How I First Learned The Truth

Rabbi Natan Slifkin writes in an essay in memory of his mentor, Rabbi Aryeh Carmel, ztz”l:

Rav Carmell also taught me the corollary of “Accept the truth from wherever it comes,” which is “Reject falsehood from wherever it comes.” About twelve years ago, he rejected a halachic explanation that I had written in a manuscript on the grounds that it simply didn’t make sense. I protested that I was simply presenting the view of one of the Acharonim. Rav Carmell replied that one must be very wary of accepting something merely on the grounds that it was stated by a great authority if it does not make sense. As it happens, I went back and checked the sefer again, and it turned out that I had misunderstood what it stated. But the lesson remained with me; and I recently noticed that Rav Chaim of Volozhin, in his commentary to Pirkei Avos, comments that even if one’s own rebbe states something that does not seem to make sense, it is forbidden to accept it.

Soon after becoming Orthodox, I was in shul in St. Paul for Shabbos. After davening, the shul had a prolonged kiddush. In those days, about half of the members who attended were old timers, Litvaks and MOs, children of hasidim who came to America immediately after the war, second and even third generation locals. The other half was made up of Chabad BTs with and the five or so Chabad rabbis who lived in Minnesota.

The custom was that the first half hour of the kiddush was pareve. The Rebbe would of course be mentioned, but the context was such that it was non-threatening to the non-Chabadniks, who rarely stayed more than 30 minutes at any kiddush. After that, the kiddush turned into an hasidishe farbrengen.

I was standing at one of these farbrengens waiting for my Shabbos host. As was customary, the Chabadniks were reading a summary of the Rebbe’s talk at last week’s Crown Heights farbrengen. “You see,” said a rabbi, the “Rebbe is endorsing prayer in public schools. He’s calling for it explicitly!” The Chabadniks were happy with this bit of news. I wasn’t, in large part because I believed it to be false. I spoke up.

“The Rebbe can’t be calling for prayer in the public schools,” I said. “If he is, that means Jewish children will be subjected to Christian prayer mentioning Jesus, Muslim prayer – even idol worship and cults like Hare Krishna and Satanism. You all went to private religious schools…You don’t realize what this means. There must be a mistake. The Rebbe may be calling for a moment of silence, but I doubt he wants public prayer.” I then briefly explained the difference between the two.

“OOOOOOOOOOhhhh, I’m sure the Rebbe should have asked you first!” said one Chabad rabbi, followed by snickering and peels of laughter from him and others.

“No,” I replied, “what you say the Rebbe said makes no sense. If he said it that would be a problem, but I doubt he did. I don’t think you understand whatever it is the Rebbe actually said.”

The hasidim went back to farbrenging, shooting me occasional dirty looks. The rest of Shabbos passed uneventfully.

The next week I’m again in shul and, sure enough, my Shabbos host stays for the farbrengen. I’m about to leave when a Chabad rabbi starts to summarize the Rebbe’s talk from the previous week. The Rebbe, it seems, had issued a correction – of sorts. To paraphrase, the Rebbe said, what I said last week was misunderstood. He then went on to say that he was calling for a moment of silence, not public prayer, and he explained the difference between the two, closely paralleling what I had said the previous week.

Not one hasid, not one Chabad rabbi, apologized for their obnoxious behavior the week before. No one acknowledged that I had been correct. It was then I knew that, at the very least, the local hasidim were broken.



Filed under Chabad Theology

14 responses to “How I First Learned The Truth

  1. Where I live the Chabad people are always on the defense. They are being asked if the rabbi is the messiah or if they believe the rabbi is a representation of God or why the shul keeps cholov isroel when most of the congregants are not shomer shabbath, etc.

    BTW, I do think Chabbad are the enemies, you know who they are.

  2. Eizegel

    Chabad full of hatred! annoying generation filled with curse!

  3. Anonymous

    Chabad full of hatred! annoying generation filled with curse!

  4. Yeah, clearly Rav Chaim of Volozhin could not have been chabad. It is part of the creed of lubavitch philosophy that accepting that which doesn’t make sense is central to being a good Jew. It is called “l’maaleh mtam v’daas” and is also considered equivalent to “naaseh venishma”. Loads of chabad people pride themselves on accepting and doing things which don’t make any sense to them.

  5. jank

    I must have come across different chabad rabbis to you guys, the ones I know are nothing like you lot portray, amongst them I have yet to meet an obnoxious fool who’s on the denfensive, twists Judaism to suit his own needs or tries to convince me the Rebbe is Moshiach, even when I have asked direct questions none have said anything like the rot I continually read here, perhaps you all need to get psychologically tested – you all met the DSM IV criteria for personality disorders, paranoia and nacissisitic persoanlities, what’s that saying about people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones?!

