Religion

Inter-Lubav Infighting Leaves 770 in Shambles

First they came for the Mashichists, but I wasn’t a Mashicist so I didn’t speak up…

About 20 minutes later, when 770 was empty of all “Meshichistim”, the villains grabbed the paroches of the Aron Kodesh and forcefully pulled off the “Crown” of the paroches with “Yechi”. In the morning the shamash of 770 brought a old “Crown” of the paroches, replacing the stolen one.
Following this Yisroel Shemtov brought police to the ATAH offices, which broke down the door and Y.S. ordered them to arrest the bochurim inside.
In addition to the damage to the Yechi signs and the paroches 770live was broken into and the computer and other equipment was stolen and put into a black car of the Shomrim.

Full story.

44 thoughts on “Inter-Lubav Infighting Leaves 770 in Shambles

  1. I know it’s beside the point, but these are supposed to be the best (or least poorly) educated people in the Hasidic world – and even they can’t speak or write articulately. David Kelsey is right.
    I so often hear, “We may disagree with their theology, but they’re the only ones out there doing kiruv on a large scale.” The hell with that – I’m sick of their attitude of moral and spiritual superiority.

  2. Cipher, the people who did this were not representative of Lubavitch. 770 has slowly been hijacked over the years by the “Tsfatim” Meshichisitm which are the most extreme insane wing of the “Meshichists” these guys have always been the most disturbed and the most violent. These are the guys who were trying to steal the cornerstone. These are the guys who tried to physically assault the security detail; posted to prevent these thugs from damaging the corner stone just because it didn’t say Melech Hamoshiach in the inscription.
    This is not the first time they have got violent. Thousands of Shluchim who had been there to Farbreng after a beautiful dinner in NJ were greeted with violence. These “Tsfatim” threw siddurim, chumashim, benches and other objects at the shluchim. One shliach had both his legs broken by these animals.
    Whats funny is that for years the haters complain that since we don’t fight back and create an inner civil war somehow the main stream Lubavitchers or the “anti’s” are condoning the meshichisitim’s behaviour. The truth is we have tried very hard not to turn this into “just another chassidic dynasty fighting” and handle this under the table in the legal court system and without making a worse deal of it publicly that it has already.
    I am glad this happened and I am proud of the Shluchim for standing up and defending the honor of the rebbe and the name of Lubavitch. It’s about time the REAL Lubavitchers stood up and took back control of 770 and the Lubavitch name.
    We need to rid Lubavitch of these insane apikoursim who would so easily become violent and behave like cult members pretending the rebbe is still with them physically.
    Finally, I am sick of people taking examples of those animals and pining that label to all of Lubavitch. You may think otherwise but most of Lubavitche do no act like that. Despite what Tzemach would have you believe.
    We are turning a corner and instead of supporting this rise against the Meshchisitim by over 2,000 Chabad Shluchim I hear nothing but “I told you so, they are all nuts” being branded about.

  3. “I’m sick of their attitude of moral and spiritual superiority.”
    Give me the choice of a full Day School staff, throw in an entire Federation UJA department, and I’ll still prefer to work with one Chabad rabbi and his wife. These people DO the things most of us whine about about in committee meetings and blogs.

  4. Chaim,
    I shouldn’t have posted that comment earlier; it didn’t contribute anything positive. I saw this posting first thing this morning, and I reacted.
    However, having said that, I can’t quite bring myself to apologize. Certainly, I don’t believe that the behavior described in this article is representative of Chabad Hasidism. However, I meant what I said; there is a condescension on the part of Chabad that I find insufferable: “Let’s go out and minister to the poor, ignorant frei Jews who don’t know any better.” Chabad has as its goal the conversion of all Jews to its belief system, in the furtherance of its apocalyptic ideology – the bringing of Moshiach. So you don’t manifest the contempt for us that the other Haredim do; there’s still an attitude of superiority – “We’re right, and you’re wrong”. Chabad doesn’t go out of its way to invalidate the non-Orthodox denominations, but, at the same time, it doesn’t recognize them as being valid expressions of Judaism. In a way, I prefer the contemptuous attitude of the other Haredim; they write us off, and they leave us alone.
    I have a personal axe to grind with Chabad, as well – they took my nephew, a brilliant, vulnerable kid looking for a sense of collective identity, and they brainwashed the hell out of him. They’ve told him (literally) that the sun revolves around the earth, that there are qualitative differences between the souls of Jews and those of gentiles – and he so desperately wants to belong that he believes them. And this didn’t happen in Brooklyn; it happened in the suburbs of Boston. Under their influence, he left his MO high school at the beginning of his senior year – Maimonides, Rav Soloveitchik’s school, which has always emphasized higher education – and has eschewed college in order to attend a Chabad yeshiva. He has a first-rate mind, and could ultimately have made a significant contribution to the world, but his intellect is going to waste. He’s allowed them to convince him that a college education is a waste of time, that the most important activity with which a Jewish man can occupy himself is the study of Torah. And please – I don’t want to hear from any Chabad or Haredi apologist reading this, “Who are you to decide how he can best make a contribution?” I say it again – Kelsey is right. Chabad is part of the Haredi world, and it’s a world that fosters poverty while encouraging intellectual stultification.
    (I asked my nephew at one point, “If no Jewish men went to medical school, and the medical profession became depleted as a result, to whom would your rabbis go when they require medical attention?” Naturally, he had no answer.)
    Another thing – the yeshiva he attends is the one in suburban Detroit, supposedly the most “anti-Meshichist” institution in your educational system – yet he won’t actually repudiate the idea that the Rebbe was Moshiach. Not long ago, he made a cryptic remark, to the effect of, “Every Lubavitcher both believes and doesn’t believe that the Rebbe was Moshiach.” I’m not convinced that Meshichism is a fringe belief within your movement; I think it’s pervasive and insidious. Chabad is an organization with a central controlling body – if your leaders disapprove of this belief, why do they allow it to flourish? Why do they not condemn it more vociferously?
    Again, I don’t think that this behavior is typical of Lubavitchers, but I’m not surprised that this happened; I’m surprised that it didn’t happen sooner. This is the inevitable result of religious fanaticism. Before you tout the superiority of your belief system and way of life to the rest of world Jewry – perhaps you ought to clean house.

