The New York Jewish Week reports on the fight for control of the main Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue in Crown Heights:
The two camps — the anti-messianists run the Chabad worldwide outreach, while the messianists, a smaller but very active gorup, control the street in Crown Heights — have waged a simmering war since 1994, when the Lubavitcher rebbe died. But in recent weeks the battle has intensified over who controls the main synagogue at 770 Eastern Parkway, Lubavitch headquarters and home to the messianists.
In actuality, the messianists control the Chabad street in Israel, Crown Heights, Russia, France, California and many other locations and are far and away the largest grouping within Chabad. Further, the so-called "anti-messianists" believe exactly what the messianists believe – the argument is over whether or not to publicize the belief, not over the belief itself.
So what takes place in Chabad’s main synagogue?
During a recent visit to 770 several men downstairs, having just finished the afternoon prayers, were passionately singing the chant that has become the messianists’ slogan: “Long live our master, our teacher, our rabbi, King Messiah, forever and ever!”
One man clutched a fistful of small plastic yellow flags with the messianic crown on it. A few others danced around during the song. Many of the men in the sanctuary, however, did not participate.
“It’s very inspiring davening at 770 because everyone davens with special power because the rebbe is there,” said Michael Rosenthal, a 24-year-old Lubavitcher who works for the emissary in Great Neck, in an interview outside.
Now for the two dumbest quotes, one of them from frequent FailedMessiah.com commenter Ariel Sokolovsky:
Rabbi Ariel Sokolovsky was among the men arrested [in a riot sparked by police attempting to protect 770’s dedication plaque from defacement by messianists] Nov. 3. The Boston resident is an ardent messianist who visits 770 several times a year.
“I describe the rebbe as alive,” Rabbi Sokolovsky said in an interview. “The body of moshiach does not die, even if it appears to be so. A tzaddik [righteous person] can materialize himself in the world if he needs to. “Concealment does not mean that the rebbe has an invisible body,” he said. “It has to do with people’s readiness to see it. It’s people’s perception.”
Rabbi Sokolovsky said he has met people who have seen the rebbe in person since he died.
That perspective offends some. [Some?!? A more appropriate choice would be "many."]
“For so-called Orthodox Jews to say this undermines a basic argument against Christianity that’s been going on for over 1,000 years,” said Rabbi Berger. “It’s a betrayal of the Jewish belief in messianism, whose parameters have been defined to exclude the possibility that the messiah would declare the redemption is coming in his generation and die without completing the task.”
That’s really pathetic. On one hand we have a guy who believes the Rebbe still walks this earth. On the other, we have a guy who defines the Jewish belief in a messiah by what it is not – for Rabbi Berger, it’s all about anti-Christian polemics, not positive Jewish theology. Sad.
Miriam Shaviv’s take on this can be read here.