example, the announcement of “Hinei zeh boh,” “Behold, this one (Moshiach) is coming”; or the famed announcement of the Yalkut Shimoni – yet never, not even once, do we find Chassidim “announcing” or “singing” these words in reality. Rather, this is just a type of “spiritual announcement” that is necessary only for the Rebbe himself to discuss.

    The same thing goes with regard to the “declaration” of “Yechi Hamelech.” But specifically this the Mishichistim decided – on their own – to sing and post everywhere, in blatant contradiction to the directives of the Rebbe not to sing songs like this in public.

    This slogan is not like those that the Rebbe did instruct to say in public – “Ad Mosai” or “We want Moshiach now.” These are words that the Rebbe himself announced and made into slogans and songs, and for these he clearly explained the meaning of the words and why he was making so much of them, etc.

    Adar, 5748:

    In the month of Adar, Rabbi Yitzchak Hendel of Montreal, sent the Rebbe a Psak Din, cosigned by other Chassidim there, that the Lubavitcher Rebbe “is presumed to be Moshiach.” The Rebbe turned to his secretary, Rabbi Leibel Groner, and asked who had sent this. Rabbi Groner answered it was from Anash of Montreal, with the authorization of Rabbi Hendel. Thereon the Rebbe asked:

    “Based on what did he judge me this way? Are all of his ruling of the same quality as this…?! ”

    5749:

    During the yechidus of Rabbi Tuvya Floss, a Chabad activist from Israel, the Rebbe, among other things, spoke strongly and sharply of Chassidim in Israel (even mentioning names) who go around in the streets announcing the Lubavitcher Rebbe is King Moshiach. The expression the Rebbe used to describe how he felt about this was:
    “When they do things like this they tear me to pieces!” Rachmana Litzlan!

    Iyar, 5751:

    In the farbrengen of the first Shabbos after the famous Sicha of 28 Nissan 5751, Rabbi Y. Ganzberg stood up and made an announcement in the Rebbe’s presence, saying that he must reveal himself as King Moshiach. The Rebbe responded, with a contorted face:
    “Don’t tell me what to do…!” (and many know the rest of the Rebbe’s remarks).

    Again, the next Shabbos, in the middle of the farbrengen, Rabbi Dovid Nachshon burst out singing the tune “Zol Shoin Zien Di Geulah” with the words “Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu v’Rabbeinu Melech Hamoshiach L’olam Voed,” and many of the assembled crowd sang along with him. The next day, the Rebbe made it known through his secretary, Rabbi Groner, that:
    “What they did was their responsibility,”
    and “because of them the Rebbe was coming down to prayers an hour late…”

    In the month of Iyar, 5751, the editor of the weekly Kefar Chabad, Rabbi Aharon Dov Halprin, sent the Rebbe an article by Rabbi Yoel Kahan that he was considering printing. The article explained that one who truly believes his Rebbe is the leader of the generation, and who also believes in Moshiach, naturally has to believe that his Rebbe will be Moshiach. The Rebbe responded (on 17 Iyar) with a complete reputation:

    “If, rachmana litzlan, you print anything even slightly similar to this – you should right away totally close down the magazine. The enclosed article is obviously baseless.”

    In that month (Iyar, 5751) the editor of Yisroel Shelonu, Mr. Shmuel Shmuali, wanted to print in his newspaper about Moshiach in general, and more specifically, that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was Moshiach. The Rebbe replied:
    “Regarding publishing about Moshiach, etc.:
    “As evident from all the information coming in, the latest articles and columns on this subject have raised new antagonists, to the detriment of Chassidic learning and practice.
    “In debates and disputations, especially in print, the questions are always easily established, but the answers are not always so forthcoming…
    “Seemingly, considering the present state of affairs, it would be more sensible to suspend printing on this topic…”

    Summer, 5751:

    In the spring of 5751, Rabbi Wolpo again asked the Rebbe if the time was ripe for him to publish his book “Yechi HaMelech,” which promoted as halacha that the Lubavitcher Rebbe must be recognized as the King Moshiach. The Rebbe answered:
    “If he leaves out the portions, as discerned by understanding friends, that are liable to distance even a single Jew from learning Chassidus – then it is all-right. I will mention this at the Tzion.”

