Volume 30 Number 19
                 Produced: Thu Nov 25 20:13:46 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Administrivia - Chabad and Messianism
         [Avi Feldblum]
Chabad and Messianism (5)
         [David Berger, Eli Lansey, Avi Feldblum, Elie Rosenfeld, David
Rav Ahron Soloveitchik & Chabad
         [Dov Teichman]


From: Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Nov 1999 19:48:23 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Administrivia - Chabad and Messianism

I have received some email from people who suggest that letting this topic
continue to be discussed on the list is a mistake, and there is nothing
that can be learned or any persons opinion that will be changed. While I
cannot argue with surety against that, and I have no expectation that the
opinions of any of those on the extremes of this issue will have their
opinion changed, I do believe that there are many who view this whole
matter with a great deal of lack of understanding and often simply
disbelief. I will do my best to choose submissions that I think deal with
the topic in a serious and sensitive manner. I will probably not
accomplish this all the time, and in some peoples opinion I will be viewed
as being prejudiced for one side or the other (as long as there are
different people each of whom are convinced I am prejudiced in favor of
side X according to some and side Y according to the others, I figure I am
doing my job well). I do think, however, that there are a number of posts
I have received that are valuable for the list membership.

Avi Feldblum
mail-jewish Moderator


From: David Berger <DVBBC@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1999 22:14:12 EST
Subject: Chabad and Messianism

       Since my work on Chabad has come up in the current discussion, I
would like, if I may, to comment as briefly as possible on the crucial
issues as I see them. (I'm in the midst of writing a book which will,
iy"h, address the matter much more fully.)
       Because Messianists are usually treated as Orthodox Jews in good
standing, two propositions from which every mainstream Jew in the last
millennium would have instantly recoiled have become legitimate options
within Orthodox Judaism:
      1.  A specific descendant of King David may be identified with
certainty as the Messiah even though he died in an unredeemed world.
The criteria always deemed necessary for a confident identification of
the Messiah-- the temporal redemption of the Jewish people, a rebuilt
Temple, peace and prosperity, the universal recognition of the God of
Israel--are null and void.
      2.  A scenario is possible in which the Messiah will appear on the
scene, announce that the redemption is at hand, declare himself a
prophet, point to his messianic status, and then die and be buried
without redeeming the world. (It doesn't matter whether you or I believe
that the Rebbe in fact made these assrtions; all messianists believe he
      The sources cited by the messianists deal with a theoretical
possibility of a Messiah from the dead, and I have addressed them in a
response to criticism in Jewish Action (Winter, 5756/1995).  None of
them, however, in any way legitimates either of these two propositions.
       I am not happy about the use of the term "halakhah" to evaluate
all issues of emunot ve-deot, but in light of the posting asking about
halakhah, I observe (as one message has already noted) that the passage
in the Mishneh Torah which some call Hilkhot Mashiach flatly asserts
that any messianic figure who does not succeed in building the Temple
and returning the dispersed of Israel is not the Messiah (uncensored
version of Hilkhot Melakhim 11:4).  Messianist efforts to explain this
differently do not reach even a threshold level of plausibility. Many
other sources, mainly but not exclusively polemical, also affirm this
position.  For some of these, see again my response in Jewish Action.
        It is not unreasonable to regard the abolition of the classic
criteria for identifying the Messiah as so profound a distortion of one
of the ikkarei ha-emunah that it rises (or descends) to the level of
technical heresy, though I myself have avoided this term.  Some rabbis
who refrain from Lubavitch shechitah may well do so on these grounds
        My own reason for avoiding such shechitah even under difficult
circumstances is more focused and disturbing.  Without elaborating much,
I note that even messianists who do not belong to the very small group
that actually calls the Rebbe God are suspect of adhering to a theology
that crosses the line into avodah zarah.  A mashpia in Oholei Torah
named Ari Charitonow published an article in Inyanei Mashiach--Fourth
Annual Edition affirming that the Rebbe manifests the essence of God in
its original purity, which explains inter alia why he could answer any
question instantaneously. "That which happened to the body on Gimmel
Tammuz affected only the relationship between the body and the world,
but with the body itself no change at all has taken place--not even in
the physical sense."  Thus-- an omniscient Messiah manifesting the pure
Essence of God surviving in what I would call a glorified body.  A
movement whose largest yeshiva (I think) has such a mashpia is a
movement whose shechitah should not be used by any yere shamayim without
direct knowledge of the theology of the specific shochet. This is at
least as true of sofrim.
       While I have no direct, personal knowledge of Rav Elyashiv's
views, a distinguished rosh yeshiva told me about two years ago that
another distinguished rosh yeshiva reported a conversation in which
R. Elyashiv forbade this shechitah.  Then, on June 22 of this year, I
received the following email message from a friend in Israel:
       "My son is now in the Kollel Zioni in Moscow.  He called me last
week with the following "sheelah."  The only shochet in Moscow is a
chabadnik who each morning says the "Yechi adonenu" out loud after
davening.  The question came up about eating meat in Russia.  One of the
kollelniks called Rav Simchah Kook in Rechovot.  He didn't answer
directly but said that he did indeed verify that Rav Elyashiv said the
meat is treif even bedieved.  The head of the kollel brings in meat from
        Leaving aside the issue of avodah zarah, I believe that the
denial of the two propositions that I formulated at the beginning of
this message has been so central to Jewish self definition over the
centuries that their legitimation transforms Judaism profoundly.  It
means (if the moderator will permit a very sharp conclusion) that on a
matter of fundamental principle we declare that our martyred ancestors
were wrong and their Christian murderers were right.

