No True Hasid Would …

Rabbi Gil Student notes quoting Wikipedia:

No true Scotsman is a term coined by Antony Flew in his 1975 book Thinking About Thinking. It refers to an argument which takes this form:

Argument: “No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”

Reply: “But my uncle Angus likes sugar with his porridge.”

Rebuttal: “Ah yes, but no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”

This form of argument is a fallacy if the predicate (“putting sugar on porridge”) is not actually contradictory for the accepted definition of the subject (“Scotsman”), or if the definition of the subject is silently adjusted after the fact to make the rebuttal work.

This is the exact defense the Rebbe used at about the same time after Lubavitch thugs harassed and threatened Rabbi Rifkin, the lone member of the then-newly-formed Chabad Va’ad HaRabbanim who refused to put an Israeli politician from the National Religious Party into cherem for failing to heed the Rebbe’s (unasked for) instructions. The thugs broke Rabbi Rifkin’s windows, made threatening and harassing phone calls in the middle of the night, spit on him while walking the streets of Crown Heights, and made this very elderly man’s life a living hell.

Appeals to the Rebbe to call off his dogs went unheeded. After weeks of unabated harassment, Rabbi Rifkin’s son-in-law wrote about the harassment in the Yiddish Forward and provided pictures of the swastikas painted on Rabbi Rifkin’s house. The Yiddish press (with the exception of Chabad’s mouthpiece, the Algemiener Journal) went wild and demanded answers from 770.

Argument: The Rebbe told the reporters that no Chabad chassid, no one who learns Chabad chasidus, would act that way.

Reply: The reporters pointed out the clear Chabad connection, including the Rebbe’s long angry rants at public gatherings about the “one who would not sign” the excommunication order, and that the Rebbe’s staff had posted the order with the missing signature all around 770 before those rants, so no one would be confused about which rabbi to harass.

Rebuttal: The Rebbe repeated his claim, adding to it that no true chasid would act that way.

This is a defense haredi leaders use today. No “truly frum yid” would cover up for a pedophile or defraud a bank or investors or cheat the government, etc., etc. But the facts are that fraud and other crimes are rampant in the haredi world. Today it may be more reasonable to claim “no truly frum yid” would file an honest tax return or refrain from committing welfare fraud than claiming the opposite.

And the fault of that rests solely on the rabbis and community leaders who have shown them the way.

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20 Comments

Filed under Chabad Theology, Crime, Haredim

20 responses to “No True Hasid Would …

  1. frank

    were can i read about this rivkin story?

  2. It’s in the Yiddish Forward in the 1970s. I heard this from a historian and from others around then.

  3. Anonymous

    Scotty, what if I were to say no true Jew would act the way you do?

  4. Absolutely true Shmarya,I just got off the phone with my buddy who received s’micha from Rabbi Rivkin In Torah V’daas.

  5. NoDemonstrations

    Wait a minute. This rov sat on a Chabad va’ad. Said va’ad answers to the Rebbe and was convened so that Chabad, which supports Israel, would have a voice in affairs there without getting too deep into the political system. He was not doing his job and should have been removed or even put into cherem – but NOT harassed.

    As for the violence, it is inexcusable – there are nuts everywhere – but it could also have been at least a partial Tawana Brawley case.

    And why dredge up dreck from the 1970’s? There is juicier stuff out there today.

  6. NoDemonstrations

    Wait a minute. This rov sat on a Chabad va’ad. Said va’ad answers to the Rebbe and was convened so that Chabad, which supports Israel, would have a voice in affairs there without getting too deep into the political system. He was not doing his job and should have been removed or even put into cherem – but NOT harassed.

    As for the violence, it is inexcusable – there are nuts everywhere – but it could also have been at least a partial Tawana Brawley case.

    And why dredge up dreck from the 1970’s? There is juicier stuff out there today.

  7. No Dems –

    That is not the halakha. The Va’ad was convened to make HALAKHIC decisions. Rabbi Rivkin immediately pointed out that there was NO HALAKHIC BASIS to excommunicate the politician. The other rabbonim chose to do what the Rebbe asked them to do, regardless of the halakhic facts. Rabbi Rivkin would not and was harassed.

  8. NoDemonstrations

    Either you are a chossid or not. No problem if you are not – everyone has his own derech. And no problem if you want to change because of something you feel strongly about – there is plenty of moving across communities, more than you can imagine.

    I could only imagine what this politician was up to if the Rebbe wanted him in cherem, but if you are on a Chabad board, your allegiance is to the Rebbe (of course now it is more confusing because the Rebbe is not physically alive). If he felt as he did (and we always know there is more than one opinion in halacha, so if he felt that he could not go along with the Rebbe, so be it), no problem – he could resign and be a mensch. You cannot have it both ways.

    That does not condone harassment, but he could have ended the whole problem like a mensch by stepping down.

  9. NoDemonstrations

    Either you are a chossid or not. No problem if you are not – everyone has his own derech. And no problem if you want to change because of something you feel strongly about – there is plenty of moving across communities, more than you can imagine.

    I could only imagine what this politician was up to if the Rebbe wanted him in cherem, but if you are on a Chabad board, your allegiance is to the Rebbe (of course now it is more confusing because the Rebbe is not physically alive). If he felt as he did (and we always know there is more than one opinion in halacha, so if he felt that he could not go along with the Rebbe, so be it), no problem – he could resign and be a mensch. You cannot have it both ways.

    That does not condone harassment, but he could have ended the whole problem like a mensch by stepping down.

  10. That is not the halakha. Rabbonim have to be impartial and hear the case. That is exactly what Rabbi Rivkin said. But the others gave in to the Rebbe’s pressure. To reinforce the lesson, the Rebbe made sure Rabbi Rivkin suffered.

    If giving in to the Rebbe in a beis din is what a hasid must do, hasidut is heresy.

  11. NoDemonstrations

    Then he should have gone the whole distance and saying he is leaving Chabad and disassociating himself from the Vaad. If he had done that he would have been honest, and his signature would no longer be missing as it would no longer be required. Instead he wanted it both ways.

    And that was no ordinary beis din. That was (is?) a va’ad harabbonim consisting of a lot more than 3 rabbonim. There may well have already been a case – you and I cannot know that 30 years or more later, from a biased record in the Forvetz of all places.

  12. NoDemonstrations

    Then he should have gone the whole distance and saying he is leaving Chabad and disassociating himself from the Vaad. If he had done that he would have been honest, and his signature would no longer be missing as it would no longer be required. Instead he wanted it both ways.

    And that was no ordinary beis din. That was (is?) a va’ad harabbonim consisting of a lot more than 3 rabbonim. There may well have already been a case – you and I cannot know that 30 years or more later, from a biased record in the Forvetz of all places.

  13. Heresy. Period, end of story.

  14. NoDemonstrations

    I spell it h-e-a-r-s-a-y, and I assume this is the case with Webster’s and the OED as well.

  15. NoDemonstrations

    I spell it h-e-a-r-s-a-y, and I assume this is the case with Webster’s and the OED as well.

  16. NoDemonstrations

    also pls check your comment system – am posting twice – this began with the addition of the number code authentication.

  17. Snag

    Who was the politician in question? And what was the advice ignored?

  18. The first Who Is A Jew debate in the 1970s.

  19. frank

    it was rabbi Rifkin’s brother in law who wrote the article not his son in law

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