Volume 43 Number 97
                    Produced: Fri Aug  6  7:50:44 EDT 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Avi Feldblum of Shammash.Org]
Lubavitch Practice for Newbies
         [Daniel Cohn]
Lubavitch Self Perception
         [Susan Shapiro]
Lubavitcher self-perception (2)
         [Binyomin Segal, Shoshana Ziskind]


From: Avi Feldblum of Shammash.Org <feldblum@...>
Date: Fri, 6 Aug 2004 07:45:54 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Administrivia

Two notes, one general, one related to this issue
1) Just a quick note that after this mornings set of issues, I will be off
the air for about two days, returning either Sunday evening or Monday

2) We have a number of topics currently that are touching nerves on people
on both sides of the issue. I will allow discussion of the topic, as long
as I think it is discussion. If I see it moving too far into just trying
to bash one side or the other, I will either reject the specific posting
or if necessary, shut down the thread. This issue's topic is related to
Lubavitch, and while some of the subjects may refer to self-perception,
the cases where it is non-Lubavitch list members trying to tell what the
Lubavitch self-perception is, that is kind of silly. If you want to know
what their self-perception is, listen a little more carefully to what a
few of the Lubavitch members of the group write. I do know that a number
of Lubavitch members have left the group over the years, due to their
percieved anti-lubavitch sentiment from some other list members. I think
that is unfortunate, and not the type of place that I want mail-jewish to
be. On the other-hand, there is some valid objections / complaints that
non-lubavith members of the list have, and I think it is valuable to raise
and discuss them, IF we can do it in a respectful mode. I think Binyamin's
posting in this issue is such an example. I would note, that in my
opinion, I see some of the same behaviour from the "newly black" yeshiva
types, but it is much less obvious, since they tend not to interact as
much with the greater outside world than does Lubavitch. But if I factor
out the frequency, I see very similar modes of behaviour, and if I then
look to the more established members of the community, while it is hard to
make any sort of generalizations, I think Lubavitch is at least as, if not
more so, accepting of others who are different from them than the typical
Aguda / Lakewood yeshiva type.

Avi Feldblum, Moderator


From: Daniel Cohn <cohn3736@...>
Date: Thu, 5 Aug 2004 10:55:52 -0300
Subject: Re: Lubavitch Practice for Newbies

Susan Shapiro writes:

> The way I understood it is, that for three year old girls, and unmarried
> girls, it is MINHAG, whereas it is halacha that married women light two
> candles.  The reason the Rebbe did it that way was for CHINUCH.
> Actually, almost the same thing applies to taking Challah today.  We are
> only OBLIGATED when there is a Bais Hamikdash, but it has become a
> custom to take Challah now, for CHINUCH.

AFAIK there are two big differences. 1) Challah with no B"HM is not a
minhag but a mitzva d'rabanan (instituted by the sages), and 2) Challah
was accepted by the whole klal Israel while unmarried girls lightning
candles is a (relatively new) Lubavitch minhag

Daniel Cohn


From: <SShap23859@...> (Susan Shapiro)
Date: Thu, 5 Aug 2004 18:44:37 EDT
Subject: Re: Lubavitch Self Perception

      It sounds correct to me. Some time ago I was told that
      Lubavitchers have terms for other (non-Lubavitch) Hassidim which
      reflect this.  While they refer to themselves as Chaba"d (acronym
      standing for chochmo - binah - daas - high categories in the
      sefirotic order), they refer to other Hassidim as Chaga"s (acronym
      for chesed - gevoroh - tiferes - lower categories in that
      order). If they hold even other types of Hassidism to be lower
      than them, I think one can safely assume that those Jews who do
      not accept Hassidism at all, are certainly not viewed too highly
      by them.

      [I'm not as convinced that Chaba"d vs Chaga"s is simply the higher
      vs lower in the sefirotic order. From my not so detailed knowledge
      / memory it was more on what aspects of Chassidus the groups focus
      on.  If someone is more knowledgeable on this, I would appreciate
      a reply.  Mod.]