From: Eli Lansey <elansey@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1999 06:13:18 -0500
Subject: Chabad and Messianism

> Jonathan Katz wrote:
> And why is this so wrong when, for example, Rabbi Akiva once believed
> that Bar Kochba was the Moshiach?

The Rambam in Hilchot Melachim, perek 11, clearly states that the
Mashiach has to be alive in order to gain that title.  He mentions both
Bar Kochba and Yeishehu as examples of people who can not be Mashiach
because they are dead.  After Bar Kochba failed R' Akivah had to
disqualify him from being the Mashiach. Thus, after the Rebbe died he
can no longer be the Mashiach.

(As a note, the text regarding Yeishehu was edited out by Christian
censors, so many editions do not have that text.)

Eli Lansey

From: Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Nov 1999 19:50:19 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Chabad and Messianism

I have mentioned before on the list that my grandfather ZT"L was very
close to the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe ZT"L. Several years ago, a book
was published by Chabad called Betzel Hachachma which consisted of partial
transcripts of conversations the Rebbe had with some of his regular
visitors. Some of the visitors in this volume include the Belze Rebbe, the
Gerrer Rebbe, the Sadigere Rebbe, as well as 5 visits with my grandfather.

To me at least, the conversation on one of these times clearly indicated
the Rebbe's opinion of whether the Moshiach will die (or appear to die)
before completing all the required actions of the Moshiach.

When my grandfather visited the Rebbe on Chol Hamoad Pesach 5742, my
grandfather asked the Rebbe (all translation here is mine, the text is in
Hebrew, in quotes is my best attempt at literal translation, otherwise it
is a summarization):

"Is there an issue to expand the land of Israel to bring closer the coming
of Moshiach, or as a preparation for Moshiach?"

The Rebbe responds that only a Melech (king) or Sanhedrin has the
authority to wage war, and that is not the current reality, but when
Moshiach comes, he will have the status of king. Now, however, the way to
bring the time of Moshiach closer is via increasing the learning of Torah
and doing of mitzvot.

There is a discussion on the issue of the return of Yamit (I think in the
Sinai area) and the Rebbe's view that it was an issue of Pikuch Nefesh
(risk of life), not one of Kedushat HaAretz (sanctity/holiness of the
land). In the course of the discussion on the order of events at the time
of Moshiach, the Rebbe said:

"The Rambam in Hilchot Melachim brings the order of events that will be at
the time of the coming of Moshiach; He will wage the battles of Hashem and
be victorious over all the nations that surround us and will build the
Beis Hamikdash and only after that will he gather in the exiles of Israel.
Therefore it is impossible in any sense to say that first will be the
ingathering of the exiles, because the Rambam has written the opposite and
this would be a difference from one extreme to the other. The Rambam
repeats this issue twice, in the beginning of chapter 11 and in the end of
chapter 11.

