Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our "Trade Off" For Chabad's Great Mesirus Nefesh for the Jewish People

I wanted to discuss a general observation about the view of Chabad Chassidim regarding other orthodox traditions and communities and how I think that attitude enables them to have such Mesirus Nefesh, self-sacrifice, for the Jewish people. However, I am frankly concerned that my question/observation may not be read in the sincere spirit with which it was written. Therefore, in order to provide a balanced perspective, I asked Menashe, a frequent commenter, Lubavitcher and friend/reader of Dixie Yid, to offer his take on the issues I bring up.

After a number of experiences with various Shluchim over the years, I have gotten a clear picture that there is a certain belief that Chabad Chassidim are taught; i.e. that Chabad is the only true expression of Torah and Ratzon Hashem and that any other form of, even orthodox Judaism, is, at best, second class.
In explaining why he now considers himself "just Jewish" rather than Chabad, Matisyahu recently summarized something like that idea in a recent interview in the Forward: "In Chabad, there was always the tendency to deify everything, whether it was the rebbes or the learning," Matisyahu said. "[There was] this sense that you couldn't ask questions about any of it, that if you didn't accept it, you weren't accepting the Torah. It was as if you weren't religious, and that this was the one path and the true path and that anything outside of it, even if it was a different kind of Hasidim, was certainly looked down upon."

During a certain difficulty with a Shliach many years ago, I was discussing the issue with my Rosh Yeshiva at the time. In the course of the conversation, he suggested that this attribute of Chabad Chassidus is our "trade-off" for their tremendous Mesirus Nefesh for the rest of Klal Yisroel. I was thinking about this comment recently, and I think that these two attributes are not random. Rather, I think they are highly related.

Perhaps it is Chabadniks' belief that theirs is the truest and highest Mesorah of Yiddishkeit that gives them the feeling that "it's all up to them." That feeling is the foundation of their ability to abandon all of the frum amenities that most orthodox Jews feel that they cannnot live without. They give up having local yeshivos to send their kids to according to their preferences, having like-minded friends nearby, and many other aspects of frum life that other frum Jews just would not do without. Perhaps if they felt that theirs was only one of many paths G-d, they would not have the motiviation to be moser nefesh like no one else. That feeling of "It's all up us" is the foundation for their ability to be moser nefesh for klal yisroel.

Menashe's response:

First, you should know that I'm not offended at all. I've read your work, at times regularly, for the better part of a year and I know you are not "anti-Chabad." I know you don't have an agenda, and more importantly, I know this perception that you have is pretty widely held in the non-Lubavitch velt. So I'd like to examine your assumption about how Chabad Chasidim view their hashkafa.

You wrote: "Chabad Chassidim are taught that essentially...any other form of, even orthodox Judaism, is, at best, second class."

First of all, I won't deny that there are indeed a select fiew whom this describes. But I don't think that this is what the Rebbeim taught and nor do the overwhelming majority of Lubavitchers feel this way. My forays into hashkafos outside Chabad are limited. I don't think I've been influenced by them much. So although I didn't grow up "going through the [yeshiva] system," I feel that my view is the general Chabad view. As far as other hashkafos, I think that the Chabad view is that although they are truly Divrei Elokim Chaim and without any question a true path to serving Hashem, they are nevertheless not the best or most effective path to serving Hashem. Regarding Matisyahu's quote, I would certainly agree that chasidim of the Rebbe are expected to accept his words and those of his predecessors as complete emes. I don't think there's anything so unique about that. But I definitely take issue with his characterizing our view on other hashkafos, even chassidishe ones, as "second-class" or "looked down upon." Chas vshalom! Many Lubavitchers have pictures adorning their walls of non-Lubavither manhigim and have nothing but respect for Toras Emes, even in another interpretation.

As far as how we view our hashkafa, I think it would be of benefit to share with you some of what I experienced in Eretz Yisroel (Menashe returned from Israel a little over a week ago). One of our stops was a historical center of sorts in the Golan built next to a site of one of the battles of the Yom Kippur War. They showed us a short documentary which they made from the recordings of the communications that the tanks had with one another. I remember one scene in particular where the Syran line was about to break through a small battalion of Israeli Tanks that stood in its way. If the Israelis lost the Golan then it would be near impossible to prevent the Arabs from getting access to the center of the country. The Tank Commander comes onto the transmitter and says something like "The war is in our hands. Nobody else can save us. If we don't push them back all is lost. We are stronger than them. I know your are not cowards. Whoever wishes to should join me NOW!"

Boruch Hashem, Yad Hashem was clear that day in allowing the Israelis to go against impsosible odds and prevent the Arab takeover and inevitable slaughter of Jews that would have resulted. What I noticed was that the commander felt that the entire burden of the war was on his shoulders. Nobody else could or would be able to help at that point. To advance was, strategically, suicide. Nevertheless he did it, because there was no other choice.

I'm writing this story now because I feel that it parallels in many ways how Lubavitch views its role in the war against golus. I won't get into the reasons why right now because I'm neither capable and this isn't the subject of the question, but the Rebbeim have always taught us [and proved it as well! - see Inyana Shel Toras HaChasidus by the Rebbe, published in Hebrew/English in the Chasidic Heritage Series for the most comprehensive explanation] that Torah was always meant to evolve this way, that Chassidus was always the final intention. And that the Baal Shem Tov always intended for Chassidus to become Chasidus Chabad. The implications of that are that Chasidus Chabad is the highest form of Torah, but not that others are ch'v low. Every interpretation, like you said, has its place and is holy in it's own right but that it's through the spreading of Torah, and specifically through the spreading of Chasidus Chabad that moshiach would be brought.

