Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Guest Posting By Chabakuk Elisha - Post Gimmel Tammuz Hiskashrus


Someone once told me: "You know, you're a Lubavitcher the way a Conservative Jew is religious." He meant this as a compliment, but it got me thinking – what does that mean? Is it bad or good? And is it true? Of course, this begs a number of definitions: What is Lubavitch? What is a Lubavitcher? And, where do I fit in?

To me (and to pretty-much anyone else as well) there is a fantasy "Lubavitch" that we create in our minds eye. Most of the time, that "Lubavitch" is no more than one person's perception, and its relationship to reality is entirely subjective. No doubt there are elements of truth – sometimes more, sometimes less – but it's far more complex than one individual's description, because it is so many things: It's a culture, it's a philosophy, it's a movement, it's a path of avodas Hashem, it's a community, and it may very well be more things that I haven't listed. Each individual decides which elements are more significant and important, and which are less so – myself included. But to all people, Lubavitch is represented by the Rebbes of Lubavitch, and most recently by the last Rebbe – and, again, everyone thinks of the Rebbe using their own ideas and definitions and creates a Rebbe in whatever image they fantasize, just as they do with the definition of Lubavitch in general. Sadly, it becomes almost inevitable that the Rebbe is turned into a two-dimensional caricature – and we often see that the Rebbe has been turned into not much more than a superhero, the kind we might find in Marvel Comics named "Moshiach–Man" or something like that, all that's missing is the cape.

It's a bummer – it's tragic really. The extent of the "caricature-ization" of the Rebbe and Lubavitch in general, by Lubavitchers, saddens me constantly. To quote R' Manis Friedman, "Zei hobben genumen a groiseh Rebbe, un fun em gemacht a kleiner Moshiach - They took a great Rebbe and turned him into an insignificant Moshiach" – a the Moshiach campaign quickly turned into shallow, silly, ridiculous and warped ideas – and to add insult to injury, this comes complete with slogans, key chains, trading cards, engravings, posters, clocks, bumper stickers, watches, cell phone pouches, to who knows what else. I think that the word Moshiach is so loaded, and so full of mystery and people's dreams, that as soon as the label got thrown around by the masses, we were doomed to a cartoon Rebbe almost immediately. Honestly, I will never understand the Moshiach craze. Honestly, I don't see why I should care who Moshiach is and what he looks like – he is who he is. What's wrong with the word Rebbe that anyone saw the need to add the title Moshiach and thus add confusion and mayhem – was anything lacking in the title "Rebbe" that this was necessary? I have attempted to discuss this with people, including "Meshicistin" that I've met or know, but I am still no closer today to understanding the Yechi Yarmulka or the Yechi mantra than I ever was. In the process though, rather than building the Rebbe up, I think they have defaced the Rebbe and Lubavitch in such a way that had it been from an outside force it would be tantamount to an act of war.

But I'm not a "movement" person, so who am I to speak about this. Indeed, the Rebbe was aware and promoted much of what led to this. Indeed, I am a worthless Joe that should be ashamed of my lack of Torah & Mitzvos. Indeed, who am I to look askance at anyone who probably is doing far more than me to spread Yiddishkeit and be oveid Hashem? I shouldn't, but it still pains me. It pains me, because I love the Rebbe, and I love the Lubavitch that I believe in. I wish it was all a dream, and a serious Lubavitch, a refined and spiritual Lubavitch, a completive and pure Lubavitch would suddenly appear. What can I say, is it wrong to wish for that? Maybe it is…

I don't like "group think," and what can I say… I like nuance. Why must we define the Rebbe or Lubavitch with simplistic and flat definitions? Why does a shliach or mashpia need to state simple definitions as emphatic truth without qualifications? Why do people demand that others project certain one dimensional definitions on everything? I guess that's what movements do, and I guess there's merit to it – just look at its success – but I don't think it works long term. I don't think the younger generations buy it. I haven't done a survey or a study of this, but I don't think it has lasting power with this generation growing up that never saw the Rebbe. Instead, I think it erodes respect – as the gabbai in my shul once said, "How do they expect our children to respect the Rebbe when they have turned him into Mickey Mouse?"

