Thursday, March 23, 2006

Yechi Adoneinu...

There was a time in history where Lubavitchers were held in high regard. It wasn’t always like it is today. To be a Lubavticher, at one time, meant being learned, well-respected Jew. For numerous reasons, things are totally different today. I’ve heard people on all ends of the spectrum call them “crackheads”, justify speaking Lashon Hara against them, and cast them all as idolators.

Let me make it clear – there are those Lubavitchers that believe the Rebbe, z”tl, is still alive (in fact, many will not attach z”tl to the end of his name). There are those that pray to him directly (there is a minyan in Baltimore like this – no, not Bais Lubavitch). These people are wrong; these people may even be idolaters in the true sense of the word. I do not want to make it seems like I agree with everything they say and/or believe. However, there are a good number of Lubavitchers that will admit the Rebbe is dead, and is not going to be Moshiach. Quoting Wikipedia, these people claim,

“…that Schneerson was the best candidate for messiah in his generation, but now say that people were mistaken to believe that he was the Messiah. Rather, he could have been the messiah if God willed it to be so, but it was not to be. As such, the Messiah will come nonetheless in the person of some other great leader.”

I have no problem with this claim. He, undoubtedly, was a massive Talmud Chacham – someone who was on an entirely different level. There is nothing wrong with a sect of Judaism continuing the legacy of their Rebbe after his death by continuing traditional styles of learning, dress, etc. In this sense, they are no different from any other Chasidic sect – they are die-hard followers of their Rebbe and take his word as the end-all-be-all.

What bothers me is when people bash the entire sect of Chasidim based on a minority of wackos. True, it is known that R’ Shach, the old Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovezh, was vehemently against the movement; so, there is basis for being against the movement. That being said, it would be impossible for me to look down upon all Lubabs, strictly based on the interactions I have had with them throughout my years. Based on these interactions, which I will detail, I hold them in extremely high regard.

Exhibit A: At the University of Maryland, one of the Jewish staples of the campus is Rabbi Eli Backman – a Lubavticher. He and his wife are the heads of one of the most successful Chabad houses in the country. Every Shabbos the Backman’s have 100% free Shabbos meals. It is not uncommon for their meals to top over 100 students, faculty, etc. Every Shabbos, 52 weeks a year – I can only imagine how much each meal costs.

Exhibit B: I was going to Penn St. to visit some, well, let’s just say, non-Shomer Shabbos friends from high school. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best decision to go, but I knew that all I had to do was do a Google search on “Chabad Penn St.”, give them 10 minutes notice, and I knew I would have 2 Shabbos meals. Of course this is what I did, and I was surprised to find this oasis of frumkeit at the dregs of Penn St.

Exhibit C: My wife and I went to Puerto Rico for our honeymoon. Again, I knew all I needed to do to find an oasis of frumkeit was to do a Google search on “Chabad Puerto Rico” – I had minyanin, Shabbos meals, and kosher food at my disposal.

What is the common denominator between all of these examples? Personal sacrifice to spread Judaism, wherever it may be. Do you think there are mikvahs at Penn St. or Puerto Rico? The Rebbetzin at Penn St. probably had to drive to Harrisburg; the Rebbetzin in Puerto Rico probably had to take late-night trips to the ocean. Sounds like a big deal to us – but they just take it in stride. Do you think there are schools to send their children to in State College, PA or San Juan, Puerto Rico? No, these children are homeschooled – and they take it in stride. And where is the $$$ coming from for all of this? They receive little, if any money from Chabad International – they are completely dependent upon themselves to fundraise. The UMD Chabad needed to expand, as there was often no room for the numerous people that would come to their Shabbos table. This burden of financial responsibility fell entirely upon Rabbi Backman.

I believe there is something to be learned from everyone. Must we follow the Rebbe’s teachings or their “wacko” customs? No. We need to learn love for Yiddishkeit at all costs from them. If I had 50% of the dedication that these rabbeim have, I would be a better Jew 10 times over. Unfortunately, we let a minority of wackos cloud this reality.

