Monday, March 17, 2008

Using Igros Kodesh - A Story From Chabakuk Elisha


Chabakuk Elisha commenting on Using Igros Kodesh:

When my third son was born, a rebbe that I was close to was going to be the sandek and I planned to name my son Moshe after one of the sandek's ancestors. The bris, however, was scheduled for the yahrzeit of the Baal haTanya (24 Teves) and I felt that it would be more appropriate to name my son Schneur Zalman. The primary problem was that this rebbe was unhappy about my Chabad interest, and since he was sandek, I felt that I should stick with the name Moshe. I figured that naming my son Schneur Zalman would be perceived as a slap in the face. I considered combining the two names, but the minhag in Chabad is not to mix names of rebbes, so I was hesitant to do that. I would probably have just wimped out and named him Moshe, but my wife wouldn't hear of it - she was adamant that the name include Schenur Zalman.

I was a bit torn, but I had a week to figure out what to do. Thy days went by and the big day got closer, so with two days to go my wife said that we should open an Igros Kodesh and see if the Lubavitcher Rebbe could guide us to a proper resolution. I was hesitant, but after thinking about the reality that I had no way to resolve this I agreed. The letter went something like this:

Regarding your question about what language to use on the matzeiva, my opinion is that you should combine the Lubavitcher nusach and your own community nusach so that the best of both will be included. Furthermore, you should never feel ashamed of your connection with Lubavitch, and there is no reason why you cant be proud of all your affiliations.

So, my wife felt that this was a clear answer to name him Moshe Schenur Zalman, and I pretty much agreed - but was still a little hesitant. The next day (the day before the bris) I was up early and before davening I randomly took out a Likkutei Sichos #7 and opened it up to learn the 24 Teves sicha there, and wouldn't you know it! The entire sicha was about the connection of the name Schenur Zalman and Moshe. I was blown away, and today that's my son's name.

UPDATE:

Since I sent this comment as an email to our friend ASJ, and I didnt completely state my position in it, I feel that I should post a clarification:

Conceptually, I'm fine with the use of Igros under the proper circumstances and depending on usage; however, it is often abused and improperly used. Moreover, the Rebbe never promoted it, nor did he advise people to use it when he was gone. The Rebbe explicitly stated that: In times when one cannot ask the Rebbe, they should speak with the Mashpiim and the Rebbe will guide them (“Aseh lecha Rav”). And for this reason there are many Lubavitchers that completely oppose using the Igros in this way. The Igros were not printed as a magic trick – to the contrary, printing the Rebbe’s Igros is so that when you have a dilemma you can look up and read what the Rebbe responded to people in similar situations; that is its intended use. Nevertheless, the Rebbe did say that the Rebbe will find a way to answer us, and I do think that using Igros is one method of trying to find that way...as long as it’s not abused.

But here's the deal:

There are problems with using Igros for guidance. I do think that using Igros has legitimacy (as does any Holy Sefer), but we need to think twice first. Is the specific question or matter one that should be directed to a mashpia, a rabbinic authority or a knowledgeable friend? If so, one shouldn’t use the Igros for that. We need to be self-aware and think twice before taking the Igros route – are we trying to avoid something by it? Is it really the right direction for the specific issue? Like many things, we must be introspective about it first. Some common unfortunate motivations for using Igros this way are:

1. It is often used as an easy way to avoid responsibility.

2. It feeds a certain desire to feel connected with the supernatural (as it feels more mystical & kabbalistic) to open the Igros and get responses from beyond the grave. This is actually very problematic and comes close the issur of nichush (divination).

3. It makes no real demands.

Using Igros for guidance provides the very cool freedom to interpret it however you like. Thus it’s an easy tool to do whatever the heck one may please, and convince one’s-self (and attempt to convince others) that this is what the Rebbe wants – when, of course, a mashpia might tell you something you disagree with

So I think that use of the Igros by opening to a random page for an answer should be used only on rare, select, occasions: Only on occasions that a mashpia or other route wouldn’t really be helpful.

15 Comments:

At March 17, 2008 at 12:39:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Abu Chabakuk said...

Amazing hashgochah!

 
At March 17, 2008 at 4:41:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

very nice!!!!

 
At March 17, 2008 at 8:57:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Very cool. I have several friends who totally hold by utilizing Igros Kodesh.

 
At March 18, 2008 at 10:01:00 AM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Since I sent this comment as an email to our friend ASJ, and I didnt completely state my position in it, I feel that I should post a clarification:

Conceptually, I'm fine with the use of Igros under the proper circumstances and depending on usage; however, it is often abused and improperly used. Moreover, the Rebbe never promoted it, nor did he advise people to use it when he was gone. The Rebbe explicitly stated that: In times when one cannot ask the Rebbe, they should speak with the Mashpiim and the Rebbe will guide them (“Aseh lecha Rav”). And for this reason there are many Lubavitchers that completely oppose using the Igros in this way. The Igros were not printed as a magic trick – to the contrary, printing the Rebbe’s Igros is so that when you have a dilemma you can look up and read what the Rebbe responded to people in similar situations; that is its intended use. Nevertheless, the Rebbe did say that the Rebbe will find a way to answer us, and I do think that using Igros is one method of trying to find that way...as long as it’s not abused.

