Monday, January 28, 2008

Latest Chabad Round

Failed Messiah has links to mp3s of the recent on-air debate between R’ Yitz Greenberg and R’ Sholom Ber Kalmanson of Chabad [of Cincinnati], over the usual stuff. Meanwhile, R’ Shmuley Boteach and R’ Dr. David Berger post their usual positions on Lubavitch messianism (Boteach – wrong but not non-Jewish; Berger: non-Jewish and dangerous by slippery slope). Gil Student reviews the Boteach-Berger exchange, drawing commenters from the usual positions. Mad Messianism is in the air. Let’s hope Moshiach is on the way.

Listening to the program - boy, it's like Jon Stewart’s critiques of the media. The media claim that the candidates are "lashing out" or "erupting", when really it's the media figures who are full of hysteria in talking about the candidates.

Kalmanson goes on about "haters", but really, the only unreasoning hatred was coming from him - treating Greenberg as some kind of representative "anti-lubav", where really he was agreeing with Kalmanson on the big question (should L messianism be written out of Judaism, as it seems the Israeli conversion court has). People can disagree without being "haters", but Kalmanson's worldview can't encompass that idea.

Kalmanson also carries on about the Rebbe being a big enough godol to have a respectable position - never mind that EVERY other godol who has considered the issue in the past 1000 years has disagreed, even those sources which Lubavitchers quote, such as Rashi and Abarbanel. He carries on about kovod to gedolim, claiming that Greenberg is an "am haaretz" who doesn't respect gedolim, yet he repeatedly denigrates other gedolim who happen to disagree with him. And it's not as if the Rebbe ever stated explicitly that he was Moshiach. So how does the reputation of the Rebbe as a godol protect the position that he’s still Moshiach even after death?

Then he starts with a dreh about Beis Hamikdash Bimkomo - in HIS (Moshiach's) mokom, not the Mokom haMikdash - supported by the [false] claim that Bayis is a feminine noun, and "mimkomo" refers to a masculine referent, therefore, it must be Moshiach's place. This is meant to fulfill the Rambam’s stated requirement that Moshiach rebuild the Temple “bimkomo”, in its place. But as eny fule no, both Bayis and Mikdash are masculine nouns. So the whole pilpul is flat-out wrong.

Afterwards he brings out the usual claims of “the gemara says ee min mesaya, which validates a dead messiah,” which, contrary to the claims of many Lubavitchers, is not understood by Rashi, by anyone who approaches Rashi honestly, to justify a dead messiah. And he carps on the Rambam’s statement that “if he is killed, he was not the promised Messiah”, eliding the previous clause: “if he was not successful, or was killed, he was not…” Once he dies, it’s clear he was not successful. So even if one takes the Rambam’s narrative as the definitive rule on who is or is not the Messiah, as the Rebbe did repeatedly, the Rebbe cannot be the Messiah, because he’s dead, niftar, in the Olam haEmes, not below 10 tefachim, etc.

Now, I'm not here to offer an opinion whether Lubavitch messianism is heretical or not; there are respectable opinions on both sides. But almost everyone outside of Lubavitch knows that it's wrong, or even foolish, to believe in a messiah who dies in an unredeemed world, and returns to complete his mission. That opinion I've even heard from a Lubavitch rabbi before 1994. It's the weakness of the arguments, from people who proclaim such dedication to Torah and the intellect, that bothers me.

These guys, these guys, they carry on at great volume, undermining their own arguments in their vehemence to prove the other guy wrong, bad, hater. Clearly they don't have the law or the facts on their side, if they have to go so far into arguing ad hominem.

1 comment:

Hirshel Tzig said...

Guys like Kalmanson are insincere in general, it's no surprise that the insincerity carries over to their understanding of the Rebbe and of what he said.

And I'm a Lubavitcher.