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Understanding Chabad and Messianism

March 27, 2012 – 7:48 pm41 Comments

By David Werdiger
As an active writer and blogger, I have often found myself in discussions about Chabad with people from outside the Chabad community. In addition, I recently had the opportunity to review some of the books and articles written on the issue of Chabad and Messianism. The material I read seeks to explore the Messianic fervour associated with Chabad, and to delve into the mind of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and speculate as to the Rebbe’s intent and sense of self in the context of the Moshiach campaign. The writers drew upon evidence – some better than others – as well as the Rebbe’s writings and their own interpretations of such.

As an “insider”, and someone who has a reasonable grasp of Chabad theology and textual sources, I sensed that many of their assumptions and interpretations are based on a misunderstanding or lack of appreciation of Chabad theology, and particularly of the nature of the organisation itself. This article is primarily intended to educate and contextualize Chabad for those not part of the community. As the work of a card-carrying Chabadnik, it may be dismissed as hagiography – my intent is not to be one-eyed and defensive; rather to break down barriers between Jewish groups through better understanding of each other.

Jews have been pining for Moshiach for nearly 2000 years, some more overtly than others. The belief in the coming of Moshiach is core to all of Orthodox Judaism – the daily prayers and liturgy are full of very explicit and strongly worded wishes for the messianic age. Orthodox Jewish leaders – both Chassidim and Mitnagdim – were for many hundreds of years clearly focussed on the desire to usher in the Messianic age. While the Mitnagdim are/were opposed to some Chabad activities and theology, this did not dampen their own desire for Moshiach; rather they rejected Chabad’s unique approach to the issue. Where Chabad differs from other Jewish groups is that the Rebbe prioritized and emphasized the belief in and desire for the Messianic age, and used it as a driver for the entire movement in ways that have never been done before. This is something worthy of further exploration when considering the impact of Chabad in the world.

To understand this better, one first has to understand the relationship between a Chassid and a Rebbe. As a leader, a Rebbe has a connection to God and spiritual dimensions not attainable for the majority of people. As such, he has the ability to perceive the needs of his Chassidim, and to offer advice, insights, blessings, and direction for their lives. This leads to a very strong bond between Chassid and Rebbe. My late grandfather, Reb Zalman Serebryanski OBM, would repeat the time-worn adage “a Chassid is a soldat (soldier)”. This military metaphor helps us understand the way a Chassidic group functions and the interactions between Rebbe and Chassid.

As an example of this, in 1978, the Gerer Rebbe known as “Lev Simcha” established an outpost in Ashdod. At the time, Ashdod was mostly secular, with a Sefardi and a small Ashkenazi charedi community there. The Gerer Rebbes had a history of establishing takanot (by-laws) to regulate the way their Chassidim lived, such as placing limits of the amount one could spend on weddings to avoid inflationary pressures and jealousy. The initial response was mixed – the believers were positive, those with financial issues liked the proposition, and those who could afford elsewhere tried to get permission to buy elsewhere.

However, the authority of the Rebbe was not something that was questioned, and since price limitations were imposed on flats for newlyweds, the Ashdod community grew very quickly. Today, the price controls are no longer needed as the Gerer community has spread across the Israel, so no- one has an issue with living outside of Jerusalem.

In hindsight, this was an outstanding visionary move. Property prices in Jerusalem only went up, and the Rebbe was acting in the best interests of his Chassidim and the continuity of their community and lifestyle in doing this. And as a Rebbe, he had the power to make it happen, rather than leave it to a market economy.

There are elements of autocracy, monarchy and military in the organisational structure and culture of Chassidic communities. The bottom line is simple: if the Rebbe issues a directive, the Chassidim do.

My late grandparents OBM were among a handful of families sent to Australia in 1949 by the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe (known as “the Rebbe Rayatz” – an acronym of his name) to help establish and grow the community here. This was during an age where communication across 10,000 miles (let alone travel) was far more difficult. And yet, these families took this upon themselves and were shluchim – emissaries – of the Rebbe, dedicating their lives in fulfilling the mission of Chabad. It was far more difficult to maintain a close connection to the Rebbe back then. They corresponded by (snail) mail, sending reports of their activities, asking questions, and receiving further instructions.

The mission of Chabad is unashamedly simple: to usher in the Messianic age through acts of goodness and kindness. This harks back to the Baal Shem Tov’s famous spiritual encounter with Moshiach, where he was advised that Moshiach will come when “your wellsprings will burst forth to the farthest extremes”; indeed this phrase forms part of a popular Chabad Chassidic song about the encounter.

The Rebbe Rayatz did this by sending his emissaries like my late grandparents to all parts of the world to build communities and do outreach work, and the Rebbe continued this work with even greater vigour, rapidly growing Chabad to a global network of tens of thousands of Chassidim, and thousands of Chabad Houses and Chabad communities.

