Thursday, March 05, 2009

Guest Posting By Chabakuk Elisha - Kiruv Vs. Soul Mongering


Sometimes I wonder why I do this (well, maybe more than sometimes), but I guess I just can’t help myself. Here goes: I want to discuss something about kiruv, and I know that this will be easy to misunderstand and no doubt get me in trouble – so for those reading it, I hope you’ll give me a break.

Recently someone mentioned that Chabad is comfortable with chilul Shabbos, specifically people who drive to shul. We’ve discussed that before, but I want to get to something deeper than specific examples. To understand what I mean, let me start by asking if kiruv can be considered humane, ethical, moral, healthy or good? Is it even mentchlach to try to convince people to reject their families, backgrounds, friends, perhaps wives and children, and completely change their lives to join a community that in all likelihood they will always struggle to be a part of? Is that even fair? Is that really good for the individual prospective Baal Teshuva?

The obvious answer is that we’re talking about someone’s soul here – but let me ask: if so, are we the same as any other missionary group? Sure, we make a distinction: We’re only interested in Jews. But still, we must make sure that we really ARE different. We need to insure that we offer something truly better, and it must also be done in a better way – as the only way to truly overcome anything, is to offer something better.

And this is what bothers me with certain types of kiruv. I think sometimes people forget that the potential mekurav is a real person. He/she has a life, family, background, etc. They were raised a certain way and have certain responsibilities. They love and are loved. And all those things are important and need to be considered carefully – I can’t reconcile carelessly ripping people away from all of that and turning them into virtual orphans superimposed onto a society that’s often quite foreign, and sometimes remains foreign forever. How can we do that to people?

Yet, we must do something. If we believe in Torah, we must believe in kiruv. And that’s where I think Chabad does it better.

I find it to be very troubling for some guy with nothing to lose to tell anyone to turn their life upside down, in every way, and to heck with the consequences. To the contrary, I really think that the only acceptable method of kiruv has to be with extreme sensitivity to the individual. We need to be careful and sensitive to these issues, be a positive influence, encourage them to take it at their own pace, and avoid lecturing or pressuring them. It needs to be entirely their decision – and it’s certainly not our place as frum Jews to judge them; we’re not in their shoes. Obviously, we don’t endorse chilul Shabbos; it is one of the most grievous offences in the Torah, which the Zohar counts as violating all of the mitzvos. But how dare we "tell off" those who weren’t raised with Shabbos as if they were truly aware of the kedushah of Shabbos? Who do we think we are?

But it seems to me that some of my frum brethren find this unacceptable. If some fine family is mechalel Shabbos, rather than just seeking their involvement in Yiddishkeit – which is, after all, their Jewish heritage – they feel that said family must suddenly go all the way or none of the way. This bothers me greatly.

It needs to be our role as frum Jews to seek the betterment of everyone. We need to value a single act. We also need to recognize that G-d isn’t crazy and his expectations aren’t crazy. To some, kiruv is along the lines of other missionary groups that are seeking to save your soul – they aren’t interested in any single act or progression – they are looking to only to for complete and total transformation to their lifestyle – and while I don’t blame Christian missionary groups for this, I do find it inhumane.

All I can think is that this is a result of a fundamental inhumanity that comes from legalistic view of religion. I call it soulless.

58 Comments:

At March 5, 2009 at 9:29:00 AM EST, Blogger chanie said...

Can you put a less disgusting picture?
Thanks!

 
At March 5, 2009 at 9:31:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

You don't think it goes with the theme of what my friend Chabakuk Elisha wrote about?

 
At March 5, 2009 at 9:45:00 AM EST, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

People tout their version of kiruv without letting on that in practice their "own kiruv" and the "other guys' kiruv" have a lot in common. Typically, only the good practices are said to be one's own. The reality of kiruv organizations is more complex, partially because of local or individual autonomy within the organizations, and partially because bad practices happen when frustration sets in. Some operatives play it as straight as they can while others have sunk to using alcohol as a recruitment tool.

 
At March 5, 2009 at 10:21:00 AM EST, Anonymous emunatidbits said...

When we keep in mind that we’re all far from perfect, it’s easier to tolerate other people short comings.

 
At March 5, 2009 at 10:38:00 AM EST, Blogger Neil said...

Great and much needed post.

 
At March 5, 2009 at 11:56:00 AM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

Ch. 30 of Tanya. Don’t think you’re better than someone because he has sinned, until you’ve been in his shoes (from P"A) — i.e., until you’ve had his challenges, been raised in his environment, etc.

At the same time, this person has no excuse doing what he is doing.

I think the issue is pragmatic, rather than ideological. If a person can’t take to be told not to be mechalel Shabbos, he shouldn’t be (i.e., he will flip out and leave Yiddishkeit altogether). If he can, we should tell him.

You don’t mekarev someone because he is bad, a sinner, needs help or needs to be “saved”. He is probably doing better than you (considering). You do it because every mitzva that he does creates a dwelling place for Hashem in this world — the reason for which the whole Universe exists, including the person, his situation, his troubles, family, etc.