  5. Cipher,
    What happened to your nephew is awful, just awful. How was he recruited from a Modern Orthodox day school?
    You said,
    “In a way, I prefer the contemptuous attitude of the other Haredim; they write us off, and they leave us alone.”
    If only it were true! Aish, a non-Chassidic Charedi organization, grows every year. They just opened yet another full-time branch, this one in Passaic, NJ. And they are now missionizing on college campuses, and hide their Charedism through their dress, and using language like “Are you ready to rock?”
    At least Chabad is open that they are Charedi (even if they assiduously submerge plenty of other stuff), but Aish is not open about their Charedism, and the Orthodox Union openly works with them. Because between the choice of Jewish fundamentalism and secularism for secular Jewry, they will choose fundamentalism. For secular Jews, not for their own kids. Somehow it never comes to having to make that choice for their own kids. Go figure.
    Do not expect the Charedim to change, to “clean house.” Do not expect the right-wing Modern Orthodox to stand up to them on our account, or keep them away from our kids.
    You know what I learned from this, Cipher? What my socialist great-grandparents always knew. You can only trust your own to solve communal problems.
    And the Charedim and the Modern Orthodox do not see secular Jewish youth as their own. They see them as other. As marks. Coins to be placed in their glatt-kosher piggy bank communally and for Olam Habah.
    This will only stop when the secular Jewish community understands what is going on, and that these groups are growing more powerful every year, and we declare that if the choice is to ever be between fundamentalism (including just the “optional” risk of fundamentalist) and secularism, then the choice is secularism. Period. Only a Modern Orthodox approach should be considered acceptable to us in terms of Orthodox Judaism for our kids, Charedism makes no sense for us. And if that isn’t possible (which it should and could be) then so be it. Get lost anyway.
    It is past time for the secular Jewish community to break all ties with those who seek or facilitate recruiting our youth to Charedism. Not just Chabad, Aish, Neve Yerushalayim, and Ohr Somayach, but also the Orthodox Union and NCSY, since they work with these peoples, and take guidance from their leaders, and justify these alliances because of the “spiritual war.”
    If they want a “spiritual war,” they should get one.

  6. I am slowly choosing to join Chabad. I am disenchanted with my secular Jewish shul and friends. I feel dread and emptiness when I go to my current place. When I go to Chabad, I feel uplifted, welcome and above all else like I am learning something.
    I don’t care if I am a feather in a Chabad Rabbi’s hat! I am sure he feels like he is doing a Mitzvah helping me learn. And in turn I feel good helping him perform that Mitzvah…of teaching them faithfully…
    I don’t know what all this article is about. I am not familiar with some of the Yiddish terms ( bochur…etc)
    Is there a split off group from Chabad causing all this trouble?
    so for those of you against Chabd, please warn me. What is so bad…what am I getting into? At some point will the kind Rabbi and wife no longer speak to me? Will I go through a conversion? HUH? I am Jewish as far back as I know. I have been mostly observant and Hebrew literate my whole life? So at what point am I considered “chabad” and then looked poorly upon like above?

  7. BT,
    all in all, you have nothing to worry about. myself, after being chabad for a full year (and counting) have seen what is going on. The meshichistn, are a group of lubavitch taht believes that the rebbe was and is alive and the moshiach. dont’ get too into them. it’s persuading at first, but you’ll their ploys. And if you all didn’t realise, this was an attack ON the meshichistn, not BY the meshichistn.

  8. chasid in chitown…
    Thanks so much. I am not worried about anything. I was being a bit sarcastic. The above poster talks like Chabad is a cult and out to brainwash me. I am too old for that anyway!
    I love everyone I have met at Chabad and they are so accepting of my learning curve.
    Honestly I had been to several MO things and felt very judged.But I guess evryone experiences different things with different people. I was trying to understand what happened at 770. I still don’t get it…I can’t IMAGINE ever desecrating anything at my shul regardless a disagreement in beliefs. Thanks for your reply

  9. BT- I grew up secular/Reform and had a very similar experience to the one you describe. I’ve been connected now with Chabad for a number of years and have attended a Chabad yeshiva full-time and part-time.
    No, the Chabad rabbi and his wife will never stop speaking to you. In fact, no matter what you do in life, they will be there for you through it all.
    I don’t know what you mean by “conversion.” For me, I’ve come to the point where I’m deciding whether I want to live a Torah-true life (and become what the secular world seems to perceive as the “dreaded charedi”) or whether I value certain things so much that I can’t give them up (swimming at “mixed” beaches, shaking hands with women, etc). The choice is clear to me, but it is difficult. And not everyone has to make that decision, either. As long as you grew in your knowledge of Judaism and Torah, that’s all that matters.
    The thing is, many secular Jews today value secular societal values more than traditional Torah values. Up above, cipher was incredulous that someone would believe “that there are qualitative differences between the souls of Jews and those of gentiles.” The thing is, for people who don’t necessarily believe in God or a soul, then to say such a thing is to be prejudice. But if you know that God exists and that spiritual worlds exist, then you can start to learn about them.
    As far as the topic of this article, I’m sure you know that there is a very vocal section of the Chabad population, mostly based in Israel, who believes that the last Chabad Rebbe is the Moshiach, and that he is still alive and well and will be coming at any moment to escort in the Messianic era. This vocal section has, over the last decade, clashed with the section who doesn’t believe that the Rebbe is Moshiach.
    In my experience, most campus Chabad shluchim do not believe that the Rebbe is Moshiach.
    Anyway, despite what certain people say (e.g. “He’s allowed them to convince him that a college education is a waste of time, that the most important activity with which a Jewish man can occupy himself is the study of Torah”), I plan on going to grad school, and becoming rich, and being ultra-orthodox. One of the main emphases of a Chabad yeshiva is that you’re not meant to sit in yeshiva your whole life, but to go out and change the world. Some people prefer not to continue their secular education, some do. It’s a personal decision, and probably has more to do with personal views and psychological issues than with Chabad itself.