  6. Well, “Jank” you’re either a shill or someone with more money than sense. While there’s plenty of good left in Chabad, they are organized around sanctimonious, arogant cultists who LONG AGO separated themselves from the klal. Go read “Wagging the Rebbe” or “I, Gezheh” or “Cunin’s Big Breakfast”. A little education will do you a world of good.

  7. jank

    B. Workman

    you obviously misconstrued what I said:

    I said I haven’t meet any chabad rabbis like those portrayed here, perhaps I do have more money than sense that’s because no chabad rabbi has asked for any.. I’ll pass on reading 2nd hand rot and continue passing judgment on how I am treated not a bunch of losers who have nothing better to do than gossip. Maybe you could use you energy helping people as opposed to sitting back critizing others who do.

  8. Wow. A simply profound story. I feel for you, but such behavior is not limited to Chabad; although as Torah observant Jews, they should “know better”. Or maybe it’s a machismo thing (I say this because I really don’t see this happening in a group of Lubavitch women). Nonetheless, with any group who is religious or powerful or beautiful or a combination of all three – they have a very hard time coming out and saying that they are wrong. That is not the fault of the trait – but rather how that individual is affected by that trait. Take people who are exceptionally attractive [physically]. Some can have no problem praising another person as being just as or even more attractive. But human nature usually dictates if such a person comes upon an equally or more beautiful individual, the gut reaction is jealously. And even if not, very rarely will this person offer praise to the other.

    Perhaps Chabad should revisit some of the basics of chassidus – including the merit of being humble and trying to escape the shackles of ego. This may be easier said than done, given Chabad’s current strength, wealth, and power, but it is essential in order to keep them rooted.

  9. D

    Perhaps Chabad should revisit some of the basics of chassidus…it is essential in order to keep them rooted.

    When I was in the K’Far Chabad Yeshiva I recall coming back from Friday afternoon Mivtzoyim (outreach) and witnessing not a few bochurim on the porch of the Yeshiva building in their Tefillin davening leasurely — at about 5 PM! I mentioned this to one of the Rabbonim and demanded to know how this could possibly be justified!? His response was that the hardest Mivtzoyim are the ones done inside the Yeshiva…

  10. Anonymous

    “jank” first off, simply by your short comments we can all see you have the same mentallity as the rest. i’m right, you’re wrong. take your head outta your ass and realise shit for yourself. its time to stop being so diluded and have some faith in the brain god gave you. god didnt give you a mind and a concience so that you can mindlessly bah like a sheep. and as for you, whoever posted the article, dont give up on god, just religion. words being twisted over thousands of year having no meaning today. to this day, people are still changing their minds about what this means, and what that means. follow the light of the lord, the light from inside. you were born with a brain and a concience, you have the abillity to know right from wrong, without someone telling you. i can garuantee that even without fasting over yom kippur, i have triple as more chance of right of passage than these racist rabbis, or lying kosher food places, or anyone else who probably thinks themselves higher than me. i am no more than a son of man, just like every other mofo out there.

  11. Dont get it

    I’m no Lubab,in fact I am opposed to much of what they say.However, your post about how you ‘discovered’ how broken Chabad was is pretty infantile.We were not there to see or hear how many rabbis heard your explanation of the Rebbes words and whether some rabbis acknowledged that you were right.Whatever.What especially irks me is :This story happened many,many years ago, you supposedly knew Lubab was ‘broke’. IF SO, WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG TO LEAVE.NO B**LS?NO BRAINS?

  12. As usual your stories seem to parallel what happened to me in many circles. I have read that Hayim Vilozhin piece on Perkei Avoth inside and it is an absolute indictment to what has become common place within Jewish circles today; Particularly in Habad where the idea of challenging authority on the basis of sound arguments are considered to be a hostile provocation at best.

  13. Jank Cohen

    Ok guys lets get back to basics.

    My name is Jank, sorry if you don’t like it but not much I can do about that.

    I am not a shill and I don’t have the I’m right you’re wrong mentality, you are right G-d gave me a brain – that I use to diagnosis criminals / perpetrators and personality disorders – I have a doctorate in psychology and criminology

    You have taken what I said out of context, I was stating a fact not disagreeing with you, the Chabad rabbis I have had dealing with from England to Australia are nothing like the ones mentioned here.

    None of them have ever done or said anything outside of the realms of Orthodoxy, I am the biggest skeptic out if there had of been anything I would have jumped on it like a ton of bricks.

    I don’t know R. Cunin from Adam but you can bet your bottom dollar if I ever get to meet him I will judge him on how he is to me not some one else’s view.

    Dr Mrs Jank Cohen

  14. Nathan

    Rabbi Aryeh Carmel (zl) said:


    [1] What is the name of Rav Chaim of Volozhin’s commentary to Pirkei Avos?

    [2] In which chapter number (of Pirkei Avos) and on which mishnah (Pirkei Avos) does Rav Chaim of Volozhin state the quote shown at the top of this message?

    Please email the answer to: Thank you!

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