Friday, September 12, 2008

Chabad, the Rebbe and God – How they are seen

R’ Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg is quoted on the cover, and on p. 105, of R’ Dr. David Berger’s book about Chabad messianism, based on the testimony of the party of the second part, as follows:

"Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, a rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, told an
enquiring student (even before the Rebbe's death) that he should pray
alone rather than in a Chabad synagogue because 'they pray to a
different deity [eloah]'.[82]"

This seems a remarkably dismissive remark, as well as astoundingly off-putting to any Chabadnik who might pick up Berger’s book. Berger himself didn’t want to believe it, until he saw some of the excesses of certain elements after the Rebbe’s passing.

It behooves us, knowing that R’ Weinberg was a major Talmid Chacham, to try to understand where he was coming from, and thus blunt the teeth of his assertion, if only to prevent Chabadniks from returning the dismissive favor.

In short – RSYW had a reasonable response to phenomena that he saw, but not being a devoted student of Chabad texts, did not fully understand.

I reviewed Berger's book. The quote was in context of a discussion of many activities and writings from Lubavitchers that look very much like avodah zarah (AZ).

Berger has an extended discussion of R' Avraham B. Pevzner's "Al Hatzaddikim", published in 1991 while the Rebbe was still alive and presumably compos, which attempts to explain the Rebbe's statement from 1951 that a rebbe is Divine Essence and Existence placed into a body. The line between that and avodah zarah is a very thin one, the distinction Pevzner tries to make is a very subtle one, and from a mainstream Torah perspective, is wrong and possibly heretical. I've tried to buy this book at the big seforim shop on Kingston, but couldn't find it.

It is fundamental to the Ari’s Kabbalah, that to allow Creation to take place, something happened called Tzimtzum, or Restriction. For some, the Tzimtzum is physical – that God’s Essence is Infinite, and for a finite universe to be created, a vacuole, a finite space free of God-stuff, was created within the Infinite Essence. Within that finite space, a finite universe could exist.

For the Chabad and most readers, the Tzimtzum is metaphorical – that rather than removing His Essence from some space, He concealed his essence by a series of veils, screens, conceptual barriers, so that those beings that are part of the created universe don’t see that they are actually entirely made of God-stuff. Everything in the physical universe is part of the unitary God, it’s only an illusion that we are separate intelligences, that the desk is a desk, the computer is a computer, etc. God remains One, Unchanged.

This concept arises out of the later strata of the Zohar, primarily the Tikkunei Zohar. The Ari himself is ambivalent, in two sentences on the same page saying that the Tzimtzum was in God’s Essence (the physical explanation), in another saying that the Tzimtzum was in God’s Light (the metaphorical explanation – the Essence remains unchanged). I don’t pretend to understand these in any kind of depth, but they are the two main positions on the Tzimtzum.

Pevzner discusses the idea of the Rebbe as a "joining intermediary", a tzaddik who has so nullified his individuality that the Divinity which makes up everything and everyone, whose essence is normally hidden by the veils of the Tzimtzum, is revealed, so that if one prays to the Rebbe, one IS praying to God. He adduces evidence from a Kedushas Levi (R’ Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev), which an objective examination reveals to be a distortion of the Kedushas Levi, and from a 16th-century work called Nishmas Chaim.

Now, that idea is problematic on its face, but let's set that aside and assume that a Lubavitcher thinks that it's OK. After all, it was advanced originally by the late Rebbe, in an address during the interregnum year of mourning for his late father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe. Behaviorally, though, four things are prohibited as avodah-zarah when not directed to the Eibishter: prostration, incense, libation, and sacrifice. Bowing towards a person out of honor is OK, but bowing because of regarding that person as Divinity is a problem. Pevzner, however, spends a considerable effort justifying bowing towards the Rebbe.

Suppose an outsider sees this Lubavitcher bowing to the Rebbe, or to his picture. This outsider doesn't know the idea of atzmus umahus areingeshtelt in a guf, (the Yiddish form of the italicized description of a Rebbe above), it was not even that well known in Lubavitch until recently. And it's the Rebbe's own feeling, unprecedented in Torah, as the Rebbe says in his footnote on LS 2 p. 511. The outsider sees the Lubavitcher bowing to a person as Divinity. [This sicha is translated in the book Proceeding Together vol. I] How is the person not supposed to take that as "they're praying to a different deity"?