I think I agree with you that the mesirus nefesh that the Rebbe demanded, and got, from his shluchim is probably unparalleled. If you've learned a bit of chasidus I suspect you can see why. Certainly in this generation that is true. I also agree with you that the feeling of "it's all up to us," is certainly the main motivation. After all, who else would fulfill the Rebbe's words, if not his own chasidim?. But I disagree where you take the next step and say that this precludes other derechs from being legitimate. Does Chabad view its hashkafa as, in some ways, the highest and most effective? It would be frankly misleading to tell you otherwise. But as in the example of the battle scene I described earlier, the entire country was involved in the war effort. Everyone had their role. But, at least at that battle, which was crucial to success in the war, nobody else had the oppurtunity to sacrifice themselves for the greater cause. It's simply because nobody eles was in that position. We Chasidim of the Rebbe find ourselves in a unque situation. We believe that "Moshe Emes vToraso Emes," and that the Rebbe is our own Moshe Rabbeinu. He entrusted us with a crucial task. He trusted us so much that he left us, at least by appearances, all on our own! In our eyes, if we don't step up to the plate and advance, against insane and completely unwinnable odds, who else will or is even able to?

That's my own attempt at a fair and honest answer to your question. I feel that this is the way most Chabad Chasidim view themeselves and their hashkafa.

Dixie Yid follows up:

Menashe, thank you very much for your response. Although you may disagree with the way that I phrased it, that other traditions even within the orthodox community are seen as "second class" to Chabad, I think that you are essentially confirming my impression. You affirmed that the whole tachlis habriah, the point of creation, is for Torah to eventually produce Toras HaBaal Shem Tov and for Toras HaBaal Shem Tov to ultimately produce Chassidus Chabad, and that it is only through Chassidus Chabad that we will bring Moshiach. Davka it is the highest form of Torah, from what I hear you saying. Following any other tradition or Mesorah then would seem to be almost a brocha l'vatala and a missed opportunity to bring the Geula relative to the alternative of learning and carrying out the teachings of Chassidus Chabad.

Be that as it may, all of the Chabad Rebbes are the greatest of the great and if what you are saying is a reflection of the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt"l, then I would certainly expect Chabad Chassidim to follow it. And, as you related with the story of the Israeli Tank commanders fending off the Syrian army, it's only when you feel that "it's all up to you," that you can find the kochos within yourself to be Moser Nefesh like you never would have been able to, if there were anyone else who could do it too, as I suggested in the beginning.

I understand and would expect you to follow the Rebbe's teachings about the status of Chassidus Chabad relative to other Chassidus'n and how much the more so, other orthodox traditions. Baruch Hashem, each community in klal yisroel has its beliefs and IY"H k'sheyavo Moshiach bimeheira viyameinu, it will be revealed how all of these disparate traditions are part of the great "Elu v'eilu divrei Elokim Chaim." But in the mean time, I understand that I will not necessarily "agree" with every single thing that you, in Chabad, or others in other groups, believe, and vice versa. But that's okay! And IY"H, we'll all be matzliach in loving one another even knowing our differences!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture of Chabad Shluchim meeting with the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Aron Teitelbaum courtesy of VIN)

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Menashe said...

Thank you again, Dixie Yid.

I only want to add that it's hashgocha protis that Reb Nati posted a very related post over at http://mysticalpaths.blogspot.com about the Tzadik Hador. This idea that there is a line of succession from Moshe to each nasi of the generation, ie. Dovid Hamelech, Rashbi, Ari Hakodesh, the Baal Shem Tov, Moshiach - is not a chiddush of chabad. It's found in the zohar. My impression is that Breslovers hold that the line goes from the Baal Shem Tov to Rebbe Nachman. It's just as fine to believe that as it is for me to believe that the Rebbe is the proper successor. May it be revealed speedily in our days with Moshiach himself.

Itzik said...

One year, it was necessary to add another shochet and since there wasn’t a Lubavitcher shochet, Rabbi Hendel wanted to include a Chassidishe shochet, even though he wasn’t a Lubavitcher. When he had yechidus with the Rebbe, he asked about this, and the Rebbe told him that when people said that certain meat was Lubavitcher sh’chita, this meant that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was responsible for the sh’chita, and the Rebbe could only take responsibility for the sh’chita if all the shochtim were G-dfearing. Being that the Rambam writes that a yerei Shamayim is one who contemplates the greatness of G-d, he had to be a shochet who learns Chassidus.

Rabbi Hendel asked: What if the shochet learns Poilishe Chassidus (and he mentioned the names of s’farim that this shochet learned)? The Rebbe answered: These s’farim are good commentaries on the Torah, but studying them is not considered meditating on the greatness of G-d.

Crawling Axe said...

When I have a similar conversation with other Jews, I usually say this:

Imagine there is a war going on. You have a number of warlords on your side, and a number of warlords on the opposite side. You can join any of the warlords on your side that you think is an effective warlord — i.e., the guy who, when met with opposing forces, will win a victory, and provide you, his officer, with tools and directions of how to win a victory.

So, if your goal is to advance in ranks, gain loot, capture prisoners, capture castles and towns and so on, you can join a particular warlord who looks like he knows what he is doing. And then it’s up to your personal preferences — which warlord’s personality or style you like the most, or are most compatible with.

But then imagine that you don’t care about the loot, and riches, and castles, and prisoners, and your personal advancement in the army and gain of influence. All you care about is for this war to end. With your side as victorious. You don’t want it to end some time in future, when they’ll say, “Oh, this guy, in this warlord’s army, took these and these castles and contributed this much to victory.” You want this war to end now — and you don’t care what this victory does for you.

Then, you look around, and you see a warlord who has an actual written plan on how to win a war. Not a series of military victories, but mamosh the whole war. A detailed plan, which shows why the war has not been won so far, what needs to be done to win it, with analysis of the nature of the war, the enemy, the terrain, the goals and conditions, necessary tactics, strategy, list of ammunition, plan of attack and so on.

A good example is an article I read about two Republican Presidents waging wars, Lincoln and Bush. They were looking for generals willing to win a victory — and while they couldn’t find them, Democrats kept screaming that the war is lost. When they finally found generals capable and willing to achieve a victory (as opposed to series of battles), the war was won. Not all at once, but won.