PS - Interesting reading on the Mashichus viewpoint held by a minority of Lubavtichers.

27 Comments:

Blogger Jewboy said...

It's about time someone defended Lubavitchers. Yes, there are those of them who seem a bit out of line, but many of them do a lot of good. There are also deviants amongst all branches of Orthodoxy. The real teachings of Chabad Chassidus are very holy. Many Litvish gedolim studied Tanya. The disparaging of Chabadniks goes back to the notion some frummies have that they are judge and jury of other Jews and must pass judgment on everyone.

2:02 PM, March 23, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:03 PM, March 23, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice post on lubavitchers - as a wife of a nonpracticing lubavitcher (of lubavitch descent), I always felt bad that my husband was told (when attending yeshiva) not to adhere to those minhagim. Now in our mature old age we are returning to our roots and are proud! (and being lubavitch is not all about the messy clothes and smashed black hats - there the nussach ari siddur and special tefillin that people tend to not realize).

3:36 PM, March 23, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

How could someone not realize the different Tefillin...they're HUGE!

3:39 PM, March 23, 2006

 
Blogger Lanie said...

Like anything else in life, it's normally the "odd" or "strange" that gets the most attention and overshadows all of the good. Yes, there are a sect of Lubavitchers that are a little misguided in their beliefs regarding their rebbe, but there is also a tremendous amount of good that they do. I would be interested in doing a study at some point about the end products of mass-kiruv efforts, but that's a different topic altogther. I'm just interested. In any case, I can definitely say that not everything that Lubavitch has to offer is for me personally, but it appeals to a lot of people, and I respect that. Sure there might be problems, but show me a division of Orthodoxy that is 100% perfect.

4:00 PM, March 23, 2006

 
Anonymous tc said...

I personally have a lot of love and respect for the Lubavitch community. I know exactly what you're saying about sacrifice... I grew up in the 50th state (sorry, hiding from the google) and sure enough, a Chabad house was set up while we were there. Even though it was boring for me at the time, going to chabad cheder was a wonderful experience.

Even though they must not have been able to get kosher meat or cholov yisroel products for a good long time, they kept trucking and are an important part of the jewish community there. you're exactly right: it's the absolute dedication to bringing people closer to hashem that is so amazing. they know you're driving or taking the bus to their shul on shabbos, but they're so happy that you're there.

5:51 PM, March 23, 2006

 
Blogger Zazy said...

To Quote Rabbi Chaim Ozer Chait,, "do not denounce people, but rather, false ideas".

6:05 PM, March 23, 2006

 
Blogger Jack Davidov said...

Alanlaz - Although I agree with you on one level, I do think that you are oversimplifying the issues. First of all, the Meshichists are a much larger fraction than just a small fringe. Although it is very hard to estimate things like this, at least half of the Lubavitchers that I meet espouse some sort of Messianic belief about the Rebbe z"tzl.

Have you ever been to 770? I've been there on Simchas Bais Hashoeva - musicians are openly singing "yechi" to cheering crowds of chassidim. How about Sfat? Have you ever seen how many doors are covered with "Baruch Haba Melech Hamashiach"? How about speaking to people who go to Lubavitch yeshivos about the "machlokes" (about guess what?) among the hanhala of the yeshiva? Many Lubavitchers also secretly espouse this belief, but hide it openly.

Many Rabbanim that I have spoken to say that this problem is rooted in a much deeper difference in attitude in Chabad Chassidus from other Chassidic sects. This has been a problem that has isolated Chabad, before the Mashiach issue. While, I agree that it doesn't help to demonize Chabad, denying that there is a deep-seated problem doesn't help anything.

10:57 PM, March 23, 2006

 
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Like Jack Davidov above, I would highly suggest that you take some road trips to Lubavitch communities and spend some time in them.