  10. “I am disenchanted with my secular Jewish shul and friends”
    I don’t think you’re talking about the workmen’s circle, so i have to ask, what in the world is a “secular shul”?
    If they mention G-d, they’re by default not secular. ‘Assmilated’ might be what you’re looking for or ‘non-halachic’ or something, but ‘secular’ means something particular, not just anything that isn’t traditionally religious or anyone who is just lazy and doesn’t really give a damn.

  11. Actually, I beg to differ. Mentioning “God,” or the “godhead” or whatever doesn’t make a synagogue non-secular. Even having the most beautiful cantorial soloist in town doesn’t cut it. I would say that it’s a matter of belief and practice, not of who or what gets mentioned.

  12. A synagogue cannot be secular with the single possible exception of denominations that belong to the humanist stream of Judaism. If you don’t understand this, you are ignorant of what the word secular means.

  13. G-D Squad:
    You’re confusing Lubavitch Judaism with Orthodox Judaism. Most religious Jews out there don’t beleive in the Tanya. They beleive in the Rambam’s cosmology, or the Messilat Yesharim’s, or any one of a million other Rabbonim and Gedolim who had a point of view about the nature of the soul and the universe. You’ll notice the Torah never speaks to the issue at all.
    Unfortunately, it’s typical of Chabad “education” (& lots of kiruv) that they pretend the rest of the frum world thinks like they do, when there’s nothing farther from the truth. I once had a chabad rabbi tell me that I wasn’t supposed to shave at all — it took 2 hours with a mishneh torah, gemara, and shulchan aruch to convince him when all those sources say that shaving with things other than a straight-razor is muttar if someone wants to, that they’re not *kidding*!

  14. Hey David,
    What happened with my nephew was this – he was brought up by his single mother, an extremely unsophisticated woman who experimented with various religions, and settled, ultimately, on “Messianic Judaism” (don’t even get me started). At one point in his teens, he began to explore normative Judaism, and happened upon the local Chabad house. I’m not sure whether they influenced him to become frum, or if he had already decided, and they simply closed the deal. He enrolled in Maimonides, as it’s the only Orthodox day school in the Boston area, but he continued to daven at the Chabad house. He also made frequent forays to Brooklyn, where he fraternized with members of other Hasidic groups. None of them really approved of Maimonides, but they felt that it was acceptable as an “interim step”. This went on for about two years, during which time he considered himself, nominally, to be Modern Orthodox. Then, he spent the summer before last working at a Chabad summer camp in LA, while paying an extended visit to his grandmother, who lives out there. When he came back, I didn’t hear from him for a few weeks, and I knew that something was up. He then called me from Detroit, to tell me that he had enrolled at the yeshiva. He hadn’t wanted to tell me until he was safely ensconced there. I was absolutely furious.
    I think there were a lot of things going on. As I said, he was looking for a sense of collective identification, a community. We’re not a close family, and they offered him that kind of feeling. He would always come back from Brooklyn talking about the beauty and closeness of their family lives. I did try to point out that they have their share of domestic problems, but he simply refused to believe it. Now that he identifies as Lubavitch, he’s willing to admit, grudgingly, that such problems exist in other Orthodox groups (especially in MO, as their standards are so lax!) – but not in Chabad! Everyone in Chabad is happy, and no one ever leaves.
    Also, he has OCD, and I think the obsession with ritualized behavior in that world relieves the associated anxiety. Plus, I think it’s the male camaraderie, and the presence of older male role models and authority figures (his father is around, but is next to useless as a parent), the sense of being protected from modernity, and, probably, a host of other factors as well. It’s complicated.
    I had no idea that organizations like Aish had become so aggressive in their missionizing (the tactics you describe sound like those of J4J), but I suppose I’m not surprised. And I can certainly agree that it’s a “feather-in-the-cap, banking-for-Olam Haba” attitude. What really bothers me about this whole sorry business is that they’re grooming him to be a shliach, a position for which he is entirely unsuited. He doesn’t even like non-Orthodox Jews! However, they don’t seem to care about that. As far as I can tell, there’s no psychological profiling, no aptitude test. If you show up at the door and say, “I’m buying whatever you’re selling”, they say, “Come on in!” It’s a “one size fits all” mentality.
    I agree with you, also, about the rightward shift of Modern Orthodoxy and how it capitulates, constantly, to the Haredim. I’m really pissed off at the faculty and administration at Maimonides; I think they let him go far too easily. They allowed him to skip his entire senior year, and told him that if he made up just one English elective (which he did, subsequently, but only because the Lubavitchers told him that breaking an agreement with another frum yid was a violation of halakhah!), they’d give him a diploma. He really didn’t have to do much convincing. And, this isn’t the first time that this has happened; the year before, another boy left to enter a Chabad yeshiva! Twenty years ago, they would have locked them in a closet to prevent them from going! The Rav must be rolling in his grave.
    Some months ago, we had an exchange here following one of your posts on this topic. I said something like, “Let’s do something about it, bring down the evil empire, you’re in publishing, you must know people…”, to which you responded, “I’m just one guy, I don’t have the time”, etc. I was all set to make the suggestion again – then I read the comments following yours. Honestly, David, I despair of the future. If the comments of these young people represent the prevailing attitude – then we’re getting precisely what we deserve.