The Catholic, lehavdil elef havdolos, believes his cracker and wine are the body & blood of his god. The Catholic bows to them, because of that belief. Are we to take their word for it, or are we as outsiders bound to regard them as ovdei AZ, because behaviorally, they are, and we do not, as a matter of principle, accept their beliefs?

So too here, lehavdil, most of Torah Jewry does not accept these beliefs of a section of Chabad. And is it really just a section? Or is it the whole, given that it's based on a cryptic statement of the Rebbe himself from early in his tenure? The whole do at least tolerate this behavior, presumably because they know that it's not being done as AZ.

But this idea was clearly implicit in the Chassidic system from Day One, as it is the basis of the Gra's letter that worries that if they go on the way they are, they will be worshipping the trees & stones. Perhaps not the trees & stones, but some of them do effectively worship a person.

It's clear that there is some philosophical difference between this behavior towards the Rebbe and actually saying Boreinu, or else the central organizations would never have condemned the Boreinu-niks, from R' Marlow on down. There is a difference between a memutza hamechabeir, which seems to be analogous to a [closed?] glass window, and saying that the Rebbe actually is God.

See here and less seriously here for my earlier thoughts on this sort of stuff.

Given that RSYW was a Rosh Yeshiva, a major Talmid Chacham, but to Chabad an outsider, and a) could not accept the Chabad belief system, and b) of necessity regarded the issue behaviorally, was there any other position he could have reached?


Anonymous said...

This was posted to parshablog as well, as I got here from there:

I went through Thanbooks post, and I think I understood what he wrote. However, even after understanding what he wrote, davening to the Rebbe is still heretical, at least based on how the Rambam formulates the 5th Ikkar, and how he explains the development of Avodah Zara in Mishne Torah.

One can start nitpicking here - but let's just cut the baloney: the chabadnikim are praying to a human being, which is a BIG problem for Judaism. It doesn't matter how you dress it up. To quote some politicians:
"A pig with lipstick is still a pig" :-)

thanbo said...

But do we, today, really, take the Rambam as dispositive in these matters? Did you say Machnisei Rachamim in Slichos yesterday, and/or today? Do you say the third verse of Shalom Aleichem every week? I know people who don't, davka because of the "davening to an intermediary" problem, but it's far from the majority position.

And once you say that praying to an angel (who has no will of his own) is OK as an intermediary, then where's the outrage at praying to a chassidic tzadik, who, as they believe, has nullified his will such that he effectively has no will, and is doing (and thus a revelation of, in a sense) the will of God, coming from? Is it just "they're doing this bad thing" or is there some other inter-group rivalry driving it?

Puk chazi still rules...

Akiva said...

an explanation of the practice of some Lubavitch of bowing to the Rebbe, to the Rebbe's picture, or directing prayers towards the Rebbe...

Let me state this clearly. Since the Rebbe's hilula, I have davened at a large number of Chabad houses, Chabad yeshivas, and in major Chabad kehilos. I've davened in 770 and Kfar Chabad, Morristown and Tzfat, Jerusalem, Netanya, Beit Shemesh, Monsey and more.


I have seen people saying Yechi and indicating a belief the Rebbe is still alive. I know chassidim who will not go to the kever of the Chabad rebbe's in Queens. I have seen (in 770) the Rebbe's place prepared before each davening, and room made for him to pass should he suddenly arrive, his havdala set prepared right after Shabbat, etc (similar to described in the Mishna for rebbie). And I have met those who await for the Rebbe to complete the process of the geulah, and believe the sichos and ma'amarim of the Rebbe are the final word on the subject and on all the Torah.

But, in no place I have davened have I seen a picture of the Rebbe placed in front, brachos or tefilos made "to" the Rebbe, or the Rebbe treated as more than a tzadik and with the expectations of Moshiach, a human who will usher in the geulah.

I have heard such rumors, and I have seen a sum total of 1 web site that says such things (which I won't share so as not to direct people to such a thing). But in my experience, that's all they are, RUMORS.

Anonymous said...


I definitely take the Rambam as definitive in such matters. Do you have a source of the Rishonim who disagree?

Regarding your questions:
1) No, I did not say machnisei rachamim. I purposely omitted it, for the exact reasons you mentioned. While there are some poskim who still allow it to be said, I'm willing to sacrifice these few words so that no one will think that I pray to angels.

2) Yes, I do say Barchuni L'shalom. I do not say it as a request - rather, as a command. As Josh wrote in his follow up post, the B'raisa specifically mentions that the angels will bless the household with the following blessing: 'May it be even thus on another Sabbath [too]'. I'm simply instructing the angels to do their job, I'm not making any type of request from them. I even try to say it in a tone and tune that shows that it is not a request, rather, a statement.

thanbo said...


