Monday, November 22, 2010


Oy, Chabad and Moshiach

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.

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,[218] 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.


  1. I wonder if anyone realizes that the RadVaz paskins in his responsa that there will be an early resurrection for ALL Tzaddikim when Moshiach first arrives. Think about the implications. Peace and Moshiach now!

  2. The bottom line which blows all 'opinions', halachot etc out the door, that goes for the Rambam too, is that haShem will decide and announce him to us (and you damn sure won't like the choice). I can't believe how far the Erev Rav has taken us away from emet and how we have forgotten about haShem.

    The logic behind the Rebbe being mashiach ben yosef is fine, though incorrect. His returning as ben david is also fine, though it's not him that the 'rabbi's' are watching for. That you can take to the bank. So simple we cannot see the forest for the trees.

  3. Let me open another can of worms: what is your opinion of people opening the Igros Kodesh and getting "answers" and then following the instructions received?

    I personally know of several people who have taken the advice received in the Igros, and in hindsight that advice turned out to be totally the wrong thing to do: such as - going into a certain business venture, and that business venture going belly up.

  4. "In his encyclopedic work entitled Sdei Chemed, R. Chizkiyah Medini states"

    If I recall correctly, this is not correct. Rather, in a letter (a shayla?) in Sdei Chemed, this statement is made. The one who makes the statement is Rabbi Aryeh Leib Lipkin.

    "Gemora Sandhedrin 98b"
    or alternatively, one interpretation of that gemara. rashi gives two interpretations, the first of which is that the gemara means candidates among the living and among the dead. If from among the living, it is one specific person, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi (who was the leader of the generation). If from among the dead, then it is one specific person, namely Daniel. Note the difference in stature between the two. He did not say, even subsequent to Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi's death: If from among the dead, Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi. So to bring this as support for mashiach from the dead, perhaps. But only for a specific person, not your favorite contemporary candidate.

    Meanwhile, Rashi also provides a second explanation. If his dugma -- someone to whom we should compare -- is to be found among the living, or among the dead. NOT that he is actually coming back from the dead.

    So cite is as a kvetch of a Rashi on the gemara, rather than on the gemara itself.

    kol tuv,

  5. Yesod preceedes malchut ...... there are 2 meshichim not 1 not as the rambam poskins against all the kabbalists . The rebbe saw the choshek he called it doubled and redoubled and was desperate !The rebbe is mashiach ben david straight up in my opinion !mBD is the ikker mashiach not ben yosef but as I said yesod before malchut , you cant get to malchut except through yesod

  6. reb yoel(kahn) always said (and he keeps saying that the rebbe is bchezkas moshiach). him, melech tzvibl, charitonov, etc. the rebbe himself said it: "there is already someone in the world that is according to the rambam bchezkas moshiach, and he will be moshiach vaday. his name is menachem, and as the alter rebbe prophecied 200 years ago , moshiach is famous in many magazines around the world(and it should be more and more advertised)"
    the previous lubavicher rebbe(yoisef yitzchok) is moshiach ben yoysef and our rebbe is moshiach ben dovid

  7. As a Lubavitcher, I must take umbrage to the post by the gentleman at mystical paths.

    What I am about to tell is the truth, the truth that most Lubavitchers themselves don't want you or your readers to know.

    The vast majority of Lubavitchers are "i don't give a darn-ists." They don't give a rat's a__ who the Moshiach is.

    Within this group there are many shades.

    1) Group One consist of people who went to Lubavithcer yeshiva, didn't go to college, believed they were going to go on shlichus, only to find out that there are no spots for people whose parents or in-laws aren't shluchim, or whose parents can't support them, and therefore weren't chosen to go on shlichus. These people settle in Crown Heights with very few job prospects. Some got lucky and managed to make a living. Others weren't as lucky. THese people have 5-6 children and don't know how they are going to pay their rent. These people believe that the Moshiach is whoever helps them make their next months payments.

  8. 2) Group Two are people who went to Lubavitcher yeshivot, went to college (most likely Touro), landed a decent job only to discover that "decent" is a relative term. a job earning $75,000, with a wife who brings home a salary of $10,000-$15,000 is nice in the real world, but is considred working poor in a world where, as a result of one's salary, the parents are expected to pay anywhere from $10,000-$15,000 per child for tuition, and as a result, are shelling out $40,000-$50,000 on tuition. Now try raising a family of 7-8 (including parents) in a major Jewish city like Los Angeles, New York or Chicago on $40,000 (not counting tuition). These people are too upset and downright bitter, to care who the Moshiach is. Most just want him to come as quickly as possible to save them from their financial troubles.

    3) This group consists of those Lubavitchers who ar equite modern. Many of these are the ones who trim or shave their beards outright. Their wives bend the laws of tzniut on a daily basis. Some struggle, some are living way above thier means, some B"H making it. These couples tend to have no more than 3-4 children and live in cities like Los Angeles, Miami and New York. They drive nice cars. Those who are living on plastic are lucky that most school boards won't rat them out for the frauds they are. These people believe that Moshiach is whoever can get them tickets to Lakers games, Heat Games or box seats to the New Yankees Stadium.

    4) This group of people are those who grew up "out of town" or who married girls from out of town. These people, return home after marriage and settle in cities in Arizona, Texas, Minneasotta, and Pennsylvania. These people work hard, support their families, and are thankful that they don't have to deal with the craziness that their old classmates living in Corwn Heights, or Los Angeles or Miami go through every day. These people believe that their parents, or their wives are the Moshiach for redeeming them from the self defeating lifestyle their former classmates live through every day. Many are fortunate to live in cities where the shliach is a talmid chochum. In that case they enjoy learning with him. Others are stuck in cities where the shliach is a money grubbing ignoramus. In these cases, they rely on each other for learning opportunities or they take advantage of the local Lakewood Kollel that opens up and find chavrusahs there.

    5) This group of people are so fed up with the Moshiach wars of their youth, the ones their father's fought against their uncles, their father's fought against their neighbors, etc. etc. This group is also fed up with the shluchim who made them frum, but taught that that Lubavitch uber alless. These people leave Lubavitch, either outright, or join other minyanim (you'll find some of these latter ones at shuls all over the country). Some still remain Lubavitchers, some cringe when their friends introduce them by saying, "he's a Lubavithcer, but he's normal." some don't. These people won't admit it, but they hate Moshiach, and have trouble believing that he will ever come.

    The rest, and the vast minority of the rest of Lubavithcers, fall into the five categories listed in mystical paths.

  9. Dear R. Akiva:
    First, I am flattered that you started your posting with my response.
    However, your response is a nonsequiteur:
    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 ...
    .... However, I understand why this makes people uncomfortable.
    No, not "uncomfortable". Teaching this to children is to inflict mental abuse and cruelty.
    R. Akiva, I am not talking about mystical paths. I am talking in the here and now. Chabad continues to refer to The Rebbe as in the present tense - and openly states that he is currently alive. For real. They specify that it is NOT metaphor.
    And it is this which is dangerous, and there is no room whatsoever to allow anyone to go around yelling someone is alive when we know he is dead and buried.
    The Rebbe is Dead. So long as folks keep saying he is alive, I shall proclaim him to be dead, dead, dead.

  10. Very nearly everything there is to say on the subject can be found on

    Read from the last post to the first one (i.e., bottoms up). It will take time, but it’s all there.


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