So, you pick sides with such a general or warlord not because he suits you better, or you like his style, but because he has an actual plan, suited to the enemy and the circumstances, and the goals of victory, of how to win the war. It’s not that I don’t think other generals are incapable of producing individual victories and defeating enemy on the battlefield. It’s just that I see a plan of reaching the enemy’s capital city in this general’s plan. It’s that simple.

Usually when I hear people talk about Chabad Chassidus and Chassidim’s beliefs, they say, “Huh, so you guys believe that your Chassidus is the essence of Torah. Is that how it is? Hmm… OK. Well, I’ll tell you what: you believe what you believe, and I’ll believe what I believe.”

What I don’t hear there is the question “why”. What does it mean? In what sense is it the essence of Torah? Where does the Rebbe say that and how does he justify himself? I mean, what use are beliefs without justifications of them? What use is a theorem without its proof and explanation? Lehavdil, Mishna without Gemara?

Today is Alter Rebbe’s yartzeit. Last week, a day before Shabbos, was Rambam’s yartzeit. I think there is a great deal of similarity between the motivation of writing of Mishne Torah and of writing of Tanya (and developing the whole of Chabad Chassidus). It’s all really explained in the mentioned Inyana Shel Toras HaChasidus, but even without reading it and just learning Chabad Chassidus (or even just Tanya), one can already get a sense.

As to personal feelings and emotions — yeah, people need to conduct themselves in a proper way, not to offend anyone, be sensitive of others’ feelings and so on. But at the end of the day, emes is emes.

DixieYid (جنوب يهودي) said...


Thank you for contributing to this post. I appreciate the sincerity of your answer!


I hear what you're saying. That also seems to echo the position stated in Crawling Axe's comment as well.

Crawling Axe,

I hear that you are stating the position that A Simple Jew was asking about in the post of his that I linked to in the first paragraph of this post. The url is also here: http://asimplejew.blogspot.com/2008/05/question-answer-with-rabbi-zvi-leshem.html

I'll quote some pertinent parts of Rav Leshem's response to A Simple Jew in that post:

"The question is based upon several assumptions: ... 2: Chabad Chassidut is structured and systematic ... 3: It therefore follows that only by learning Chabad Chassidut will one really understand Chassidic principles... 4: I believe that there is a sub-text here as well, which implies that Chabad Chassidut is the only (or at least the most) authentic rendition of the traditions of the Besht and the Maggid, in other words, it is the true Chassidut and therefore it is much more important to study it than it is to study other schools of Chassidic thought. None of these assumptions should be accepted at face value, and therefore the conclusions are also questionable...

Regarding the systematic and structured nature of Chabad works, it is certainly true that the Tanya itself is extremely well structured and the Alter Rebbe certainly doesn’t need my haskama. I have also found the kuntresim of the Rashab to be this way as well. However is this true of all Chabad works? I don’t think so. When one learns Lekutai Torah or Torah Or, while they are certainly systematic works, I don’t think they can be called structured in the way that the Tanya is. I also think they (and many Chabad seforim) are very difficult works, often more difficult than other types of Chassidut. Additionally, other Chassidic works can also be shown to contain internal structure and consistency, even if it is not as self-evident as in the Tanya. This is certainly true, for example, of the Piaseczner’s educational writings...

Lubavitcher Chassidut, for all of its centrality and importance, is not for everyone. There is a reason why HaShem revealed Torah to the world also through Breslov, Lublin, Pryshischa, Ishbitz etc. In fact, Rav Ginzburgh writes in "Transforming Darkness into Light" that whereas Chabad is for Beinonim, Polish Chassidut (Noam Elimelech) is for Zaddikim, and Rebbe Nachman is for Reshoyim (ayein sham!). It follows that one brand of Chassidut certainly can’t work for everyone and that any one aspect is lacking by itself. I would state additionally that the way that they have woven other types of Chassidut in with their primarily Chabad writings has greatly enriched Chabad Chassidut as well."

Yes, Chabad Chassidus is certainly "an emes," (invoking the Elu v'eilu principal) although it is not the only systematic plan to reach Geula. Each Chassidus lays out its path to get there, each emphasizing a different nekuda. Chabad emphasizes "Chochma Bina and Daas." And others emphasize different "midos." But Chabad is certainly emes as well and if that is a person's tradition, and they are drawn to it in such a way that their shoresh neshama isn't longing for anything else, then B"H, such a person should continue and follow that path! Though this is not true for everyone and emes may be emes, but often times, each person's emes is different.

DixieYid (جنوب يهودي) said...

Crawling Axe,

It's also amazing hashgacha that I put up this post today, not even realizing that it was the Alter Rebbe's Yohrtzeit. Amazing.

Crawling Axe said...

Well, it’s not about being systematic in regards to teachings of Baal Shem Tov and Maggid. It’s (in my opinion) about being systematic regarding explaining what Eibeshter “is all about” (which includes a large number of topics and issues). From all points of view. I.e., theology.

It is true that some concepts in Chabad Chassidus are very difficult to grasp and some sefoirim are disorganized. The second issue has to do with necessity of learning from a teacher, not by yourself — at least until a certain point. (The same thing can be said about Gemara being disorganized and hard to learn.)

Regarding the first issue, I don’t really see the argument. A lot of issues are very complicated in nigleh too. Should we not study those issues? Lehavdil, many ideas in quantum mechanics are very complicated. And cannot be learned by oneself. And require learning special vocabulary. And some of the books and papers in the discipline are somewhat disorganized. But the bottom line is: quantum mechanics is the only discipline we have which talks on the most profound level about nucleus and electrons.

Of course, to be a scientist, one doesn’t need to learn q.m. But — and I think this is the ikkar of Alter Rebbe’s argument — to bring Mashiach, Jews need to learn about Hashem (not just avoidas Hashem, but about Hashem) and the topic of Hashem’s achdus and ein od milvado in a systematic structured way. Learn, meditate, and then allow these teachings transform your middos and your avoida (although even then — that’s not the goal).

avakesh.com said...

