Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lubavitcher Taqiyya?

I’ve had this exchange recently on Harry Maryles’ blog. thanbo is me, Lubavitcher and Chareidi are handles chosen by the respective posters. I’ve suspected for years that some Lubavitchers felt free to dissemble about their faith in the Rebbe as Moshiach, and the extent of that faith, because of the consistent difference in perception between insiders, who say the Moshiach problem isn’t that widespread, and outsiders, who observe that most Lubavitchers they meet seem to be Messianists. I hadn’t actually encountered a concrete example of this disconnect between claim and reality until now, when a self-proclaimed Lubavitcher lied to my screen about a concept that is, while unfamiliar to many outside of Chabad, strongly rooted in Chabad and traditional [Chazal’s] texts. This concept, as we see below, is central to the concept of Rebbe as Moshiach of the generation, and has several counterintuitive implications for Jewish thought.



That is unfortuantely an absolute lie. Who would dare compare the Rebbe to the Baal Shem Tov or chas vchalila Moshe Rabbeinu himself? No one in their right mind would make that absurd jump. Naturally we feel the most intense closeness to Nasi Doreinu but again not to such an insane degree. We don't compare leaders. Period.

And later:

No Jew in their right mind would compare the Rebbe to either the Baal Shem Tov or Moshe Rabbeinu. Such a comparison has no basis in Torah. Period. We do not compare leaders. The Rebbe is the Nasi, with all the current implications of that word. No more and no less.


Of course you don't compare leaders. Because the Rebbe is the greatest leader that ever lived. [where most Orthodox Jews would hold that Moshe Rabbeinu was the greatest leader that ever lived, under the concept of Yeridas haDoros, “descent of the generations.” -jjb] It is not a lie to say that Chabad believes in an ascent of generations where everyone else in Orthodoxy believes in a descent of generations, because Chabad has this concept of "yechida klollis".

Yechida is the highest component of a human soul (narancha"i), and is possessed by great leaders. The nosi hador, the prince of the generation, has what is called a "yechida klollis", a collective soul, which encompasses the souls of every Jew in their generation. Moshe Rabbenu was the yechida klollis of the dor hamidbar. [generation of the Desert –jjb] Yehoshua was the next yechida klollis, and since he was alive when Moshe was alive, his soul encompassed Moshe's soul, and therefore was greater than Moshe's soul. This continued down the generations, such that the Mezritcher Maggid's soul encompassed the Baal Shem Tov's soul, etc., down to the last L. Rebbe, whose soul encompassed every Jew in our generation, as well as the souls of all the leaders who came before him.

So the Rebbe is the greatest single soul who ever lived. And in calling this "an absolute lie", you're if not actually lying yourself, at least engaging in the standard Chabad tactic of diverting attention from the issue at hand, by refuting a side question.

It's also sometimes called neshomo klolis, e.g
See also the L Rebbe's sicha of Vayera 5752
A similar idea is present at Zohar II 47a, if not the actual term and its implications.


On the off chance that you were actually being sincere, I followed up on the sicha you cited. Unsurprisingly there's no mention at all of any of this.

Why did I suspect you were being insincere, aside from your condescending tone? Because I've heard bfairush the exact opposite in shiurim on the history of the Rebbeim. We absolutely believe in yeridas hadoros.

I can't and am not interested in looking at Zohar. And if you're posting here, I would posit that neither can you. And I didn't bother looking at because frankly I don't care much for their opinion.


>Why did I suspect you were being insincere...?

Because if I were sincere, which I was, I would be pointing out a central idea in Lubavitch which is embarrassing to state in front of regular Orthodox Jews, inasmuch as it contradicts the standard idea of Yeridas haDoros. Which in fact I did.

But eppur si muove, [Galileo’s alleged last words – “and yet it moves”, referring to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun rather than vice versa –jjb] buddy boy, much as some Lubavitcher liars may like to distract us with falsehoods.

See section 14, footnote 127, in the sicha [Chassidic talk, less mystical/deep than a maamar –jjb] of Vayera 5752.

What's most impressive is how you can blatantly lie about the sichos of your own Rebbe, in order to deny principles of your own movement's belief system.

PS, I have two copies of the Zohar, one contemporary, one antique. And do read it on occasion. Not that I understand it all that well yet.