While other Chassidic groups had a more insular and isolationist approach, in some cases trying to recreate the shtetl of pre-war Europe, Chabad was radical and revolutionary. They discarded the shtreimel and long coats of the other groups and took the conservative fedora and dark suit of mainstream Orthodoxy and Misnagdim. They went out into the world and engaged with it in a way that no Jewish group had ever before.

The thousands of foot-soldiers, each dedicated to the Rebbe and his mission, spread very rapidly across the world. The movement took some but not all elements from the military. In an army, the chain of command is everything. A soldier is trained to follow the orders of their superior officer, and in order for an army to operate smoothly, it needs a deep hierarchy of management: Lieutenants, Corporals, Majors, Generals, and a Commander in Chief. Orders flow down from the Commander in Chief to the Privates, and activity and reporting flows up. Chabad was different: it had the military culture of soldiers working together toward a common cause, but not the structure and management levels of an army (or indeed of any organisation of similar size). I believe this was for two reasons:  Firstly, this sort of hierarchy is not how delegation traditionally works in Chassidic groups – everyone can and does have a direct connection to the Rebbe, which is embodied in the principle of hitkashrut (connectedness). A Chassid is connected to a Rebbe by (a) doing the things the Rebbe directs and considers important, and (b) studying the Rebbe’s teachings. The Rebbe had a tremendous work rate, and with the assistance of a small secretariat group, was indeed able to respond to a huge volume of correspondence from many thousands of Chassidim and maintain a direct connection with them. Secondly, having minimal management and controls meant global expansion could be far more rapid. How long would it take a regular business to establish a global presence of tens of thousands all pushing the message of the CEO?

Over time, and with growth, the position of Head Shliach for a geographic region emerged. However, this was not a management position, rather a way to ensure the region was divided appropriately. Any given Shliach would not report to, nor be required to seek guidance from their Head Shliach on a regular basis – rather they would still be connected directly to the Rebbe. In recent time, and with greater saturation of shluchim in some areas, this structure has led to turf wars and nepotism, and the conflict resolution mechanisms are not well developed.

In some areas, parallel and partially overlapping structures formed, where in one city or area there might be several Chabad Shuls, several Chabad Houses, and a Chabad community. Melbourne is a good example of this, where there are Rabbis, Shluchim, and Head Shluchim, and somehow, they mostly find a way to coexist. However, the alliances are loose at best, and there are weak if nonexistent lines of accountability within the city. There is no group that purports to speak or make decisions for the Chabad Rabbis in any city. Again, conflict can and has arisen, and has not been dealt with well. Here is not the place to go into a deep examination of the political and organisational dynamics of one particular city that has a strong Chabad presence. Suffice to say that the loose hierarchy has both strengths: rapid growth and a feeling of direct connectedness to the Rebbe and the mission; and weaknesses: difficulty in dealing with conflict and maintaining a very consistent message.

People who speak of “the Chabad PR machine”, or who suggest that “Chabad has power and influence” have the mistaken impression that Chabad Rabbis and Shluchim work far more closely together than they do. Each has their individual shlichus and mission, and each one seeks to fulfil it on a micro level. As disappointing as this may sound, they don’t get together in secret meetings to plot global domination, or even local domination of (non-Chabad) shuls or pan-communal organisations like the Beth Dins or Kashrut authorities.

So how about Messianism? As stated, the mission of Chabad is to bring about the coming of Moshiach, and the Rebbe was (and remains) as the leader, driver and face of that mission. There is a tradition (mentioned in Zohar) that in every generation, there is someone who is the designated Moshiach (if the time is right for Moshiach to come). Most, if not all Chassidim (and plenty of non-Chabadniks) considered the Rebbe to be the mostly likely person to be the Moshiach of our generation.

There was plenty of opposition by broader Orthodoxy to this focus on who Moshiach may or may not be. While there is precedent in the Talmud for declarations of who the “designated Moshiach” is at any time, it was felt by some that this emphasis was unnecessary, unhelpful to the cause, and cult-like. From the perspective of Chabadniks, it may be that identifying a likely Moshiach made the concept more tangible and acceptable, which in turn would drive greater activity directed toward bringing Moshiach (when I was in Yeshivah many years ago, my roommate once commented to me: “Galus isn’t as bad as people make out”. This inertia, complacency, and fear of change were something the Rebbe was trying to break with the Moshiach campaign. Only a genuinely feeling that there was something deeply missing in the world could being to sufficient desire to create change).

Did the “who” surpass the “how”? For some, it certainly did. Did the Rebbe himself feed the frenzy? This is a difficult question to answer. There are letters, extracts of discourses and incidents that can be interpreted either way (and here is not the place to go into a detailed chapter and verse), so it’s impossible to come to a clear answer to this. How important is it to know whether or not the Rebbe himself fed the frenzy? This question is probably only important to those who feel strongly either way (rather than the muddled middle that are comfortable with ambiguity on this issue).

