Thursday, November 18, 2010


Stay Away from Chabad???

A reader wrote, “I was reading a pamphlet that I got a wedding at 770 (Chabad world headquarters in New York) that I went to with my Chabad Rebbetzin.  They gave us pamphlets that said ‘the Rebbe Melach HaMoshiach’.  Last week there was an article in Mishpacha on the convention of Chabad Shluchim (the Chabad house emmesaries from around the world convene in New York once a year) where it mentions that the Moshiach group is small and won’t be there.

Then today I was reading (an old Mystical Paths article) which linked to a site that also had a statement on the bottom "STAY AWAY FROM CHABAD (because of the Rebbe is Moshiach business)”.

We love our Chabad house rabbi and rebbitzen and learn with them.  What are we to do?  Who will we go with?  Who will take in the Baal teshuvah. Who do we listen to?

>>> Confused in the USA.

Dear Confused,

When we link to a site we can’t necessary check out 100% of it’s content or vouch for it.  And we definitely don’t agree with that statement.  Here’s why...

There's a number of theological positions regarding the Rebbe and Moshiach (or as Moshiach).  These positions pile on to each other (as you'll see), the later positions relying on the earlier ones for foundational support.  I'll explain what they mean afterwards.

Chabad Position #1 - The Rebbe was "chezkat Moshiach", the generation's candidate Moshiach as described in the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah Hilchos Melachim uMilchatonim 11.  Since his passing from this world he remains a strong influence, perhaps (as taught in Tanya from the Zohar) even a greater influence than when he was with us physically.  (The Tanya teaches that a tzadik's influence is greater after his physical departure, as he's no longer bound by physical limitations.)

A corollary of this position says the Rebbe was Moshiach ben Yosef, whom the mystical sources teach starts the geulah process but doesn't survive it and is followed later by Moshiach ben Dovid.

Chabad Position #2 - The Rebbe was "chezkat Moshiach", the generation's candidate Moshiach, and remains so even after his physical departure (as taught in the Gemora Sanhedrin that candidates for Moshiach may come from those who are not among the living). 

Everything the Rebbe said came true (public predictive statements), defining him as a true navi (biblical level prophet), therefore his statements on Moshiach and geulah must be treated as navua (biblical prophecy) - prophecies of a kosher prophet that have not yet been fulfilled.

Chabad Position #3 - The Rebbe was Moshiach tzidkaynu (our righteous redeemer) as confirmed by rulings of hundreds of rabbis and his demonstrations of navua (prophecy), as well as fulfilling most of Rambam's rulings on the actions Moshiach must fulfill (Mishneh Torah Hilchos Malachim uMilchatonim 11).

The Rebbe wrote as part of his navua (prophecies) that Moshiach would go through a time of pain and subsequently a time of being hidden.  Therefore we must trust in Hashem and in the words of the Rebbe during this time of darkness and cannot define the Rebbe as having left this world.

Chabad Position #4 - The Rebbe is Moshiach tzidkaynu who is hidden from us at this time.  He gave us the paths to follow and the final mitzvah campaign/focus to teach about Moshiach and the Geulah and focus upon them.  Therefore we are obligated to continue in this area with maximum effort (and perhaps the only effort of mitzvah campaigns) to bring the Geulah to completion.  Since Moshiach ben Dovid does not die, the Rebbe is not dead.

Position #5 - The Rebbe is Moshiach tzidkaynu who is hidden from us at this time.  The Rebbe wrote in his prophecies that we have entered the time of the Geulah and "people must only see it and recognize it".  Therefore, recognizing that this is the time of the Geulah we will begin to live according to the words of all of those who have written of how it will be during the Geulah, such as changing Rabbinic fast days to feast days.  Geulah is here, open your eyes and see it and join us.

Position #6 - The Rebbe, Moshiach and Prophet, wrote about the levels of connection between the soul of Moshiach and Hashem, and how Moshiach's soul connects at higher levels than ever seen before in this world - bringing down a level of Hashem's light beyond what the world has experienced.  Therefore, the Rebbe Moshiach, who is here although hidden at the moment, is not just the agent of Hashem in this world but the arm of Hashem in this world.  And since Hashem is one, the arm of Hashem is...Hashem.  Therefore the Rebbe, Moshiach and Prophet, is Hashem.

Now, most of Chabad holds position #1.  It's a completely kosher position by everyone's understandings and evaluation.  Further, the official Chabad organizations have been relatively forcefully purged of anyone not holding position #1 for the past 15 years (successfully).  The stronger Moshiach positions are not tolerated by the official organs of Chabad Lubavitch (Merkos L’Inyanei Chinuch, Agudas Chasedi Chabad, The Shluchim’s Office, Kehot Publications, etc.)