See here for an insider's view of neshomo klolis and its importance, with sources in the Zohar and Midrashim:

Here's the Zohar in question:

ויאמר משה אל העם אל תיראו התיצבו וראו את ישועת יהו"ה, אמר רבי שמעון, זכאה חולקיהון דישראל דהא רעיא כמשה אזיל בגווייהו, כתיב (שם סג יא) ויזכור ימי עולם משה עמו, ויזכור ימי עולם, דא קודשא בריך הוא, משה עמו, (מכאן אוליפנא) שקיל הוה משה ככל ישראל, ואוליפנא מהא, כי רעיא דעמא הוא ממש עמא כלהו, אי איהו זכי, עמא כלהו זכאין, ואי איהו לא זכי, עמא כלהו לא זכאן ואתענשו בגיניה, והא אוקמוה. התיצבו וראו, לית לכו לאגחא קרבא, דהא קודשא בריך הוא יגיח קרבא בגיניכון, כמה דאת אמר יהו"ה ילחם לכם ואתם תחרישון, תא חזי, ההוא ליליא כנש קודשא בריך הוא לפמליא דיליה ודאין דינייהו דישראל, ואלמלא דאקדימו אבהן עלייהו דישראל, לא אשתזיבו מן דינא, רבי יהודה אמר, זכותא דיעקב אגין עלייהו דישראל, הדא הוא דכתיב (תהלים קכד א) לולי יהו"ה שהיה לנו יאמר נא ישראל, ישראל סבא:

[bold text: For the shepherd of the nation is necessarily the entirety of the nation, if he is worthy, they are all worthy, and if he is not worthy, the whole nation is not worthy, and will be punished for his sake. -jjb]

For a Hebrew translation see here at the bottom:

Now who's the liar and insincere?

thanbo (conclusion from another thread):

[Harry Maryles wrote:]

What does all this mean? I think it means that Meshichism is still a problem despite all their protestations to the contrary – no matter what the breakdown is or what the percentages are of each.

I think you're right. Look at my argument with commenter "Lubavitcher" [above]. "Lubavitcher" apparently felt compelled to falsify the textual record of the Rebbe's own statements, and to dismiss the Zohar as a source, to cover up an idea that is clearly central to the Rebbe's concept of what a Rebbe/Moshiach is (the sichos of 5751/5752, the last year and a half of his compos life, focussed strongly on the idea of Moshiach), an idea which I learned about from a major Rav who is meyuchas to Lubavitch, and which is clearly sourced in the Midrashim and the Zohar.

So it would seem, that there is permission, if not an actual mandate, to hide the truth about Lubavitch messianism. IOW, you can't necessarily believe what they tell you about "Oh, I don't believe in that stuff". They may well, but because it's off-putting to other Jews, they may feel compelled to go so far as to lie about it. The Shi'i Muslims have a word for this: Taqiyya.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Kaplan, Cohen and the JC

This I got from Jeffrey Gurock's book "A Modern Heretic and a Traditional Community".

R Mordechai Menachem Kaplan (RMMK) graduated the Seminary in 1902, the last year it was Orthodox, along with my great-aunt's then-future brother-in-law, R Israel Goldfarb. Since the Seminary didn't ordain at the time, Kaplan went to Europe to get smicha from R YY Reines, the head of Mizrachi, and a friend of his father. He took a post as "minister" (upgrading to "rabbi" after he got smicha) at KJ on the East Side, later working with the Ramaz (for whom the school was named in 1937) as #2 rabbi. In 1910, Kaplan started writing in his diaries, and I think in some articles, his inklings of pantheism.

Kaplan and my great-grandfather's brother, coat manufacturer and philanthropist (20 years president of the Beth Israel Hospital) Joseph H. Cohen left KJ about 1916 to set up a shul for the growing contingent of West Siders who were shlepping across the park to KJ because there wasn't much else yet. They had this idea of a Jewish Center, a place where Jews would do their recreation in a Jewish context, rather than among non-Jews at the park or the Y, as a way of keeping Jews interested in Judaism (yes they were into Kiruv back then too). RMMK had been involved with an early Kiruv group for years, the Jewish Endeavour Society. Cohen didn't mind Kaplan's writings, as long as he didn't bring them to the pulpit. That synagogue was The Jewish Center on 86th Street in New York.