  15. Sholom,
    I read the entry on your blog. I agree; Lubavitch is a cult. The object of their devotion is a charismatic individual who is believed to have possessed supernatural abilities while alive, and who, they believe, is now endowed with the ability to transcend death. Frankly, I can’t see how it isn’t a cult.
    And, yeah – I agree that this whole business of seeing the Rebbe as the Messiah follows naturally from the Rebbe’s teachings, his constant emphasis on the imminence of the Messianic age, and the cult of personality he allowed to develop around him (whether intentionally or otherwise).
    My nephew once told me that he heard a fellow Chabadnik say, “With the Rebbe and God, all things are possible.” The Rebbe came first! (Even my nephew found that amusing.)
    G-D SQUAD said,
    … cipher was incredulous that someone would believe “that there are qualitative differences between the souls of Jews and those of gentiles.” The thing is, for people who don’t necessarily believe in God or a soul, then to say such a thing is to be prejudice. But if you know that God exists and that spiritual worlds exist, then you can start to learn about them.
    Oh, for God’s sake! I know I’m older than a lot of the people who post here, but I expect you kids to have at least
    some freaking common sense!
    #1 – For the record, I believe in the existence of a transcendent reality, and I’m not opposed to seeing it as an intelligence. In other words – I believe in God.
    #2 – It’s polarized? Either you accept what Chabad teaches – that Jews have immortality inherently, but gentiles dissipate at death – or you’re a secular humanist? These are the only two options? Grow up!
    Alan is correct – my nephew makes statements that he insists are representative of “real” Orthodoxy, yet are in reality reflective only of Chabad’s singular outlook. Don’t allow the Chabad rabbi to convince you that they alone can define what is “Torah-true” (a foolish term that was devised by the Haredim to further reinforce the barriers between “us” and “them”).
    In my experience, most campus Chabad shluchim do not believe that the Rebbe is Moshiach.
    As I mentioned earlier, I no longer think that this is the belief of a small minority within Chabad. I think that nearly all Lubavitchers “believe” this – in the sense that it becomes part of their consciousness, especially if they grew up in that environment – to one extent or another. Otherwise, why has it been tolerated for so many years by those who claim to be “anti-Meshichists”?
    Also, BT said that when he attended Modern Orthodox functions, he felt “judged”. I believe him – and I find it very disturbing. Frankly, I’ve felt that way whenever I’ve attended any Orthodox services – including Chabad’s.

  16. Sorry – screwed up the HTML formatting!
    Sholom,
    I read the entry on your blog. I agree; Lubavitch is a cult. The object of their devotion is a charismatic individual who is believed to have possessed supernatural abilities while alive, and who, they believe, is now endowed with the ability to transcend death. Frankly, I can’t see how it isn’t a cult.
    And, yeah – I agree that this whole business of seeing the Rebbe as the Messiah follows naturally from the Rebbe’s teachings, his constant emphasis on the imminence of the Messianic age, and the cult of personality he allowed to develop around him (whether intentionally or not).
    My nephew once told me that he heard a fellow Chabadnik say, “With the Rebbe and God, all things are possible.” The Rebbe came first! (Even my nephew found that amusing.)
    G-D SQUAD said,
    … cipher was incredulous that someone would believe “that there are qualitative differences between the souls of Jews and those of gentiles.” The thing is, for people who don’t necessarily believe in God or a soul, then to say such a thing is to be prejudice. But if you know that God exists and that spiritual worlds exist, then you can start to learn about them.
    Oh, for God’s sake! I know I’m older than a lot of the people who post here, but I expect you kids to have some at least some freaking common sense!
    1. For the record, I believe in the existence of a transcendent reality, and I’m not opposed to seeing it as an intelligence. In other words – I believe in God.
    2. It’s polarized? Either you accept what Chabad teaches – that Jews have immortality inherently, but gentiles dissipate at death – or you’re a secular humanist? These are the only two options? Grow up!
    Alan is correct – my nephew makes statements that he insists are representative of “real” Orthodoxy, yet are in reality reflective only of Chabad’s singular outlook. Don’t allow the Chabad rabbi to convince you that they alone can define what is “Torah-true” (a foolish term that was devised by the Haredim to further reinforce the barriers between “us” and “them”).
    In my experience, most campus Chabad shluchim do not believe that the Rebbe is Moshiach.
    As I mentioned earlier, I no longer think that this is the belief of a small minority within Chabad. I think that nearly all Lubavitchers “believe” this – in the sense that it becomes part of their consciousness, especially if they grew up in that environment – to one extent or another. Otherwise, why has it been tolerated for so many years by those who claim to be “anti-Meshichists”?
    Also, BT said that when he attended Modern Orthodox functions, he felt “judged”. I believe him – and I find it very disturbing. Frankly, I’ve felt that way whenever I’ve attended any Orthodox services – including Chabad.

  17. btw cipher,
    chabad dis not invent the theory that the sun revovles around the earth, maimonidies did. The difference is, chabad does not pick and chose what to believe what to follow. Futhermore, chabad also di not invent the idea that a jew’s sould is different from that of a gentile. this idea has been presant for generations. chabad has only chosen to stress this point in a time when jewish pride was very low.
    thereofre, while i agree thatthis fiight was wrong and gives chabad a black eye, do not rant and rave against a method of service of god you clearly have misunderstood.

  18. alan, off topic: there are opinions that say that shaving is prohibited from the halachic injunction of “lo tilbash gever simlat isha” a man shall not wear the clothing of a woman.
    this applies not only to clothing but also to the other things that women do.
    whatever way you cut it, shaving is not prohibited to all opinions and one should do according to the opinion he subscribes to.
    back on topic, i’d just like to quote a verse in the Torah: “va’yaaminu ba’Hashem u’ve’Moshe avdoh”.
    the belief in moses is just as much as in G-D.
    so when they beleive in the Rebbe, why should that be cultlike?
    from what i know this is a basic precept of the torah and of our belief system in general, i.e. belief in the tzaddikim.

  19. What does ‘belief in tzaddikim’ mean, theologically? I mean, I know that the haredim are all about that, but until this moment I thought it meant they recounted stories of these people because they wanted to hold up models of rightious behavior. But ‘believe’ in them? Sounds like Catholics and saints to me….