    Elul, 5751:
    In Elul, 5751, Rabbi Dovid Nachshon sent the Rebbe a proposed program emphasizing the theme of Moshiach, sponsored by the “World Organization for Bringing Moshiach.” The Rebbe answered (on Elul 12, 5751):
    “If you can do this in vessels of the World of Tikun [i.e., rationally and pragmatically] – as determined by one immersed in the World of Tikun, after reflection focused in the World of Tikun…”
    *
    Tishrei, 5752:

    In Tishrei, 5752, Rabbi Dovid Nachshon received another message from the Rebbe, delivered by Rabbi Yehuda Yureslavsky, secretary of Vaad Rabbonei Chabad B’Ertzeinu Hakodesh. In this memorandum the Rebbe stated plainly:
    “I forbid him to be involved in matters of Moshiach both now and in the future! ”
    *
    Mar-Cheshvan, 5752:

    On Shabbos Parshas Noach, Mar-Cheshvan 4, 5752, Chassidim started the farbrengen by singing the “Yechi… Melech HaMoshiach…” When they finished singing the Rebbe said:
    “This is extremely absurd. Here a song is sung with such words, while I sit here at the table… The truth is that I really should get up and leave!…
    “As for why I am not leaving – first of all, whether I do or I don’t, it anyway would not help; and secondly, it would upset the goal of ‘sheves achim gam yachad‘ (’brethren sit even together’) – for if I leave others too will leave, and automatically this opportunity for ‘brethren sit even together’ would be lost. Everyone knows how important this is – as the Rashbi elaborates in the Zohar…”

    Shvat, 5752:

    To many who wrote letters to the Rebbe addressing him as “The Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach,” the Rebbe replied:

    “When he will arrive I will give this to him.”

    Adar I, 5752:

    On 13 Adar I, 5752 (a scant 14 days before 27 Adar I), Neshei Women’s Organization of New York sent the Rebbe a pamphlet by Rabbi Wolpo that they wanted to distribute, titled “Kabolas P’nei Moshiach Tzidkeinu ,” which stated outright that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was King Moshiach. Immediately the Rebbe responded (with a copy to Vaad Agudas Chassidei Chabad):

    “Urgent!

    “I have already answered him that essays like this repel very many from learning Chassidus – the opposite of spreading the wellsprings to the outside!”

    *

    Just a few days before 27 Adar I, 5752, the Rebbe issued a handwritten answer to an individual (the facsimile was later released by the Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Binyamin Klein):

    “There is no obligation at all to search for who is Moshiach – but there is a positive commandment of the Torah to love each and every Jew and avoid divisiveness to the extreme, and obviously one should not intentionally incite the opposite!”

  • TheSadducee says:

    Chaim

    Doesn’t the fact that you have so many incidents of rabbis within Chabad actually proclaiming the late rabbi Schneerson as Moshiach (in apparent opposition to his wishes) indicate that something was wrong within the movement?

  • Sadducee,

    I agree that this is a sign that something is wrong. Chaim & Noah could go back and forth quoting letters and incidents for years and get nowhere. All they would be doing is replicating the debates that have been going on within Chabad for the last 15 years or so.

    Let’s look at the big picture.

    Under the Rebbe’s leadership, Chabad grew very rapidly and had a huge geographic reach. Unlike some Chassidic groups, the Rebbe didn’t attempt to control too many aspects of the behaviour of Chassidim. Rather, people were given a lot of autonomy so you had a very loose & distributed management hierarchy/control structure.

    A result of this was that the messages regarding the Rebbe as Moshiach became distorted and different people came up with different & conflicting views.

    However, it was this very structure that allowed the movement to continue its progress with such vigour even after the Rebbe’s passing.

    This post is about whether or not Chabad has lost its way as a movement and/or turned into a Messianic cult that is no longer consistent with some of the basic principles of Orthodox Judaism.

    While the Moshiach debate continues, it has not caused the collapse of the movement, nor been an impediment to its continued growth.

    The message of Chabad is to reach out to Jews all over the world and help them return to traditional practice, with the goal of bringing Moshiach. This continues unabated. This is what Chabad is really about.

  • Chaim says:

    TheSadducee – this is what I was trying to get at before. Firstly it is a small very vocal minority (load and vocal because they believe that in order to bring Moshiach they need to convince and proclaim the Rebbe is Moshiach) but the vast majority and the main leadership in New York and most countries do not belive this and outwardly oppose it.

    I the beginning a greater percentage of Lubavitchers did believe it but as time passed they realized they were wrong. Also over the years the feeling was let these people do that they want and they will come to their senses in time but now many of these Meshichistim have become increasingly fanatic and even violent or destructive leading Lubavitchers to come out much more forcefully against them even in a recent court case over who controls 770 in New York.

    So the movement as a whole is stable, growing and following the Rebbe’s wishes. It is like have a wayward child in your family. The parents don’t disown them but try their best to rehabilitate them.

    I really did not want to debate Noah but we can not let this shtus continue unabated.

    Whether or not Chabad has lost its way as a movement and/or turned into a Messianic cult that is no longer consistent with some of the basic principles of Orthodox Judaism – my point is that for the vast majority of Lubavitchers this is not true.

    David – Before 1992 the Rebbe had really complete control over the Chassidim in every detail. Only after the first stroke when the Rebbe could not speak did things start to disassemble to a cetain extent (I have stories even after that the Rebbe tried to stop it) and then after 3 Tammuz it was Chaos. It took time for Chabad to reassemble an authority and leadership without a Rebbe openly present.