In 1918 Cohen's brother (my great-grandfather) Louis founded the Brooklyn Jewish Center, the second such "shul with a pool", which, unlike too many Brooklyn synagogues, is still a Jewish institution. It's now the Chabad yeshiva Oholei Torah/Oholei Menachem. The BJC was set up with the idea of having a school, a big Talmud Torah and later a day school, so they didn't have to do too much to convert it.

By 1922, Kaplan couldn't keep his ideas out of the pulpit, and Cohen turned on him. He called a vote of the board to toss him out, lost the vote by a narrow margin, but Kaplan didn't want to stay where he wasn't wanted, and left to set up his own shul up the street, the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, the Reconstructionist ur-Schule.

In 1927, the Reform financiers who were backing both JTS and RIETS started to wonder why they had to support two Orthodox institutions. They started to work for a merger of the two yeshivot. It came to a vote of boards of the institutions. Joseph H. Cohen was a member of the inner board at RIETS at the time, and he put his foot down - he knew Kaplan, and any institution which employs Kaplan cannot merge with the Yeshiva.

So there you have it. In a small, non-public way, my family made a major impact on the development of Orthodoxy in America.

Electoral Illogic

Congratulations to the Republican Party for retaking the House of Representatives. And congratulations to the Obama Administration for halting, if not yet repairing, the downward slide in the nation's economy and reputation in the world.

The NY Times on challenges facing John Boehner as incoming Speaker of the House:

His promises on behalf of the new House majority — reducing the size of government, creating jobs and fundamentally altering the way the Congress conducts its business — are mostly as lofty as they are unspecific, and his efforts to legislate them into reality must be done with ambitious upstarts within his own party and a fresh crop of Tea Partiers, some of whom seem to believe that it is they, not he, now running the show.

The demands on Mr. Boehner from voters are many and not all consistent. There is a craving, polling shows, to see the current system upended, but preferably without gridlock or rancor. Voters want federal spending curtailed, but jealously guard costly entitlements. They angrily reject what is, but have no clearly articulated vision for what should be.

Indeed, Mr. Boehner and his party were delivered no clear mandate from voters, who, polls suggested, were rejecting a policy agenda more than they were rallying around one. One demand resonated loudly: the reduction of federal spending immediately, a daunting goal. Yet, among the first things that Mr. Boehner has said he will seek to accomplish are reversing cuts to the MedicareBush-era tax cuts, steps that are hard to reconcile with a commitment to reining in the national debt.

But if you think about it, which evidently the voters did not in general, these are conflicting promises and desires. Cutting federal spending and reducing the size of government sound nice, until you realize that that means laying off government workers, thus ending government jobs, as well as reducing investment in private enterprise which would have created private-sector jobs. So if they live up to that promise, watch the jobs begin to disappear like they did in 2008 and early 2009. The current administration's spending stabilized unemployment at 9.6%, instead of continuing to fall to Great Depression levels.

Direct promises to increase Medicare reimbursments, and continue the Bush-era tax cuts (on top of the Obama tax cuts, which were real, if not sufficiently publicized - or don't you notice that your paycheck has you taking home more than you were a few years back, even though you might not have had a raise in several years?) mean greater spending and greater deficits - because you can't spend more money, and reduce tax revenue, without the money coming from somewhere, namely, loans to the gov't that make up the deficit.

Even if today's Republicans will be different than the Bush Republicans, with no requirement of personal loyalty to Bush/Cheney, and no wars of aggression being promoted from the White House, the Republicans will be forced into "business as usual". The same thing happens with every Israeli prime minister since Oslo. We watched candidate after candidate promote himself by opposing the Oslo accords and their aftermaths, but once in office, one could not actually stop the implementation of the Oslo accords.

Just as there wasn't a major change from "business as usual" when the Democrats took Congress in 2008, there won't be a major change now. The Democrats (Wussycrats in Harold Feld's term) still felt that any legislative change must be begged as a favor from the Republicans, even if the Republicans were the minority party. And now we'll continue that, as no party has the 60 votes to override threatened filibusters.

Change we can believe in, is pretty minor change.