Another trade-off is that Chabad, because of its great emphasis on Ahavas Yisroel is unable to eject those who violate standards of tsnius, observance, or have "krum hashkofos", who would have been ejected in any other chassidishe community. After all, how can you warmly welcome in a mekurav who keeps nothing and, at the same time, show to the door someone who keeps everything but...?

As a result, there are people within Chabad who do it a disservice.

This is a praise and a problem for Chabad.

Crawling Axe said...

It’s a problem that Chabad does not reject some Jews? How is that a problem?

In my opinion, it’s a problem that Chabad doesn’t reach them to such a degree as to change them. It’s a problem that some people join Chabad (or grow up in Chabad) as a community — as opposed to what it was intended to be. But I don’t see what is the problem of not rejecting Jews. Would they be better of somewhere else?

Anonymous said...

Crawling Axe:
Sorry if it's a silly question, but could you elaborate on what you said, that Chabad was not intended to be a community?

Anonymous said...

Do you feel this vibe in Breslov?

DixieYid (جنوب يهودي) said...

Crawling Axe,

As for your point about Chabad Chassidus' organization, I was quoting R' Leshem because of your statements about Chabad Chassidus having it "all planned out" similar to the preferable General in your moshol. In terms of your point in response to what he said about "disorganized" parts of Chabad Chassidus, you have to see what he wrote in context. He was responding to a question that had an underlying assumption that Chabad Chassidus was more organized that other types of Chassidus. It wasn't a free-standing criticism in any way. It was a response to a statement to the contrary. He certainly isn't claiming that other types of Chassidus were necessarily more organized that Chabad Chassidus or that one or the other *shouldn't* be studied.

Anon 7:08:

If that question was directed at me (and others are certainly welcome to answer as well) I do feel this vibe by Breslov somewhat, although to a much lesser extent.

As a general illustration of my observation, before I got married, I spent several nice Shabboses by several Chabad homes in Crown Heights and a Shabbos in Williamsburg by a couple of Satmar homes and Satmar Batei Midrashim. One thing I noticed was that in the Chabad homes, almost all of the seforim on their shelves were published by Chabad publishers, although there was a majority of "mainstream" seforim like Shulchan Aruch, Chumash and Shas as well. While in the Satmar places, almost all of the seforim were the same as one would find in any other Jewish home, Chassidish or Litvish, with a few sets of sifrei Chassidus from the Satmar Rebbes. This contrast stood out to me as one of the first hints of this attitude that "We're all there is" Yiddishkeit-wise. Nu, I suppose they would say, as Crawling Axe did, "Emes is emes." What can you do?

Crawling Axe said...

Sorry if it's a silly question, but could you elaborate on what you said, that Chabad was not intended to be a community?

I'll give a story and a moshol to explain. There is a story of a chossid of Tzemach Tzedek. He was a chossid of the Maggid, then of Reb Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, then of Alter Rebbe, then of Mittler Rebbe -- and now of Tzemach Tzedek.

One time during yechidus, he asked TT to give him and his grandson a brocho, since he has seen a lot, can tell his grandson a lot, and his grandson should be influenced to be a chossid by following his zeide's example and by allowing his zeide's Yiddishkeit and Chassidishkeit "rub off" on him.

Tzemach Tzedek answered: "For five generations now Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid, my grandfather, my uncle and I have worked to make sure that Yiddishkeit is not just a culture, not just a derech, but a pnimiyustike, internalized conviction and the essence of one's life -- and you want your grandson to become a chossid automatically?!"

The moshol is that of inviting someone to a wedding vs. to a lecture. Who should be invited to a wedding? Family, relatives and friends. People who can share your simcha with you. People who have emotional connection to you. Otherwise, they have nothing to do on the wedding -- they can hardly experience the joy for you.

On the other hand, to a lecture, one can invite anyone, since in order to understand emes, one doesn't need to have any emotional or personal connection. I can go in front of complete strangers and explain my ideas. If 2+2=4, then it's so in front of strangers or in front of deepest friends.

So, of course, Lubavitch is a community. But Chabad is not. Chabad is a shitta in Yiddishkeit. Even more, Chabad is a revelation of a new dimension within Yiddishkeit (as explained in the aforementioned Inyana Shel Toras HaChasidus). Therefore, it is unfortunate that some people join Lubavitch community or grow up in Lubavitch community having no access to Chabad Chassidus or realization that the community revolves and is founded on Chabad Chassidus. And, unlike in some other communities, wearing a certain "uniform" and living in a certain place is not enough. Chabad is about internalized knowledge of Hashem.

Yes, Chabad Chassidus is certainly "an emes," (invoking the Elu v'eilu principal) although it is not the only systematic plan to reach Geula. Each Chassidus lays out its path to get there, each emphasizing a different nekuda. Chabad emphasizes "Chochma Bina and Daas." And others emphasize different "midos."

I think this is the argument of Alter Rebbe in Tanya, Mittler Rebbe in Sha'ar Hayichud, and other Rebbeim in numerous other works -- up to numerous sichos and ma'amorim of the current Lubavitcher Rebbe -- that Chabad Chassidus in relationship to Baal Shem Tov's teachings is like Mishna is in relationship to Oral Torah before it. Or like Mishnei Torah is in relationship to Talmud. (That's what I meant by comparison of Rambam to Alter Rebbe.)

Certain things in Yiddishkeit are transmitted through mesoira. When there is a feeling that mesoira will not be transmitted successfully -- or that there is a particular other reason -- an aspect of mesoira is written down. The first argument of Alter Rebbe is that the Torah of Baal Shem Tov needs to be "written down" and studied in a structured way involving as much lomdus as daf Gemara.