 
At March 5, 2009 at 11:58:00 AM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

What’s the problem being like missionaries? What is this obsession with not being like X-ians in any conceivable way? “If I am I because you are you…”

 
At March 5, 2009 at 12:47:00 PM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

CA,

I have no inherent problem with missionary activity per se; it’s the methods and inhumanity that bothers me (well, among other things). And what can I say… I especially object to robbing people of their heritage. However, I do think that they do some good.

But, you know, although it's become in vogue for many Jews to feel a certain common ground with Christianity (and not for the first time in our history) – perhaps understandably, as both of us are under constant attack from the Left – but we should seek to maintain a sensitivity and distance, especially after a couple thousand years of persecution and their corruption of Torah. There are many things that we, as Yidden, used to do – but stopped because the Christians or other groups adopted those practices…

 
At March 5, 2009 at 12:49:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the present world climate Hashem wants us all to stop telling other Jews what to do. We need to show love and kindness as an example of how all Jews should behave. We need to speak in one voice.

 
At March 5, 2009 at 2:04:00 PM EST, Blogger Akiva Ben Canaan said...

This is a great post!

Rabbi AJ Heschel said it well:

"Every one of us entertains more relations with things than with people, and even in dealings with people we behave towards them as if they were things, tools, means to be used for our own ends. How rarely do we face a person as a person!"

If we appreciated the intricacy, depth and holiness of each unaffiliated Jew, and showed real interest in them as human beings (instead as another feather in our 'outreach cap'), our outreach efforts would probably be a lot more successful...

 
At March 5, 2009 at 2:21:00 PM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Akiva B.C.
How true - Thank you!

 
At March 5, 2009 at 4:01:00 PM EST, Blogger micha said...

People with special needs often also get reduced from being a person to being a cheftzah shel mitzvah (the object for a mitzvah). As are geirim and other Jews of atypical ethnicity. ("Wow, I'm friends with our shul's token black guy! I proved I'm open minded!") How about singles who are invited for Shabbos and are grilled for personal details with no thought to their being potential friends?

There is a basic paradox in defining "lishmah" (for its own sake) when it comes to mitzvos bein adam lachaveiro (mitzvos between a person and his peer). If you're doing it for the sake of the mitzvah, you are no longer doing it because of unity with the peer. In which case, is it still an act of chessed, or did it become a mitzvah bein adam laMaqom (between man and the Omnipresent)? I blogged about it here.

-micha

 
At March 5, 2009 at 4:50:00 PM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Thanks, R' Micha, for your comment and link!
I honestly don't relate to this paradox; if bein adam l'chaveiro (as per the statements of Hillel, R' Akiva, et al) is the fundamental cornerstone of Yiddishkeit, I would think that the human relationship is the most important element.
I also don’t relate to mitzvos as being lifeless entities - I would think that any mitzva bein adam l'chaveiro cannot be a lifeless “cheftza shel mitzva,” and even a mitzva lishma bein adam L'Makom (I would think) shouldn’t be lifeless...

 
At March 5, 2009 at 4:58:00 PM EST, Blogger Avi Kolko said...

Important to remember that we don't have to save Klal Yisroel. That's God's business. That being the case, we should just do what we're supposed to, and not just permit everything for the sake of kiruv.

 
At March 5, 2009 at 5:03:00 PM EST, Anonymous zezmir said...

Avi,
That's news to me, brother. What's with that whole "arevim zeh l'zeh" thing? Or that hocheach tocheich concept?

 
At March 5, 2009 at 5:10:00 PM EST, Blogger Avi Kolko said...

Good point. Those are very important ideas.

In the current state of affairs, in the not so distant future, millions of Jews will no longer identify as Jews. For all intents and purposes, that makes them non-Jews.

A catastrophe. Believing that it's our job to change that can easily lead a person to permit terrible things for the sake of "saving Klal Yisroel".

It's not our job to save Klal Yisroel. God can take care of himself. The reason why we do Kiruv is because of the mitzva of hocheach tocheach and the mitzvah of teaching Torah. These are mitzvos like any others, and we don't just permit anything because we have to do mitzvos.

 
At March 5, 2009 at 5:19:00 PM EST, Blogger micha said...

It seems I wasn't sufficiently clear.

chabakuk elisha:I honestly don't relate to this paradox; if bein adam l'chaveiro (as per the statements of Hillel, R' Akiva, et al) is the fundamental cornerstone of Yiddishkeit, I would think that the human relationship is the most important element.

And yet doing a mitzvah lishmah usually means doing it for the sake of the mitzvah. Here we're saying that you really need do to it out of a love of the other person, because you really want to. And in fact, if you're nice to another person because it's a mitzvah or more directly -- because Hashem wants you to and "I am a servant of the Holy One, blessed be He -- you aren't expressing the love that the mitzvah is supposed to be about.