Indeed, how?

Lubavitch will survive. The bookcase of seforim will see to that. The underlying messages and the lives of the Rabbeim have compelling and powerful truths that will endure – this is assured. But the movement? I don't know where it will lead. Today, Lubavitch is a small klal Yisroel; there are people – that call themselves Lubavitchers – that cross the spectrum, from truly refined Chassidim, ovdei Hashem, to people that aren't religious… and everything in between. There is no standard, no single type, no shared element across the board other than perhaps a picture of the Rebbe a visit to the Ohel, or "770," or a Likkutei Sichos. There are Chassidim with long beards and once white shirts that spend their days discussing maamroim, there are clean shaven folks with colorful shirts and jeans talking (hopefully) about sports, there are people putting on events, there are people – Lubavitchers – doing any-and-everything imaginable.

As for me, I guess I also fit in there somewhere… also doing my own thing…

25 Comments:

At September 19, 2007 at 9:30:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

Thank you, CE, for such an open & critical approach to this subject, which I'm sure was not so easy to write about. I myself owe a lot to Lubavitch, as many of the people who found their way 'back' to Judaism around the time I did, were associated with the Rebbe ztvk"l. This includes one of the men who was a sigificant catalyst in my own return.
That said, I've always been bothered by a point you mentioned ever-so-briefly: Indeed, the Rebbe was aware and promoted much of what led to this. Why did he allow this to happen, & even seemed to encourage it? Especially since the Meshichist aspect of Lubavitch has made it a laughing stock [or worse] in much of the frum world.
But just to take this one notch further: Why isn't anything being done NOW to uproot this nonsense from an otherwise strong & healthy Chassidus? Lubavitch indeed has much to be proud of, it's a shame that it loses so much respectability over this issue.
The only answer I've heard, albeit a cynical one, is that ALL Lubavitchers are believe that the Rebbe's Moshiach, just those non-Meshichistim want to maintain their image as rational, so they don't actively "identify" with it.
But assuming that there really are more people like yourself who have a realistic & sensible viewpoint, can't something be done about this?

 
At September 19, 2007 at 10:25:00 AM EDT, Anonymous schneur said...

In every generation since the time of the Alter rebbe and certainly since the death of the Zemach Zedek there were Chabad chassidim who were not mekusher to a Rebbe.
Rabbi Israel Jacobson records an interesting point made by the 6th rebbe . The Rayaatz stated that there were 3 types of Chabad people : Chaside haGeza - those who felt an emotional blood tie to Chabad , Chaside hanusach , those who observed Chabad minhogim and the liturgy of Chabad and Chaside Chabad those who studied Dach. I suppose there was also a 4th class those who were mekushar to the rebbe .(Lets not forget that until 1926 there were alternate Chabad rebbes teaching Chabad , who were objectivley speaking as legitimate as Lubavitch)
In addition there were older chassidm who were mekushar to the PREVIOUS REBBE of that generation.
If in fact hiskashrus is a major point then it behooves todays Chabad " leadership "to appoint a new rebbe.
As "chutzpadik "as that may seem to be, is it not more "chutzpadik" to leave the Chabad civilizaion for the first time in history (for any length of time ) without any spiriual leadership.
After all Chabad's model is not Bratslev.
Another point I need to make is that in this generation for the first time in history many people are Chabad because they are making a living being such. There are clearly thousands of Shluchim and "palivine" and "poda" shluchim all making a living off the name Chabad.
Such people by and large do not wish to rock the boat. After all new leadership may revise the attitude towards the place of kiruv in the movement and may actually displace some of these people from their positions of power and salaries. Imagine for a moment if you will, one of Rabbi Baruch Shimen Schneerson's children being chosen as the new rebbe. Clearly outreach or whatever you call it may not be the only thing on his mind,a nd he may not de overly impressed with the families runnimg Aguch and its sattelite groups.Frankly most chabad people I know are on salary. Of course there are a many who are lay people , but I posit a majority of Chabad people world wide make a living off the name Chabad and have a personal stake that the boat not be rocked.
To conclude sane people who have no negioth in terms of money and power should get together and evaluate what should be done if anything to ensure the future of Chabad as a meaningful movement , and not just as a meaningless term such as a Young Israel member or a OU member or a Charedi .