Some in Chabad hold position #2, more so in Israel.  This makes non-Chabad theological authorities a bit nervous and they'll challenge whether halacha holds at this time that Moshiach can come from among the non-living (it doesn’t).  But they'll also grudgingly admit that holding this position is kosher (if not preferred).

Positions #3 and #4...are held by what are called Meshichists (Moshiach guys, often identified by wearing yellow Moshiach flag pins), more so by native Israeli Chabad than US or worldwide Chabad.  In the US this is found almost solely in Crown Heights where it may be 25%, but that includes the Israreli Torah students studying there.  The positions are problematic but not directly non-kosher according to major poskim and gedolim that have reviewed them.  Meaning we wouldn't call the position mainstream Torah Judaism, but you can't define people who hold it as heretics.  #3 people are handling out flyers that refer to the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach, and #4's flyers talk only about geulah and may add Rebbe Melech HaMoshaich Chai Vekayam (lives forever).

People of position #4 make people of position #1 nervous, as Chabad as an organization is also concerned about people going off the deep end and about their image.

Position #5 is a real halachic problem.  These people are stepping beyond contemporary orthodox Judaism (but they'll tell you the same could have been said about the Baal Shem Tov).  We have no authority to make a halachic decision changing what should or should not be observed and await a true Sanhedrin (a great court of Torah sages), which may come about in our time or be created after the arrival of Moshiach. (It is not dependent on Moshiach and there have been several attempts in history to create a Sanhedrin, including a recent one.)  People holding this position must be treated as non-observant Jews who have gone off the path.  But they are problematic because they otherwise appear as Torah observant Jews.

Personally I would include them in my minyan like any other Jew who’s not properly observant and is involved in improper things.  But I would not pray in their minyan and I certainly wouldn't talk to them about their position.

This is a small group of people and upon beginning such actions they are pushed away by the normative community (Chabad or otherwise).  Small but they get attention due to the shock value.  I’ve heard of a couple people like this in Crown Heights, and another small group (of 10 I think) in Australia.

Position #6 is absolutely treif and complete kefirah (being a heretic).  These people are starting a new religion and may appear as religious Jews and practicing some Jewish rituals but they aren't praying to the same understanding of G-d as orthodox Judaism.  A person who has personally stated that he holds such beliefs probably could not be included in a minyan.

NOW, Confused, where's all this leave you?  Well, almost no shluchim / Chabad houses in the US hold anything other than position #1, and if they did they were pushed out.  (There are a few exceptions.)  In Israel the same is true but it's often position #2.  No true major authorities have any serious problems with these positions (doesn't mean they like them, but that doesn't make them a halachic problem.)

Positions #3 and #4 are concentrated into Crown Heights and certain places in Israel (such as Tzfat) - which explains your encounter in Crown Heights.  This is unfortunate and bad PR but the community as a whole doesn't really want to go shoving people completely out that may turn them out of Judaism.

Positions #5 and #6 have to be stayed away from.  Fortunately they're few and their positions are clearly a problem and therefore easy to avoid.  And yes they may also be living in a major Chabad community but are literally stayed away from.

As for web sites and not-major-authorities that want to rail against Chabad and look at a few nut jobs in the later positions as representing Chabad, they're also writing what they're writing sitting in Williamsburg or Bnei Brak in their ultra-kosher community with ultra-kosher services.  The same type of people were known to write in the past that it's ASSUR (prohibited) to reach out to non-observant Jews because they might influence the kosher Jew in a negative way. 

Net net, Chabad's fine but it's got it’s share of nuts.  Part of reaching out to every Jew has brought in some troubled souls as well.  But are they not our brothers and responsibility also?


  1. Dear Akiva:
    Sadly, you are wrong. Virtually everyChabad Shlichum 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, by Rabbi Majeski has never retracted his statements. Chabad Amherst is fully Meshichist, etc. The Yeshivacation groups - more teaching that a dead man is alive. Shameful but true.

  2. I am very impressed that you wrote this. I have been reading your blog for a long time and its good to know that your Hashkafas are straight. Just curious how does "yechi" fit into this equation?

  3. People in position #1 will throw a person out who says Yechi. People in position #2 tolerate it but don't say it. People in position #3 say it. People in position #4 say it as if it's a tefilah and sometimes get upset when others don't join them in saying it and may add it during davening at times when optional things may be added. People in position #5 say it after every bracha and in shemona esrai (and who knows what else). People in position #6 change it to add "vElokaynu".

    Halachicly there's nothing wrong with saying it. Hashkaficly it makes a statement of where you are. And practically (IMHO) it's the opposite of chassidus (shouting on the outside at other people instead of working on the inside on yourself), turns people off, and has become a meaningless almost desperate mantra.