I also don’t relate to mitzvos as being lifeless entities - I would think that any mitzva bein adam l'chaveiro cannot be a lifeless “cheftza shel mitzva,” and even a mitzva lishma bein adam L'Makom (I would think) shouldn’t be lifeless...

Agreed. I was talking about the person being reduced to an object. I do one mitzvah with an esrog, another with tefillin, and this one with Yosl. And thus I don't relate to Yosl as Yosl, I relate to the mitzvah and am in a sense using Yosl to get that mitzvah done.

-micha

 
At March 5, 2009 at 6:01:00 PM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

I hear you, and it's in interesting diyuk.

Of course, when dealing with another person, it should be self-evident that the individual is what it's all about; and in order to fulfill the mitzva, we must care about the individual - by definition. That is the mitzva. However, I don't know, maybe optimally our motivation should be out of love for G-d? But it dosen't seem right - I think it may be more like, to love Hashem is to love his creations.

And even when discussing a cheifetz shel mitzva, I've seen people (like the Debrecener Rov Z"L, for example) get emotional - tears in their eyes - about things like a sukka or an esrog...I kinda think that it would be a great thing if I could get that emotional about any cheifetz shel mitzva.

Thanks again for your comment!

 
At March 5, 2009 at 6:18:00 PM EST, Anonymous אברבנאל said...

Powerful points!!!

Your post is provocative and stimulating, I couldn't agree more on every word you wrote. The whole idea of Judaism is that we are a family, a tradition practiced from generation to generation, and if we are busy splitting families, via kiruv, the opposite message comes across.

However, It's beyond any question that your post does not find place within the ultra O school of thought. As R' Soloviechick points out, "Halacha does not work with emotions", and if kiruv is a Halacha, then all sorts of family sentimentals should be trashed.

 
At March 5, 2009 at 6:30:00 PM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Abarbanel,
Thanks! But, as you know, the Rav Z"L was not that way. Sure, as a Brisker, he tried to maintain that line - but in fact he was an intensely emotional man, and I seem to recall that he regretted taking a strong stand on various halachic matters earlier in his life, when all it did was create endless grief and machlokes while not achieving much of the goals. He later said that had he knew then what he knows now, he would have taken a softer and slower approach.

That's what I am advocating.

 
At March 5, 2009 at 6:57:00 PM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Avi,
I don't follow you, what do you mean "G-d can take care of himself?" I don't even know that what means. Arent we told that our purose in this world is l’ovda ul’shomra - to make it holy place? Can we succeed if we just ignore those who aren’t currentky ninvolved? If we’re supposed to keep Torah and Mitzvos, which is supposed to make the world a holier place, hasten the redemption, etc, then it is important that people who are somewhat disconnected become more connected. Do we have to care about them? Isn’t it basic Ahavas Yisroel?
I think that the post covered this, but if we care (as you & Zezmir mentioned “areivim zeh l'zeh” & “hocheach tocheach”), and we believe that Torah & Mitzvos is important, we ought to want to reach out to people with limited or no background. However, as the post was all about, we must remember that they aren’t inanimate objects. Your statement that we “don’t just permit anything because we have to do mitzvos” is hard for me to understand.
Do you mean to say: Really these non-frum folks are essentially goyim and we shouldn’t have anything to do with them, but, since there is a mitzvah that we do something, we should do so out of obedience, and not allow for such things as tinuk shenishba or the like? IIRC Noach got criticized for his lack of concern for the rest of the world.
No, no. We don’t permit or forbid. Maybe that’s what you mean when you say, that’s G-d ‘s business. We believe that “a bissel is oich eppes.” The essential point is that people grow, and whatever we’re doing, wherever we’re holding, we’re far from where we could be. We aren’t different than a secular Jew, it’s just that we may do some mitzvos that he doesn’t know about or appreciate; in fact we’re worse, because there are many things that we do know about, and supposedly appreciate, that we ignore. Shame on us if we think that we’re better. There are non-Frum people who may be much better people than me – who I could stand to learn a lot from. I’m not any better. The key element is progress. Are we making progress? Are they making progress? If so, then we are, and they are, on the right track.
Nobody is saying driving on Shabbos is fine; all we’re saying is that people who aren’t shomer shabbos are not going to ever become shomer Shabbos if they don’t become affiliated with Torah Yiddishkeit. So, the position of not sending people away, and not pressuring those who weren’t raised with halacha is because we care – and should care – that’s all.

 
At March 5, 2009 at 7:50:00 PM EST, Blogger Menashe said...

Avi,

I'm afraid I couldn't disagree with you more. Obviously G-d doesn't "need" us to save klal yisroel. But He wants us to. Big difference. I think you are taking an employee view of the world while the more appropriate is the store-keeper.

To explain..when an employee goes home after work, he forgets about work. He may be an excellent employee and really worked hard while he is at work. But since his stake in the store's success is limited [let's assume he can find a job regardless], he will not stay up at night worrying about the long term success of the store.