And yet, as Josh pointed out, others have reported seeing this at, e.g., shuls in North Miami Beach, recently. IIRC, that's also where the crazy women who have a seudah on Tisha B'Av moved.

Eppur si muove.

Moshe: RYBS has said that one can look to piyutim as evidence of halachic (and theological?) history. As I noted, Yigdal (Rome, c. 1404 or perhaps earlier, Daniel b. Judah Dayyan) clearly leaves out the 5th Principle.

I haven't made a literature search to find others who disagree about it. However, note that Yigdal is a lot more popular than Ani Maamin, and that both diverge somewhat from the Rambam. See, e.g., R' Marc Shapiro's book on the Limits of Orthodox Theology. Which is probably my first place to look.

Consider the Raavad on Divine corporeality - not that he believed in it, G"F, but that "others greater than you, Maimo, have believed in it."

Akiva said...

Josh posts 1 comment of a shul with a picture of the Rebbe in front. The comment doesn't say people were praying to it, rather "This was in effect, praying to the Rebbe." (Nor does it mention whether the shul was meshichist or not - if not, why would it be there...see below.)

I have seen the occasional error where a multi-purpose Chabad house room has a picture of the Rebbe in front, and when it's used as a shul you end up with a picture of the Rebbe in the front. When I've pointed this out to the shaliach, they've kind of hit their head and said, "yeah, that's a mistake" and removed it.

It must be asked if the Chabad house where this picture was, was meshichist oriented, or just making a stupid mistake.

The other comment says they "turned around"??? This is just odd - what, they daven backwards, away from the aaron? Or was this L'cha Dodi, and there was a picture of the Rebbe at the back or entrance, so when they turn around to greet the Shabbos Queen there happens to be a picture of the Rebbe there?

I have seen a few Chabad houses with pictures of the Rebbe in the back, or by the entrance. As these are often multi-purpose rooms, it's not so odd, nor so halachicly inappropriate as a picture in the front would be. Granted, not a choice practice.

Interestingly, where I have seen this has always been non-meshichist locations - more an issue of a shaliach who is not well halachically competent. Such locations would throw someone out for saying yechi or any statement about the Rebbe being more than a tzaddik.

Now get me a comment of a meshichist shul with a picture of the Rebbe on the aaron, and I'll grant the argument. In all these other cases, you've got people who are specifically looking for a problem, and taking any factor they can find to fill it. No different than complaining about the tefillin campaign 30 years ago.

Yehoishophot Oliver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yehoishophot Oliver said...

What idiotic nonsense, no Chossid "davvens to the Rebbe," ch"v; only someone with total ignorance of Chassidus and Chabad Chassidim could say such a thing. It's preposterous to suggest that the sicha says such a thing; it says nothing of the sort.

As for your outrageous words about the Rebbe's sicha concerning the revelation of Hashem in Tzadikim--did you bother to learn the sicha inside first?? And how do you have the gall to make such claims about Rabbi Pevzner's book, at the same time that you openly admit that you haven't even learnt it--all based on the words of "axe-to-grind" Berger?!

And for your claim that "the expression "atzmus umahus areingeshtelt in a guf (sic)" is the Rebbe's own feeling, unprecedented in Torah, as the Rebbe says in his footnote on LS 2 p. 511": This is at best a misunderstanding, at worst a distortion of the sicha:

In the sicha the Rebbe first says concerning the relationship of Rebbe, Chossid, and Hashem as being as one that this is his own feeling. Only after having said that does he go on to describe the Frierdiker Rebbe as "atzmus umahus vi er hot zich areingeshtelt in a guf"--and then immediately lists sources for this concept in Chumash, the Gemoro and Zohar! I have explained this sicha and the footnotes in my blog here:

thanbo said...

OK, I read your explanation of memutza hamechaber, and it is in fact exactly how I explained it (albeit from secondary sources rather than primary sources) in my earlier post, which I in fact had referenced in this post.

That some boorish post, which primarily exist to stir up hatred of, and coarse insults of those individuals and ideas which are outside of the poster's clannish and idolatrous cult, do not take the time to learn what is in front of their faces, leads them to the kind of insulting behavior displayed in R' Oliver's post that he references above.

Do you like being the target of the sort of language you like to toss around? You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I spend a lot of time here trying to soften the antagonism between the sides, to try to explain one side to the other, but some posters seem so dead set on the Us-Vs-Them ideology that anything not coming from Unzerer, must be Bad, Wrong, Evil.