    We want and NEED Moshiach now. No one can explain to me how shouting Yechi helps the process (I've asked).

  4. Can anyone really die? The body is just a meat-suit, no? Has anyone ever really died? Aren't we chelek Elokim mima'al...? How can HaShem die? BTW, these are not rhetorical questions. I really like to know what Judaism teaches about this subject.

  5. Is there a 7th position? Perhaps the Rebbe actualized his portion of Moshiach, like so many others before him, and his throne - given his line of descendant - numbers among the thrones of David. Is this not possible? Just curious....

  6. Greetings:
    Again, the real problem with this is that, as we all know, The Rebbe is dead. He is buried.
    To teach that he is alive is to promote mental illness.
    Please stop doing this. It makes it virtually impossible to associate with Chabad.
    BECAUSE The Rebbe is, in fact, dead, there is no point in discussing if he is moshiach. It is irrelevant.

  7. I agree with none of these opinions ! I believe the rebbe was and IS still mashiach ben david not yosef . He always spoke of ben david not yosef ! I believe he didnt come in 93 because yesod preceedes malchut there was no ben yosef !!! read the ramchal gra zohar tikkunim abir yaakov or hachaim how essential a ben yosef is . Esau only falls to the desendents of yosef that includes his angel again read the gra and ramchals kabbalistic writings on geulah kol hator ayin tikkunim vayizkor elokim et rachel maimer hageulah !

  8. PS the gra had reasons for dissmissing shneur zalman and the tanya I want to make that clear . According to the sod of the arizl the gra felt the tanya was off . Not because he didnt like the guy . As well the the writings of the ramchal and gra are far more heavenly then the tanya and much truer to the essence of geulah , sorry rebbe , sorry chabad !

  9. It appears that groups 3 and 4 are like the children of Ephraim that left Egypt 30 years too early. Position 5 is simply delusional and halakhically dangerous. And position 6 is outright idolatry. Even position two is wrong in accordance with the Rambam and, I am sure, with all other Rishonim. The only kosher choice is position #1.

    Did the Rebbe encourage any of this while he was alive? I don't believe so.

    It is a good argument that the followers of Lubavitch are from Shevet Ephraim.

  10. Posted at Emes Vemunah:
    I don't know who the author of Mystical Paths is, but I too am a Lubavitcher, and I may add 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 [published and available here] 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. Howver, 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.

  11. mashiach is at the gates of rome it says in the talmud . when is he coming they queried elijah the prophet ? he responded today ! if you but hede his voice . Mashiach is with those who suffer illness it says in the talmud . Hes at the gates of rome says the ramchal , hes debased ! says the gra in kol hator . Yosefs higher aspect is metatron says the gra. MBY and MBD are the 2 legs that will redeem israel in the future when the blemish in there roots becomes greater nothing will be able to stop them from redeeming meimer hageulahh ramchal .

  12. Chevrei Chabad:

    He's dead as a doorknob. Sorry. The parrot is not sleeping. And enough with the metaphysical goobledygook logic chopping. HIs sout is eternal yah yah yah. So's your zeides's. So's yours. Beyond a certain point proving that A = not A is not paradox, it's an ostrich move. The ostrich isn't mystically hidden--it's head is stuck in a hole.

  13. Hey Sparky,

    Personally, I don't know what the Here-After holds for us. Maybe our souls transmigrate. Maybe there's a place in the Multiverse were our souls hook-up after our respective meat-suits kick the bucket.

    Alternately, we might just be nothing more than worm food. If so, then maybe we ought to focus on and strive toward leaving behind a positive legacy.

    Chances are the vast majority of us won't be remembered five or six generations down the road - even by our descendants - and, if so, then we'll probably only be a name on some tombstone or in some file and/or a face in a photo.

    Our only sure shot at a short-time immortality is in leaving behind an enduring legacy -- hopefully it'll be a positive one, HaShem willing.

    Is the Rebbe immortal? It doesn't matter one way or the other. He's left his legacy and it lives on after him!

    "The Emissary embodies the one who sends him/her forth."

    That notion hasn't changed much from ancient times (and that's not metaphysical gobbledygook)! We're all a reflection and construct of the people we've met and the experiences we've had.

    In this regard...? The Rebbe continues to walk the Earth and make an impact. He lives on in the hearts and minds of his followers and his co-working partners. Like it or lump it ... that's what it all boils down to.

    Can any of us say that we've done more than the Rebbe did and continues to do through his Emissaries? I think not....

    Then again, I'm just a crazy Goy, so ... being out of the loop ... what do I know!? Truth be told...? NOT MUCH! Not much at all.... :(


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