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More trouble for Lubavitch

Earlier this week, we posted a little American trouble for the Lubavitch (or perhaps it’s the end of the trouble, hard to know how to frame it).
Now, there’s more. Apparently this is their fifteen minutes. Or something.
First, England’s Jewish Chronicle notes that England’s Lubavitch movement is in some serious economic trouble: apparently because of pouring an enormous amount of money into a new club for young Jews that they opened this year. Apparently nearly all the donations they received this year went into said club, “including ‘almost all’ of this year’s £750,000 yield,” leaving them £1.5 million (that’s 2,959,951 dollars American) in debt – and of course, they’ve had to close the club, in addition to leaving their teachers unpaid since April (although donors have now stepped in to pay the teachers’ wages).
In Israel, though, they’ve got different problems. Or, perhaps it’s the same problems that they’ve got here. Apparently it’s just gotten out that there may be problems with the beliefs of some Lubavitchers regarding their former (or not) rebbe. The Jerusalem Post reports that a former FSU immigrant who was not Jewish , but was eligible under the law of return, had become interested in converting and studied in a meshichist Jerusalem ChABAD yeshiva.
About two weeks ago, he appeared before a beit din (rabbinic court) for his conversion. He had nearly finished, when one of the rabbis asked him if he believed that the rebbe was the messiah. He answered yes, that that was what he had been taught, and the court refused to convert him.
The JPost says, ”

… a source in the State Conversion Authority said that at least two leading religious Zionist rabbis ruled that messianic Chabad was beyond the pale of normative Jewish belief.
“They [messianic Chabad Hassidim] attribute to him supernatural powers years after he passed away. That is not Judaism. It’s something else.”
Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar will be asked to decide this weighty theological question and in the process pass judgment on thousands of members of the messianic stream within Chabad Hassidism who believe that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who passed away in 1994, is the messiah.

This according to the article; I have heard an (unsubstantiated as of yet) rumour that, in fact, Rabbi Amar has ruled against the conversion applicant, and thus, essentially declared meshichist Lubavitch treif. I am curious as to what effect will this have on ChABAD: Is this a recognition that some beliefs are outside the pale, even if the holder of said beliefs has the outer appearance of Orthodox praxis? What effect will this have on the yeshivot that are still er, offering this perspective, either in Israel or the USA?
By the way, speaking of treif, Rubashkin (who is owned by the ChABAD Lubavitch Rubashkin family just to be on topic), has apparently had its teudat kashrut yanked by KAJ (HT to Failedmessiah)

20 thoughts on “More trouble for Lubavitch

  1. Nice hit piece. I guess that “Jewish Bloggers for Responsible Speech Online” Banner under these comments doesn’t apply when writing about Lubavitch.

  2. How the hell did Rubashkin become a Chabad issue?!
    There are hundreds of thousands of people who associate with Chabad or are Chabad etc. The ongoings of one business owned by Chabad aint a Chabad issue dude.
    Either way Rubashkin is supervised by the Orthodox Union – a very unChabad organization.
    There is plenty going-ons in chabad – you dont have manufacture a story like this (despite how failedmessiah may feel).

  3. For better or worse, Aaron Rubashkin and his family are pillars of Chabad. They have been honored many times by major Chabad organizations, including the granddaddy of them all, Colel Chabad, and Aaron’s son Moshe is the president of the Crown Heights Community Council.
    Why KAJ removed its certification is unclear. Whatever the kashrut issue was, it was not severe enough to cause immediate revocation. Indeed, KAJ apparently agreed to leave its hechsher on until after the Passover rush. Rubashkin dropped them as soon as he had Rabbi Weissmandl’s agreement to show his hechsher with the OU’s (a previous sticking point for Rabbi Weissmandl).
    Rubashkin tried to make it look like he was dropping the KAJ when in truth the KAJ dropped Rubashkin.
    As for London and the Vogel scandal (or Israel and the Ahronov scandal), these types of financial and moral failings are becoming more frequent, in part because there is no rebbe to control the movement.
    The Rebbe’s Chabad was a cult of personality. He gave his hasidim a lot of independence with regard to day-to-day operations of local Chabad organizations, but Torah and morality all went through him, so to speak. Without him, it’s each man to himself.
    I get frequent complaints from Chabadniks about corruption in Chabad schools, for example, where the almighty dollar has “replaced God and even the Rebbe,” as one Chabadnik told me.
    Many people emailed the London story to me but I didn’t cover it. Why?
    Because it didn’t even strike me as significant news, not because Chabad deserves special exemption from coverage, but because I’ve heard so many similar stories for so long.
    (On the other hand, the Ahronov scandal is interesting because of the arrests and the very real potential for dozens more – including arrests of other major Chabad figures and leading donors. I had information on Ahronov’s business practices going back to the mid-1990s, which allowed the story to have a personal edge.)
    The truth is,though, I should have reported the London story, just like Kol Ra’ash Gadol did.
    For those of you concerned with besmirching Chabad’s “good name,” etc., try changing your focus to zero tolerance for crime, corruption and destructive nepotism. That will keep Chabad away from negative press faster and surer than attacking those who report on Chabad misdeeds.