There was and remains a divergence of views as the relative importance of the “who”. Some within Chabad believe that the declaration and acceptance of the Rebbe as Moshiach in and of itself helps bring Moshiach closer. The majority focus on what they consider “core” activities: general outreach work and the mitzvah campaigns.

The Rebbe’s passing from this world, on Gimmel Tammuz (all Chabad special days are known by their Hebrew date rather than what happened on them), was a huge challenge for all Chassidim. For some, it was a clear indication that the Rebbe’s mission to bring Moshiach (and to be the Moshiach) had failed. Nevertheless, the mission had to continue. For others, a spectrum of secondary beliefs emerged and developed as to the status of a Rebbe who no longer had a physical presence in this world, and this spawned what is now characterised as Chabad Messianism. Yet for these Chassidim too, the mission had to continue. This created a significant rift within the movement which continues until this day. And yet, no matter where on the Messianic belief spectrum Chassidim sat, they all agreed that the mission had to continue. And continue it did, with even greater growth and expansion than before Gimmel Tammuz.

What proportion of Chabad fall within the spectrum of these Messianic beliefs? How many are “Meshichisten”? Until someone does some quality research on the matter, it’s impossible to say. But again, this question is probably only important to people at either spectrum of belief (both within and outside Chabad).

Actions speak louder than words and give us a greater insight into the underlying beliefs that drive those actions.

In many other Chassidic dynasties, the passing of the Rebbe led to quarrels as to succession, and in many cases to splits, and the formation of new groups (how do you think we ended up with hundreds of Chassidic groups, when it all started from the Baal Shem Tov?). In the case of Chabad, there was no nominated successor, which makes it even more amazing that the movement didn’t fracture into many distinct subgroups. Why didn’t this happen? If the movement was that focussed on its leader, why didn’t it collapse when he was no longer around?

To understand this, let’s take a quick digression into the concept of bitul – most commonly translated as “self-nullification” (some translations of complex Chassidic and Kabbalistic terms are infuriatingly awkward and inadequate) or “selflessness” (a bit better). Very briefly, the pathway to a deep relationship with God is humility, thus recognizing that God is one and is everything, and that the purpose of man is to bring Godliness into the physical world. A person then becomes batul to the mission of his soul and the purpose of creation. This bitul is not unlike the relationship between a Chassid and a Rebbe – the Rebbe directs the mission, and the Chassid is a loyal and unquestioning foot-soldier. The notion of bitul is being part of something bigger than oneself.

As a tzadik (righteous person), a Rebbe certainly has attained this level of bitul toward God, and as a leader, his role is to direct the mission. But the Rebbe is not greater than the mission – indeed the Rebbe is batul to the mission in exactly the same way that the Chassidim are. The mission is greater than everyone – Rebbe and Chassid alike.

In this context, and using the terminology of James Collins, it makes sense to describe the Rebbe as a “level 5 leader”, who embodies a “paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will.” As a mission-driven organization, Chabad was built to last, and this is the key to understanding how the mission could continue to thrive after the physical passing of the Rebbe.

The prolific writings of the Rebbe continue to act as a guide to all Chassidim in the fulfilment of their mission, and as a way to continue to remain connected to the Rebbe, in various different ways.

How long can Chabad survive without a physical leader? It’s a good question. Eighteen years after Gimmel Tammuz, it is humming along like a well-oiled machine. The rift associated with Messianism has not destroyed the movement, nor has it split the movement far enough apart that there are two versions of Chabad. Eighteen years is nearly a generation: the young shluchim that are going out to open new Chabad Houses barely have a memory of the Rebbe being around, of directly hearing discourses, or any personal interaction. Will they have enough mission in them to impart to their children? Only time will tell.

So what is Chabad? Chabad is a global, distributed, mission-driven organisation. ‘Global’ is quite obvious; ‘distributed’ because of the lack of hierarchy and central controls; and ‘mission-driven’ because the mission was and is everything, and is bigger than and survives any one leader or individual.

In conclusion, Chabad is perceived as far more structured and controlled than it is. When taking into account its organisational structure and culture, Chabad in my view is actually more mission-centric than Rebbe-centric. Academics and others who ruminate about what the Rebbe might have thought of himself may be missing the real story of Chabad, which continues to power on long after many people thought the light switched off.

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41 Comments »

  • Jake says:

    I fail to see how the long winded bit about Ger directly relates to the topic.

  • Steven says:

    “Some within Chabad believe that the declaration and acceptance of the Rebbe as Moshiach in and of itself helps bring Moshiach closer.”

    Isn’t this a contradiction?

    The Rebbe is Moshiach -> but only in potential -> so Moshiach is not yet here -> but the Rebbe is Moshiach -> ? And in case we get confused, let’s put a nice big sign in shule to remind us!

    If thousands of a group of Chassidim somewhere would say their Rebbe is Moshiach, would they not be laughed at and ostracized?