The owner is different. For him, it is his parnasa and an investment of much time and money. It would be a huge loss. In other words, he has much riding on the success of the store.

To brashly wave this off as "G-d's responsibility," is, to put it lightly, irresponsible. G-d WANTS us involved in this. It's literally pikuach nefesh, without exaggeration at all.

Now granted, if despite literally giving our lives for klal yisroel [unfortunately sometimes literally], the situation is not repaired, then of course it is in the hands of Hashem. Because he ultimately controls our success as well.

But no, it is most definitely not [merely] a mitzvah of talmud torah.

I wish these forms had a "Reply to" button..

 
At March 6, 2009 at 2:11:00 AM EST, Blogger Avi Kolko said...

@ chabakuk elisha and Menashe -

We definitely should care about or fellow Jews. And in a certain way it may be considered pikuah nefashos.

And precisely because of those and similar reasons, we should do kiruv.

But not because Hashem needs us to save Klal Yisroel. He can fend for Himself and doesn't need us. Believing that it's our responsibilty to save Klal Yisroel is dangerous.

 
At March 6, 2009 at 6:02:00 AM EST, Blogger micha said...

To reiterate Avi Kolko's point:

The reason for kiruv is "im la'eis kazos higat lamalkhus", because if you don't "revach vehatzalah yavo laYhudim mimaqom achair, ve'at uveis avikh toveidun".

-micha

 
At March 6, 2009 at 8:13:00 AM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

There is a basic paradox in defining "lishmah" (for its own sake) when it comes to mitzvos bein adam lachaveiro (mitzvos between a person and his peer). If you're doing it for the sake of the mitzvah, you are no longer doing it because of unity with the peer.

Simple. You can’t offer an imperfect sacrifice. A mitzva that doesn’t have a perfect unity b/w Jews is imperfect.

 
At March 6, 2009 at 8:14:00 AM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

but we should seek to maintain a sensitivity and distance, especially after a couple thousand years of persecution and their corruption of Torah. There are many things that we, as Yidden, used to do – but stopped because the Christians or other groups adopted those practices…

To certain degree it’s true, of course, but you can’t let X-ians stand in the path of Torah. Just because mikveh looks, lehavdil, like baptism to someone from the left doesn’t mean anything.

 
At March 6, 2009 at 10:37:00 AM EST, Anonymous Yirmiahu said...

"The obvious answer is that we’re talking about someone’s soul here – but let me ask: if so, are we the same as any other missionary group? "

The only inherent problem with missionaries is that they are encouraging false beliefs.

How family responds is irrelavent to the truth of a position. While we might counsel others on how to deal with it such appeals to emotion should not be part of how one evaluates what is true, much less about how others promote truth.

 
At March 6, 2009 at 12:16:00 PM EST, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

Yirmiahu said, "The only inherent problem with missionaries is that they are encouraging false beliefs."

That might be the most basic problem with them, but the use of misleading, manipulative, cultist tactics is also a problem---in any context, by anybody.

 
At March 6, 2009 at 12:30:00 PM EST, Anonymous Yirmiahu said...

"That might be the most basic problem with them, but the use of misleading, manipulative, cultist tactics is also a problem---in any context, by anybody."

You cannot say that those are inherent aspects, I'm not sure it is even fair to say that they are the norm other than the fact that promoting falsehood is inherently misleading.

 
At March 6, 2009 at 12:49:00 PM EST, Anonymous Yirmiahu said...

I should add that I agree with Chanie and think we can all agree that it is much more problematic that animal pictures.

Regarding Avi's point, if we were to say we would save ourselves there would be more than a hint of kefirah, what makes us think that our assistence to others is any different?

We have to assist others but it has to be al pi halachah, just like our hishtadlus for our own selves. If there is halachic basis for leniency inviting people who drive on Shabbos fine, but it is a halachic issue, otherwise “There is neither wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against Hashem” Prov. 21:30. We do not commit a small transgression to save another from a large one.

 
At March 7, 2009 at 12:40:00 AM EST, Blogger clear4sarah said...

1. yes, please change the photo, it has no place in a respectful discussion of kiruv. 'humor' outweighed by insult.

2. where is the halacha on kiruv and driving. what i've heard is frum ravs saying "don't tell me, i don't want to know how you get here". or, we are happy to make arrangements, but please don't publicize how you get here...even, park and walk a few blocks etc.

one must meet a person 'where they are' and treat them with kindness and encouragement. no one knows how much it took that person to simply show up or even ask a question!!!!!

talk about a ripe opportunity for ahavas yisrael!!!!

remember, each soul really wants teshuva...but we have to be very very careful to not discourage anyone in the slightest way, esp by making them feel that they're not doing enough, or have erred.

 
At March 7, 2009 at 4:28:00 PM EST, Blogger chanie said...

It does go, but the picture is pas nisht.

 
At March 7, 2009 at 10:59:00 PM EST, Blogger Menashe said...

