There was little question that discussing positions on Chabad and Moshiach was opening a can of worms (in previous article Stay Away from Chabad???). People feel STRONGLY about it and don’t hesitate to say so. Here’s a few of the more notable responses and my thoughts. Note I am just explaining a response or position, NOT agreeing with it. I made my positions clear at the end of the original article.
(Anonymous wrote) Dear Akiva:
Sadly, you are wrong. Virtually every Chabad Shaliach DOES have these crazy views. This is the worst of all: That the Rebbe is still alive. That is a psychologically dangerous thing to believe and promote.
Also a problem is that the leading Chabad institutions all push some form of this. Machon Chana is a good example. Now they tone it down, but…
It may seem like separating hairs, but believing the statement from the Tanya that tzadikim have more influence after their release from this physical world than during their presence and combining this with multiple statements from the Torah and Naviim of people who didn’t die (Yosef HaTzadik, Eliyahu HaNavi, etc) isn’t wandering far off from Torah. However, I understand why this makes people uncomfortable.
The HaEmesh v’HaEmunah blog picked up the article, excerpted it and said, Position 2 is which is acceptable to Lubavitch even though admittedly not preferred – is not an acceptable position to the rest of Orthodoxy. It is in fact identical to the early Christian view about a Messiah who died and will have a 2nd coming. The only difference today is the later Christian deification of their Messiah.
I notice you omit on position #2 my noting of one of the SOURCES of the opinion, which is Gemora Sandhedrin 98b . "If Moshiach is from among the living... If Moshiach is from among the dead..."
You said, "It is in fact identical to the early Christian view" So either the Gemora is Christian, or the Christian position is taken from the Gemora! Or they both originate from Jewish thought at that time. [Note I'm not espousing the position, just arguing it's Jewish connection.]
We have further discussions of Moshiach from among the dead by Abarbanel and Rav Chizkiyah Medini. Is the Abarbanel a non-kosher Christian oriented source? And here's the hardest question, because a Jewish idea has been taken and embraced by another religion, do we then avoid that idea? [ Actually I think the answer here is that is exactly what's happened and even explains why Moshiach as a general idea has also been only a minor point in Judaism in general, especially since the times of Shabtai Tzvi, and particularly in the last 100 years until the Rebbe started pushing on it. ]
"If he is one of the living, then an example would be Rabbeinu HaKadosh [i.e., R. Yehudah HaNasi]; if he is someone from among the dead, then he is someone like Daniel." Abarbanel, in his authoritative classic entitled Yeshuos Meshicho, clearly raises the possibility that Mashiach may be among those resurrected. He cites a passage from Tractate Derech Eretz Zuta: "Nine people entered the Garden of Eden alive ...Mashiach." He explains that according to this view, a righteous individual deemed to be the Mashiach will live, then die on account of the sins of his generation, but will eventually be resurrected. In his encyclopedic work entitled Sdei Chemed, R. Chizkiyah Medini states that if Israel is exceedingly meritorious, Mashiach will be resurrected from the dead in a miraculous manner.”
It's interesting to note that the sources that do discuss Moshiach from among the dead were all living in Muslim countries (or Spain when it was Muslim controlled.)
Emes v’Emunah responded, This point has been debated ad infinitum by many intelligent and knowledgable people on both sides of the issue… No one denies what the Gemarah in Sanhedrin says. But until the Rebbe died anyone who would use that Gemarah to justify thye idea of a messiah rising from the dead in a 2nd coming would have been excoriated as an Apikores.
I believe that before the Rebbe died Lubavitch would have been at the head of the line on this issue yelling the loudest. The reasons are obvious. That same argument justifies the claim Christians make about Jesus. The counter claim now by Chabad apologists is that Jesus was deified and the Rebbe was not. Well Jesus was not deified at first. But someone later on did and it caught on…
The parallels are too striking to simply dismiss. So even if it is technically not heresy - to say the Rebbe will be resurrected to become the Messiah, is a dangerous position to tolerate... and ought to be rejected with the same force as do every other Orthodox movement does. Never in the history of the Jewish people since the Churban Bayis Sheni has this ever been promoted as our view of Moshaich. There is no reason to start now other than to tolerate it among one's own. And that's not a good enough reason to do it now.
In general I agree, except the statement of the Gemorah was made (or codified) somewhere from 100-400 years after the start of Xianity, and added to that is the statements of the Acharonim I quote above. I don’t think this minority opinion is quite so easy to dismiss though I understand the reasons for doing so and the hashkafic dangers it entails.
[ I’m not agreeing with it or justifying it, rather trying to understand why it’s so easy to dismiss while other parts of the same orthodox world are arguing for the literal understanding of every other part of the Gemorah right down to disqualified scientific and medical statements. ]
Anonymous Lubavitcher (Expert) wrote, I too am a Lubavitcher, one who has investigated the issue of Mishichism quite thoroughly. I have read the literature on the subject, including the Rebbe’s own talks and writings and also the various articles written by such figures as Rabbi Yoel Kahn and other leading figures and thinkers who very much set the tone amongst main stream Lubavitchers.
There is another “position”, long held by Rabbi Yoel Kahn and a growing segment of “mainstream” Lubavitchers, specifically those who have actually studied the matter and looked into the validity of the various positions. That position is as follows:
The Rebbe never was “Chezkas Moshiach”, as he never fulfilled the criteria set out my the Rambam [despite the ‘psak din’ to the contrary, which by taking the Rambam’s words out of their literal context actually goes against the Rebbe’s own view]. When we speak of the Rebbe as Moshiach we are not referring to a halachik status but a spiritual status, which has more to do with the Rebbe’s soul than his body. According to Chassidus and Kabbalah the leader of each generation’s soul is connected to the soul of Moshe Rabbeinu and Moshiach. As the medresh says “he is the first redeemer and he is the last redeemer.”
To take this spiritual idea and put it into halachik terms is to misunderstand it entirely. Of course, ultimately the soul of Moshiach will be invested within the body of the Halachik Moshiach. But to suggest that someone carries the soul of Moshiach does not mean that they will certainly be the ultimate Moshiach. Halacha cannot be established on the basis of Kabbalah or Chassidus.
To conclude: While the Rebbe is believed by all Lubavitchers to have carried the soul of Moshiach, that by no means established him with certainty as the ultimate Moshiach according to Halacha. On the other hand, the soul is eternal and the Rebbe’s soul will therefore always be associated with the soul of Moshiach. However, who will actually be the ultimate Moshiach, the physically manifest and final redeemer, can only be established based on the Halachic criteria of the Rambam, which as mentioned earlier the Rebbe never fulfilled.
Rav Yoel Kahn, shlita, is the acknowledged expert on Chassidus Chabad of our generation and if he says that’s the way to understand the situation in the context of chassidus Chabad, the words of the Rebbe, halacha and the holy Torah, then indeed that’s the appropriate understanding.
But, as much as I’ve spoken to a number of mashpi’im and rabbai’im of Chabad on this topic, this is the first time I’ve heard that detailed level of explanation and understanding. It’s nuanced and sophisticated, and neither the nuance or sophistication is out among the common chassidim or the common leadership. It would be helpful if it was.