  20. to j.g.:
    didnt you understand the transalation of the words? “and they beleived in G-D and in his servant moses”. i think that the words are pretty clear.
    now, so there shouldnt be a misunderstanding, i must preface that belief here means more like trust only more so. this concept is virtually non-exsitent today and hence looked upon as cultlike. but this type of belief in a tzaddik is true to the ways of the Torah and very important especially in darker times when the masses need his guidence.
    thats what the verse means by “they believed in Moses” i.e. they placed their full trust in him knowing that he is the prophet of G-D and their spiritual guide and leader.
    on the contrary, the belief of these chassidim in the Rebbe should be envied, for in this day and age, this is a long lost tradition by most jews,i.e. to follow and trust in a single spiritual leader, the “itpashtuta d’Moshe shebechol dara” -the extension of Moses in every generation.
    AND, it most definitly should NOT be called “cultlike”.
    i hoped i’ve slightly enlightened you in my attempt at explanation . sorry my english sucks.

  21. *sigh* Well, I hope I’m not talking to the wall.
    Alan:
    you said,
    Most religious Jews out there don’t beleive in the Tanya. The Tanya didn’t rise up in a vacuum, it is based completely on works and traditions from before the time of the Ba’al Shemtov, and is completely rooted in Torah. Many non-Chabad Orthodox Jews do learn Tanya, and whether they do or not, doesn’t make the spiritual reality of the world any different. One who does not learn Tanya does learn a majority of the works that it is based on, e.g. TaNa”Ch, Talmud, Zohar, etc.
    You’ll notice the Torah never speaks to the issue at all.
    No, I didn’t notice that. In fact, the thing that I noticed after studying Tanya, is that the Torah does speak to the issue. But suppose, hypothetically, that I based my Jewish beliefs strictly on the simple meaning of the words in the five books of the Torah… so out the window goes Hanuka, Purim… all of a sudden I don’t know exactly what totafos are, or exactly what a mezuzah is supposed to be. And yet, hopefully you would agree, that all of these concepts are completely rooted in Torah and are there to be seen by the trained eye.
    I once had a chabad rabbi tell me that I wasn’t supposed to shave
    Maybe it was during the counting of the Omer or something? I find this situation difficult to believe. But, if it did occur, it was certainly a freak incident, since, as I related before, over the last three years I have been involved with a Chabad yeshiva, and no one ever told me I had to grow a beard.
    Cipher:
    you said,
    I was absolutely furious. […] He doesn’t even like non-Orthodox Jews!
    Well if his other family members are as non-supportive of his personal choices as you, it’s no surprise! But, you should know that Chabad, even behind closed doors when no non-Orthodox Jews are around, really do preach love of your fellow Jew, no matter what. Not every individual lives up to this ideal, because sometimes they have to deal with haters like you. And it is hard to love someone that hates you for what you believe.
    Lubavitch is a cult.
    Oh, my! Thank you for informing me. Now I realize that they totally brainwashed me to believe in this crazy cult that my entire family believed in three generations ago, until their children came to America and they were brainwashed by another cult, the cult of the Maskiliim. Dude, if Chabad is a cult, then any religion, and in fact any philosophy, is a cult.
    1. For the record, I believe in the existence of a transcendent reality, and I’m not opposed to seeing it as an intelligence. In other words – I believe in God.
    I would hate to say something too cliche here (like “Oh, for God’s sake! I know I’m older than a lot of the people who post here, but I expect you kids to have at least some freaking common sense!”) because that would too immature. Common sense… common sense… I do hate to use that term, because there really is not such a thing as common sense. But ok, I’ll pretend that there is, and I’ll use it. My common sense would tell me that if you do indeed believe in God as you claim, then you would be interested in learning about God and the spiritual reality.
    When you want to learn something about phsyical reality, do you buy a particle accelerator and start testing things out? Do you access the Hubble Telescope to see deep space? No. You rely on others who have plumbed the depths of physical reality to tell you, in a most abridged form, what they themselves have discovered. And you accept it as fact. Why is it so difficult for you to understand that if a spritual reality exists, then it only exists one way, and the best way to learn about it is from those who have plumbed its depths? Please refrain from the sarcasm; it’s unnecessary. This is the fabric of reality we’re talking about, and if you actually believe, I suggest you take yourself more seriously.
    2. It’s polarized? Either you accept what Chabad teaches – that Jews have immortality inherently, but gentiles dissipate at death – or you’re a secular humanist? These are the only two options? Grow up!
    Obviously you have never studied the Tanya. Please do not presume to have an opinion about a topic about which you are not informed.
    Frankly, I’ve felt that way whenever I’ve attended any Orthodox services – including Chabad’s.
    Well, boo-hoo. I felt that way in many Reform synagogues. I felt that way in Orthodox synagogues. I felt that way in Conservative synagogues. Nevertheless, back when my ears were gauged and my hair dyed half black and half white and I dressed rather freakish, I felt welcome and at home at a Chabad shul. And when, a couple years later, I went back to my old Reform synagogue looking more like a frum yid, I literally got dirty looks. From the cantor. During the service.

  22. It’s interesting to note how threatened Cipher feels by Chabad and Orthodox Judaism. Makes me think that we’re doing something right!
    Cipher, what makes you define yourself as Jewish if you don’t believe that you have a {Jewish} soul? Is it just a cultural thing?

  23. cipher…
    I would just be happy that your nephew DID find something. If you don’t like it, or against it…whatever…just support him. When everyone turns their back on him in your family, you will still be there.
    As a teacher of older teens at a reform shul, most of my students are from “interfaith” families. They have nothing in the faith world..just watered down Judaism. I am there to change that.
    My only domestic situation I have seen in Chabad is that many of the women are very sub-serviant to the men. But inturn, the men treat the women with great love and respect and care.