I happen to admire a lot within Lubavitch. But, having lived in more than one heavily Lubavitch community, I can attest that the messianism runs deep, even amongst the so called "anti's." And, that messianism cannot be ignored.

Rav Shach zt"l was not a das yachid, he had plenty of company, from Rabbonim in YU circles to Ravvonim in other Chassidish circles to Rabbonim in the deepest Yeshivish circles. There are serious hashkafic issues in Lubavitch--the prime being how "Rebbe centered" they are.

I have only admiration for the hachnasat orchim of Lubavitchers. But, it is a mistake to ignore the issues in Lubavitch. The differences are most certainly not e'lu v'elu. And, if we treat the differences as such, we will change the face of Orthodoxy forever.

11:22 PM, March 23, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Jack,

I will admit that I am not as versed in the issues as maybe I should be. That being said, your 50% number is just as arbitrary as my claim that it is a minority.

Also, see the quote that is in the post. These people would be called "meshichists", however, the quoted belief is not avodah zara.

Again, if I had half of the love they have for yiddishkeit, I'd be a better person for it.

11:24 PM, March 23, 2006

 
Anonymous Greg said...

Matisyahu is the next Rebbe/Moshiach.

12:11 AM, March 24, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Sephardilady,

I do understand that messianism runs deep. It is my understanding though that an overwhelming amount of people believe that he was fit to be the Moshiach in his generation, but that we weren't ready for him. I have no problem with this. Every generation has a moshiach ready...if the people are ready to accept him.

Now, those that think he is still alive, is moshiach, and pray to him, are wrong. I'm not sure what else can be done besides making it known that this is not frum yiddishkeit, and teaching our children as such. I think as long as we do that, we will not be changing the face of orthodoxy forever.

As mentioned previously, a young lad like myself that has not been immersed in a Lubab community only knows so much. I am probably being nieve here. That being said, I don't follow what they do. There's nothing wrong with someone learning from their tremendous hachnasas orchim and love for yiddishkeit. Oh yeah, and they're drinkers too.

8:21 AM, March 24, 2006

 
Blogger Jewboy said...

I must take issue with the notion expressed above that by ignoring the differences of Lubavitch and other Jews we are risking changing the face of Orthodoxy forever. Please. There are so many worse problems in the Jewish community: promiscuity and drug use amongst teenagers, unethical business practices, sexual abuse, and on and on. Treating Lubavitch as such a threat to all that is holy is just another example of how frum Jews sometimes will put down others so they feel better about themselves. And, yes, I've spent time in heavy Chabad communities like Tzfat and Montreal.

8:51 AM, March 24, 2006

 
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Alan, I would suggest reader Professor Rabbi Berger's book

The Rebbe, The Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference.

This is a worthwhile read. It outlines some of the Rebbe's statements that lead Lubavitchers to where they are today.

There is no problem learning from the good of Lubavitcher. There is certainly so much to learn from. But, the messianism is so deep, but there is a great public face that manages to obscure it.

I don't know what to say if you haven't lives in a Lubavitch community because it is probably hard to believe until you've spent a good 6 months immersed.

9:13 AM, March 24, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Sephardilady,

For the record, all sects of Chasidim are that "Rebbe crazy" about their own Rebbe. Some just stop short of calling him fit to be the Messiah. Walk into any big beis medrash and the Talmidim will be drooling over the Rebbe/Rosh Yeshiva. I can't go 5 minutes here in town without someone saying "The Rosh Yeshiva says...", or "The Rosh Yeshiva does..."

9:30 AM, March 24, 2006

 
Blogger Jewboy said...

As Alanlaz pointed out, the rebbe "worship" is something misnagdim have always criticized about all branches of chassidus. I would caution about books such as the one by Berger. These books are written by people with agendas who are out to prove their own point, however self serving it might be. You can't believe everything you read. The rebbe made statements about trying to bring Moshiach, never that he himself was Moshiach.

10:26 AM, March 24, 2006

 
Blogger Shua said...