    Your last words I fully agree with and that is what Chabad is but Spreading the teachings about Moshiach and the immediate redemption is a task set by the Rebbe in the last years which can not be ignored just not the notion of who Moshiach is.

  • Chaim says:

    TheSadducee – this is what I was trying to get at before. Firstly it is a small very vocal minority (load and vocal because they believe that in order to bring Moshiach they need to convince and proclaim the Rebbe is Moshiach) but the vast majority and the main leadership in New York and most countries do not belive this and outwardly oppose it.

    I the beginning a greater percentage of Lubavitchers did believe it but as time passed they realized they were wrong. Also over the years the feeling was let these people do that they want and they will come to their senses in time but now many of these Meshichistim have become increasingly fanatic and even violent or destructive leading Lubavitchers to come out much more forcefully against them even in a recent court case over who controls 770 in New York.

    So the movement as a whole is stable, growing and following the Rebbe’s wishes. It is like have a wayward child in your family. The parents don’t disown them but try their best to rehabilitate them.

    I really did not want to debate Noah but we can not let this shtus continue unabated.

    Whether or not Chabad has lost its way as a movement and/or turned into a Messianic cult that is no longer consistent with some of the basic principles of Orthodox Judaism – my point is that for the vast majority of Lubavitchers this is not true.

    David – Before 1992 the Rebbe had really complete control over the Chassidim in every detail. Only after the first stroke when the Rebbe could not speak did things start to disassemble to a certain extent (I have stories even after that the Rebbe tried to stop it) and then after 3 Tammuz it was Chaos. It took time for Chabad to reassemble an authority and leadership without a Rebbe openly present.

    Your last words I fully agree with and that is what Chabad is but Spreading the teachings about Moshiach and the immediate redemption is a task set by the Rebbe in the last years which can not be ignored just not the notion of who Moshiach is.

  • Noah says:

    Chaim,

    You have joined this conversation recently, and therefore you may have not noticed that above I wrote to Simon that when writing about a certain topic, he should try do some honest research. I will now point out to you a number of the examples that you bring which I have heard again and again from people and are blatantly false.

    Iyar, 5751:

    Gansburg case:
    I don’t understand where you see the Rebbe rejecting the Moshiach identity issue, rather the Rebbe said as you quoted: “Don’t tell me what to do”. That’s it!

    D. Nachshon case:
    The story actually happened but however the Rebbe’s response is not true. The Rebbe at the time actually smiled and that is the reason why many people including the famed mashpia Rabbi Sholom Charitonov blessed Shehechiyanu.

    The fact that the Rebbe came to Shachris late because of the above mentioned incident is false (and a rumor that till today Rabbi Groner says is not true) and I fail to understand how you can still claim this when the Rebbe himself disproved this rumor the same day by “Dollars” when the Rebbe said (in answer to a person who asked about this rumor): “I have no connection with rumors and that if I had to pay attention to every rumor I would not have time to learn and pray.”

    In addition: Nachshon at that time wanted to leave NY to Israel because he thought that the Rebbe maybe displeased with his actions (there were so many rumors), so he asked the Rebbe and the Rebbe told him to stay!

    Tishrei, 5752:

    Again the answer is false. How do I know, Because Rabbi Yeruslavski himself wrote a letter around 10 years saying that the incident is false and actually never happened! (I have the letter and could send it to you upon request)

    Letter from Adar I 5752:
    Do you know who that letter was written to? Do you know under what circumstances? If this letter is so clear, why was it published only after Gimmel Tammuz? Why didn’t Rabbi Klein have the decency to let us know the Rebbe’s “true” opinion and thus spare much anguish in the years 5752-54, and in general?

    You know why, because if you would know to whom the letter was written to and under what circumstances, then the whole meaning of the letter is the total opposite of what you are saying.

    The letter was written to a Director of an organisation who wanted to fire an employee who was publicising that that the Rebbe is Moshiach, and wrote to the Rebbe saying: “There is no Chiyuv (obligation) to publicise that someone is Moshiach”.

    The Rebbe answers: Yes, it is true that there is no obligation to publicise that a certain person is Moshiach (which even Meshichist’s agree with and is actually brought in Chassidic text that a king can’t be forced unto a nation rather the nation has to willingly sumbit themselves to the king), However, the Rebbe continues, there is an obligation of “loving you fellow Jew”, therefore keep him in the Mosad.

    Basically the Rebbe is commanding the director to keep an employee that is publicising that the the Rebbe is Moshiach…

  • Chaim says:

    Noah – Actually I was the first person to make any comment.

