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.
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.
Dixie Yid follows up:
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.
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!
(Picture of Chabad Shluchim meeting with the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Aron Teitelbaum courtesy of VIN)
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