 
At September 19, 2007 at 10:47:00 AM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Yitz,

Thanks. I obviously can't really answer for the Rebbe - I can guess or propose theories. But I think that the Rebbe’s perspective was pro-movements, and that by using the movement approach (with all it’s problems) it would be the most successful at spreading Yiddishkeit and raising awareness – and the Moshiach campaign used the same paradigm…for better or for worse. Unfortunately, Lubavitch is pure chaos right now, so very little can be done about the situation until some kind of order develops – but the fact does remain that there are basically 3 camps in Lubavitch about the Rebbe being Moshich:
1. Definitely
2. Probably
3. Maybe
And since there is no camp that says the Rebbe is NOT Moshiach, it is very hard for them to fight the Meshichistin successfully… (I am in a 4th camp called “What’s the difference who is Moshiach?”) But I think this will be corrected with time; hopefully Moshiach will come first, otherwise it will take a generation to really correct itself.


Schneur,
As to the first part of your comment: Thanks! I have been saying this for ages, and when I do I usually hear something like: "you obviosuly aren't much of a chossid."

As to the second part: Cynicism is eich a yetzer hora!

 
At September 19, 2007 at 12:05:00 PM EDT, Anonymous schneur said...

C.E.Thanks for the feed back. As far as the yetzer hore is concerned the old Gerer rebbe was a book collector of a " fanatical" varity and when once criticized mildly for this , he remarked if one has to have a yetzer hore let itbe something like collecting seforim, (a similiar story is told of the Rogochover Illuy learning on Tishe beAv ). So I can live with it if my yetzer Hore is to try to get some people interested in "repairing" Chabad so let it be , I am willing to concede the other taaves to other people...
As Chazal tell us if not for that yetzer the world would cease to exist... Gmar Tov

 
At September 19, 2007 at 12:16:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

Lubavitch will survive. The bookcase of seforim will see to that.

How many in today Lubavitch are pursuing the inner path of Chasidus? (that of Baal Shem Tov and specific Chabad path?). Many sforim are simply dusting on shelves, labeled "way too much for current generations" (for example Kuntreys haHispaylus and similar). There are of course who seek for pnimius, and not just Mickey Mouse approach. But are there a lot of them?

 
At September 19, 2007 at 12:18:00 PM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Schneur,

Touché!

Gmar Chasima Tova

 
At September 19, 2007 at 12:21:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

Shneur: As "chutzpadik "as that may seem to be, is it not more "chutzpadik" to leave the Chabad civilizaion for the first time in history (for any length of time ) without any spiriual leadership.
After all Chabad's model is not Bratslev.


It didn't stop some great chasidim of Chabad to leave to Breslov precisely. Reb Hillel Paritcher leaved Chenrobil for Chabad. The personal spiritual search is better than spiritual lethargy.

 
At September 19, 2007 at 12:21:00 PM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

A Yid,

I'll reuse my "Klal Yisroel" example: How many Jews today are religious? Probably a minority – but it exists, and it always will. Similarly, those Chassidim that you speak of exist. They may be a minority – but it’s not as small a minority as you might think, and they’ll always be there.

 
At September 19, 2007 at 2:07:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

CE,
Great post and very insightful. While I am not Lubavitch, we are big fans (my wife's beginning of Torah observance it totally due to her parents relationship with a shliach).

"As for me, I guess I also fit in there somewhere… also doing my own thing…", this is probably true for, at least, myself as well.

In your experience do you feel that Chabad allows people to have multi-sided hashkafos, or at this point in history are they more interested in people keeping to the 'party line'?