The Rebbe took an expansive view of "who is my chossid", but so many of his followers take a restrictive view.

It seems to me that the "hergesh" paragraph does apply to the whole argument, at least by extension. The Rebbe wouldn't need the "atzmus umahus...areingeshtelt in a guf" argument if he hadn't just invented the "God, tzaddik and chossid are one" argument. And that is somehow set apart from the "yichuda ila'a" that tells us that all of existence is one figment of God's imagination. And are those statements from the Zohar and Yerushalmi meant to be taken literally, or is the literal reading the Rebbe's own as well?

Yehoishophot Oliver said...

1. Hi. The link you posted here to an earlier post doesn't work. If the way you explained it there was the same as what I said, then that's good, but that's not what you wrote here.

2. No, I don't enjoy being the target of such language. But don't go around saying this vile canard that Chassidim "davven to the Rebbe" ch"v and that there's some sort of basis for that in the sicha ch"v if you indeed support "softening antagonism". (For those who understand Yiddish, the sicha talks about asking one's Rebbe to davven on one's behalf, and why that isn't considered a memutza.) Don't expect calmness when a great Tzaddik and an entire movement is being accused of avodah zara ch"v, especially when the whole purpose of the derech of Chabad Chassidus is the opposite, to fortify the emunah in achdus Hashem.

3. I never made any general statement about us vs. them. The issue is the vile distortion of the Rebbe's words. Nor did I broach the topic of "who is a Chossid." I find it odd that you mix in these irrelevant issues.

4. The earlier paragraph about the Rebbe, Chossid, and Hashem being as one is indeed related, but they're clearly two different ideas. First the Rebbe discusses the statement that the the Jewish people, the Torah, and Hashem are one, and says that he feels that the same the relationship between Chassidim, Rebbe, and Hashem being are as one. Then he says he has no source for this specific comparison; it is his chiddush and feeling, and one can take it or leave it. Then the Rebbe goes on to explain this concept of the relationship between Chassidim, Rebbe, and Hashem further by referring to earlier sources that speak about Tzaddikim.

Berger and co. twist the sicha by claiming that the Rebbe openly admits that he has no source for the idea that Hashem reveals Himself via Tzaddikim. This is a blatant lie: The Rebbe cites four sources on the spot.

5. Of course the statements of the Zohar and Yerushalmi should not be taken literally; without learning the way they are explained in Chassidus concerning bittul etc., one would indeed be prone to heresy.

6. Indeed, the concept of yichuda ila'a is separate and here we are speaking from the perspective of yichuda tata'a.

7. May I suggest that you actually read the seifer "Ve'al HaTzadikim" before posting on this matter further.

Wishing you and yours a kesiva v'chasima toivo.

Deborah Shaya said...

1. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn tz”l, known as, ‘The Rebbe,’ was NOT the Mashiach.

Those who erroneously believe him to be the Mashiach that Am Yisrael is waiting for today, are bordering on Christianity, and committing the grave sin of Avodah Zarah, Idolatry.

Idolatry is forbidden in the Torah, and is the Second of the Asseret Hadibrot.
Similarly in the case of Breslov with Rav Nachman tz”l.

2. There should be NO MEDIATOR between a person’s tefillot and Hashem.

If a person chooses to use intercession instead of praying directly to Hashem, this is completely Assur.

If the leaders of Chabad/Lubavitch encouraged people to use the “Igrot” - including Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, tz”l - they were wrong. Using the Igrot is using intercession. Similarly the practices of

(1) "reading out the Igrot request to a PICTURE of Rabbi Schneersohn tz"l" is direct Avodah Zarah. We are only allowed to pray to Hashem.

(2) sending faxes to the Bet HaChaim should be stopped immediately.

(3) Praying directly to the Tzaddik at the Bet HaChaim is wrong. It causes tremendous tsaar to the neshamah of the Tzaddik in Shamayim. We pray only to Hashem – directly ourselves. NO mediator is permitted.

These practices are abhorrent and against the Torah. They are assur and forbidden, and should all be stopped.

If the tzaddik advised that people do this in his lifetime – he was wrong. And this must be corrected. Speedily.

TESHUVAH to Hashem should be done speedily instead - by the whole of the Lubavitch organisation especially. The whole of the Lubavitch organisation is currently all refusing to do Teshuvah.