    And then to talk rationally about all this as if it’s normal? Amazing times.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    I can simplify this article to but a 4 words: “It’s all a fairytale”

  • Daniel Levy says:

    oops, extraneous ‘a’

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Good article. It’d be helpful, though, if you (David or others) could explain the meshichist belief system among Chabad.

    Is the Rebbe dead, but will arise in a second coming as mashiach?

    Or is he really still alive, waiting to reveal himself?

    Is he a son or manifestation of God?

    (The latter is what, from my limited understanding, the elokists believe.)

    I have read much on the issue over the years and I still cannot get my head around the varying belief systems within the meshichist movement, all of which appear to have parallels in Christian views towards Yoishke.

    David Berger’s controversial book on the subject is well known, but have there been any attempts from within the non-meshichist camp to counter the mashichist influence?

  • Harry Joachim says:

    “yeshivah melbourne” – and the relevance of that link is what, exactly? That Yeshivah has a meshichist bent? This is old news.

  • Levi says:

    >Most, if not all Chassidim (and plenty of non-Chabadniks) considered the Rebbe to be the mostly likely person to be the Moshiach of our generation<

    30 years ago, this question, while discussed in private, was never debated in public (at least in Melbourne). As David says, we did not dwell too much on theological questions that were irrelevant to practice. Nonlubavitcher mispalelim in the yeshiva shul had a tolerant, rather bemused acceptance on Lubavitcher chasidim's unconventional beliefs.

    Meshichist billboards and Yarmulkas are a new development, and it's disingenuous to place this within the tradition of messianism how it was understood by the Rabbis throughout the last two thousand years. This is Rabbi Berger's main gripe – and I agree with him – that we have a long tradition about Moshiach, though man-made ("a fairy-tale", in Daniel Levy's words), and we have to remain within that tradition for it to be called Judaism.

  • Avi says:

    David,

    This is a nice piece of apologetics clothed in interesting, but nonetheless diversionary nostalgia.

    The reality is that Chabadniks are obsessed with the Rebbe, arrogantly proclaim him as the Moshiach (as if it was a presidential election of some sort where their opinion counted), demean the institution of a shul (and even the Yarmulka) with “Yechi” placards/pronouncements, and do not even refer to the Rebbe with the traditional זצל reference.

    Chabad has much, indeed more than most, to be proud of in terms of kiruv, talmud torah and ahavas Yisroel generally, but their deification of the Rebbe is beyond the pale and has damaged “brand Chabad” to the point where they are not at all taken seriously within the Yeshivah world. Given its phenomenal historic contribution to Judaism, that is a tragedy that Chabadniks might well reflect on.

  • Levi says:

    Avi,

    Well said, though your triumphalism is a bit misplaced, considering that the “yeshiva world” in America has not replaced the leaders of the past generation either. Doesn’t this surprise you, when thousands of really talented people are learning full-time in Lakewood?

    As for the “brand Chabad” being damaged in the “yeshiva velt”, that is not currently the market for outreach (Baruch Hashem for that), so brand awareness in this market is worthless.

  • Avi says:

    Levi,

    I didn’t intend to express any “triumphalism”. As someone with enormous respect for the legacy of Chabad, it actually pains me to see what has happened to the movement.

    Separately, who said anything about the Yeshivah scene in America or the “Godol production program” there either? (Poshet N’Vilto B’Shuka V’Shokel Agro. Pesochim 113a) My point is quite simple – within the world of leading Torah thought (Poskim and Roshei Yeshivah wherever they be found, Misnagdim and Chassidim alike) Chabad’s Messianic-obsession is typically viewed as outside normative Judaism. For a movement that once held its head high as the crem-de-la crem Hassidic contributor of Torah thought (what serious Posek doesn’t consult the Shulchan Oruch HaRav and which serious Ba’al Hashkofo is not versed in the Tanya? )isn’t that sad?

    Chabad does, however, continue to do amazing kiruv work and is a beacon of Ahavos Yisroel – for that it should be proud and for that, Klal Yisroel should be grateful.

  • Levi says:

    Avi,

    I apologize for misunderstanding/misrepresenting what you said.

    But once we are talking, please indulge me this tangent; namely, what benefit the prestige of a “movement” when the individuals who make up said movement don’t have a Rebbe to turn to?

    Chabad might be worthwhile preserving as a “movement” in that the Alter Rebbe had a wonderful gift in showing how we can relate to and feel the divine presence through our actions and attentions, but it has grown way beyond that now, so much so that one is much more likely to hear a Sicha being repeated from the Bimah than a moral lesson from the Midrash.