  24. Well, obviously, I antagonized a number of you. I can’t address everything, and G-D SQUAD – you misunderstood nearly everything I said. I can barely begin to respond in a limited venue like this, but you said two things from which I can’t walk away:
    My common sense would tell me that if you do indeed believe in God as you claim, then you would be interested in learning about God and the spiritual reality.
    if a spiritual reality exists, then it only exists one way, and the best way to learn about it is from those who have plumbed its depths?
    I am interested; it’s been my chief interest, actually, for over thirty years. I’ve come to different conclusions than you have.
    As to whether ultimate reality exists “only one way” – well, that’s a loaded statement, and we can’t get into it here, but I’ll say this – I’ve met many different teachers, from different religions, and I’ve seen nothing to convince me that the most conservative elements within Judaism have the most (let alone only) accurate map of reality.
    Mordy,
    Maimonides didn’t invent the idea of a geocentric universe. It was the Ptolemaic model, the model endorsed by most intellectuals during the Rambam’s time. The way it’s been explained to me is this – Maimonides wrote an essay or position paper in which he supported the Ptolemaic model, and criticized the emerging Copernican (heliocentric) model. No one bothered to write a dissenting opinion, so, as no scholar of the present is authorized to do so, we’re required to believe that the sun revolves around the earth.
    Chabad’s take on it (again, as it’s been explained to me) – Some years ago, the Rebbe wrote a letter to a secular Jew in which he asserted that, since Einstein, we know that there is no such thing as absolute position, so it’s as valid to say that the sun revolves around the earth as it is to say the earth revolves around the sun. My nephew also told me that a Lubavitch guy got a PhD in astronomy, and has (supposedly) provided them with the requisite physics. He also told me that the Rambam was a greater genius than any scientist, past or present, including Copernicus, Newton and Einstein – that settled the matter!
    My response to this (and it’s hardly original) is that the Rambam may very well have been a philosophical genius, but he was still constrained by the limits of the science of his time. He was a human being, he was capable of being wrong, and he was wrong about this.
    Also – my understanding has been that, although the concept of a difference between Jewish and gentile souls might not have originated with the Alter Rebbe, he emphasized it in the Tanya, and it has been a staple Chabad teaching ever since. The other Chasidim may believe it as well, but we don’t receive exposure to it, as they aren’t actively engaged in kiruv in the way that Chabad is.
    Nemo said:
    Cipher, what makes you define yourself as Jewish if you don’t believe that you have a {Jewish} soul? Is it just a cultural thing?
    Defining oneself Jewishly today is a complex matter. It can be ethnic, religious, cultural, etc. Do I have a soul? What do we mean by that? I hang out with some Buddhists, and they don’t believe in the concept of “soul”, they define it as a continuum of consciousness, not a static entity that puts on a body like a suit of clothing. It’s a complicated idea.
    I think that there is, probably, continuity of consciousness after death – there’s a growing body of evidence that would seem to point in that direction – but the idea that there is a qualitative difference between the soul of a Jew and that of another, non-Jewish human being – that’s offensive. The fact that a number of the people posting here accept it as a given, as being so axiomatic that the fact that I don’t believe it is indicative of my ignorance – this just fills me with despair, it really does.

  25. Chabad’s Rambam fixation is a constant enigma to me. Rambam would have burned Chabad at the stake for their heresies – Tzaddik worship, late davening, kabballah, etc. etc – had he just been alive enough to find a stake. And yet they insist that he is their authority. funny.
    Also: the Tanya is not – never has been, never will be – part of the Oral Torah. It is not binding, non authoritative, has no halakhic weight – and actually never tried to be. it is just another book. there are many, many such books. Had Chabad not been obsessive-compulsive about printing it everywhere in an almost illegible format, to bring their “messiah”, we probably wouldn’t even know it existed.
    Most learned Jews have never read the Tanya from cover to cover. its that unimportant.

  26. Amit – yeah, the “Rambam fixation” is a curious phenomenon. In a similar vein, I once mentioned to my nephew that his views were regarded as heretical by many of the authorities of his time, so why are we required to accept as binding everything he said, as though it were divinely revealed? He replied with something like – “They didn’t disagree about the really important stuff”, similar to the reaction of conservative Christians when confronted with the contradictions in the Gospels.

  27. Cipher,
    There is little question–even among most Left-Wing Chaderim–that if Rambam lived after Galileo, he would not have endorsed a literal geocentric world view.

  28. >
    Maybe not in your lineage. But then again, the vilna gaon has no halachic weight in mine, so… twelve tribes twelve nusachs I guess.
    >
    The Baal Hatanya actually did write his own Shulchan Aruch, which does purport to be exactly that, with it’s own times for davening and everything. The mikvas in Jerusalem list his times next to the GRA’s, as if that were a valid tradition to hold by or something.
    >
    Yeah, but that’s true about the Shulcan Aruch too. And the chumash for that matter.
    >
    Most learned jews have never learned tanach from cover to cover. It says more about the particular educational priorities of Jewish schooling than it does about the relative irrelevance of Tanya.
    I’m not a huge Tanya fan mself, it’s not R’ Shneur Zalman’s best, most interesting or deep work, that would be Torat Ohr. It was just an attempt to explain Chassidis to the poor lost snag sheep of Lithuania, who can’t hear truth except through didactic proof texts.

  29. erase that last piece.
    “Also: the Tanya is not – never has been, never will be – part of the Oral Torah.”
    Yeah, maybe not in your tradition, but then the vilna gaon has no halchic weight in mine, so, you know, whatever.
    “It is not binding, non authoritative, has no halakhic weight – and actually never tried to be. ”
    Well, the Alter Rebbe did actually write a Shulchan Aruch of his own, with it’s own zmaninm for prayer, and every mikva I’ve ever been to, in Jerusalem and Babylon, mentioned his times next to the GRA’s for sof zman krias shma and shacharis.
    So… apparently his random book is as “official” as the other religious madman in Lithuania’s.
    >
    Which, sure, is true, but it’s also true about Yoseph Caro’s writing, Yehuda Hanasi’s, and the chumash.
    >
    Most Jews have never read tanach from cover to cover. That says more for the relative priorities of those who train “learned” Jews.
    I’m not a huge Tanya fan mself, it’s not R’ Shneur Zalman’s best, most interesting or deep work, that would be Torat Ohr. It was just an attempt to explain Chassidis to the poor lost snag sheep of Lithuania, who can’t hear truth except through didactic proof texts.

