Volume 30 Number 24
                 Produced: Tue Nov 30  6:36:49 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Chabad: A Story and a Plea
         [Sheri & Seth Kadish]
David Berger's comments on Lubavitch
         [Shlomo Yaffe]
The Lubavitcher Rebbe and Moshiach
         [Michoel Dobry]


From: Sheri & Seth Kadish <skadish@...>
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 1999 00:57:44 +0200
Subject: Chabad: A Story and a Plea

Jonathan Katz wrote:
>I would actually be interested in more halachic discussion about this.

 There is an apocryphal story about Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, which goes
something like this (if I remember correctly):
 A Russian Orthodox priest wanted Rav Chaim to convert.  So he directly
asked, "Why do you reject Jesus as the Messiah?"
 Rav Chaim cleverly replied by purposely saying something not entirely
true: "I reject Jesus as the Messiah because the rabbis of the Talmud
also rejected him, and *they never erred about anything.*"
 The priest knew that this wasn't true: "What do you mean they never
erred about anything?  Didn't Rabbi Akiva think Bar-Kokhba was the
 Rav Chaim relpied, "And tell me, how do you know Bar-Kokhba *wasn't*
the Messiah?"
 The priest: "How could he be the Messiah? He was killed by the Romans
2000 years ago, but the world still hasn't been redeemed!"
 Rav Chaim: "If only your ears would hear what your lips just uttered..."

 The story's relevance to the current discussion about Chabad is clear.
Furthermore Chabad - which helped so many Jews strengthen their
connection to the Torah - has now become a hindrance to anti-missionary
work.  No longer can rabbis simply tell people that the idea of a
Messiah who dies without redeeming the world and will later return to
complete his mission is a solely a Christian idea.

 I am terribly sorry that the discussion of this terrible tragedy has taken
on pseudo-halakhic tones: Can you davven with them?  Count them in a
minyan?  To my mind, these questions are absurd, and totally miss the point
of the enormous tragedy that has occured.
 There is *no* hashkafa in the world today that has not been labeled
"apikorsut" at some time.  And if we look too hard for doctrinal purity,
it will be too hard to find a minyan almost anywhere (Chabad aside).
These kinds of debates become futile and counterproductive.  (See the
Netziv's introduction to Bereshit on this, as well as the beginning of
Sefer ha-Ikkarim on sincere people who make doctrinal mistakes).
 Personally, I tend to agree that there is apikorsut here, *but that is
besides the point*: The greatest tragedy is not that of chasidim who
love their rebbe so much that they can't accept that he died (and cannot
reconcile his promise of immediate redemption with a world that isn't
messianic yet), but the tremendous CHILLUL HASHEM that they cause.  THAT
is what should make us all weep: that Chabad, once perhaps the greatest
Kiddush Hashem in the world, now makes a mockery of Torah to the world.
(Yes, I know that was a very strong statement.  I wrote it only out of
sadness, not anger.)  Before anything else this should make us weep, not
worry about whom to count in a minyan.
 Many of those who wrote so far about this are from North America.  In
Israel, the problem is worse by far.  If, in America, Lubavitchers argue
with each other over this, in Israel there is no debate at all: It is
nearly impossible to find *any* Chabadnik here who is not a messianist.
The propaganda is everywhere, on every street corner.  (If you looked at
election posters a some months ago, you could get the impression that
there were *three* candidates for prime minister: Bibi, Barak, and
Mashiach - the rebbe.)  Thousands of Israelis who see these sorts of
things are reinforced in their view of Chabad - and of traditional
Judaism as an extention - as something to be either pitied or disdained.
This is chillul Hashem on a massive scale.
 One rare exception is the Ashkenazic chief rabbi of Tzfat, a
Lubavitcher who opposes this false messianism.  More chillul Hashem: The
chabadniks of Tzfat view him as a phony who doesn't really represent
them; one person struck him physically for it, a story that made the
national papers.
 So my plea is this: Put aside the questions about whom to davven with.
Instead, protest chillul Hashem wherever and whenever you see it.  Yes -
Davven in a Chabad house!  But when you are there make sure to protest
false messianism with sincerity, mentchlichtkeit, and conviction.  (And
of course with knowledge - everyone should read David Berger.)  And if
you know any Lubavitchers with the intellectual honesty and moral
courage to stand against the tide - give them all the support you can,
in every way possible.
 Finally, remember: This is a tragedy of historic proportions.  It is
something that should make us cry, not something with which to "bash"
Chabad.  The truth is that Chabad, which helped so many of us in the
past, needs our help now.  Chazal teach us that "Love disrupts the
proper way of doing things", and it is only love for the rebbe and
yearning for geulah that have caused many Chabad chasidim to err so
terribly.  (All the supposed proof-texts are besides the point.)  Chabad
chasidim need "tough-love" (not ridicule) from the rest of the religious
community, if some of them are ever to come back.