  • philip mendes says:

    David: one of the most contentious aspects of Chabad for other Jews including secular atheists like myself is their hard right-wing Greater Israel viewpoint on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank (today regularly expressed by Joe Gutnik) which seems to have nothing to do with their religious beliefs at all. I know that the late Rebbe was once quoted as saying that he had adopted this belief on security grounds, but then there are hundreds of Israeli army leaders who have said over and over again that Israel has good security reasons to leave rather than remain in the outlying West Bank settlements. So I am wondering if you can shed some theological light on this issue.

  • TheSadducee says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the best thing for Chabad would be the election of a new Rebbe to lead the movement. This would put the messianism to bed and resolve the issue once and for all. The messianists would split off and be outside of mainstream Judaism and the rest (majority) would be better off.

    I’m not across the potential candidates/politics but I suspect that the various “powers that be” in Chabad today don’t want a change in the status quo precisely because they have accreted power for themselves within the movement which would be potentially jeopardised by the authority of a new leader.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    The position of the Rebbe has been put forward in many statements and videos by him, and the text and link below summarize it? And note the Joe Gutnick funded this work (and in fact, the settlement enterprise in Hebron and elsewhere)

    This has resulted in Chabad becoming a political force in Israel in opposition to the peace camp, though Chabad will deny they are being political –they are just carrying forth a mitzah, , and it has the money to do push its line. There was no desire of the Israeli government to get involved in this in the period after 67, but they were snookered. Chabad has had a long history in Hebron and naturally wanted to go back. The issue is that many in the Israeli government thought it was not worth the price for the sake of peace. The result is the free protection of the Israeli military in places like Hebron where a minority of settlers keep thousands of Palestinians in a state of seige.

    Chabad takes a theological ‘Land of Israel is sacred viewpoint to Jews above all else’ that is one that is not necessarily to be seen as modern Zionist in orientation, but one that is integral to their version of Judaism. Zion is of course central to the prayerbook and all else, but they take it literally–to take the land.

    To quote a further part of the website below, “What is our claim to the land? G-d’s promise in the Torah. G-d told Abraham: “I have given this land to your descendants.” For one-and-a- half thousand years the Land of Israel was our home, and ever since then, Jews everywhere have longed to come home to their eternal heritage to Jerusalem, the site of the Holy Temple; to Hebron, the burial place of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and to Bethlehem, where Rachel weeps for her dispersed children and awaits their return. Even throughout the two thousand years during which our people wandered from country to country, Israel has remained the national home of every Jew. From the beginning of the exile until this day, no matter how farflung his current host country might be, every Jew has turned to face the Holy Land in his thrice-daily prayers.”

    This is biblical literalism that they have every right to believe, but others argue that such literalism is in fact not in Israel’s interest and is in fact not religiously required.

    Their view of course, flies in the face of anything to do with ending the occupation and so in terms of ending it and moving within 67 borders. Palestinians have no right to the land, nor recompense, or much else for that matter.

    http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/72558/jewish/Publishers-Foreword.htm

    An Interactive Possession

    Our Sages teach1 that every Jew possesses a portion of Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel. The converse is also true. The land possesses a portion of every Jew.

    For this is2 “a land which G-d… seeks out; the eyes of G-d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.” And just as G-d seeks out the land, so do we. We gobble up all the news about it. Barely a day passes without the land being in the headlines. And, because the land possesses a portion of every Jew, day after day you and I look in the small print to seek out what’s happening.

    There is certainly a lot happening. Unfortunately, however, not all of it is positive. Much of our concern for Israel is motivated by apprehension over the fate of the Jews there. Ever since independence and even before, there has been a climate of worry and fear caused by the threats and attacks of its Arab neighbors.

    There Is No Magic Formula

    In recent years, it has become common to think of the solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict in terms of the formula, “land for peace.” Phrasing the question in that manner produces a ready answer, for regardless of our love for the Land of Israel, there is no question that all sacrifices necessary should be made to achieve peace.

    But phrasing the question in that manner is not only an oversimplification; it distorts the issues at hand. Why should conceding land be considered a step toward peace? Let us take a look at the history of the last three years. Israel transferred land both to the Palestinians and the Jordanians, and was very near to returning land to the Syrians. Did this bring her any closer to peace?

    The tally of deaths stemming from Palestinian terrorism hit record highs. Arafat is still calling for jihad (Arabic for a holy war). Relations with Jordan are far less warm than before the peace treaty was signed. And Syria is demanding outright surrender of the Golan as a pre condition to talks, or threatening war.

    Maybe something was wrong with the premise?

    Israelis definitely thought change was necessary. At the recent elections, more than 60% of the country’s Jewish inhabitants decided to choose a new prime minister and this despite the fact that the news media in the country staunchly supported the Labor government, and President Clinton publicly endorsed Shimon Peres.

    But changing the faces at the helm is not enough. That became obvious when the prime minister chosen because of a rightist platform went on to follow with only slight changes the policies initiated by the previous government.

    The difficulties in Israeli-Arab relations stem from problems lying at the core of the issue. Therefore, surface changes in approach will do no more than bring about superficial variations. Only by changing the paradigm as a whole can we hope for lasting improvement.

