Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lubavitch and the Moshiachisten

The case against Lubavitch is straightforward enough. There are sizable groups inside Lubavitch that believe the last and seventh rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson is Moshiach (the Messiah). The Rebbe, as they like to call him, died in 1995. At this point the believers, known in Yiddish as the Moshiachisten, split into a bunch of factions….He’s here but invisible, He is roaming the earth and there have been sightings, He’s coming back, He’s somehow connected to the Godhead… I have lost track of the variants. Somehow He died and the chassidim constantly visit the gravesite, BUT He is also alive and still here.

All these views have two fatal flaws…the idea that the Rebbe is Moshiach is cracked, bordering on psychosis, and also deeply heretical. It is not very different from parts of Christian theology. Lubavitch is retracing in a slightly different terminology much of the patristic history of the early church. The church fathers spent half a millennium and two dozen schisms trying to work through the metaphysics of a God who became man. Their collected writings on this topic are close to 500 volumes. It is unsettling almost unbelievable to see Lubavitch go down this same road.

There is also the problem that like the Shia and the neo-Sabbateans of the 18th century Lubavitchers have a tendency to dissimulate their true beliefs. I have had the experience of a Lubavitcher look me straight in the eye and deny he had anything to do with the Moshiachisten, only to discover years later that he is one of the most extreme believers. At this point I just don’t care what any particular Lubavitcher believes. I would conjecture that a consequence of Lubavitch concealing its true beliefs is that these beliefs eventually become permanently obscure. Many Lubavitchers may no longer be certain what they believe. They recite the yechi adonainu catechism and whatever else is required and they get on with their lives. If I were caught up in such a maelstrom I would do the same.

In reading the comments on Lubavitcher blogs I was struck by two things: the high spiritual level (madrega) of the participants, their faith (emunah), their deep knowledge of and interest in chasidus. These guys really care what happened in the chasidic world in the last 250 years, and not just in Lubavitch. They are obsessed with the Vilna Gaon and his decree of excommunication against chasidim. They rattle off deep chasidic ideas at ease. At the same time the pain the Moshiachisten schism is bringing on the entire community is palpable. In many cities they have already split into two with competing schools and shuls. It is so sad to watch such a wonderful community bring itself down. My limited experience with Lubavitcher people is that they are warm, friendly, good people. These are people who ARE the way one would want a chasidish person to BE, warm, serious, committed, intelligent, energetic. Watching a not insubstantial part of the Lubavitch community go off the deep end is painful, even to a total outsider like me.

The Orthodox community has not excommunicated the Lubavitchers, though there were certainly murmurings to that effect , the most notable being the remark of Reb Eliezer Shach , the famed head of Ponovizh Yeshivah. He said if he were younger, he was then in his nineties, he would take it upon himself to drive them out of the Orthodox world. What has happened is that the Orthodox has generally kept their criticism to a minimum, but has allowed Lubavitch to drift out to sea, cut off and isolated. Nothing good comes from the isolation of Lubavitch. There is a tearing of bonds to all other chasidic groups and to the general charedi community. Lubavitch ends up talking to less religious Jews or to the most alienated secular Jews. It is true they were always isolated, even in Russia, but never like this. All other chasidic groups intermarry, thus forming a rich tapestry of family ties across communities. Lubavitch at this point in time can only marry off their children to other Lubavitchers. I feel particularly sorry for the widowed and divorced Lubavitcher baal-teshvas. Charedi and Strict Orthodox Jews in general will not be meshadech (intermarry) with Lubavitch.

I think Lubavitchers delude themselves partially because they are taken in by their own propaganda. I’ve seen Lubavitch literature saying there are a million/two million strong. Well, if you have two million people that also think the Rebbe is Moshiach, it is not so lonely. This misperception is reinforced because wherever a Lubavitcher goes out, to a synagogue, his kid’s schools, a wedding, he only sees other Lubavitchers. I think it’s useful to actually guess the total number of Lubavitchers. In Crown Heights, the 2000 U.S. census says there are 21,600 people in Jewish households. Let’s count them all Lubavitch. People know how many missions Lubavitch has sent all over the world, though I don’t. Let’s say a thousand chabad houses with five Lubavitchers per house for a total of five thousand. Kfar Chabad in Israel, let’s be generous, 20,000 people and rounding off to the nearest ten thousand, there are a total of 50,000 Lubavitchers. Let’s say each Chabad house has 20 congregants who not only daven there but truly ARE Lubavitch. We get a total of 70,000.

How do they come up with a number like a million? I think it’s like this… a Lubavitcher mitzvah- tank sets up shop on some main street, manages to put tefelin on twenty five people a week, and informs 770, the headquarters of Lubavitch, he is attracting 1,400 people to Lubavitch per annum. If a Lubavitcher somewhere in Kratzmichstan rounds up twenty sefardi Jews to come to shul on Shabbus, all twenty count as Lubavitch. If they have a fundraiser, and a thousand people send in checks, a thousand more Lubavitch. If a hundred of these people show up in a Lubavitch shul, another hundred Lubavitch.

I remember when I was young, Lubavitch, in Crown Heights, was almost as large as Satmar. I don’t consider it a great success story if so many years later they have twenty-one thousand. I am guessing many of the baal-teshuvas they are so proud of having evangelized come in the front door and, after a few years, leave. There is no question Lubavitch does good work in many parts of the world, but they are nowhere nearly as influential as they try to project.

To Be Continued…


At 11:36 AM, Blogger LitaLives said...

What is the difference between Moshe Rabbienu & the Lubavitcher Rebbe?
We know Moshe Rabbeinu died but we don't know where he is buried.
Regarding the Rebbe, however, we know where he is buried but we don't know if he died.

Gmar Chatima Tova to all Chabadnikim & to of Klal Yisrael

At 1:43 PM, Blogger frum said...

can't we all just live in peace?

At 8:27 AM, Blogger evanstonjew said...

A kind man informed me by email that the Lubavitcher Rebbe died in 1994.My error.I have been told that I should never correct the ur-text of a blog that has already been published.

At 10:31 PM, Blogger Hirshel Tzig said...


Lita is dead, and was dead from the turn of the 20th century. It has been replaced by a bunch of Hungarians, you moron.

At 3:26 PM, Anonymous Craig Flint said...

Nice to see your concern fro Klal Yisrael.

I have bad news for you, the Meshichists are dying out in chabad (at least American ones), and the rest of Chabad is growing. On what will you base your crusade against chabad once the the Meshichists are gone?

At 7:47 PM, Anonymous mazeartist said...

Whiel the yellow-flaggers seem to control the main Chabad synagogue, it is a blessing that the vast majority of Cbad shlichim (emissaries) are not part of the heretical messianic movement. I personally support Chabad and thank them for all the good work they have done for our people.


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