Avi,

Believing that we can influence Hashem's ratzon through davening is also dangerous. Erring on the safe side will change nothing at all.

I also want to emphasize the difference between Hashem needing anything and Hashem wanting something. Hashem needs nothing; we see that from this week's parsha where Moshe was told to light the menorah and the lashon is "ailecha," "unto you" which implies mizvos are for us. But the purpose of the world, Medrash Tanchuma says clearly, is that Hashem wanted a dwelling place down here. Hashem WANTS us to save the world and bring the geulah. The geulah will happen anyway; in fact our avodah would not even be needed - except that Hashem wants it.

 
At March 7, 2009 at 11:08:00 PM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

Our avoida is needed. No king without nation.

 
At March 7, 2009 at 11:28:00 PM EST, Blogger Menashe said...

Our avodah is needed because Hashem wants it so. But in absolute terms, it could be just the opposite.

 
At March 7, 2009 at 11:29:00 PM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

In absolute terms we don’t exist. :)

But yes, you are right.

 
At March 8, 2009 at 11:13:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Yirmiahu said...

"In absolute terms we don’t exist. :)"

I think it is worthwhile to note this piece from the Ba’al HaTanya’s Shaar Yichud chapter 7.

ומקיימן העלום להיות עולם כמות שהוא עכשיו יש גמור
דבר נפרד בפני עצמו ואינו בטל במציאות ממש

 
At March 10, 2009 at 12:48:00 AM EDT, Anonymous The Blob said...

Dear ASJ

The picture is wonderful!

 
At March 16, 2009 at 6:29:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anya said...

It's not that simple. I understand that there are different halachik authorities that poskin differently on this issue. But if some of the gadoley hador declared that causing a Jew to mechalel Shabbos b/c of invitation for only part of Shabbos in halacha as assur - there is no room for "humane, ethical, moral, healthy or good". If we believe that these Rabbis are extention of Rashi, Moshe Rabeinu and Torah itself - then we can issue our complains to G-d, who h'v should have made Torah differenly, more humane and ethical, etc. Having this in mind - it's not 'ethical' to condemn 'other kiruv'.

 
At March 16, 2009 at 7:06:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do drive on Shabbat because I want to spend some of my time with my Jewish friends.
I do drive on Shabbat because in no place in Torah it is prohibited (unless you do it for profit) and I reject all legalistic rights rabbinic nonsense altogether. It may be regarded as historical overview, no more than that. In 1973 because of it we almost lost State of Israel.
And I do go to Chabad's shull and support them financially because they do not blow cheeks and always nice, accommodating and welcoming.

In too many shulls some boring tedious, full of themselves people trying to convey sense that they are almost messiah

Boris

 
At March 16, 2009 at 7:18:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anya said...

If your Jewish friends tell you that it's not forbidden to drive on Shabbos - you must not hang out in Chabbad, maybe some conservative place...

 
At March 16, 2009 at 7:29:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ania,

You should refrain from suggestion where should I spend time. It is entirely not business of yours. Mind your own problems and much less mine. I go where I feel it fine for myself and I did not ask for unsolicited opinion.

Boris

 
At March 16, 2009 at 7:36:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anya said...

Let me rephrase my previous comment: If your Jewish friends tell you that it's not forbidden to drive on Shabbos - the place where you hang out is NOT Chabad.

It's not a Jewish thing to be aggresive, regardless of where you go...

 
At March 16, 2009 at 8:24:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anya,

As far as I’m concerned, the difference between you and me is that Judaism for me is NOT what your Jewish friends say, and even not what Rabbi says, but what Torah commands. The Torah was given to all, not only to those who play Tsadikim.
I do not care what other people have to say to me about my driving on Shabbat. In no place in Torah it is prohibited. Torah explicitly prohibits any activities that done for profit. Period. Anything else is a deviation and fantasy of another “sage”. Do enforce it on you? Nope. Do I advise you to drive alongside? Nope. Do I impose on you my way of reading Torah? Nope.
So do it as you pleased and in a way you understand it.
I go to Chabad, because they in the nice state of mind, very rejoicing and inviting.
Torah is intended to be a guidance and stimulation for your brain, not a substitution for it.

Thanks,

Boris

 
At March 16, 2009 at 11:32:00 PM EDT, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

Boris,

Chabad is founded on Torah principles. One of Torah principles is not to be an ignoramus.

 
At March 17, 2009 at 1:51:00 AM EDT, Blogger Avi Kolko said...

Boris -

It's really not important if you find a place tedious or not, and it's really not important what you want.

Judaism is not about you. It's about serving the One Above, even if you don't like or enjoy it.

No place in the Torah does it say that you have to enjoy doing the Torah.

 
At March 17, 2009 at 8:24:00 AM EDT, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

Well, you have to enjoy it — it’s an obligation on your part. It’s not obligation on the part of Torah to be enjoyable for you.