But here's the deal:

There are problems with using Igros for guidance. I do think that using Igros has legitimacy (as does any Holy Sefer), but we need to think twice first. Is the specific question or matter one that should be directed to a mashpia, a rabbinic authority or a knowledgeable friend? If so, one shouldn’t use the Igros for that. We need to be self-aware and think twice before taking the Igros route – are we trying to avoid something by it? Is it really the right direction for the specific issue? Like many things, we must be introspective about it first. Some common unfortunate motivations for using Igros this way are:

1. It is often used as an easy way to avoid responsibility.
2. It feeds a certain desire to feel connected with the supernatural (as it feels more mystical & kabbalistic) to open the Igros and get responses from beyond the grave. This is actually very problematic and comes close the issur of nichush (divination).
3. It makes no real demands.

Using Igros for guidance provides the very cool freedom to interpret it however you like. Thus it’s an easy tool to do whatever the heck one may please, and convince one’s-self (and attempt to convince others) that this is what the Rebbe wants – when, of course, a mashpia might tell you something you disagree with

So I think that use of the Igros by opening to a random page for an answer should be used only on rare, select, occasions: Only on occasions that a mashpia or other route wouldn’t really be helpful.

 
At March 18, 2008 at 10:44:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Schneur Zalman said...

Very interesting. A few random comments:

Certainly in White Russia there was no hakpoda in combining names of the rebbes. Many Chabad people were called Zalman Mendel, Zalman Duber etc. Take a look in Sefer Hatzezaim and even there you will see examples of what I refer to. Check the memorial book to my faher's town Kurenitz and most people carried 2 names of Chabad rebbes or other Chassidic leaders like the Berdichever or the Besht.Perhaps in today's Chabad its not done.

Actually why go the Igros, why not get advice MiPi HaGevurah from the Torah itself. We have the Goral haGera which works that way. I don't recall Reb Yeruchem or Reb Elchonon doing a gorel with the Nefesh hachaim! In addiiton there are other similiar methods in order to obtain guidance from the Torah itself.

Personally I have no problem with people getting advise from the Igros, on matters like names, buying a wonderful home in Miami Beach or doing a good shidduch, but the Chabad Rebbe was always a nasi hador . In terms of Klal this method is close to absurd. Would we adopt positions on Israel, teritories peace strategies etc based on the Igros. We already know Dor dor vedorshav... each generation has a new nasi to meet the needs of the times new realities and new conditions.

 
At March 18, 2008 at 11:01:00 AM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

I know - the hakpoda against naming is something that the Rebbe spoke about, but in earlier generations (like we've spoken about in the past) people were less into hakpados in Chabad.

I'm fine with people who would like to use Gorel HaGra isntead, or any sefer for that matter.

 
At March 18, 2008 at 12:06:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Abu Chabakuk said...

I believe that Reb Nachman of Breslev suggests using a holy sefer as a source of guidance in this way when one doesn't have another reliable eitzah: see Sefer HaMidos, inyan "Daas."

 
At March 18, 2008 at 12:08:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Sefer HaMiddos, Daas 14: "When a person wants to know how to proceed in a particular situation, let him open a holy book and he will understand what to do."

 
At March 21, 2008 at 4:41:00 PM EDT, Blogger Gandalin said...

Purim Sameach!

Forgive me for intruding to make a comment.

I have not used the Igros Kodesh in this manner, but for a period of time I did open a Tanakh at "random" for guidance.

I know that every pasuk in Tanakh is full of very important meaning, that can inspire and instruct me, as an individual, and also all of us.

When seeking guidance from the Eybershter, I could certainly turn to the week's parsha, to the week's haftarah, to Tehillim, or to some other chapter that I think will help me.

But of course in that case, if I choose, then who is helping whom?

Opening the Tanakh at random enables the selection to be made by other than myself.

If I believe in hashgacha protis, then I know that the pasuk that is found by chance, is the one intended by Hashem. If someone doesn't believe in hashgacha protis, then they may see this as allowing an aleatory process to shed light on the issue in an unanticipated way.

The purpose is not divination, in the sense of predicting the future or allowing unknown forces or entities to direct us, but rather the purpose is to gain an outside-the-box understanding of something.

 
At March 24, 2008 at 10:31:00 AM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Gandalin,

As usual, I completely agree with you.

 
At April 13, 2008 at 10:01:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be careful before you apply a label of divination without studying it first!

Maybe some of the other reasons may sometimes be correct. But not this one...

I see looking at the Igros as a way of seeing some of the Rebbe's Torah advice. In fact this is one of the ways the custom originated. A rav who used to study 5 letters a day, saw amazing hashgocho in the way the advice applied to his rabbanus.
He spoke about it, and other people also started seeing the hashgocha protis.