  4. I dont have a problem with you reporting on Chabad “scandals” i.e. London or Israel (as long as you have the decency to also report IF and when the scandals are deemed untrue or misconstrued if ever)
    They were honored by Colel Chabad. How fereakin weak is that. If you give them money they will honor you too! Colel Chabad is NOT the foremost Chabad institution despite the important work it does to feed the hungry in fact Colel chaabd is a humanitarian Org run by Chabad, not a Chabad organization as Merkos, Aguch, Kehot, JLI, Tzach, Beth Rivkah.
    Moshe Rubashkin was voted into the Crown Heights Community council along with Sperlin, Lang, and other members of the community – by no means a Chabad institution and the scope of their work is limited to local community affairs and is not even recognized by Lubavitch Leadership.
    Pillars? By no means.
    Want to criticize Chabad, there are plenty of opprtunities, dont overzealously tie Chabad into some perceived controversy. Thats all.

  5. Some years ago, Prof. David Berger argued at length precisely the position that has reportedly been taken by R’ Amar and by KAJ, that it’s impermissible in Judaism to continue believing that an individual is the Meshiah after that individual is dead, and that the M’shihist faction of Chabad is thus outside the pale, and, for example, their hechsherim should not be accepted. See his book, The Rebbe, the Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference.

  6. in fact Colel chaabd is a humanitarian Org run by Chabad, not a Chabad organization as Merkos, Aguch, Kehot, JLI, Tzach, Beth Rivkah.
    Colel Chabad was founded by the first Chabad rebbe, the Alter Rebbe, Schneur Zalman of Liady. Its president has always been the sitting rebbe of Lubavitch.
    Moshe Rubashkin was voted into the Crown Heights Community council along with Sperlin, Lang, and other members of the community – by no means a Chabad institution and the scope of their work is limited to local community affairs and is not even recognized by Lubavitch Leadership.
    Crown Heights Jewish voters are 99.9% Chabad. That means the “Rebbe’s shuchuna,” the Rebbe’s neighborhood, voted Moshe Rubashkin president. BTW, it did so only weeks after Moshe Rubashkin was paroled from federal prison where he served about two years for bank fraud.

  7. After reading your bio I feel stupid responding. Ethiopian Jews – your upset that the Rebbi didn’t listen to you – you have serious problems, an ego the size of Texas and a healthy sense of paranoia.
    Chabad is not a community it is a Chasssidic sect whose mantle is held by the thousands emissaries across the globe. The crown heights community does not speak for the organization, Chabad has a board and leadership etc. The Crown Heights Council deals with the crime epidemic in the community, Rabbinic Communal elections and things of that nature.
    Colel Chabad certainly is a fine Chabad institution I am not disputing that. It is run by one individual (who seems to be doing a fine job) Rabbi Duchman. He (apparently) honored a Rubashkin, I would suppose for contributing Money to his fine organization. This does not make him a pillar of anything. Chabad honors thousands of contributors every year (Rohr, Leviev, Boymelgreen, Weiss, Lauder, Perlman . . . ) this does not make Chabad liable for the actions of said individuals.
    I repeat – there are plenty of opprtunities to criticize Chabad, I am no fool, they are not perfect, to expect perfection is ludacris and there are legitimate concerns that arise every now and then. All I ask is that you dont recklessly blame Chabad for everything anyone (even if they give money to Chabad) has done.
    Then again – the Rebbi didnt write you back – screw them all!

  8. OK, so maybe or maybe not the rubashkin story should have been included in this post. To me that is not the main, or most interesting point. Neither is the fact that Chabad in England has money troubles, although that seems perfectly within acceptable journalistic bounds to report on.
    The interesting question, for me, is the issue of the conversion and its implications for the question of what makes a person Jewish. Do you have to believe certain things to be Jewish or be doing Judaism? If we decide that theology / belief is an acceptable thing to use in our demarcation of who’s in and who’s out, and so called mesianic Jews who believe that Christ is moshiach are out, then how can messianist chabadniks who believe that the rebbe is moshiach be in? Is it enough to look and feel Jewish? And how is that even defined? If messiansit chabadniks are out in spite of their hamish feel because of their inappropriate theological beliefs, what about humanistic Jews, who have no theological beliefs at all? And who gets to draw these lines?

  9. sarah: this a fine question.
    the basic answer is that if it is within the confines of halacha than its ok.
    it is ok to believe that ones Rebbe is the messiah according to halacha even after the Rebbe has passed on physically.
    if you dont believe this then please check Ramba”m (hilchot melachim) where he writes that before the coming of the messiah there will be a revival of the rightous ones thus making it possible for the Rebbe to be the messiah.
    breaking the sabbath is NOT ok in halacha.
    eating not kosher is NOT ok in halacha.
    believing that your Rebbe is the messiah IS ok in halacha.

