Monthly Archives: March 2006

Chabad Messianism


Rabbi Gil Student notes the above Chabad messianic poster for a 11 Nissan concert in honor of the birthday of the "Rebbe Melech HaMashiach" (The Rebbe King Messiah).  Below the photograph of the Rebbe in white type it reads: "Yechi adonaynu moreynu v’rabbaynu melech hamoshiach l’olam vo’ed!" (Long live our master our teacher our rabbi king messiah forever and ever!). David Klinghoffer would have you believe Chabad messianism does not exist. Here is absolute proof that Klinghoffer is wrong.

UPDATE: A commenter on Hirhurim notes the root of the problem:

I think many people here are completely missing the point, as is common in any discussion about Chabad.

The heresy in Chabad has very little to do with the Messianism. As many people have correctly pointed out, believing that a dead Rebbe is the Messiah is little more than stupidity and foolishness.

Most Lubavitchers are heretics simply because they beleive that the Rebbe is omnipotent and omniscient; as such they believe that they should direct their prayers and supplications to him. (As someone who spent most of his life in Chabad schools and camps, I am in an excellent position to judge the beliefs of your average Lubavitcher.)

The source of this belief is the Rebbe himself. He writes (Likutei Sichos volume two, pages 510-511), "How can one make a request of a rebbe? Isn’t that surely a problem of speaking to God through an intermediary?"

His answer is shocking. He prefaces it by explaining that the concept that he is about to express is a novel one, an idea not found in other books of Chassidus.

He answers as follows, "One cannot ask a question from the problem of an intermediary since ‘Atzmus u’mehus alein vi er hat zich areingeshtalt in a guf’"

"Atzmus u’mehus alein vi er hat zich areingeshtalt in a guf!" For those non-Yiddish speakers, the Rebbe says that a rebbe is simply "the essence of God enclothed in a body!"

There’s your kefirah.

(It is also worthwhile to see what the Rebbe writes in Igros Kodesh, vol. 3 pp. 419-420 about a Lubavitchers relationship with his rebbe.

"A person must, from time to time, think about himself and his position and situation, but the rest of the time it’s better to think about the Rebbe, how he is constantly with his mekusharim (those with whom the Rebbe is bound, i.e. his Chassidim, and how he leads them through every step.")

David | 03.31.06 – 1:38 am | #




Filed under Chabad Theology

How To Navigate This Site

Just a quick post to explain site navigation. Each post is is indexed both by date and by category. Category links are on the right side of this page, as are archive links. So you can search by date for a post or look through an entire category – the Rubashkin kosher meat scandal, for example, Matisyahu or the Rebbe’s position on Ethiopian Jews. Admittedly, some categories are too broad (it’s hard to change this now, 18 months in), and some are very large. Either way, the archived page may take a moment or two extra to load.

The Google search box (located on the right side of this page as well) is not very effective. It often pulls up entire index pages rather than individual posts, and gives false positives because of the static information on the margins of each page.

The bottom of each post shows what category (or categories) the post is archived in. So clicking on the categories on the bottom a post should bring you related stories.

A word of caution – how ever you choose to navigate, the post you are reading will often be at the top of the new archive or category page you clicked on because stories are archived in reverse chronological order, newest on top, oldest on the bottom. Always check additional posts on the page before assuming the new linked page did not load. Sometimes, when TypePad, your ISP, and your computer are all perfectly in sync, a new page will load so fast that you won’t notice – a small whiff of paradise in this decidedly mundane world.

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FailedMessiah In The Forward

This week’s David Klinghoffer’s Forward column The Disputation deals with the Matisyahu issue and with Chabad in general. Here, for my money (and ego) is the money quote:

For centuries, the role of the Jewish people as a "kingdom of priests"
(Exodus 19:6) calling humanity to the worship of the one God was
suspended. In our day, thanks to the growing interest of non-Jews in
Judaism, that has started to change. Matisyahu may be the best example
of a Jew ministering in this priestly role on a mass scale. His
efforts, however, have won him Jewish detractors, who prefer that Jews
remain anonymous or irrelevant.