 
At September 19, 2007 at 2:14:00 PM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

In my experience, party line is fairly strong about many things. However, it obviously depends on who you interact with, and it’s not like anything significant happens if you do your own thing…

 
At September 19, 2007 at 2:21:00 PM EDT, Anonymous schneur said...

A Yid :
In today's scene there are very few spiritual seekers rom the FFB community. Most people receive their spiritual nourishment as part of a kehilla.So community etc is important as much as I dislike such instruments.
A historical question, how many Lubavitcher left Chabad in Russia to become Braslaver, I can not think of any except for reb hillel Zeitlin or Rav Hurvitz the son of the Winnipeger rav neither of who were Lubavither rather Chabad people. In todays post Rebbe world, I am unaware of more than a few Chabdnikim going to toher rebbe's for spiritual satisfaction. I think the Matz Rabbi heller used to go to the tischen of Reb Hershel Spinker Zt"l, but were there any Anash that sought new rebbes ?
Proves my point that community is wat counts today.
Of course the world of Returnees to judaism is very different in terms of personal spiritual journeys.Gmar Tov

 
At September 19, 2007 at 2:34:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

schneur:Do you have any idea how many Lubavitchers go to Uman every year? Ask them why they go.

One of the most known Lubavitcher chasidim that became Breslovers was Reb Boruch Efraim (who was the choyzer of Tzemach Tzedek ztz"l and after his histalkus became a talmid of Reb Nachman Cheriner ztz"l - the leading figure in Breslov in generation after Reb Noson). He wrote a whole seyfer on Likutey Moharan called "Beivey haNachal".

 
At September 19, 2007 at 2:36:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

Shneur: What counts is always one's search for a tzaddik, which the community can't substitute (I'm not diminishing the value of chaburo/kehilo ch"v, I'm just talking about that one's spiritual search IS important, unlike many think).

 
At September 19, 2007 at 2:44:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Schneur:

http://mysticalpaths.blogspot.com/2007/01/chabad-and-breslov-connections.html

 
At September 19, 2007 at 2:47:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

Anonymous: Thanks.

 
At September 19, 2007 at 2:50:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

Here is more: http://mysticalpaths.blogspot.com/2007/01/more-on-chabad-and-breslov.html

 
At September 19, 2007 at 3:09:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

CE: Thanks.

 
At September 19, 2007 at 4:01:00 PM EDT, Anonymous schneur said...

The sites detailing Breslev Lubavitch "connections" are interesting and I suppose accurate.
However I can post similiar essays on relationships between Lubavitch and Munkatch, Lubavitch and zidichoyv ,on Lubavitch and Stolin-Karlin, on Lubavitch and Kotzk-Ger, on Lubavitch and Mitnagdim, of Lubavitch- nevorhodok connections on Lubavitch Baba sali relationship,on Lubavitch and the Twersy dynasty on Lubavitch and Tzantz ,on Lubavitch and the kedushas levi and so on and so forth. After all as the rebbe said Bnai ish echad anachnu , no ? are we not all Jews and are they not all Chassidim.
In my own personal conversations with true Anash Lubavitch , while they had no specific criticism of Breslev (except for the fact that we have a living rebbe and they do not) but they clearly had little enthusiasm for Breslever chassidus not any more than they did for belz, Ger, Skver, Tolna, vishnitz or any other chassidic group. Fundementally I doubt Breslev enjoyed any special relationship with chabad any more than did Reb levi yitzchok of Berdichev, the Meor Eynayim , or other Chassidic groups. To prove a special relationship one needs to show something more than a series of " uvdas" that prove that the Rebbeim liked Reb nachman so did the satmarer rebbe did that make him have a special relationship with breslev, or the fact that the Krasner rav liked tanya make him a Chabad follower ?

 
At September 19, 2007 at 4:47:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

schneur(except for the fact that we have a living rebbe and they do not)

You mean before the ptiro of the Lubavitcher Rebe, I suppose? Now situation in Chabad is similar to Breslev in terms of hiskashrus.