 
At March 17, 2009 at 11:40:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boris, i suggest that you should go to your Chabad Rabbi (not your friends you enjoy spending time with so much) and ask him what does the Torah say about driving on Shabbos. I think he will agree with you that there were no cars during the time that the Torah was given and yes, it does not say that a jew can not drive a Toyota or Chrysler on Shabbos. However,since the Torah is the ultimate source of knowledge and a blueprint for life, there are guidelines and rules(given by our Creator) from which laws were derived later on when cars were invented. I think Chabad believes that a person should start observing gradually and at his own pace, but NOT by any stretch of imagination do they deny that Torah prohibits driving on Shabbos. And if you hold them in high regard, go ahead and discuss it with the Rabbi. And being an honest and intelligent person that you are, i have no doubt that once you know the truth, it won't be long until you will be ready to serve Hashem on His terms and lock up the car keys before Shabbos. In addition, if Chabad(or anyone else in your area) offers Torah classes you might find it highly stimulating and beneficial.
E.Z.

 
At March 17, 2009 at 3:45:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since you are many and I’m alone, so would you forgive me for the compound answer?
1. to Crawling Axe:
Chabad of today is founded on works from Alter Rebe to last Lubavitcher Rebe. They works inside Chabad often supersede the Torah itself, offer dubious interpretations not to mention that huge part of the movement considers last rebe was a messiah. So please keep you groundless statement close to the ground. You are not Fidel Castro, trust me on that.
2. To Avi Kolko:
Avi, before you start educating others, please double check your own statements because it most goish thing one can say. Torah is to be enjoyed and rejoiced. The Christian believe as by Thomas Aquinas does not require a joy and promotes severe, depraved obedience. Torah is definitely about me and you. G-d doesn’t need such pitiful servants as what we made of 30 gallons of water and $20 worth of chemicals. He is not missing our service, but he sais that by following the scripture we will find immeasurable joy and good for ourselves. If you not on the same page , you are into some other religion…
3. To Anonymous. I know what the rabbi will say. It does not mean he is right. Rabbi is a product of severe misguidance that is typical to rabbinical Judaism. So I can listen to him but do as I find it right. Rabbi has his rights to consulting opinion but he has no legal power. The age of legalistic rabbinical Judaism is over.
I respect his opinion but he is so ignorant and primitive and undereducated on so many subjects, that I am eligible to be doubtful of his understanding of meaning of word of Torah.

To all. Guys I have been expecting somewhat higher level of discussion. You level of argumentation, inferior inferences, inability to thing clearly and independently only make me more confident in my way of learning Torah.

Boris

 
At March 17, 2009 at 3:58:00 PM EDT, Blogger Avi Kolko said...

Boris -

If we follow the scripture we will indeed have immeasurable joy and good - in the next world!

God of course does not need our service. It's just a way for us to get the goods in the next world, which is the reason why we are in this world.

No where does it say that following the Torah will always be enjoyable in this world.

Ever heard of "tzadik v'ra lo"?

 
At March 17, 2009 at 5:13:00 PM EDT, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

Chabad of today is founded on works from Alter Rebe to last Lubavitcher Rebe. They works inside Chabad often supersede the Torah itself, offer dubious interpretations not to mention that huge part of the movement considers last rebe was a messiah. So please keep you groundless statement close to the ground. You are not Fidel Castro, trust me on that.

1. Yes, Chabad theology is based on teachings of Alter Rebbe — but those teachings are based on Judaism before him, as he writes in Introduction to Tanya (furthermore, his teachings are very carefully referenced to pre-existing opinions). To say that it is otherwise is again a show of ignorance.

2. Nowhere does Chabad Chassidus “supersede” Torah (as you write), in philosophy, in theology, in legal theory, in legal practice, or in customs. It may look like to some, but it certainly does not, and to say this is to either display ignorance or do malicious slander.

3. Many Chassidim believe that the Rebbe is Mashiach. There is absolutely nothing wrong halachically with believing that. Certainly, belief in Mashiach as a real person (either from amongst those alive or not) is one of the fundamental principles of Torah. Identifying a particular person may or may not be foolish (depending on one’s reasons). Publicly proclaiming this identification likewise. But certainly not against Halacha.

4. You are right, I am not Fidel Castro. But what does this have to do with anything? Also, what does all of the above have to do with anything?

You wrote that you like Chabad for being accepting and non-judgmental and that you believe driving on Shabbos is not against Torah. I answered that despite being non-judgmental, Chabad is founded on Torah (non-judgmental and loving attitude being one of the main commandments and principles of Torah), and any Chabad rabbi still believes that driving on Shabbos is evil, not just wrong. And any person who does not want to stay ignorant will do basic research and find out that according to Torah it is indeed so (starting with role of Oral Torah, etc.).

 
At March 18, 2009 at 10:21:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is bad news. If your rabbis is ignorant, primitive and undereducated, then you're in trouble. My rabbi isn't. You better find yourself another rabbi who fits your criteria if you are really honest and searching for the right answer. I can give you contact information for someone who you will be much more comfortable with. Maybe i am just measuring people by my yardstick which is, I want to do what's right and what the Torah wants me to do, and i don't assume that my knowledge is superior and ultimate.
E.Z.