Take, for example, the sniping from the peanut gallery coming out of
the consistently sour but readable blog "What
Matisyahu does is unseemly. Few, if any, significant poskim (rabbinic legal scholars who rule on Halacha) would approve. But what bothers me more is blatant trading on Kaballah and Hasidut to
make money. That this does not bother mainstream Chabad may be because
this is what mainstream Chabad has itself done for years."

Indeed, Chabad’s efforts have earned the movement its share of enemies.
The rabbi at the Reform temple where I grew up used to speak out
against the local Chabad emissary; the competition made him nervous.
And in the Orthodox world, a few can’t forget the imbroglio in the
1990s in which some followers of Chabad’s late spiritual leader, the
Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, let it be known that they
expected he would return and reveal himself as the Messiah. Thankfully,
that fever dream has subsided.…

I thank Klinghoffer for quoting me. Still, Klinghoffer is wrong on many counts:

  1. I am certainly not opposed to Jews being a light onto the nations in an active fashion. What I and many other critics of Matisyahu are concerned about has been clearly stated on this blog. Being a light onto the nations or a need to remain "under the radar screen" is not one of them.
  2. Klinghoffer ignores the fact that poskim do not allow what Matisyahu does, and that poskim from Chabad, while the Rebbe was alive, told musicians they could not do what Matisyahu is now doing.
  3. Messianism has not gone away, as even any casual observer of Chabad knows, It is dominant in Israel, France, the FSU, and in Crown Heights. Matisyahu himself is a messianist.

Klinghoffer brushes away these facts just as he brushes away Marvin Schick’s concern about the lessening religious standards in Chabad, something there is much proof for. He also makes it appear as if Schick is an enemy of Chabad, something that is absolutely false – although, to be fair, Klinghoffer may not know this.

How can Klinghoffer make claims that disregard fact? I’ll give you my personal answer. Klinghoffer is a devotee of Rabbi Daniel Lapin, the maverick Orthodox rabbi shunned by many in mainstream Modern Orthodoxy and by most in the haredi world. Lapin has made a career (outside of his business involvements, which have been, in some cases, highly questionable from a legal standpoint) of supporting right wing political causes (he is one of Jack Abramoff’s rabbis) and of "kashering" the religious and extremist right*. To do this, one needs to adopt an ends justify the means theology, which is just what Lapin has done. And this theology drives his disciples, as well.

Several years ago, WorldVision launched a campaign to aid those hurt by suicide bombing and terrorist attacks in Israel. The radio commercial had bombs exploding, sirens wailing. Where was the money going? To the West Bank and Gaza, and only to Arabs. I asked WorldVision why. A spokesperson responded by saying (I paraphrase) that WorldVision helps the most at need. Jews can take care of themselves. The Arabs cannot. I asked about the morality of  using terror attacks against Jews to raise money for Arabs. Terror hurts both sides, was the response.

The Salem Radio Network had a joint campaign with WorldVision to fund this very project. Ads for it ran during both the Dennis Prager and Michael Medved shows. In effect, both shows raised money for the extended families of suicide bombers. I contacted both hosts and explained the problem. Both wanted details that involved many hours of research. I did that research (without pay) and sent the information to Prager and Medved. Prager** banned all ads for that WorldVision campaign from running during his show. But what did Medved, whose rabbi-guru is Lapin, do? He increased the ads and began endorsing that very WorldVision project. Why?

I believe for the same reason Klinghoffer can so easily ignore fact. The ends justify the means.*** It wasn’t worth damaging his (and Lapin’s) relationship with the evangelical-owned and operated Salem radio over the WorldVision project, especially because WorldVision is a major powerhouse in the evangelical world and is, not surprisingly, a major advertiser on Salem stations.

Klinghoffer is a follower of Lapin. To the extent that his article reflects that relationship, it is Lapin – and his theology – that is to blame. The same is true for Medved and WorldVision.