Laz, Jewboy,

I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments regarding Lubavitch. Some of the same Rabbis who calls Lubavitch "heretics" are the same Rabbis who would probably consider me to be a "heretic" as well, so I consider their comments with a grain of salt.
Regarding Lubavitch's actual Hashkafah today, it probably varies by each Rabbi. I have dealt with several Chabad Rabbis over the years, and it's difficult to tell what they privately believe to be true. However, NONE of them tried to "convert" people to become Lubavitch. Their aim was to get people to become more observant. That's all. And they've been so successful. I'm not certain about this, but it's entirely possible that certain segments of the non-Lubavitch Orthodox community are jealous to a certain extent, over the tremendous success that Chabad has had in both Kiruv and fundraising, that they see Chabad as somewhat of a threat. As Jewboy says, we have more serious issues to deal with.

12:00 PM, March 24, 2006

 
Blogger SephardiLady said...

>>I would caution about books such as the one by Berger. These books are written by people with agendas who are out to prove their own point, however self serving it might be.

May I suggest that you read the book. Professor Berger has spent his entire academic career studying Jewish-Chrisitian polemics.

He was once a Chabad supporter and his actions are only l'shem shomayim. He could have been much tougher, but he didn't.

Speak to any Rosh Yeshiva from any Yeshiva across the board, from the most liberal to the most Charedi, and they will agree that there are major issues in Chabad (and I'm sure they will agree there are things to emulate too like the hachnasat orchim). If these Rabbonoim can agree about this, when they can rarely agree on anything else, there must at least be something worth investigating.

9:12 PM, March 25, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan,
Like the rest, I think it's important to not over simplify the issue. From everything that I can tell (I've been trying to come to terms with Lubavitch and the Rebbe for a while), most Lubavitchers believe that the Rebbe is the Moshiach. Not was/could of been but IS. When people talk about Meshichists and Non-Meshichists, they're really talking about the discussion on how forward one should be with announcing the Rebbe's Meshiach status.

There are a minority who fall on both extremes, 1) that believe that the Rebbe could have been but wasn't 2) That the Rebbe is a piece of HaShem. (See rebbegod.blogspot.com)

Yes, Chabad does a lot a lot a lot of good. That in no way should mean we don't take the possibility of Avoda Zara seriously. At the same time since the safek is just that, a safek; I don't think we can place them all in Cherem either.

12:35 AM, March 27, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Anon,
Thanks for the comments. Your assertion that a majority of Lubavitchers are meshichists is simply your opinion. From what I can tell and from what I have heard, they are a minority. Unfortunately, there is no data to prove either side. I agree that the meshichists are wrong. That being said, there is no excuse for the public Lashon Hara and the other violations of halacha that people justify as being OK - because they're talking about Lubavitchers.

5:33 AM, March 27, 2006

 
Blogger jewchick said...

Just an added story about the wonders of the Peurto Rican Lubavitch.
My dad wanted to come visit when I was in Israel for the year, but he's quadraplegic, and it's not a vacation for my mom unless they have someone come to help. So, to get my dads helper a passport, they contacted the Chabad in PR, who managed to get this guy (who's NOT Jewish) his birth certificate.
Unbelievable chessed.

3:14 PM, March 27, 2006

 
Blogger Editor said...

Learn more about what Lubavitchers are up to around the world...

1:45 AM, March 28, 2006

 
Blogger Dan Rabinowitz said...

I would suggest reading "The Messiah Problem; Berger, The Angel and the Scandal of Reckless Indiscrimination" by Chaim Rapoport, published in 2002. This book, as its title suggests, offers a vastly different view of Chabad than Dr. Berger does. To take nothing away from Dr. Berger's book, I think one should be able to look at both sides before coming to any conclusion on this topic.