I have to agree, its not a "higher and lower" thing, its just the
Chaba'd is the intellectual, and Chaga's is the Emotional.

Even if you ask other Chassidim they will tell you the same thing. There
are 10 sefiros, none more than the other.

I do believe that those who are not the "lovers" of Chabad, can find
much to point fingers at. I hope this will not come to that.

If non Chabad children come in contact with Chabad teachers or camp
counselors, and then come home with "this is the way it should be done"
it is then up to the parents to say, " in our house we do it THIS way."
Thats all.

Susan Shapiro


From: Binyomin Segal <bsegal@...>
Date: Fri, 6 Aug 2004 02:06:40 -0500
Subject: Re: Lubavitcher self-perception

I've been following this thread closely, as it is an issue that has
troubled me over the years. I have been involved peripherally with
Lubavitch on and off for many years and my impression certainly has been
that they are more troublingly ethnocentric than other groups of
orthodox Jews.

My sense of this issue started many years ago. As an orthodox kid of 11
I attended Gan Israel overnite camp in Parksville NY. Even then I had a
sense that the attitude they had was different qualitatively then other
Jewish ethnocentricity. I still recall the song from Gan Israel that
paraphrased the standard "shehivdlanu min haToim, v'nasan lanu toras
emes" [who distinguised us from those in error, and gave us the Torah of
truth] into "min hamisnagdim vnasan lanu toras chassidus" [who
distinguised us from the misnagdim and gave us the Torah of chassidus]

Since that time I have noticed two general trends that I find troubling:

1 - the ONLY individuals I have ever seen try to "take over" the nusach
or minhagim of an established shul were Lubavitchers. That is, on more
than one occasion, I have seen Lubavitchers try/insist on davening
nusach ari from the amud, or using the Lubavitch style hagbah even
though that is clearly NOT the established minhag of the shul.

2 - Lubavitch seems to consistently allign itself with modern orthodox
[I don't mean to imply here a judgement of modern orthodox, merely that
the choice of Lubavitch to align this way seems counter to their basic
philosophies] and non-observant jewish groups instead of other chassidic
groups. this has a number of weird effects:

a. many non-observant jews assume that Lubavitch speaks for the orthodox
community, and that the Lubavitcher Rebbe z"l was the rabbinic leader of
the orthodox community. (Just today, my non observant professor
mentioned that since Rabbi Schneerson is dead...) While this is to some
degree simply an artifact of the publicity machine that is Lubavitch as
opposed to the relatively private approach re non orthodox taken by
other orthodox leadership, I think it is also a purposeful act on the
part of Lubavitch inc. I can't prove it, but I have the distinct
impression that part of the reason Lubavitch hangs out with non orthodox
is because then they can claim to be the only legitimate voice for
Torah. Something they can't get away with within the greater right wing

b. in many communities Lubavitch choose to avoid whatever non-Lubavitch
right wing school is available. Then they either send the kid to the
"community" school or (and especially as the kids get a bit older - say
8 or 9) send the kid to another city to attend a Lubavitch school
there. I don't have a strong opinion over the community vs right wing
school question - but it seems to me bizarre and troubling that they
choose to send their young children out of town rather than send them to
the right wing school available to them.

OK, so if you are still reading, you probably think I am a violent
Lubavitch hater. That is simply not the truth. Despite the cliche, "some
of my best friends ..." Indeed, I chose to go to Gan Israel, because a
rebbe I was very close with was lubavitch.

One observation that needs to be made is, I think, the distingtion
between Lubavitch as a corporation, and Lubavitchers. There are many
different individuals that call themselves Lubavitchers - some from a
long family history, some more recent. They are not all part of, nor do
they all see themselves as part of, the worldwide media conglomerate
that sends shlichim and the rebbes message around the world. Anecdotally
I would say that to whatever degree the troubling observations we have
made are accurate, they are a reflection of the corporation, not the
historic Lubavitch chasidic community.