    A Focus on Life

    In the pages that follow, we will present a different approach to the issues, one rooted in the principles of our Jewish heritage, yet starkly realistic in its appreciation of what is happening on the ground in and around Israel today.

    At its core is concern for life and security. After the Oslo and Hebron agreements, people have eulogized the old dream of a greater Israel. They have heralded these treaties as signs of Israel’s willingness to bypass its concern for land and focus on making peace. As we will explain, however, the very reason for our concern for the land is the security it grants us. And it is because basic civilian safety and security are being jeopardized that these recent agreements are so painful to bear.

    Any candid observer can see that these agreements are merely buying time and at an unaffordable price. Concession after concession is being made because “otherwise the Arabs will riot.” And this is called “peace.”

    Before and after the Hebron agreements, the right wing camp inside and outside Israel has been forced to defend itself ideologically time and time again. Hence, in the heat of pressure and oft-repeated arguments, the debater himself can lose sight of his original intent.

    For this reason, we have sought to present fundamental principles that lie at the very heart of the issue. Our exposition is based on the public statements of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, beginning from the period directly after the Six-Day War until 1992, when he suffered a stroke that prevented him from speaking. Although the Rebbe’s talks and letters date from years ago, their immediate relevance is uncanny. At times, they appear to have been delivered and written just yesterday. The clarity of the Rebbe’s words and his penetrating insight enable us to see the situation as it is and recognize our priorities. Moreover, his words inspire, motivating us to translate them from the abstract into the actual.

    Basing Policy on Principle

    Our exposition is divided into two sections:

    Part I, which is theoretical, outlines the fundamental principles which the Rebbe saw as lying at the heart of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

    Part II, which is historical, outlines several phases in the Israeli-Arab conflict; the approach taken by the Israeli government; and the suggestions which the Rebbe made at those times. In this section, we have also highlighted the almost prophetic vision which the Rebbe demonstrated with regard to Israel’s struggles. For this emphasizes that his approach is not one of theoretical idealism, but one which is in touch with both what can be seen and what is on the horizon \endash in Israel today.

    To underscore the fundamental principles that motivate the Rebbe’s approach we have not quoted his words verbatim, but instead telescoped them, synthesizing points from many different addresses into an organic whole.

    We have tried to maintain the integrity of the Rebbe’s words by not expanding them beyond the contexts in which they were originally spoken. Thus, although many of the concepts we have outlined obviously relate to the contemporary situation in Israel, we have generally left it to our readers to make the connections.

    This approach also serves another purpose. Our intent is not to support any particular party in Israel, but rather to motivate people to take a new and different look at the situation in its entirety. Were we to focus on the immediate issues, our statements might be viewed as rhetoric coming from one side of the political spectrum.

    Instead, we appeal to responsible people on every side of that spectrum. Our fundamental point: the importance of the preservation of Jewish life is one that all identify with. We are asking that this principle be given the primacy it deserves, and that it serve as a guiding light to determine the priorities Israel must set for itself.

    May the principles we outline lead to peace and security in Israel today, and may they lead to the age when3 “nation will not lift up sword against nation, nor will they learn war any more.”

    In Appreciation

    This publication is sponsored by Rabbi Joseph Gutnick, a champion of the security and the integrity of our holy land. He has invested both effort and resources to ensure the fulfillment of the Divine promise:4 “You will dwell securely in your land; I will provide peace in the land; you will lie down and no one will make you afraid.”

    Sichos In English

    25 Adar I, 5757
    [March 4, 1997]

  • Elijah says:

    Shneur Zalman Borukhovich was declared heretical at a time when hasidic philosophy was thought by Lithuanian Jews to lead to false messiahs such as Sabbatai Zevi and Jacob Joseph Frank. The same holds true today with the descendant and modern equivalent, Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

    Menachem Mendel Schneerson is more dangerous than Sabbatai Zevi or Jacob Joseph Frank through Chabad’s outreach work, disguised falsely, as strengthening Judaism to Jews, that Chabad perceives as non-religious. Chabad today is nothing more than a new form of cult Christianity.

    Jewish Law universally requires that the Messiah performs all the necessary prerequisites whilst alive. Chabad asserts that Menachem Mendel Schneerson is in some form of transient state and even the prerequisites can be performed in New York at 770 rather than in Israel.

    Chabad has built a shrine for Menachem Mendel Schneerson and a visitor centre right next to the cemetery. Shrines are an anathema to Judaism. On the Chabad website for the shrine there are assertions one may receive a blessing from Menachem Mendel Schneerson as though he is ‘alive’. You can also mimic christian practice of offering your self to G-d by lighting a candle in the ante chamber or Narthex of the shrine.

    Chabad promotes opposition to the State of Israel and racism towards those from Ethiopia and similar.