Sorry this was so long, but it is something that bothers me terribly.
I'd like to hear what others think.

Seth (Avi) Kadish
Karmiel, Israel


From: Shlomo Yaffe <syaffe@...>
Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999 17:06:26 -0500
Subject: Re: David Berger's comments on Lubavitch

=============David Berger commented
 "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

A fundamental principal of scholarship is transparency, the ability to
describe an oral or written source in the voice and original intent of
it's author. To the extent that in translating or interpreting it we
load it with the burden of our subjective juxtapositions, we fail as

 Berger is using Christian terminology which has its own context and
meaning, then translating the above mentioned piece to express that

I am familiar with the (in many ways germane to General Chassidism's
philosophy on the role of the "Rebbe") concepts that I assume are
articulated yet again in Charitonow's piece (though I have not seen the
piece itself, though I have read many similar ones) and I can assure the
list members that no adherent of Chabad philosophy - however extreme,
would express him/herself with the words "an omniscient Messiah
manifesting the pure Essence of God surviving in what I would call a
glorified body" with the Christian implications (G-d forbid) that Berger
is trying to suggest to those unfamiliar with the belief system of (part
of) the Chabad community.

This leads me to the unfortunate conclusion that the above-referenced
article is polemic motivated by sectarian considerations - rather than
objective scholarship. As such, it sheds no usable light on an
intriguing subject that should be explored in an unbiased manner.  SDY


From: Michoel Dobry <mdobry@...>
Date: Sat, 27 Nov 1999 22:43:02 +0200
Subject: The Lubavitcher Rebbe and Moshiach

Shalom u'vracha!

On the occasion of the 19th of Kislev, the Rosh Hashanah of Chassidus, I
consider it appropriate and my obligation to respond to the discussion
raised on this list on the question of the Moshiach Campaign.

"and they believed in G-d and in Moshe His servant." (Ex. 14:31)

This Torah passage, more than any other, gives testimony to the
principle of Emunas Tzaddikim. Granted, there are numerous observant and
G-d fearing Jews who do not live their Torah lives along this
line. Nevertheless, it is a well-founded belief in Judaism and
Lubavitcher Chassidim, perhaps more than most others, do their utmost to
stand at the forefront in adherence to their Rebbe's directives, as the
leader of this generation.

This discussion has primarily concentrated on bringing Torah sources to
prove whether or not one can say that the Lubavitcher Rebbe is Moshiach
today, no less than prior to Tammuz 3, 5754. However, that really misses
the mark. The real question is: Do people have the right to disqualify
Lubavitch simply because the vast majority of its Chassidim attest to
this belief? (NOTE: I am not a pollster, but my knowledge on this matter
and contact with fellow Chassidim worldwide indicate to me clearly that
this belief is in fact held by the vast majority.)

It must be made abundantly clear that while there is no denying that an
internal debate on this issue has existed within Chabad for years, the
debate pertains primarily to the question of publicizing the Moshiach's
identity, not determining it. In this light, it should be noted that
those who condemn Lubavitch's adherence to the belief that the Rebbe is
Moshiach did so long before it became a hot issue. It reminds me of the
person who walked out of a wedding reception because of the enthusiastic
dancing to the singing of Yechi. "What's the problem?", he was
asked. "They're singing about their Rebbe, you can sing about yours."