The second argument of Alter Rebbe is that yedias Hashem needs to be internalized. As a result, it needs to be written down, explained in a structured form, and meditated upon. If there is another system of thought that explains to a simple Jew about Hashem in such a way that the Jew can "know in front of whom he is standing", then perhaps that system should be an alternative.

For interesting discussion of the issue, see this shiur (starting from 13:50 or thereabouts).

When Chabad Chassidim look at their Chassidus as essential, it's not because they disrespect other groups. It's because according to teachings of their Rebbeim (and their own experience, as well as emotional and rational opinion), Chabad Chassidus is as essential to Yiddishkeit as Mishna. To a Lubavitcher, not to study about Hashem with Chochma, Bina and Da'as is like not to study Mishna at the times of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi and rely on the mesoira transmitted from one's rav (or, not to study Shulchan Aruch in later times and go back to Gemara in order to pasken a shaila).

I understand that other shittos in Chassidus and Yiddishkeit in general may disagree with this -- so, this is where the "eilu ve'eilu" in a more general sense comes in. Hopefully, we can agree to disagree with chessed and varmkeit. :)

Crawling Axe said...

One thing I noticed was that in the Chabad homes, almost all of the seforim on their shelves were published by Chabad publishers, although there was a majority of "mainstream" seforim like Shulchan Aruch, Chumash and Shas as well.

Well, that's easily explained. From the point of view of Chabad Chassidim, the essence of their Rebbeim and their relationship to their Chassidim is in their teachings.

Also, teachings of their Rebbe is the particular recipe necessary for their avoida in their specific generation. So -- again -- just like Rambam writes that the idea of his book is to learn Chumash and right after it Mishnei Torah, the idea in Chabad Chassidus is to learn general Yiddishkeit and next to it, the teachings of the Rebbe, who tells a Jew how to connect to Hashem and bring Mashiach.

Chaim B. said...

For an analysis of the motive and purpose of shlichus, see The Mystical Dimensions by J. Immanuel Shochet vol III, which contains an article, "Lamplighters: The Philosophy of Lubavitch Activism". The book is available online here: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/15623
(disclaimer: R' Shochet is a Lubavitcher chassid and is my wife's uncle.)
Note esp. footnote #67 which contrasts Chabad chassidus with Chagat (e.g. Polish/Hungarian chassidus) chassidus. The former places responsibility on the chassid to carry the message of Torah to others as a kiyum of ahavas yisrael; the latter focusses more on the Rebbe as the key to bringing about tikunim.

Anonymous said...

Let's now discuss the other "trade-off" that will most likely, soon become, a 'do-or-die' situation. This perspective of Chabad Chassidus being the highest and all-encompassing level of Torah has allowed them to slowly, but progressively, disregard the opinion of what the non-Chabad paths think about them. Since Gimmel Tammuz, the Rebbe's (z"tzal)passing, there has been a steady shift away from other mainstream Torah observant groups. The anthropology of religion teaches (at least, this is what I learned in University) that in order to preserve a founders memory, he/she must be deified or else they just become one of many dead greats. For my neighbor's children, who knows the Rebbe only from writings and pictures, the confusion is growing. I remember my meshichist neighbor's the eleven year old boy delivering a d'var Torah in my succah that began, "The Torah says you should sleep in a succah, but the Rebbe says you should not..." The yellow flags are their symbol and the Rebbe, whom I personally revere, but do not deem as infallible, has become a sort of mascot for their cause. I beleive, they are borrowing from non-Jewish evalengelical and fundamentalist terminology and techniques...definitely not "b'ofen hamiskabel"...long live king messiah billboards, etc. Does anyone see this happening too? And, is this trade off worth the incredible Kiruv that will continue in the future?

DixieYid (جنوب يهودي) said...

Crawling Axe,

To clarify my typo above, I meant to say that the Chabad homes generally had a "minority" of "regular" seforim like Shulchan Aruch/Shas/etc., not a "majority." That may have been aparant from the context, but I wanted to make sure.

Anon 11:14,

I didn't address that here but it is an unfortunate aspect of that disconnect from the rest of Klal Yisroel as well. Only time will tell whether the movement as a whole will end up staying part of klal yisroel or not. Breslov was able to stay on board after they lost their one and only Rebbe. My feeling is that Chabad is still connected enough that they will not veer off into becoming another religion eventually, but time will tell.

moses said...

I don't understand how anybody could compare Chabad to xanity or shabtai tzvi chas v'shalom (as the last 2 comments imply). Xanity and Shabtai Tzvi ended up the way they did because they were crum from the very begining, starting with their very leaders. Yoshkie Y'S was a murderer and a mevaze chachamim. Shabtai Tzvi Y'S was an adulterer and a homo. So of course any "movement" they start will end up crum.

Needless to say, everyone saw with their eyes what kind of tzaddikim all of Chabad rebbeim were, needless to say...

BTW, in the begining of the Chassidic movement there was even a bigger split between chassidim and "main stream yiddishkeit". And Hashem Yisborach saw to it that Chassidus stays on the path of Torah, because something started by tzaddikim yesoday olam as the founders of Chassidus were can only be good.

DixieYid (جنوب يهودي) said...


You're right that this is a huge chiluk. But your example about early Chassidus is not convincing. Even the Tzemach Tzedek credited the GR"A's fierce opposition to Chassidus and the Alter Rebbe as a major factor that kept Chassidus from veering off the path of "mainstream Yiddishkeit."

Crawling Axe said...

Where? I’ve heard this before and I have also heard this to be an invention of a certain book’s author.

Crawling Axe said...

Here are two posts from a thread discussing this hypothesis:

“I am not going to check now, but I believe the ‘vort’ attributed to the TT is based on what is brought in the book Mokor Boruch, on which there are many questions as to accuracy and reliability.

“The reason given for the AR writing his SA - is also extremely questionable, as a large section of it (or at least the beginning) was written in Mezeritch, as stated in the introduction to the AR's SA. VAKML.”