    To summarise, Chabad and its declaration of Menachem Mendel Schneerson as Moshiach is heretical and Christian cultism. Even the heretical Jews for Jesus do not engage in the unconscionable and deceptive manner that Chabad does.

  • Yaron says:

    1) The claim that the Lubavitcher Rebbe is the most likely in this generation. He died 18 years ago, when does this generation end?

    2) Do not underestimate the power of conformity. Of course there are no Protocols of the Elders of Chabad and they do not meet, but in any closed society there is a pressure to conform which would be even more so for the leadership. This leads me to:

    3) The secret of Chabad’s success is the fact that there is no Rebbe and no structure. They have created an anarchist system (using anarchy in its true sense, meaning a leaderless group not chaos).

    They have succeeded because there was no leadership structure holding them back, not because of that leader’s brilliance. So who decided on this course of action? It was mostly an accident of history, but there was some forward planning by the Rebbe as you described, David.

  • John H says:

    Well done, you cleared up a lot of things for me. Thank you David

  • WasThere says:

    Any attempt to explain or justify in any way that the Rebbe is moshiach like David has done here is a sin.

    Shame on anyone who follows this yechi rubbish.

  • not so heretical says:

    lets go back to the begining! (Sanhedrin 98b): “Rav said ‘If he [Moshiach] is from the living, [then he is] like Rabbeinu Hakadosh [Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi]; if he is from the dead, [then he is] like Daniel, the delightful one.’ ” (also See Maharsha).

    Based on the Talmud quoted above, the Sdei Chemed–an encyclopedic work by the renowned Halachic authority Rabbi Chaim Chizkiya Medini–quotes approvingly (Pe’as Hasadeh, Maareches Ha’alef, 70) a long letter by Rabbi Aryeh Leib Lipkin (grandson of “Hagahos Ben Aryeh” published in Vilna ShaS), where he explains–among other fascinating points concerning the ultimate Redemption–that if we have sufficient merit, then Moshiach will be “from the dead”!

    The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 11:3) says that the future Redeemer will be revealed, then concealed, then revealed again. This is quoted by Rabbeinu Bachayei and by the Chasam Sofer on the Torah (both at end of Parshas Shmos). The latter writes: “This is a great test that the Redeemer is concealed [Moshe] . . and so it will be at the time of our righteous Moshiach [that] he will be concealed after [his] revelation, as mentioned in the Midrash.”

    From the Zohar (Shmos 8b) –as explained in Zohar Harakiya and Shaar Hagilgulim (ch. 13, both by the ARI-Zal, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, one of the greatest Kabbalists)–it is clear that the man designated to be Moshiach is born naturally in this world, then the soul of Moshiach in the heavenly “Garden of Eden” is bestowed upon him so that he realizes that he is Moshiach, then he becomes concealed, ascending to heaven, and only afterwards is he revealed to the full extent, the whole Jewish people recognizing him as Moshiach.

    Don Yitzchak Abarbanel, who wrote three lengthy works about the Scriptural prophecies and our Sages’ sayings concerning Moshiach and the Geula, writes in Yeshuos Meshicho (Jerusalem, 5753, p.104) that it is possible that Moshiach will be taken from this world and brought into the heavenly “Garden of Eden,” continuing: “You should not find it difficult [to understand] that the King Moshiach will be among those who arise in the Resurrection,” quoting the above Talmudic passage (Sanhedrin 98b) as proof that this can be so. Here we see the same three stages of revelation, concealment and revelation.

  • not so heretical says:

    As for those who believe the Rebbe is still alive – see maseches derech eretz zutah perek 1, at the end – “nine went up to heaven alive… (It then starts listing) … And Moshiach…” Oh wait, but moshiach didn’t come yet in the times of the Talmud? Yeah, that’s why the meforshim say that that is talking about the future…

    There’s plenty more, but since no one here really cares about ‘vindicating’ fellow Jews, only ‘victimising’, I won’t bother…

  • david segal says:

    not so heretical

    What is your starting point? That the Rebbe is Moshiach or that Moshiach may be from the dead? Did the Rebbe die so he should be Moshiach Min Hameisim?

    He said this and he said that. is there anything in the world that wasn’t said?

    Here is another quote from Sanhedrin 98b:

    “Hillel said: אין משיח לישראל, שכבר אכלוהו בימי חזקיה

  • not so heretical says:

    Oy, you see, you just WANT to fight. I was only showing that there ARE sources for those beliefs in order to be מלמד זכות.

    I’m not taking sides.

    As for that gemmorah, you and I know perfectly well what comes next, that the chachamim completely prove him wrong.

    And I refer you to Rambam’s 12th principle of faith… Future tense, that he WILL come… וד”ל

  • david segal says:

    i don’t want to fight, i was just showing that if you are looking for sources, you will find them.

    do you think that the rambam thought that moshiach will be min hameisim?

    see rambam hilchot melachim 11,3.