If well-meaning Chabad supporters would focus on keeping Chabad within halakha, instead of kashering every instance of deviation from it, Chabad would be in much better shape, and blogs like would not need to exist.
*Evangelical and other Christian Fundamentalist theology, as it impacts the public square, is not necessarily incompatible with Judaism any more than it is automatically compatible. For example, while Judaism frowns on abortion, it does not ban abortion outright and allows (and sometimes mandates!) abortion for a host of reasons related to the physical and mental health of the mother. This is why many poskim (like some of those ignored by Klinghoffer) do not support the anti-abortion movement. Lapin goes beyond this position to, in effect, kasher all but the most blatantly anti-Jewish positions of evangelicals.

**Yes, it is true that Prager is also a supporter of Chabad. But Prager is not Orthodox, and his views on halakha are not close to Orthodoxy’s.

***By ends in this case I mean ideological ends, not financial gain. In other words, in this case the ends are "ohr lagoyyim" and the means, Matisyahu and Chabad. Rabbi Lapin considers ohr lagoyyim to be a cornerstone of his public work and ideology/theology.


Filed under Chabad and the Media, Matisyahu

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Still Burns

The Triangle Shirtwaist fire 95 years on. Jonathan Mark of the Jewish Week writes:

The UPI reporter, William Shepherd, was just by chance on the corner of Manhattan’s Washington Place116_1 and Greene Street when on March 25, 1911 flames started licking out of the eighth and ninth floors across the street. He knew the place, the Triangle Shirtwaist factory. The year before its workers had gone on strike for better conditions.

Shepherd telephoned his office, where telegraph operators clickity-clacked a dramatic story across America. Shepherd saw, way above him, a young man helping a young woman to the ninth floor windowsill. The young man held her out the window, and let her drop. The man reached back into the flames, held a second girl out the window and then a third, letting them drop. None of the girls resisted, “as if,” reported Shepherd, “he were helping them into a street car instead of into eternity.”

A fourth girl put her arms around that man in the window and kissed him, perhaps impulsively for the first time or simply for the last. Then he held her out of the window and dropped her 100 feet to the sidewalk, quickly jumping after her.

“His coat fluttered upwards,” reported Shepherd, “the air filled his trouser legs as he came down. I could see he wore tan shoes.”

Shepherd wrote, “Later, I saw his face. You could see he was a real man. He had done his best.”

In less than half an hour, 146 people were dead, mostly young Jewish and Italian women. Witnesses said they fell “just like rain,” or like birds shot in the sky. In the street the water from the fire hoses ran red with the blood.


  1. The fire was on Shabbat.
  2. At least one Triangle employee was saved because she kept Shabbat.
  3. Most of the victims were young Jewish and Italian women.
  4. The fire burned for 18 minutes. (Yorah Dayah enthusiasts, any thoughts on this?)
  5. 146 people were killed.

Although I’ve had my political disagreements with him in the past, Jonathan Mark is a wonderful writer. Please read the entire piece. It’s well worth your time.

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Filed under History

Shas To Send First Ethiopian Rabbi To Knesset

Shas won 13 seats in yesterday’s election. The 13th spot on the Shas list is an Ethiopian rabbi from Beersheva, Mazor Bayana. This means Shas will send the first Ethiopian rabbi in the history of Israel to Knesset.


Filed under Ethiopian Jews, Israel, Sefardim

Complete Israel Election Results

The Jerusalem Post has a complete summary of election results, including a complete slate for each party.


Filed under Israel

Rabbi, Shas MK Charged With Bribery

Shas Minister of Knesset Shlomo Benizri and his patron, kabbalist Rabbi Reuben Elbaz, have been charged with bribery. Benizri is number six on the Shas list. Shas won 13 seats and is expected to be a coalition partner with Ehud Olmert’s Kadima. Benizri will not be allowed to hold a cabinet position until the trial is completed – if he is found innocent.

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Filed under Hessed, Israel, Sefardim