(NOTE: I wish to emphasize here that I do not consider it my
responsibility or purpose to convince people that the Rebbe is
Moshiach. In my estimation, those who presently do not believe so will
come to that conclusion eventually, either through proper investigation
into the matter or when the Geula actually begins.)

A Lubavitcher Chassid's primary job today, as laid out before the
Shluchim Convention eight years ago, is to prepare the world for the
coming of Moshiach. The Rebbe also stated that it must be done "b'ofen
hamiskabel" (in a fashion that will be accepted). That depends entirely
upon to whom the message is being conveyed and to a large extent upon
the conveyor, as not every Chassid approaches the matter in exactly the
same fashion.

There can be no debating the fact that the Rebbe said that this is the
last generation of Galus and the first generation of Geula. He said also
that all we have to do is open our eyes and see that Moshiach is here in
this physical world waiting to be revealed and that the time of the
Redemption has arrived. These statements were made as actual fact not
prayerful wishes.

Furthermore, the Rebbe gave clear and positive answers to those who
sought approval of Moshiach campaign activities which included
mentioning the Rebbe as "b'chezkas Moshiach". For fourteen months
(Tishrei 5753 - Marcheshvan 5754), the Rebbe participated in minyanim in
770 Eastern Parkway on almost a daily basis with ultimate Mesirus
Nefesh, encouraging fervently the singing of "YECHI ADONEINU MOREINU

"Said Rav Nachman, 'If [Moshiach] is among the living, [he is] like me,
as it states 'and [their] ruler in [their] midst'.'

"Said Rav, 'If he [Moshiach] is amongst the living, he is like Rabbeinu
HaKadosh [Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi]. If among the dead, he is like Daniel Ish

(Tractate Sanhedrin 98b)

The Moshiach issue arouses strong feelings and debate. Everyone has
their opinion, for example, as to what the RaMBaM meant. What does it
mean that Moshiach must be "successful" to validate his being Moshiach?
No one seems to know for certain. However, one thing is certain,
especially as brought out by the above stated Gemara portion: no one has
the right to say that the belief in someone as Moshiach who is no longer
physically living before our eyes is outside the realm of Judaism. Quite
the contrary. Those who disapprove of Lubavitch will always find an
excuse not to eat their shechita or count them in minyanim.

Regarding the concept that the Rebbe is alive, I can only paraphrase
what I mentioned earlier -- that it is not my responsibility to convince
people of the concept's validity. Nevertheless, there is no question as
to what is written in Zohar as elucidated in Tanya that a tzaddik is
found in this world more after his "physical demise" than before since
he is no longer limited to the confines of a physical body. Furthermore,
the Rebbe writes that there will be a time when Moshiach will be hidden
-- soul in body.

Do I fully understand the concept? Hardly. But that's not the Rebbe's
problem. I would suggest only that those in doubt should consider
writing the Rebbe a letter and placing it in a volume of Igros
Kodesh. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.

As for those individuals who go around saying that the Rebbe is G-d,
well, what can I say except that no one has a monopoly on candidates for
Bellevue. The people who make such moronic statements are either grossly
uneducated, mentally unstable, or as is the case with one such
individual, who lives near our community in Tsfat, is working on behalf
of an organization, e.g., Christian missionaries or Israeli intelligence
(or the lack thereof) whose goal is to discredit Lubavitch in the
world's eyes as a dangerous extremist cult. It is regrettable that such
people are listened to and as a result, cause severe damage to the cause
of bringing Moshiach.

But, I digress. We all want Moshiach and we all want him now. Let's do
our utmost to find common ground and work together to make it
happen. The Rebbe threw the ball in our court when he said that he's
done everything he can and now we have to do everything we can to bring
Moshiach. It's up to us to pick it up and run with it. In his holy words
from his first farbrengen as Rebbe, "...let us all merit to see and meet
with the Rebbe, in a physical body and within our reach, and he will
redeem us!"



End of Volume 30 Issue 24