 
At March 18, 2009 at 6:38:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW. I didn’t mean to spur such excessive response. Thanks to everybody who replied.

a. We learn Torah for many reasons, but I assume that in great part we do it (somewhat even unconsciously) because WE FEEL IT. Am I right on that? Please reply! And to my opinion it is a root reason and ultimate cause for all other reasons and justifications.
There’s difference though between things that I LOVE and thing I UNDERSTAND. I do LOVE Chabad. I go Chabad because I LOVE IT. What in a world other reason may be to attain?! When I mentioned that my rabbi does not represent an authority for me on the subject outside Chabad’s teaching it DOES NOT men I don’t love him. In fact I DO! I can disagree with him, I can do in a way I justify, I can argue with him, but again I DO LOVE HIM. And I know that he knows that I am like that and I hope he loves me back. Love to a Jew makes me coming to Chabad.

b. There’s no way to develop any scholarly knowledge without build up upon existing sources. Torah is our ultimate primary source. There’re secondary sources (Midrash) that are literally secondary because they could not exists without primary sources. There are tetrahedral sources as Talmud and so on and so four… All of the sources outside Torah are result of human reflection. They bear timestamps and reflect personality of their corresponding promulgators. They do have value but their value is a value of opinion. In no terms they can be even remotely be exhaustive to depths of Torah.
When I mentioned “supersede” I had in mind that the direction in which Chabad leads in my view slips off the track on a turn. The buildup of generations of accumulated and unproved opinions created a huge body of “knowledge” that barely credible. It is essentially true thing to say about any rabbinically charged movement of today.

c. I am not looking for ultimate answers for all of my questions… Or better to say I am looking for them but no man can provide. It is a PERSONAL TASK to understand what you read applying it to the current level of knowledge and findings available. Each generation is responsible for connecting the dots on their level. There’s no virtue in reiterating opinions that are as distant as irrelevant. It is how I think and it is how I do. G-d is very creative ;-), I do not believe he enjoys boring repetitions. Look around, it all about development and diversity.

d. Dear E.Z. if there’s thing that Torah wants us to do, that it is to think! Blind acceptance of anything makes you performing automatically, basically instinctively (which is not really elevating ah?). The predicate that right and wrong are strictly defined and unmoved is a wrong one. They do move with a time and inability to attest to this drift can fire back with tragedies of epic proportions. I do learn and read and exchange opinions to reach higher understanding of things. So I can’t see why one should shy about it. I am not suppressing anyone’s voice, nor do I brag about it. It is just a matter of a fact. My opinion (or yours) is as good as any until proved otherwise.

Thanks for tolerating my English.

Boris.

 
At March 18, 2009 at 6:54:00 PM EDT, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

We learn Torah because we know that it was given to us by G-d at Sinai. For the same reason we know that we have to trust and rely upon opinions of rabbis. It makes sense intellectually, spiritually, and, most importantly legally.

If rabbis (whether Chazal, Rebbeim of Chabad or any other dynasty, or any other group) are looked at as a bunch of college professors, then yes, you are right. But such an opinion makes no sense in the framework of the original axiom (which is axiom for Judaism; in reality, it’s provable) — that Torah was given by G-d to be kept.

Study Torah because you feel it? Whatever you are feeling is not Torah. It’s you. You’re feeling yourself. No, that’s not a good reason to study Torah.

 
At March 18, 2009 at 7:10:00 PM EDT, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

What in a world other reason may be to attain?!

Because Chabad makes sense to you. It’s the only reason.

There’s no way to develop any scholarly knowledge without build up upon existing sources. Torah is our ultimate primary source. There’re secondary sources (Midrash) that are literally secondary because they could not exists without primary sources.

You’re thinking about it backwards. Midrash and all other aspects of Oral Tradition can exist without Written Torah. They were simply passed down orally and don’t need written text to support them (even though in our tradition rabbis go through the exercise of finding “sources” for Oral Torah in the Written — but Ramchal shows that these are not really sources).

On the other hand, Written Torah cannot exist without Oral. Try keeping any mitzva without Oral Torah. And Oral Torah cannot exist without rabbis. And rabbis were appointed by Hashem and given ruach ha’koidesh to be able to interpret Torah in accordance to His Will.

In fact, the opinions and decisions of rabbis existed even before the world was created, and before Torah — in its current form — was created. So, the rabbis’ decisions are the source and the goal.

You really need to read this book. Sample.

 
At March 18, 2009 at 7:14:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Crawling Axe,

on a mount Synai, we were given 10 commandments ONLY! We were give it twice! But we were given 10 commandments only and NOTHING ELSE.
Torah, (Chumash, Hamisha Sfarei Torah) were written by Moshe Rabeinu. It was inspired by G-d but it was not given. We call "given" something that changes hands, something that was inspired inside someone's mind can not be "given".

