Rabbi Avraham Shemtov On the 770 Court Decision

Steven I. Weiss has posted exerpts from an interview he did today with Rabbi Avraham Shemtov of Agudas Chasidei Chabad, the "anit-messianist" "main" Chabad organization. Shemtov claims no shluchim are messianists, and paints messianism as a small faction within a faction. Here is the comment I left to that post:

[Rabbi J.I.} Schochet did not write his essay against Berger in a vacuum. He wrote it with the approval of Agudas Chasidei Chabad – meaning he wrote it with the approval of Rabbi Avraham Shemtov.

The average Chabadnik is a messianist – but he may not be a yellow flag
waving overt messianist. The
shluchim are quiet messianists, with exceptions – especially in France,
Russia and Israel, where overt messianism is dominant.

This war Shemtov may fight is against a fringe element of the overt
messianists, the Sfasniks that occupy 770. This group is the most overt
of the overt messianists. They believe the Rebbe is alive and standing
in front of them.

The problem here is that journalists and outside rabbis do not
understand the politics and groupings, and they over simplify the
situation. Most overt messianists
want the Sfasniks thrown out of 770. And, very quietly, Shemtov himself
hints at what is to come:

So, what will 770 look like
six months or two years down the line? “770 will look as it should,
reflecting the beliefs and the direction of Lubavitch which is
all-inclusive, a place for everybody to feel at home and to feel
inspired to conduct themselves as a Jew and a Yid should…I think that
we are concerned about the prevailing atmosphere and spirit which would
be in accordance with the Rebbe’s teaching,
and if [the messianist signs are]
an impediment, of course” they’d be removed.”

I had
posted on my old website (the one Chabad hacked and destroyed) an
entire archive of overt messianism from shluchim all over  the world.
That Shemtov claims not to know what Berger is referring to is an open
lie. That he can utter it in relative safety speaks volumes for how the
media has, until now, covered this truly sad story.

So, if messianist signs keep more people away from Chabad than draw people to Chabad, the signs come down. If not they stay. Some fighter of messianism.



Filed under Chabad Theology

12 responses to “Rabbi Avraham Shemtov On the 770 Court Decision

  1. Anonymous

    770 has turned into a zoo,so much for the rebbes ruach hakodesh

  2. Not Been Back

    I would like to point out a deceptive line of reasoning used by the non moshiachists in defending their messianic cult. Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet, a noted Chabad scholar in the following essay attacks Dr. Berger’s thesis. Schochet in bitter irony remarks that “The author (Berger) appears to accept the belief in Mashiach and the eager anticipation of the redemption he is to bring about. After all, this constitutes one of the thirteen principles of the Jewish faith defined by Maimonides.” Wonderful, Schochet establishes that Berger is not a kofer.

    Schochet continues “He takes issue, though, with the fact that hasidim identify the Rebbe as the awaited redeemer. He is not disturbed by this phenomenon in the Rebbe’s lifetime: Quoting Berger now, “When the Rebbe was alive, messianic claims made for him were ill-advised but well within the boundaries of normative Judaism; indeed, no serious messianic claims have ever been set forth for a more qualified candidate.” Schochet explains that”His (Berger’s) problem is that many hasidim continue doing so even after the Rebbe’s passing in 1994”. Schochet now closes in for the kill “Citing Talmudic-Midrashic statements which aver that the redeemer may arise from the dead, these hasidim support their claim that the Rebbe may be resurrected in due time and then fulfil the messianic prophecies. To Dr. Berger that is absurd. He spurns the possibility that Mashiach may come from the dead, and dismisses the Rabbinic statements as “a rejected position” of a minute minority opinion which has no standing in Jewish law and thought.

    Here lies the crux of the problem facing Lubavitch. Lubavitchers do NOT believe that the “the Rebbe may be resurrected in due time and then fulfill the messianic prophecies.” They believe that the Rebbe IS the moshiach. Only a fringe minority hold the Rebbe not to be the moshiach. The rest just differ in tactics.

    R’ Shemtov’s ‘cleaning house’ is just a deceptive toning down. Mainstream Jewish journalism is duped. Note Dennis Prager’s defence of Chabad on moshiachlisten.com

    Prager, an astute individual but is an outsider as Lubavitch goes, notwithstanding that Prager has lectured for Chabad in many communities around the world and states that “I am on the board of directors of the Conejo Jewish Day School, a Chabad-run community school in Agoura, Calif.” He is Chabad’s useful idiot, and serves as a shill.

    And if Prager, no neophyte to Torah Judasim is so duped kal v’chomer to the vast majority of secular Jewish and gentile press.

  3. Paul Freedman

    Still, if messianism is identified as foreign then messianism itself, not merely messianism-for-public display, is being identified as foreign (whether or not its marginality is exaggerated).

    The polemical insistence that everyone in Chabad accepts that the Rebbe was/IS the Mosiach but only disagree with making the belief public I believe overstates the nuances and ambiguities of the various conceptions of Mosiach and may well understate the percentage of Lubavitch who think that the Rebbe was a “candidate” but “candidate” only.

    That said, Shmarya notes that by the end of his replies R’ Shemtov could actually be seen to be permitting/advocating a more gentle and discrete messianism.

    Such within and born-Lubavitch voices as the blogger ww.crownheights.info reprinted the piece and accepted it on its face-value: messianists should and will be removed. Unfortunately the blogger did not give his own reaction to the piece and so far there have been no comments.