Even within "Lubavitch Inc." though there are certainly individuals who
have acted with wisdom and grace in building up a community. And so if
all I had to write was what I said until now, I would not have written,
I really did not need to hang this dirty laundry out to dry
particularly. But something I read in this thread flipped a lite switch

> Truthfully, however, I think that many groups see their derech as being
> more correct than others - not only Lubavitchers. Perhaps it is more of
> an issue with Lubavitchers as they are more into proselytizing.

Having worked for many years in NCSY, I know that when a kid goes off to
Israel, when they come back, they can be a bit "intense". They absorb a
lot in their year in Israel and have not yet processed it entirely. I
think the secular example is the recently reformed smoker, who is the
strongest advocate of smoking bans etc. Most of these kids do in fact
calm down given a bit of time.

One of the things that distinguishes Lubavitch (and this is a topic for
a whole separate thread perhaps) is how soon the "newbie" becomes a
representative of the movement. In many contexts, it is primarily these
new kids that represent the work of Lubavitch. And they are a bit
"intense". They are apt to see their nusach as the right one, and even
to try and supersede a shuls established minhag - like lots of young
converts of various sorts (would the expression "born again" be too
strong?). In fact, thinking back, I can't recall a single instance of
attempted shul-napping that did not involve a recent convert to
"Lubavitch Inc."

Part of what is troubling then, is that the Lubavitch community allows
these unprepared youngsters to represent Lubavitch, and by extension
Torah and G-d, to the secular community. In the final analysis it is
difficult to get at what is "really" Lubavitch theology, and what is
merely the overactive advocacy of young inexperienced converts who are
personally excited and do not have the balance that comes with time and

Thoughtfully and respectfully submitted,
binyomin segal

From: Shoshana Ziskind <shosh@...>
Date: Thu, 5 Aug 2004 18:54:04 -0400
Subject: Re: Lubavitcher self-perception

I'm getting somewhat tired of having to defend Chabad all the time. I
think you're misreading what "chagas" chasidim means. Chagas doesn't
mean lower than Chabad. Chagas means that these chassidim are
emphasizing the midos rather than the intellectual attributes in their
chassidus.  There's nothing implied about these chassidic groups being
lower than Chabad (G-d forbid). I really wish that people would actually
ASK a Lubavitch Rabbi before making these statements.

I will also re-emphasize that if the aforementioned Lubavitch Rabbi said
that Lubavitch is the "crown jewels" he is speaking incorrectly.  I even
spoke to someone at the shluchim office which is responsible for sending
out a lot of the shluchim who go out to various parts of the world and
they told me that their job is to introduce Jews who usually have very
little knowledge of their background to all the mitzvos they can do and
to give them an opportunity to do them.  There's no forcing to do
anything and no arrogance about it. Unfortunately, as someone has
mentioned, practice isn't necessarily the same as theory. I think the
attitude of most shluchim do not follow the reasoning that "our nusach
is the most precious of all".

> [I'm not as convinced that Chaba"d vs Chaga"s is simply the higher vs
> lower in the sefirotic order. From my not so detailed knowledge / 
> memory
> it was more on what aspects of Chassidus the groups focus on. If 
> someone
> is more knowledgeable on this, I would appreciate a reply. Mod.]

This is the case as I explained above.  Thanks for adding this in.

> Truthfully, however, I think that many groups see their derech as being
> more correct than others - not only Lubavitchers. Perhaps it is more of
> an issue with Lubavitchers as they are more into proselytizing.

Well count me as a Lubavitcher (and I know I'm not the only one or even
a minority) who does not see her derech as better only different.  Its
better for me than another derech because this is the derech that I'm
meant to follow but it is not necessarily the correct derech for other

All the best,
Shoshana Ziskind


End of Volume 43 Issue 97