    I am not going to continue to debate the issues with you. Someone need to sit down and go through each and every one of your sources and show you how you read into and misinterpret the Rebbe explicit words as well as ignore many of the others sichas. I have many more proofs after Adar 5752 showing that the Rebbe explicitly forbid this. He always said not to learn “hints” from the his words,

    Here is my main point in your own words (and the Rebbe’s):

    “The Rebbe answers: Yes, it is true that there is no obligation to publicize that a certain person is Moshiach”

    There is a chiyov to spread avahas Yisroel, Torah and Chassidus and by your actions you distance frum Jews from Chassidus (= against the Baal Shem Tov, all the Rebbeim) and non-frum Jews like some of those in this forum from true Yiddishkeit (=against the Torah, G-d).

  • Noah says:

    Chaim,

    It’s amazing!

    We’ve reached a point in the conversation that I have shown you in a quick answer that 5 (out of 13) “proofs” are blatantly false (and many others are not accurate) or are totally misinterpreted, and… you suddenly are not interested in continuing this discussion… does that show the strength of your opinion?…

    If you would like to continue discussing this issue in private your most welcome.

    Just to finish off with the answer from Adar 5752:
    I clearly wrote in the letter that I agree that “there is no Chiyuv (obligation) to find who is Moshiach”.

    But:
    a) It is permitted and certainly not forbidden. (certainly not like in 5745, when the Rebbe yelled about it in public for 45 Min…)
    b) Chabad Chassidim are not trying to find who is Moshiach, we know who he is.
    c) You missed the point: The Rebbe is saying to continue PAY a person that IS PUBLICISING THAT HE IS MOSHIACH. Are you trying to ignore something?…

  • Chaim says:

    Noah – You missed the point. I have many more directives from the Rebbe contradicting you and all your proofs I can disprove. (5/13 is not 13/13).

    This is not a forum for this debate and it need to be done in person otherwise nothing could be resolved. Email / forums don’t work for discussions like this where people’s beliefs are so fixed.

    1) My debate is not whther Chabadniks belive the Rebbe is moshiach or not. That is personal and varied within Chabad with many not discussing it because it is irrelevant to the mission of a Chabadnik which is to bring Jews closer to Judaism and through that bring Moshiach. The Mivtza Moshiach is only one of many and can not negate the others by its effects.

    2) you do not speak for Chabad and those that do officialy dispute what you argue.

    3) Paying someone at that time is no proof that now it should be publicized especially with the negative results it has now at this time.

  • Just want to thank all the commenters – this would have to be one of the most civil and respectful debates of what is often a very incendiary topic.

  • Not the Mashiach says:

    I think the answer has just been solved:

    Read today’s article: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3772928,00.html

    I guess we create the Moshiah in our own image, using theological details to support us either way. While I agree with Simon that parts of Chabad have steered off “the path”, it is important to put their debate in the larger Messianic context.

    I include only the first paragraphs.

    Rabbi Ovadia: Messiah will rule Sephardic-style

    During his weekly class, Shas spiritual leader addresses differences between Ashkenazis and Sephardis and rules that each community must follow its own traditions until the coming of the Messiah, when Ashkenazis will adopt Sephardic traditions. Rabbi also rules that he who sends his children to secular schools ineligible to blow shofar in synagogue

    He prolifically makes jabs at Ashkenazis and their traditions, but now he is certain – the Messiah will follow Sephardic customs. During his weekly class on Saturday night, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef addressed the halacha for blowing the ram’s horn on the High Holidays, as well as the varying customs between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.

    The rabbi emphasized that each person must stick to the customs of his father’s house, but claimed that when the Messiah comes, everyone will follow the Sephardic customs.

  • Chaim says:

    As a chabadnik – I can say maybe he is right.

    Their where 12 ways of serving G-d – each with its own customs and there was always regional variation of practical halachah (unless the majority of the sanhedrin ruled in one way).

    In some ways Sefardim may be more “authentic” Jews culturally although genetic studies of Jews shows Ashkenazi Jews to me more authentic. Also you should note Palestinians are similar genetically to Jews as well!

    I guess we will just have to find out.. Lets hope too many people are not too disappointed in the end and we become one happy family with our own peculiar and special ways.

  • Adam Neira says:

    A multiple choice question for the interested reader.

    Do you believe “Moshiach” is…
     
    (a) A tasty Polish stew best served in the depths of winter.
    (b) An irrelevant, archaic concept with no relevance to today’s world.
    (c) A metaphor for an age of world peace and does not imply an actual person.
    (d) Alive and breathing right now on Planet Earth and is doing his work.
    (e) Has already lived and will return one day.
    (f) Is not born yet and is not physically present on earth yet.
    (g) Is best represented by the collective Jewish people and/or the State of Israel.
     
     

  • chabadnick says:

    im a mishichist ,and you know what i think this is he right way , now if u dont like  it well i learn the lubavitchers torah  ,to where it says that he is alive and the moshiach and he will reveal himself speedly in our days !

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