3:56 PM, March 29, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

vous avez dit, ou plutô fait passez mesage que the mort of etre a empeche de to have mochia'h.je vous it directs vers senedrin 90, ET vous tenait apres to say itself que hides n'est que pour daniel merçit de bien to relire the rachie ciyoun. Vous semblez dans total sertitude que rebbe meleh hamochia'h east mort (has vechalom) the maize je tien to vous fair Liras rachie tahanit 5,2, vaut mieux que vos yeux the look, par ce que je dit je suis prit pour a falcificateur. ENFIN the Y TO seul ET unique to decisionaire pour mochia'h there east the rambam, dans chapitre the 11 de melahim. A roie here desent de maison dovid here difuse the toreu s'est fait, of menque plus que de to construire the beis hamikdoche, rebbe to dit qu'une persons present dans the 770 constrisait ceuluis çit. Je vous proposed de veata Liras tazria messorah dans dvar malhout ET tetsave. (etrangeté de but façon de parler east du au fait que j'ait fait de traduction sur google) the Yehi adonenou morenou verabenou meleh hamochiah leolom voed

11:15 AM, July 30, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

vous avez dit, ou plutô fait passez mesage que the mort of etre a empeche de to have mochia'h.je vous it directs vers senedrin 90, ET vous tenait apres to say itself que hides n'est que pour daniel merçit de bien to relire the rachie ciyoun. Vous semblez dans total sertitude que rebbe meleh hamochia'h east mort (has vechalom) the maize je tien to vous fair Liras rachie tahanit 5,2, vaut mieux que vos yeux the look, par ce que je dit je suis prit pour a falcificateur. ENFIN the Y TO seul ET unique to decisionaire pour mochia'h there east the rambam, dans chapitre the 11 de melahim. A roie here desent de maison dovid here difuse the toreu s'est fait, of menque plus que de to construire the beis hamikdoche, rebbe to dit qu'une persons present dans the 770 constrisait ceuluis çit. Je vous proposed de veata Liras tazria messorah dans dvar malhout ET tetsave. (etrangeté de but façon de parler east du au fait que j'ait fait de traduction sur google) the Yehi adonenou morenou verabenou meleh hamochiah leolom voed

11:17 AM, July 30, 2006

 
Anonymous shlomo said...

If it were not for Lubavitch I wouldn't be frum now. I wouldn't know how to daven. I wouldn't know how to keep shabbos. I wouldn't know about kashrus. I wouldn't know about haggim. Lubavitch have helped me SO much over the past few years since I became frum and I am massively indebted to them and by the extension the Rebbe z"tzl.

I've generally been able to place myself in circles that aren't moshiachistic and am reassured all the time that moshiachism is really the minority... HOWEVER, I keep finding it all the time. I go to a Rabbi's house for Shabbos lunch and their bentchers have a massive picture of the Rebbe and 'yechi' written on the front. I go to the local Lubavitch yeshiva for selichos and at the end a significant number of the bochurim (although some abstained) started dancing and singing 'yechi.'

These things really hold me back from becoming a (card-carrying) Lubavitcher. Although I know I don't need to sing 'yechi' to be Lubavitch, I just simply would find it hard disassociating myself from something that is in reality more widespread than I or other Lubavitchers like to admit.

As for other issues and tensions between other Orthodox/Chareidi movements and Lubavitch-- it is more complex than just moshiachism... It also has a lot to do with the politics of the kiruv movement. Lubavitch (like it or not) are HIGHLY successful in leading people to yiddishkeit and at raising funds for this and their community. I think this is resented in a lot of circles in the kiruv movement because simply other organizations aren't so successful. I've often found in this sense the moshiacism issue can be used as a nice pretext to attack Lubavitch.

A gut yahr!

5:16 AM, September 18, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chassidim who believe the Rebbe is Moshiach are not wackos. They do not pray to the Rebbe. They pray to the creator to reveal Moshiach. Read up on the subject before you castigate a group of Holy Jews.

http://www.torah4blind.org/majeski.htm

3:54 PM, May 24, 2012

 

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