The Rambam in chapter 11 of Hilchot Melachim after he brings the order of
the events that will be at the time of the coming of the Moshiach, that he
will wage the wars of Hashem and build the Beis Hamikdash in its proper
place, he continues and says (this matter has been removed by the censor)
that 'if he does not succeed to this point (after he has already done many
of the required actions) it is then known that this is not the one that
the Torah has promised and he is like all the complete and kosher kings of
the house of David that have died, and Hashem did not stand him up, except
to test the many through him.' The situation remain Galus (exile)! The
same situation as it was before! This shows clearly that it is forbidden
to say that we are now in the time of the atchalta degeula - beginning of
the redemption."

As I said earlier, to me the matter is clear. Even if one can find obscure
sources that may support a position a Moshiach being someone who lived and
died and is rejuvenated as part of Techias Hameisim (the rejuvination of
the dead) it is clear to me that the Rebbe would have rejected this
opinion much more strongly than he rejected the idea that the ingathering
of the exiles could be prior to the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash.

Avi Feldblum
mail-jewish Moderator

From: Elie Rosenfeld <erosenfe@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1999 10:01:41 -0500
Subject: Chabad and Messianism

As the Moderator pointed out, this is a topic with high potential for
heat vs.  light; hopefully this posting will be viewed as adding to the

My impression is that the Messianic Chabad group don't actually claim
that the Rebbe did not die, but that he will be brought back to life as
part of Techiyas Ha'meysim [the Resurrection] and then become the
Moshiach.  I have two questions:

1) Are there any traditional sources (or at least pre-1994) that state
that Techiyas Ha'meysim will in fact *precede* the coming of the
Moshiach, and that the Moshiach could therefore be someone who is
currently dead?

2) If we grant that the Moshiach could be someone who died, why assume
that the recent Lubavitcher Rebbe is then the best candidate?  On just
about any Chassidic scale (even/especially that of Lubavitch), surely
the original Lubavitcher Rebbe, or Ba'al HaTanya, is on a higher level
than the latest one?  And surely the Ba'al Shem Tov, founder of
Chassidism, is yet higher?  And surely the Ari Za'al is higher then him,
etc.  Once you open up the "candidacy" to people who have already died,
you should be able to go back in history up to and including King David
himself.  Assuming Davidic lineage is still a requirement; otherwise
Moshe Rebeinu would probably be the winner.

I am sincerely interested in the answers to both questions.



From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1999 11:07:24 -0500
Subject: Chabad and Messianism

Jonathan Katz wrote:
> I would actually be interested in more halachic discussion about
> this.  Specifically, what Issur (transgression) is violated by a
> Chabadnik who believes that the Rebbe is the Moshiach? How about a
> Chabadnik who believes that he might be the Moshiach? Etc...

Depends on when you'd have asked the question.

Rambam described two categories of people.  One is a description of an
upstanding person who observes the mitzvot, brings Jews back to Judaism
and does other important things.  This person may be considered to be
Moshiach.  If that person should later gather in the Jews from exile,
rebuild the temple, etc., then we know for certain that he really is

When the last Lubavitch Rebbe was alive, there was certainly no problem
declaring him as Moshiach.  Everybody I spoke with considered him in the
Rambam's first category - one who may be considered to be Moshiach.
Although some may (and did) disagree with whether the Rebbe should have
this consideration, most agreed that his students had the right to make
the declaration.  (Similarly, other great rabbis throughout history have
been declared Moshiach by their students.)

Once the Rebbe died, however, that changes everything.  Now, it's not a
question of whether this person might actually be Moshiach.  Now, it's a
question of whether God will resurrect him to finish the job.
Personally, I find dangerous parallels between this belief and that of
other religions.  I don't know whether the line of reasoning is
legitimate or not, but it is not something I could ever see myself
agreeing with.

> And why is this so wrong when, for example, Rabbi Akiva once believed
> that Bar Kochba was the Moshiach?

But when Bar Kochba died, Rabbi Akiva concluded that he was in error
when he made that declaration.

-- David


From: Dov Teichman <DTnLA@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1999 16:25:04 EST
Subject: Rav Ahron Soloveitchik & Chabad

<< [is it true that R. Aharon Soloveitchik Shlita endorsed it? I heard this 
from a chabad rabbi but I  doubt it!] >>

A few years ago I remember reading that R. Ahron Soloveitchik came out
saying that although believing that the rebbe has died and will come
back resurrected as the messiah is not the contemporary, popular view
held by the vast majority of sources; however, support for this view can
be found, and while we may not agree, it cannot be classified as a
heretical viewpoint that is totally foreign to Judaism.

Dov Teichman


End of Volume 30 Issue 19