  4. Shloimie

    Overt and covert .
    This is from Shmais , one would think covert – it seems they forgot roiphe cholim , poikeoch ivrim , umassis ossurim -:
    A story of the Rebbe #180 – Like a Father Has Mercy on His Children
    A story of the Rebbe #179 – The Rebbe Always Arouses Mercy
    A story of the Rebbe #178 – The Eternal Tomim
    A story of the Rebbe #174 – Perfect Joy
    A story of the Rebbe #173 – Even a Non-Jew Understands
    A story of the Rebbe #172 – Living with Moshiach Who is Moshiach?
    A story of the Rebbe #168 – And Suddenly Moshiach Will Come …
    A story of the Rebbe #166 – Looking into the Face of Moshiach
    A story of the Rebbe #165 – A Chessed for Moshiach
    A story of the Rebbe #164 – “Moshiach Is Coming and He Needs Kohanim”
    A story of the Rebbe #164 – When the Geula Arrives, the Work Will Begin
    A story of the Rebbe #163 – Half an Hour Earlier
    A story of the Rebbe #162 – A Fine Jew
    A story of the Rebbe #161 – Dancing with Moshiach
    A story of the Rebbe #160 – To Bring Moshiach

  5. Paul Freedman

    Shlomie–but the question is open, no? about whether, how and to what extent the faith in the identified Moshiach remained after the histalkut–as in “Israel blew it–we could have had Mosiach but etc.”

  6. Paul Freedman

    comments are now up on crownheights.info (not an “outside” voice)–they have different opinions on what Shem Tov intends, on Messichistiim etc. and how bad or good or golden-calf-like messianism is–it just is not accurate to say everyone believes a or b–try:


  7. Yes. And if you read those comments, they largely support what I am saying. The vast majority of those opposing messianism do so for POLITICAL or TACTICAL reasons. One or two commenters may be opposing messianism for theological reasons, but even their comments can be read to mean the public messianism and the focus on messianism is the problem, not the core belief in it. I once asked several dozen shluchim if the Rebbe was moshiach. Not one said no. I asked all of them if someone, Rav Kaduri, say, would stand up today and say “I am moshiach” would the shaliach help him? None said yes. The best answers I got was, “only if the Rebbe tells me to” (tough, after the Rebbe’s passing, nu?) and “We’ll follow the Rebbe and he will lead us.” Are there some Chabadniks who have rejected this nonsense? Sure. But they do not control the movement, and they are not in the majority. They are in fact a tiny, disorganized minority. And, with all things like this, affiliation matters. You say you are Chabad? fine. then realize you will be viewed as part of the rov of Chabad, unless you publicly separate yourself from them. The rov is messianist overtly. A large minority is messianist covertly. A tiny number is truly non-messianist.

  8. Paul Freedman

    Shmarya–we probably disagree in our sense as to how much functional play there is in Chabad messianism as a working hashkafah in the spectrum of WAS Moshiach of his Dor/might “be” Moshiach –> WAS/is-WILL BE/Moshiach –> WAS/IS MOSHIACH/G-D/KRIS KRINGLE/THE EASTER BUNNY. Heterodox is not always equivalent to heretical–messianism is not necessarily incarnation theology. It’s a shame reliable statistical data isn’t on the horizon–as an “outsider” I personally think there’s a strong whiff of “clap if you believe Tinkerbell is real” to Chabad messianic theology–lo ritizoni.

  9. Paul Freedman

    … the whole actualize the prophecy/Mosiach-essence-identity of the Rebbe thing–it works for a while but not indefinitely

  10. Paul Freedman

    imo crownheights.info is itself arguably non-Messianic (if not “anti”)

  11. Baab

    R’ Shemtov says that no one has ever met an authorized Shaliach who is an open M. I am a BT and I moved into my community in one of the boroughs of NYC (not Brooklyn) a couple years ago right before Rosh HaShanah. The first place I went to was the Chabad House. The Rav wears a yechi yarmulka. I live in a cummunity with a couple dozen shuls, a few yeshivos and many learned people. It’s a chashuv community and yet a Chabad rabbi with a yechi kippa is the shaliach here. I looked him up on chabad.org and he is there–fully authorized. I and almost every other American BT that I know who went there hoping to find a place for themselves ended up leaving. Now I daven at the Young Israel. It’s nice, but it doesn’t have the spirituality that I am looking for but am prevented from getting, except if I chose to learn by myself.

    Has any reporter ever asked R. Shemtov the exact specifications of the type of messianism he wants to remove from Lubavitch and whether he (or the official Aguda position) believes it’s impossible, unlikely or likely that the Rebbe could eventually be resurrected to become Moshiach?

  12. Baab

    About 6 weeks ago, I made a trip to Crown Heights in order to see things for myself. I paid a visit to Yeshiva Oholei Torah for the first time in my life. I walked many flights up to the main beis medrash. I didn’t see any yechi kippas but I did see one sign right there in the beis medrash. The sign is between 4-5 feet long and about 1 foot high with a white background and red letters. It is on the wall directly above one of the book cases. It is a yechi sign, smaller but with the same words as the ones in 770. It is right in the beis medrash of Oholei Torah. This was only 6 weeks ago. If R. Shemtov gets the signs in 770 removed will he also try to do the same in Oholei Torah?

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