Baal haTania discusses it in Iggeres haKoydesh 27.

schneurbut they clearly had little enthusiasm for Breslever chassidus

I assume such Lubavitcher not educated enough. Lubavitchers that I had contact with were versed in different degree in sifrey Chasidus like talmidey Baal Shem Tov and Breslov too, seeing there no contradiction to Chabad.

 
At November 14, 2007 at 10:16:00 PM EST, Blogger Leah Kleim said...

YOU SAID IT PERFECTLY !!! WOW.

 
At March 4, 2008 at 10:53:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a theory why the Rebbe allowed and indeed encouraged this moshiach craze that makes Lubavitch look so silly. This theory may seem strange at first, but upon reflection one may find merit in it. The Rebbe's mission was to prepare the world for moshiach, and Moshiach means personal knowledge of G-d, when "One will no longer need a teacher, but will know G-d for himself". To that end he had to break the last remaining spiritual resistance against G-d. The last remaining (and fanatical) spiritual resistance against G-d is Amalek, who "knows G-d, but still wages war against Him". This Amalek, I suspect is Lubavitch Chassidim, who "know G-d" because they study Chassidus, but oppose Him, because they vehemently oppose searching for him within one's soul. By making them scream and shout all day every day "Moshiach now!", it will eventually sink into them and they too will be ready for inner spiritual search for G-d, just like the rest of the world. As it stands now, they don't need G-d, because Rebbe stands for G-d. As a result, they vehemently oppose anyone searching for G-d, because to them it means abandoning the Rebbe. This opposition to the search for G-d is truly fanatical. It far surpasses and outweighs anything they've learned about pnimius, hisbonenus, dveikus, kavonah, hispailelus, etc. in their learning of Chassidus. To them, these terms are meaningless at best, or utterly contemptible at worst. In fact they consider them a sin. They tell stories among themselves, mocking people who engage in these activities. It took me a long time to realize that behind all the slogans and zeal, these people oppose G-d with their very being. A mighty Amalek indeed. That's why the Rebbe gathered them around himself, to break them down through incessant "Moshiach Now!" and "Yechi!". I suspect that he even hinted that Amalek is Lubavitch in one of his sichos.

 
At March 27, 2008 at 4:36:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the Amalek theorist...Truly insane...I have heard many lunacies in my life.. but you are a definite original.

Apparently you are G-d like in your powers of perception able to read people's minds and hearts and state unequivocally that tens of thousands of Rabbonim, Rebbeim, Shochtim, Shluchim along with all their respective rebbetizns and of course, needless to say, all of the many Bochurey Hayeshivah learning Al Hatorah Val havodah are all manifestations of Amalek..

Wow.. You are one genuinely sick indiviudal..

At least you have helped solve the perennial question of AD MOSAi, of why Moshiach is not yet here , whoever he maybe.

May hashem protect Klal Yisroel from such venomous poison infecting any more jewish hearts and minds so Moshiach can actually come.

 
At August 7, 2008 at 5:02:00 AM EDT, Anonymous chenyok said...

Hi CE, I see you're a serious guy and I respect that. But I think you're being a bit harsh. Not everyone is on the level to be totally inspired to davven for Moshiach from a maamar in Likutei Torah. Not that they shouldn't be encouraged to learn it; they should.

But when the Rebbe said to send out the message of strengthening emunah in Moshiach, he meant to everyone on their level. It needs to come down in a way that even children and unlearned people can identify with. So there are signs, flags and yes, bumper stickers. It's not your style? That's fine; it's not directed to you.

 
At August 7, 2008 at 11:09:00 AM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Chenyok,

Nu, nu.

Thanks for visiting :-)

 
At August 8, 2008 at 3:19:00 AM EDT, Blogger Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver said...

"it behooves todays Chabad leadership to appoint a new rebbe."

schneur, may I suggest you see this blog post: http://tzaddikim.blogspot.com/2008/07/infallible-3.html

 

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