  30. David, I’m sure you’re right, but do any of the Charedim really accept this? I was given to understand that Lubavitch is as Left Wing as the Charedim get – so left, in fact, that many of the other Charedim look upon them as apikorsim (I was told that Rav Schach, when asked which non-Jewish religion is the closest to Judaism, replied “Lubavitch”) – but they accept the geocentric idea as binding (and, as I said, they attempt to back it up with a biased interpretation of relativity). BTW, when I first confronted my nephew about this after encountering the claim on a Chabad message board, he admitted that they really do believe this, but he told me not to spread it around, as it makes them appear foolish in the eyes of the frei Jews whom they’re trying to attract (we can’t handle the truth!).
    Yoseph Leib – If that’s the case, how did it become the most revered work in their literature? I’ve been told that many of them keep a copy in each room, as though it has an inherent power, in the way that people from the Kabbalah Center get their adherents to keep a copy of the Zohar in every room, even though they can’t read it.

  31. And, by the way – Nemo, if you’re still paying attention, you said,
    It’s interesting to note how threatened Cipher feels by Chabad and Orthodox Judaism. Makes me think that we’re doing something right!
    Firstly, that’s a stupid, hateful thing to say, especially if you’re a Lubavitcher (ahavas yisroel, and all that).
    Secondly, I don’t feel threatened by either Orthodoxy or Chabad. As far as Orthodoxy is concerned, I don’t have much of a problem with it in its MO form – I was the only person in our family who thought that allowing my nephew to attend the MO day school was a good idea.
    And I don’t feel threatened by Chabad, but I do have serious issues with it, some of which I’ve described.
    In equating Chabad with Orthodoxy, you validate Alan’s statement, “Unfortunately, it’s typical of Chabad ‘education’ (& lots of kiruv) that they pretend the rest of the frum world thinks like they do, when there’s nothing farther from the truth.”

  32. Cipher, you said,
    “I was given to understand that Lubavitch is as Left Wing as the Charedim get – so left, in fact, that many of the other Charedim look upon them as apikorsim ”
    It isn’t because they are “left-wing,” Cipher. It is for other things. Lots of other things. Not because they are “left-wing.”

  33. “how did it become the most revered work in their cannon?”
    because most old Chabad families joined in from Litvish communities, and were very impressed by the lucidity and relative simplicity and piercing consistency of the system it gives over.
    It lets it’s people be piously mediocre, taking the pressure off the rigors of religious service, while giving profound meaning to the service that they were doing anyway.
    I wouldn’t consider Tanya the most revered work in the cannon, talk to chabadnik scholars, and see what their favorite sepharim are. Being sacramentalized into a mezzuzah type segulah-thing testifies to it’s accesiblity, not it’s nuance or awesomeness.

  34. Cipher-
    Don’t pull that Ahavas Yisroel trick on me. You sound like the Israeli who just told me to get off the computer for him and when I told him that I was using it, he replies, “What, you’re not a Chassid?”
    Because I believe in Ahavas Yisroel, doesn’t mean that I won’t attack- even violently if should choose- your point of view {see below from Rabbi Soloveitchik}. You’ll have to forgive me if I’m not so open to you’re ideas and for not acting like your contrived version of what a Chabadnik is supposed to be.
    The reason that you have no problem with {left-wing?} Modern Orthodoxy is because you feel that it’s unobtrusive in your life. You would think anything wrong with it’s tainted version of Judaism, after all, it’s just a lifestyle with a few extra strictures. In your mind, Orthodox Jewry requires {as an end goal} to only keep Shabbos, Kosher and put on Teffilin a few times per week. Shomer Negiah and other such D’oraisas, have become completely irrelevant because it doesn’t quite fall into the modern agenda. Without any Halacha reasoning, I franky don’t buy this as being a religion. I’d rather scratch the whole thing and truly enjoy life.
    If Judaism is a religion, certain things are pretty compulsive. Submission to the Torah and it’s ordinances are quite paramount. Admitting to its beliefs, incredulous as they may be, is basic. If you lack these fundamentals, you’re really not keeping the religion, rather you’re simply celebrating a culture. In reality, it is either all or nothing.
    Now, when it comes to particular aspects of Judaism, you constantly, nay consistently, err in differentiating what is Chabad belief and what is a standard Jewish belief. You see, if you belief that regular Jewish belief isn’t defined by the Torah, e.g. that modernity “acclimatizes” Torah beliefs, then there really isn’t much that we can discuss. That happens to not be the Torah’s way as is clearly evidenced by 3,000 years of history. Although it might have been affected and focuses of it shifted, it remains constant.;it is not subject to change.
    With that said, if there is/was a part of Torah that has been adapted to suit a certain period of time or something which is disagreeable or not in consonance with modernity, it must be scrutinized and analyzed to understand why and if changes are made. For example, the majority of the 613 Mitzvos aren’t applicable today because we don’t have a Beis Hamikdosh or Semicha. Additionally, Halacha practices aren’t standardized because there is no central determining authority {Sanhedrin} which has been sanctioned by the Torah. Every change must have a reasoning, it cannot be simply for convenience sake. That’s not Frum, that’s called Conservative Judaism.
    When dealing with the issue of the Sun, there are certainly different approaches within the authentic Orthodox world. There are some who take the logical approach and explain away the Rambam’s views to conform with our modern understanding. There are also many other who, like Chabad, take Rambam’s words quite literally. Both are non-essential to Jewish belief and therefore I wouldn’t fault someone who, in this instance, doesn’t agree. IMHO, it’s a futile argument considering that no one will ever prove which is correct {point of relativity, etc.}. For that reason, I don’t see why anyone has to promulgate the issue beyond educating our own.
    As far as Jewish souls- how do you rationalize the difference {there must be one, right} between a Jew and a non-Jew and why the Jew is obligated in Mitzvos? Or do you not believe that Jews are obligated in Mitzvos to begin with? If so, then what is a Jew and {sorry for the personal attack now} why do you define yourself as Jewish?