And —

“The spurious claim that study of Chasidus or the ways of Chasidus could or did ch''v lead people astray from observance of halocho was a classic misnagdic canard; all the Rebbeim fought with all their might to reject and disprove this. On the contrary, Chasidus came to strengthen halocho observance, as it had demonstrably done. As the Rebbe says in a sicha (don’t remember where), who are the ones always associated with hiddur Mitzva? Chasidim!

“The attribution of this nonsense to the Rebbeim is such sheer chutzpa it’s incredible. But if you keep repeating a Big Lie long enough, no one questions it anymore.

“Along these lines, in Hatomim the Frierdike Rebbe tells that one of the classic lies of the misnagdim in the time of the Mittele Rebbe was to quote the places in Tanya where the Alter Rebbe speaks about the importance of studying nigleh and to cool of the chayus in limmud hachasidus by saying, ‘see! even the Alter Rebbe says that the main thing is nigleh!‘”

Crawling Axe said...

The anthropology of religion teaches (at least, this is what I learned in University) that in order to preserve a founders memory, he/she must be deified or else they just become one of many dead greats. For my neighbor's children, who knows the Rebbe only from writings and pictures, the confusion is growing. I remember my meshichist neighbor's the eleven year old boy delivering a d'var Torah in my succah that began, "The Torah says you should sleep in a succah, but the Rebbe says you should not..." The yellow flags are their symbol and the Rebbe, whom I personally revere, but do not deem as infallible, has become a sort of mascot for their cause. I beleive, they are borrowing from non-Jewish evalengelical and fundamentalist terminology and techniques...definitely not "b'ofen hamiskabel"...long live king messiah billboards, etc. Does anyone see this happening too? And, is this trade off worth the incredible Kiruv that will continue in the future?

Incredible narishkeit.

The kid is just a kid. Undereducated. What he should have said is “Mainstream Halacha requires us to sleep in sukkah, giving leniency to the situations when it’s uncomfortable. Since Kabbolo and minhogim of our Rebbeim teach us about the incredible kedusha of Sukkah, incompatible with sleeping in such a place, we pursue the more lenient opinion in this case, as is usually the custom when there is a machloikes between Kabbolo and Halacha.”

But he is just a kid. So he said something he didn’t fully understand or something that was not explained to him properly.

If he said that — meaning, if the Anonymous author of the post did not, with all due respect, misunderstand.

Everything else written is simply narish.

I wonder, have the people who say such things ever studied Chabad Chassidus? Or are they relying on antropological studies? Stop reading shtus and pick up Bosi LeGani or something.

Anonymous said...

For Crawling Axe,

Since you were silent about the 'deification' part of the comment, does that mean you agree where some factions of Chabad are headed?

And why do you call something nourishkeit without an explanation. Perhaps, I am an uneducated tinok shenishba in need of answers.

Crawling Axe said...

I wasn’t silent. I called it narishkeit. Not the deification, but the assumption of deification. And I also explained the reason for the assumption: the author’s amaratztus. And even gave a recipe: go study Chassidus. Take a pick.

I don’t see any reason to respond to blood libels except to call them what they are. And I call the basis of hisnagdus — and based on your tone (about tinok shenishba and so on) that’s exactly what’s going on here (mind you, not the educated hisnagdus leshem shomayim, but for the purpose of stirring machloikes) — what it is.

If you wanted to have an intelligent discussion, it would start off differently.

Menashe said...

Mr. Anonymous,

Please please be careful with the accusations. There is so much sinas chinam throughout the world and motzei shaim ra, which is exactly what this is, which does nothing to help the situation.

In these days where moshiach's arrival is so close, it is our responsibility not to do anything to ch'v put it off.

You know of course the famous teaching that every generation in which the beis hamikdosh is not rebuilt...

Anonymous said...

Thank you Menashe...

Crawling Axe has certainly pegged me wrong. I am a baal tshuva who was 'mekarev'ed mostly through Chabad. But, moving from an outreach Chabad house environment into a full-fledged Frum community including a strong Chabad contingency, I was disillusioned over and over again by the Chabad portion. The fist fight in the Shul was the final straw that led me to daven elsewhere. Although it was acceptable to grow and question in a Chabad House, but don't dare do it in a community. Crawling Axe certainly reminds me of this same mentality of 'when questioned, begin to attack, accuse, and ofennd'. Of course the outright hatred of other Orthodox groups raised serious red flags. So, I wanted to find the source of contention. So, no, I am not a misnaged, but not a chabadnik either...just Jewish until proven otherwise.

For Crawling Axe, I address the following questions: I asked you about deification. I was not questioning Rebbes or Chabad doctrine (yet). I was only asking about a faction that undeniably exists (I used to faithfully deny their existence, too). You responded by attacking me. Do you deny the existence of 'boreinuniks' and 'Elokistim'? Do you have problems with any faction of Chabad? Does Chabad have any faults? What are they? Are people free to use their intellect to question things that appear odd to them?

Menashe said...

Reb Anonymous,

I can literally count the number of people that belong to the category you mentioned on one hand. And I would have fingers left over. "Even" the most extreme "Tzfatim" don't let them go anywhere near 770. One of them was pretty publicly physically forced out when he attempted to enter.

They represent Chabad about as much as Jews for J represents Yiddishkeit. No, I don't think that is an exaggeration. We daven to Hashem; I don't want to write the opposite.

I know you didn't address the question but if you'll indulge me, I'd like to answer. Yes, there are serious problems in Chabad. Tznius, for one. The alarming number of off the derech bochurim for another [although the latter is not specific to Chabad, r'l] Yes, I have serious problems with Tzfatim, for a number of reasons I won't get into now. But I don't think any of these things represents Chabad. Only the Rebbe and his teachings can accurately represent Chabad. From what you know of the Rebbe, do you think he would tolerate any of the above? I am confident that if you answer this question honestly it will be no.