  10. Jacob,
    Certainly believing your Rebbe to be Moshiach is within the bounds of Halacha – case in point many Talmudic schools (the authors of halacha) thought their “Rebbes” to be moshiach.
    The issue here is the belief in a Rebbe who has died. Interestingly, it is difficult to find much discussion on this in Shulchan aruch. Maimonidies apparently rules out a Messiah who was killed but leaves open the posibilty for one who has died (perhaps).
    I am eager to see what the Beth Din decides.

  11. the basic answer is that if it is within the confines of halacha than its ok.
    Well, I’m glad to see that this and all future questions are settled once and for all! Thanks for the clarification.

  12. Don’t you love the “explainers” on the comments here? How about if you want to be an explainer, you have to quote chapter and verse on all of your learned opinions?

  13. believing that your Rebbe is the messiah IS ok in halacha.
    Okay, Jacob, now please tell me if you would accept someone who looks and acts like a chabadnick, except his rebbe lived in the 1st century and was named Yehoshua.

  14. “Interestingly, it is difficult to find much discussion on this in Shulchan aruch.”
    Just maybe because it’s obvious.. if you think one dead person can be mashiach, then ANY dead person can be mashiach. After all, my grandmother Sophie did about as much of the work of mashiach as the Last Lubavitcher Rebbe, who neither liberated the Holy Land, rebuilt the Bet Hamikdash, or judged his People with righteousness. So if Mr. Menachem Mendel can be Mashiach ben David who will finish his job when he gets around to his “second coming”, I guess grandma Sophie can too.

  15. chillul who? You are mistaken and clearly know very little about this controversy, the Talmud maintains that Moshiach may be from the dead. Maimonides says that one who is KILLED may not be the messiah, which seems to say that if one DIED there is a possibilty.
    And yes, this means that any dead person from the seed of David who meets (or met or will meet?) a littany of fulfillments (I never met grandma sophie) MAY be the Moshiach according to this Talmudic position.
    Or so I think.

  16. The Rambam implied no such thing. You can’t invent diyukkim like that.
    The Gemara as well never said such a thing. The Gemara presented paradigms of what type of person the Mashiach will be like, and gave an example from the dead and from the living. And in fact, if you want to go to the route of claiming that what the Gemara meant was that a dead person can be the mashiach, well then it tells you who was the mashiach right there: Daniyel haNavi!
    Another problem with claiming that the Last L. Rebbe is somehow dead and will be revealed as the mashiach at a future date despite being dead (a zombie mashiach?) is that we’ve all got better candidates!
    If the mashiach can be dead, what makes the LLR better than Ezra haSofer? Rabbi Akiva? Mosheh Rabenu himself? Compared to the many pious and powerful Jews in history, the LLR is clearly a katan among ketanim of this late era. Is Yoshiayhu haMelech less worthy? And even David BenGurion actually presided over the Ingathering of Exiles while he was still alive.

  17. What the Rambam (Maimonides) actually says is as follows:

    Rambam, Yad Hazaka, Hilhot Melachim, Chapter 11, Halacha 4.
    If a king will arise from the House of David who delves deeply into the study of the Torah and, like David his ancestor, observes its mitzvos as prescribed by the Written Law and the Oral Law; if he will compel all of Israel to walk in [the way of the Torah] and repair the breaches [in its observance]; and if he will fight the wars of G-d; – we may, with assurance, consider him Mashiach.
    If he succeeds in the above, builds the [Beis Ha]Mikdash on its site, and gathers in the dispersed remnant of Israel, he is definitely the Mashiach.
    If he did not succeed to this degree or was killed, he surely is not [the redeemer] promised by the Torah. [Rather,] he should be considered to be like all the other proper and legitimate kings of the Davidic dynasty who died. G-d caused him to arise only in order to test the multitude. As it is written (Daniel 11:35), ‘Some of the wise men will stumble, to purge, to refine and to clarify, until the appointed final time, for it is yet to come.’

    The sentence has a dependent clause. If the supposed messiah does not ingather all the exiles, fight and win the battles of God, rebuild the Temple and reinstitute Temple service, etc,, or if he is killed, this supposed messiah should be considered just like any good king from the House of David who died.
    Either way, killed in battle or dies before rebuilding the Temple, etc., he is not the messiah according to Maimonides.

  18. If he did not succeed to this degree” is not referring to gathering the exiles etc. but is referring to the paragraph above meaning leading the Jewish people to keep Torah etc. Many people make this mistake and therefore mistakenly believe that the Rebbe can’t be Moshiach.

  19. A person or organization which calls on people to commit clear transgressions, and declares as mitzvot what the Tora clearly forbids, and thus leads to breaches in Tora observance, naturally cannot fulfil the first part either.
    To ask the dead for guidance in spiritual and practical matters, and to call upon them, is a gross transgression, and was practiced both by the rebbe, his father in law as well as Chabadniks all around the world today.
    Not to mention false prophecy.
    Not to mention the bending of tzniyut.
    Not to mention the bending of truth, when it comes to producing the official picture of Chabad as an organization spreading Judaism and charity.
    And, naturally, corruption, that is charity getting into the wrong hands.
    For sure, corruption happens also in other communities.
    But it is not really what we would expect from the followership of Moshiach.

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