Someone who uses the Igros a lot is someone who becomes very familiar with the Rebbe's approach to different problems and issues.

Without intending to put the Igros ahead, I think that it's much clearer than Goral haGra, because it's extremely specific, much easier to interpret than a possuk.

And the custom is *not* to rely on one's own interpretation, but to enlist the aid of a mashpia/or rav.

This happened to me recently, when I showed it to my mashpia. She wanted to ask a rav, and he said he wouldn't look at it until I provided more information. This rav would use the igros, but not before looking at the issue from a purely practical angle. (It wasn't a halachic question, it was a shidduch question).

 
At May 14, 2009 at 7:49:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Deborah Shaya said...

1. We are only allowed to pray to Hashem.

If people want to pray to anyone else, and make requests of any being other than Hakadosh Baruch Hu, they might as well join Xtianity.

2. When Moshe prayed, he prayed to Hashem. He did not pray to any Malachim or any celestial beings. These are all the creations of Hashem.

(Similarly, the Neilah prayer for Yom Kippur in the Ashkenazi tradition, includes direct Tefillot and requests to Malachim. They are creations of Hashem. We are not allowed to pray to any Malachim. This is completely assur and causes very great damage. The Neilah Tefillah for Yom Kippur should be amended speedily to remove all prayers and requests to Malachim.)

• There should be NO MEDIATOR between a person’s tefillot and Hashem.

If a person chooses to use intercession instead of praying directly to Hashem, this is completely Assur.

If the leaders of Chabad encouraged people to use the “Igrot” - including Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, tz”l - they were wrong. Using the Igrot is using intercession.
It is assur and forbidden.

People who are using the Igrot are using intercession, which is Assur. They should stop doing this straight away. Teshuvah to Hashem should be done speedily instead.

3. Why not choose the very greatest of all prophets, Moshe Rabbeinu?

Why don’t you look inside the Torah - instead of letters written to other people by Rabbi Schneerson tz”l during his lifetime?

Moshe is the greatest of all prophets, and no other prophet was equal to him.

“Zichru Torat Moshe Avdi” we are told in Malachi (3:22)

There simply is no comparison between Moshe Rabbeinu and Rabbi Schneerson tz”l, although Rabbi Schneerson tz”l was a Tzaddik and a very righteous and good man.

4. Moshe Rabbeinu was the greatest of all prophets, and we do not even pray in the name of Moshe. Neither do we pray in the name of David Hamelech, whose descendent is the Mashiach.

However, in the very first Beracha of the Amidah, the silent prayer to Hashem containing our requests, we recall the merit of the Avot: “…..Elokei Avraham, Elokei Yitzhak Velokei Yaakov….” “….The G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzhak and the G-d of Yaakov…”

The beracha is concluded with “Magen Avraham.”


In summary:

(1) We pray to Hashem – at all times.

(2) There should be no mediator between Hashem and a person’s tefillot – otherwise this is Assur.

Therefore the practice of using the “Igrot” for requests and guidance should be stopped. The reason for this is that this is using intercession. And the use of a “mediator” or someone to “intercede on a person’s behalf” to Hashem, is assur.

Teshuvah must be done.

(3) Why not choose the greatest of all prophets – Moshe Rabbeinu – and look inside the Torah?

 
At August 21, 2009 at 8:43:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Igrot Kodesh said...

BS"D

Actually I know a Shaliach who inserts his letter in a page of the Igros Kodesh but does not read the content of the page. Which means that he uses it as a way to convey a message but does not try to find an answer in a letter which was not meant for him.

 
At September 13, 2009 at 9:08:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Deborah Shaya said...

Please would you tell the Shaliach to stop doing this.

He should open the Chumash instead. And in there - he will see the Words of Hashem, the Living G-d, in the Torah. The words of the Torah are eternal, for all time.

More specifically, the Shaliach should re-open the Parsha of the week. Because we live through the Parsha of each week. And the Parsha of the week will contain words of direct significance to him. He should think about what he is reading.

And from those Divine words, he will be elevated, and derive inspiration. He will be strengthened in his Emunah and activities for his daily life.

What do we say every morning?
"Modeh ani lefanecha, Melech, Chai, Vekayam...."

"I give thanks before You, LIVING and everlasting KING....".

Hashem is our Living King. And so we must look at His words of Life - which are to be found in His Torah.

Try it.

 
At April 5, 2011 at 8:26:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Friend of Chabad said...

Dear Deborah Shaya,

If you don't want to use the Igros-then don't. Nobody is forcing you. However, to say that it's ossur is just plain nonsense. There are sources in the gemara for placing letters into seforim. It's an established part of Judaism!

I'm sure you can find (even today) anti-Chabad Rabbonim who might say it's ossur, but also you can non-Lubavitcher Rabbonim who say it's muter.

Your opinion that is ossur is fine but it's only your opinion, but be aware that there are plenty of legitimate Rabbonim who hold it's mutar. I don't know if they are in the majority or minority but halacha works by the opinion of different poskim as you may know.

Ko Tuv

 

Post a Comment

<< Home