People are free to question of course. But it must be done in a proper oifen [way]. Someone came over to me last week [not Reb Dixie Yid] and asked me about something to do with Lubavitch that bothered him. It bothered him because he considers us a part o the Torah world and it didn't seem in line with Torah. But the difference is he came up without an agenda and asked honestly. So I clarified the issue for him; I showed him what the Rebbe actually taught, in context, and how it is 100% in line with Torah.

I forget the Rav this story happened with and names in these stories are important but the story is worth telling anyway. One time some chilonim came to him with a list of "questions" about the authenticity of Torah. He said he couldn't answer. How could it be? He said "I can answer questions. I can't answer answers. You've made up your mind to live a certain way and now you want me to justify it. I'm afraid I can't help you."

If you come openly and honestly and ask in order to learn, then I think most will happily help to answer you to the extent they are able. But when you approach with thinly veiled accusations of kefira, your mind long ago made up based on lies and misinformation, then these questions cannot be answered.

Crawling Axe said...

Regarding boreiniks and eolistim — in what sense do people that break Halacha “belong” to Chabad. How are they a “faction” of Chabad? There was a comment already regarding certain people with low tznius standards joining Chabad community.

But you didn’t start off talking about them. You said this:

The yellow flags are their symbol and the Rebbe, whom I personally revere, but do not deem as infallible, has become a sort of mascot for their cause. I beleive, they are borrowing from non-Jewish evalengelical and fundamentalist terminology and techniques...definitely not "b'ofen hamiskabel"...long live king messiah billboards, etc. Does anyone see this happening too? And, is this trade off worth the incredible Kiruv that will continue in the future?

When somebody comes and asks me a polite question regarding Israel’s actions in Gaza, I give him my opinion, clarify certain historical inaccuracies he may have, provide with facts or a point of view on facts, etc. When somebody asks me, “How can you justify murderers and fascists who use the same techniques as Nazis?”, I don’t see any reason to justify myself to an antisemite. First, it’s futile. Second, it’s beneath me.

I am not comparing, obviously, I am just explaining why in certain cases it doesn’t matter what one’s explanations are. Since, however, you claim to have an open mind and so on, I recommend to you reading these posts to see the “other” point of view: 1, 2.

Crawling Axe said...

Oops, forgot to mention that the last post is addressed to Anonymous (it’s probably obvious, but just in case…). Also, “elokistim”…

A Wondering Jew said...

Two months ago, I was struck by a realization that momentarily paralyzed me. This thought might be a critical point in explaining why Chabad sees and will always see itself as different and superior (perhaps, rightfully, so. I am still withholding judgement.) Also, it might explain why, from very early on, other Chassidic masters (and the G”RA) took issue with Chabad. And, finally, why most other Chassidic sects were able to fully join mainstream Torah Judaism while Chabad has not.

In preface to this observation, allow me to briefly state part of my background. I have spent the last three years studying the collected writings of the Besh’t, his grandchildren (mostly the Degel), his students (Rav of Polonye, the Maggid, R’ Pinchas of Koretz), and the Maggid’s students (Noam Elimelech, Kedushas Levi, Meor Einayim, R’ Aharon of Karlin, Koznitzer Maggid, Apter Rav, Ohr HaMeir, and the Alter Rebbe). I have not seen this observation anywhere, so please correct it if you feel it is not accurate (but do so with proof texts).

OBSERVATION: In all of the seforim listed, I have not found even one mention of the formation of a new movement. Never have I seen any discussion of what “we believe…” New movements usually have names and defined mission statement, etc. (Even the term Chassidim comes later, I believe.)

The question I have for all of us is: Did the Besh’t intend to inject life into a cold, ritualistic Judaism OR did he intend to start a new movement?

It seems like Chabad would, emphatically, answer the latter. It appears that the Alter Rebbe (or Chabad Rebbeim afterwards) was mechadesh this new movement with a set of new concepts and/or ways to be differentiated. For example, a new Shulchan Aruch, a new nusach of tefilah, a new Rosh Hashanah, a new Torah Shebichtav, a new sukkah/eruv/mikvah, a new Tzaddik doctorine (The ‘infallible man’ as explained in the Tanya), a resurrected Messiah (post-gimmel tammuz)…the list continues.

This would help explain why there might be a sort of indifference or even contempt for other Chassidic groups and a feeling that other Non-Chassidic Torah paths are unnecessary.

Is it possible that the Besh’t and the Maggid were unaware of how their teaching would reach their apex in Chabad Chassidus?

I am stuck in a cognitive schism of EITHER Chabad is really really right OR really really wrong.

I sincerely hope that I have not offended anyone. I ask for a pre-emptive mechilah from y’all.

Dovid'l said...

Let me tell you what my wife's uncle, who is a son of a well known (non Chabad) talmid chacham, and a big talmid chacham on his own right, once told me:

Years ago we were at his Shabbos table. Now, his family is very special in that it's all over the spectrum of yiddishkeit - most of the boys are charedi and the chatanim (sons in law) are these "chabakuk" mitnachalim - you know, with long peyos and M16s. One of the sons in law is a Chabadnic. So, at the Shabbos table, this son in law starts singing "yechi adonenu, etc....", and my wife's uncle and his very charedi son join in. I kind of made a straight face, as it was back in my yeshivish days... So the uncle turns to me and says "you know, we're a meshichist family... Although not necessarily Chabad..."

I might add that the whole episode was half a joke, as you can't keep a straight face there for too long. My wife's uncle and his son in law are very close to R' Ginsburgh who says that the deepest sodot are in the jokes...

Anon1 said...

I'd like someone to comment on this:

A person (non-Chabad) once told me that Chabad regards its adherents as being on a higher level than other Jews, in the same sense that Jews in general are regarded as being on a higher level than non-Jews.

Is there anything to this assertion?

Crawling Axe said...