  35. My favorite part was “MO only wants you to keep shabbos, and kashrut, and to put on tefillin”. and what do MO people *not* do? you had to dig up the ever-dubious “Shomer Negiah”. Seem to think that Shabbos AND Kashrut AND tefillin is pretty big. don’t berate an entire movement for actually trying to do something worthy. at least they’re trying.
    (Chabad – on the other hand – is not even a half-assed attempt at something worthy. It is a form of christianity)

  36. Nemo,
    I don’t regard “why do you define yourself as Jewish” as a personal attack – it’s just a question, and not an unreasonable one. I regarded “We must be doing something right!” not as an attack, but as a spiteful thing to say – that’s why I brought up ahavas yisroel. Even if Chabad’s belief system is legitimate and its methods appropriate, you aren’t supposed to be gloating over the anxiety or discomfort of a fellow Jew, even if he is wrong, and especially if you are causing it.
    And my “contrived version of what a Chabadnik is supposed to be” is derived from Chabad sources!
    Why do I define myself as Jewish? I guess I didn’t really answer the question earlier, other than to say that it’s complicated. I suppose I’d say that it’s “cultural” – that it has to do with group identification, that I was brought up to consider myself a Jew, that I received a Jewish education (although you’d probably say that it wasn’t much of one, and I’d probably agree with you, but probably not for the same reasons!), that I have Jewish ancestry, and that the Jewish people and society both define me as a Jew. It has absolutely nothing to do with a fundamental difference between Jews and gentiles, especially on the “soul” level (whatever that means) – however, I might not find that idea so offensive if you guys weren’t so hell-bent on denying them immortality. My understanding is that you regard them as little more than cogs in a machine, and their faith traditions – their “paths to God” – are entirely irrelevant.
    My nephew told me (and I realize that he isn’t the final authority on everything Chabad, but he’s getting it from someone, and you’re the only people to whom he listens) that when Jew talks about God, even just a little, he gets a “reward” (and I hate that terminology – it makes God out to be some sort of cosmic banker), but that when a gentile talks about God, he gets no reward, because he isn’t supposed to be doing that – he’s supposed to be keeping order in the world. That’s his sole purpose. The next time I see the Dalai Lama, I’ll tell him his sole purpose is to keep order in the world.
    As far as your comments about the legitimacy of Modern Orthodoxy are concerned – I disagree with everything you’re saying, but I’m sure you realize that already. But don’t tell me, “The reason that you have no problem with {left-wing?} Modern Orthodoxy is because you feel that it’s unobtrusive in your life.” That’s not the reason, and don’t second-guess me.
    You also said, “If you lack these fundamentals, you’re really not keeping the religion, rather you’re simply celebrating a culture. In reality, it is either all or nothing.”
    My nephew has told me, repeatedly – and I’m quite sure that I’ve heard this from other Chabad sources as well – that it isn’t “all or nothing”. You do what you can, and you grow in practice and faith.
    One more thing – you said “Without any Halacha reasoning, I frankly don’t buy this as being a religion. I’d rather scratch the whole thing and truly enjoy life.”
    I think that statement alone speaks volumes.

  37. 1. I’m not against Modern Orthodoxy per se, I’m against “liberal orthodoxy,” which is itself a paradox in terminology.
    2. When I said “all or nothing” I was speaking as a thinking person, not as a Chabadnik trying to get you to do a Mitzva.
    3. Re: Non Jews: They certainly have a place in the world and receive their due reward for living a committed life with the 7 laws of Noach.

  38. And, I wasn’t gloating over your discomfort, I was pointing out the fact that you sounded threatened by Lubavitch, similar to the way a small business owner might be frightful when Wal-Mart opens up nearby. The fear may be because the proven success of Wal-Marts worldwide shows that people are very accepting of the supercenter and that the product is good enough to make them leave their hometown shops.

  39. Well, again – I don’t feel threatened. I disagree with Chabad’s methods and the tenets of its belief system. I dislike the condescension and attitude of moral and spiritual superiority wielded by the Chareidi world, and I see Chabad’s attitude as being not much different – merely a softer, gentler version of it. And, as I said, I have a personal issue – I’m angry about my nephew’s situation. He’s been encouraged not to pursue higher education, and, instead, to become a shliach – a position for which I am convinced he is completely unsuited, temperamentally (forget about my personal preference for the moment). There’s simply been no consideration of that.
    “Re: Non Jews: They certainly have a place in the world and receive their due reward for living a committed life with the 7 laws of Noach.
    You’re saying that they have individual continuity after death? This isn’t what I’ve been told. I’ve heard – not merely from my nephew, but from other sources as well – that the belief is that most of them simply dissipate upon death, or merge back into God, and lose their individuality. Jews, on the other hand, have individual continuity. An extraordinarily righteous gentile can be granted continuity (“life after death”), although it’s an extremely rare occurrence. A Jew, by contrast, has to be incredibly wicked to be denied continuity. Apparently, God grades on a curve.
    Now, I’m not disagreeing with you – I’m sure you know more about it than I do – I’m describing what I’ve been told. And, my understanding has been that this is the scheme described in the Tanya. Is this incorrect, or is there more diversity within Chabad, concerning this belief, than I have been given to understand? Because I think that this is pretty much the scenario they’re teaching in the yeshivot.

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