 
At March 18, 2009 at 7:30:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oral Torah without written? Are you kidding? Torah explicitly sais that it is a Torah and will be no torah beside this one. Oral torah is to contain essential meaning of the statements as language drifts.
Rabbis were appointed by ha shem? Kohanim were not rabbis! Show me one place in Torah were rabbi shows at all, not to mention that he is appointed by Ha-Shem.
So do you imply that Torah is incomplete and needs amendments such as oral supplicant? You actually perfectly demonstrated how rabbinical version of “jewdaism” supersedes the Torah itself. Sure, no doubt the way you were told your mitzvah is to be performed is much more important that Torah itself. WOW

Boris

 
At March 19, 2009 at 8:52:00 AM EDT, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

Oral Torah without written? Are you kidding?
No, not kidding. I didn’t say without written. I said that we could imagine passage of certain elements of Oral Torah without requirement of Written — why should they be? It just happens that in our particular tradition, all elements of Oral Torah are eventually found in the Written, as the rabbis demonstrate in Talmud.

Torah explicitly sais that it is a Torah and will be no torah beside this one. Oral torah is to contain essential meaning of the statements as language drifts.
I never said there is another Torah. I said there is one single Torah. Oral Torah is not explanation to Written. It is Torah — Written Torah is notes to the Oral Torah. Of course, to know and understand what notes mean, you need to know Oral Torah, but that’s not the point. You need to know Oral Torah in order to know what to do.

Rabbis were appointed by ha shem? Kohanim were not rabbis! Show me one place in Torah were rabbi shows at all, not to mention that he is appointed by Ha-Shem.
Deut. 17:9. “You shall inquire from a judge.” Mentioned alongside with kohanim.

At the end of the day, we don’t know how to keep Torah without the rabbis, who merely wrote down and explained tradition. Just like, lehavdil, you can’t really play music just by looking at notes. Chopin is played differently from Bach, but in the notes it doesn’t say anything about how to play them — it is all explained through oral teaching. The same way it is not explained in a molecular biology lab manual how to do all the parts of the experiment (otherwise you wouldn’t need TA).

Now, if I want to know how to play specifically Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Concerto, I will listen to Vladimir Horowitz. Not because somebody appointed him a prophet (although Rachmaninoff said himself that Horowitz plays the concerto better than Rachmaninoff, so in a sense, yes, he was appointed an authority), but it’s simply the fact that he is one of the greatest pianists of our times, and it makes sense to be taught by him.

If I want to know about US Constitutional Law, I won’t just open the Constitution and try to figure out by myself what it says — I will read the opinions of people who were experts in it. Plus, I will read the “oral tradition” of the Constitution — e.g., the Federalist Papers.

So do you imply that Torah is incomplete and needs amendments such as oral supplicant?
No, I am not implying, but openly stating that what you think is Torah is NOT Torah. Torah is not just the Chumash. Chumash cannot be all Torah, because you cannot possibly keep Chumash as Torah, as Law. You don’t know what to do, just from reading the words and not following an interpretation. Take any mitzva. Really, this is very basic stuff, man.

Therefore, since Chumash alone cannot be kept, it would imply that it is imperfect. But since Torah is perfect, therefore, Chumash alone cannot be Torah. Torah has to be all of Torah — mainly and primarily the Oral teaching transmitted to Moses, and also the notes written down from that teaching and serving as the written core of the teaching, i.e., Written Torah.

You actually perfectly demonstrated how rabbinical version of “jewdaism” supersedes the Torah itself. Sure, no doubt the way you were told your mitzvah is to be performed is much more important that Torah itself. WOW

I have no idea what you just said.

on a mount Synai, we were given 10 commandments ONLY! We were give it twice! But we were given 10 commandments only and NOTHING ELSE.
Torah, (Chumash, Hamisha Sfarei Torah) were written by Moshe Rabeinu. It was inspired by G-d but it was not given. We call "given" something that changes hands, something that was inspired inside someone's mind can not be "given".


Thank you for a history lesson. The entire Torah was given at Sinai. When we heard G-d, this established legal and spiritual bond, which included in itself all aspects of it, all the mitzvos. Then Moshe Rabbeinu was actively and consciously taught all the laws by G-d (remember the whole Golden Calf story? It happened because Moshe was on the mountain doing something for a long time).

Afterward, he taught the Law (and other aspects of Torah, including the “stories”, so to speak, and the mystical tradition) to people. In addition to that, there were written notes taken.

Look, this is not the best medium for this kind of conversation. These are not things that can be solved through a conversation like this. If you truly care about following what Hashem wants from you, you will investigate. You will see the true depth and breadth of all arguments and opinions.

You mentioned before that you were disappointed by the level of discussion — why do you think people whom you really want to talk about these issues would waste their times on blogs? You start discussing Torah online — you are already handicapped. (This is regarding discussions, not posts of ideas and Torah, etc.)

If you want further information or argument, e-mail me.

 

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