  • not so heretical says:

    Aerdabah, it says ‘נהרג’, ‘killed’, not ‘died’. This isn’t just nit-picking, it is highly unlikely that the abarbanel that I qouted above is arguing on the rambam. The same goes for the Arizal and others.

    Agav, and what do you have to say about the quote from defect eretz zutah?

  • not so heretical says:

    Derech* eretz zutah. Autospell mistake from my phone.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    and what do you have to say about the quote from [derech] eretz zutah?

    That anyone trying to support their argument by referring to DEZ is truly desperate?

    That if you’re trying to make a halachic argument you need to refer to texts that are in the mainstream of halachic thought, not more-or-less corrupt works of aggadata?

    That from the context we have to suppose the author assumes that Moshiach was born a long time ago, like everyone else in the list?

    I don’t know, you tell me.

  • david segal says:

    .

    The Rambam said “נהרג”-“killed” and not “died”, because Bar Kochva was killed and did not die in his bed.

    By the way, how could rabbi Akiva even think that Bar Kochva is Moshiach, when he wasn’t a Lubavitcher Rebbe from Dor Hashviyi?
    The Rambam didn’t mention Moshiach ben yosef, did the abarbanel mention him?

    Why do you think so?

  • Joe in Australia says:

    The Rambam said “נהרג”-“killed” and not “died”, because Bar Kochva was killed and did not die in his bed.

    Alternatively, it’s because any candidate for being Moshiach must fight “milchamot hashem”; and so any candidate must either be successful or be “נהרג” before he succeeds. Anyone who maintains that the late Rebbe ZTz”L was fighting “milchamot hashem” spiritually (not an unreasonable position) must be willing to consider the possibility that he was also “נהרג” spiritually. In which case he is like all the unsuccessful leaders from Bet David, &c, &c.

  • david segal says:

    Moshiach Now!

    Shalom,

    We are publicizing a fundraiser luncheon to build a Palace for King Moshiach.

    Here is the main website for Moshiach Palace: http://www.MoshiachPalace.com. There is a very clear video on the site that is self-explanatory on the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s will that a palace be built for him. Please see the video, facebook link, and the attached file. And please come to the luncheon Sunday, May 20th at 12 PM.

    And please donate and pass the word around. The Rebbe permitted that anyone can donate to this monumental, important project.

    The attached file is the official invitation.

    https://www.facebook.com/events/140133702785316/?notif_t=plan_user_invited

    Yehudah Goldstein, fundraiser

    1505 President Street

    Brooklyn, NY

    11213

    718-612-9079

  • Daniel Levy says:

    What a rort. Instead of donating $1 million to actual charities that could help people, you want to build a house for the supposed coming of the messiah.

    How about you go join this charlatan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Camping in failed shame and stop trying to con people out of their money. David Segal, you disgust me.

  • Dovid – these people are on the very extreme fringes of Messianic beliefs within Chabad. Digging this up adds very little to the discussion.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    David, if you posted this in satire, my apologies for the final line of my comment.

    It’s difficult to know around here. Ostensibly the only difference between the beliefs of the people you linked, and most of the people posting on this blog is that the people at moshiachpalace.com have set a date for the return of the messiah.

  • david segal says:

    if it adds very little to the discussion, it adds to the Joke.

    here is another one:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7rGltJmz5M&feature=related

    do you recognize any of the faces in the minute 1.04 of this video?are you able to tell us who they are?

  • Joe in Australia says:

    David: the faces appear to be from an old video, shot while the Rebbe was alive.

  • david segal says:

    joe

    was it less of an insanity then, that is know?

    do you know who they are?

    are you able to decode your post from May 10, 2012 at 10:30 pm?

    “it’s because any candidate for being Moshiach must fight “milchamot hashem”; and so any candidate must either be successful or be “נהרג” before he succeeds”.

  • Elijah says:

    The video that David has kindly posted a link to, shows a wonderfully kitsch cenotaph. The video shows the width of the lot for the ‘palace’ as being roughly 3 times the width of the 770 replica building in Kfar Chabad. The problem with this artists impression / advertisement / inducement on the video is that aerial and satellite images show that there is not enough space for this size construction. The land is an irregular triangle shape with it’s base along the street frontage with the 770 replica. The video represents that there is no construction to the right of the 770 building. In fact, there are apartment buildings that would require demolition to construct the advertised ‘palace’. The other main problem is that the ‘Rebbe’ only authorised 1 million US dollars maximum cost for the construction of this ‘palace’. 1 million might get you an outback dunny and landscaping, a different and quite worthy palace for this meshuganah scheme / fraud / what ever you want to call it!

  • Great analysis here http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/unpacking-chabad-their-ten-core-elements-for-success/ – a number of points in common. These things always come from a perspective of “how can we replicate their success?”

  • Mashiach says:

    Save bondi Yeshiva now by giving what they need to clear their debt. Love from Mashiach

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