At this point my rabbi would say:

“Vos chakstu chainik? Vos zogstu narishkeit? Stop waisting your time and going back and forth with shtus. Go learn a ma’amor. A blatt Gemara. A perek in Shulchan Aruch. Listen to a shiur of Mussar. Go help a lady across a street. Whatever.”

Lubavitchers regards other Jews as Jews regard goyim? That’s why they go to G-d-forsaken places like Mubmai or Alabama?

Learn. Chassidus. All. Answers. Are. There.

You can start with this (either the first ma’amor or the second, 5711, one).

If you really had to know how Lubavitchers see other Jews, see this (I don’t know if it’s available online). You whole view of mitzvas ahavas yisroel, of other Jews and of Chabad will change.

Crawling Axe said...

You can also listen to it here if you understand Yiddish.

Anon1 said...

"Lubavitchers regards other Jews as Jews regard goyim? That’s why they go to G-d-forsaken places like Mubmai or Alabama?"

Reread exactly what I wrote. That is not inconsistent with wanting the other Jews to join Chabad.

Crawling Axe said...

I already gave you my answer. And it wasn’t about Alabama and Mumbai.

Crawling Axe said...

Actually, Amazon.com has a preview of the ma’amor, in which you can get an answer to your question in 10 minutes of reading.

Anonymous said...

I would partially agree with Anon1. Chabad seems to consistently serperate themselves from other Torah observant groups and then proceed to blame those groups for serperating them.

Anonymous said...

In regards to the Wondering Jews observation: it always gave me the Eebie Jeebies when I would be learning Tanya and the rabbi would explain that this is the Torah sheBichtav for Chassidim.

Chabad's commandeering of the term chassidut and chassidim seem to fit with your logic of seeing it as a seperate movement.

Menashe said...

It bothers you that we're different? You should know anti-semites feel the same way.

You think that we think lower of you? Pure ignorance.

If you're really interested, you will look into the sources mentioned earlier. But then, it was never your intent to find emes. You want a justification for your beliefs. Sorry friends, I can't give it to you.

Anonymous said...

how does lashon harah about communities fit into all these comments? I think it would be stretching it (to put it lightly) to say that it fits with the 7 halachos concerning lito'eles. Not defensive, just semi-purely wondering what the right thing is

Anonymous said...

I have spent much time with various volumes of Likutei Sichos, esp. aleph through dalet. I have also learned my share of Ma'amarim. And, I am, by now, used to Menashe's and Crawling Axe's classic cultist oulook of 'anyone who disagrees or critisizes Chabad must not be familiar'. Are you saying that it is not possible that a person could be familiar with Chabad Chassidus and still disagree? You disagreed with, yet ironically prooved, Reb Dixie Yid's post of Chabad's elitist attitude. I remember a few years ago, a messianic Chabad shaliach (this is what he called himself) told me why I could not understand the Rebbe being Moshiach is that I needed to go beyond my intellect. How un-Chabad!!

I believe it is you who begins with your conclusion of a faultness Rebbe and branch of Judaism.

Crawling Axe said...

First of all, who said I was disputing? The only thing anybody is disputing is looking down on someone. Thinking that other Jews are worse is out of question. Thinking that Chabad Chassidus has a unique element that other groups don’t is exactly what happens — all we did is explained it in an intelligent way.

But what you’re mistaken about is that this is conclusion of shluchim or individual Lubavitchers. It’s not. Infalibility of tzaddikim is conclusion (actually, definition) of Alter Rebbe — based on source in Yiddishkeit. Necessity of serving Hashem with emotion is conclusion of Baal Shem Tov. The idea that the only way a true emotion will be inspired is through contemplation on Hashem is the conclusion of Alter Rebbe. Absolute necessity to do this is a conclusion of Alter Rebbe. Uniqueness of Chabad Chassidus is conclusion of the 7th Rebbe, again spelled out. Ahavas Yisroel with mesirus nefesh is a conclusion of Alter Rebbe and all the other Rebbeim until the Rebbe.

You disagree with all of the above? You are disagreeing with Rebbeim Chabad. I’d like to hear logical arguments, but in the end — therefore what? Eilu ve’eilu. Disagree. How does your disagreement lead you to be shocked about Chabad?

Chabad does X, Y, Z. Is that bad? Where do you get this conclusion from — from the fact that it’s not normally done this way?

And finally, the shliach was wrong. And very un-Chabad. There is a way to absolutely logically explain the idea of the Rebbe being Mashiach.

First one would start with the global idea of geula and Mashiach. Then (when the question of Rambam arises), one would read this blog bottom-to-up (first post to last, without skipping posts) with open mind.

In the end, you may still disagree. But so what?

Crawling Axe said...

There is one thing I don’t get.

Saying “A is good for a-ers, and B is good for b-ers; to each his own” is OK.

Saying “A is good for a-ers, and B is wrong, even though b-ers practice it” is not OK.

So far so good.

But what exactly is the problem with saying, “A is good for a-ers, and B is good for b-ers — but A would be even better for them (according to a-ers)”?

Explain to me — what precisely is the problem?

Anonymous said...

You seem to have trouble answering questions directly. Again, are you saying that it is not possible that a person could be familiar with Chabad Chassidus and still disagree?

Crawling Axe said...

It’s possible for a person to be familiar with Chabad Chassidus and disagree. As with anything else.

I don’t know what “familiar” and “disagree” mean in this case, however. They can have quite a wide range.

That’s not what the discussion is about, however.

Anon1 said...

After such a high spiritual and intellectual standard was set by the Alter Rebbe and his successors, how could so many in the movement have fallen for gross misconceptions about Moshiach based on sophist-like misrepresentations of Chazal, Rambam and others? The last thing we would have expected!

Crawling Axe said...

You are right, it is ridiculous.

I mean, it would be, if it were true. In reality, it’s not. Not the “fallen” part but the “misconception” part.

DixieYid (جنوب يهودي) said...

Alright, I think the comment discussion has gone beyond the point of being productive so I'm disabling comments. Gut Shabbos!