Similarly in the case of Breslov, with those who go Uman to pray directly to the Tzaddik – instead of directly to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. “Intercession” and “mediation” is against the Torah.

The Torah cannot be mixed with Avodah Zarah. This is twisting the Torah, and the Torah must remain straight.

Deborah Shaya said...

3. Why was the place of Moshe Rabeinu, the very greatest of all the Prophets, kept hidden from us? Precisely so that Moshe would c”v never be worshipped. So that people would never pray to Moshe, c”v, instead of directly to Hashem, themselves. The Torah states very clearly:

“…velo yada ish et kevurato ad hayom hazeh” (Vezot Haberacha 34:6) “…and no man knows the place that he was buried even to this day.”

If people are praying to a tzaddik, who is finite – and of far lesser stature than Moshe – instead of to Hashem – who is Infinite – that is avodah zarah.

If people wish to go to the Kivrei Tzaddikim to pray to Hashem from there, that is their choice. Far better, is to encourage people to go instead to the most holy place in the world – the Kotel. Hashem’s Presence is always there.

The Kotel is where people should be going to pray to Hashem. Not the Bet HaChaim.

4. If people want to pray to anyone else, and make requests of any being other than Hakadosh Baruch Hu, they might as well join Christianity.

When Moshe prayed, he prayed to Hashem. He did not pray to any Malachim or any celestial beings. These are all the creations of Hashem.

We are not allowed to pray to the creations of Hashem.

Similarly, with regard to the Selichot, and the Neilah prayer for Yom Kippur in the Ashkenazi tradition - they include direct Tefillot and requests to Malachim.

The Malachim are the creations of Hashem.

We are not allowed to pray to any Malachim.

This is completely assur and causes very great damage and harm. I emphasise that this is something very grave which needs to be rectified as well - speedily.

The Selichot and the Neilah Tefillah for Yom Kippur should be amended speedily to remove all prayers and requests to Malachim.

Deborah Shaya said...

5. The false argument used by Lubavitch to permit intercession on a person’s behalf, is the act of Calev ben Yefuneh praying at the Cave of Machpelah in Chevron. He prayed for success in his mission of “spying out” the Land, Eretz Yisrael.

No one can use this as a precedent for asking the Tzaddikim - and specifically, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn tz"l - who are no longer alive physically on earth, to pray on a person’s behalf. This causes them tremendous suffering in Shamayim.
This is twisting the Torah, and the Torah cannot ever be twisted.

The reason Calev’s act cannot be used as a precedent, is that NO ONE, can be compared to the supreme Kedusha of the Avot, of Avraham, Yitzchak ve’Yaakov Avinu.

We pray the Amidah 3 times a day, and we always recall the great merit of the Avot in the very first Beracha. What can be greater than that when we pray to Hashem?

This does need to be corrected very quickly, to be in line with the Torah.

6. When people need help, why doesn’t Lubavitch teach people to look inside the Torah, which is Eternal and Infinite - instead of letters written to other people by Rabbi Schneersohn tz”l during his lifetime?

Why doesn't Lubavitch choose the very greatest of all prophets, Moshe Rabbeinu?

7. Moshe is the greatest of all prophets, and no other prophet was equal to him.

“Zichru Torat Moshe Avdi” we are told in Malachi (3:22)

There simply is no comparison between Moshe Rabbeinu and Rabbi Schneersohn tz”l, although Rabbi Schneersohn tz”l was a Tzaddik and a very righteous and good man.

Moshe Rabbeinu was the greatest of all prophets, and we do not even pray in the name of Moshe. Neither do we pray in the name of David Hamelech, whose descendent is the Mashiach.

However, in the very first Beracha of the Amidah, the silent prayer to Hashem containing our requests, we recall the merit of the Avot: “…..Elokei Avraham, Elokei Yitzhak Velokei Yaakov….” “….The G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzhak and the G-d of Yaakov…”
The beracha is concluded with “Magen Avraham.

In summary:
(1) We pray to Hashem – at all times.

(2) There should be NO mediator between Hashem and a person’s tefillot – otherwise this is Assur.

Therefore the practice of using the “Igrot” for "requests" and "guidance" should be stopped. Similarly the practices of sending faxes to the Bet HaChaim, and praying to the tzaddik at the Bet HaChaim instead of directly to Hashem ourselves - should be stopped immediately. They are abhorrent and against the Torah.

The reason for this is that these practices use intercession. And the use of a “mediator” or someone to “intercede on a person’s behalf” to Hashem, is assur.

Teshuvah to Hashem must be done - very speedily.

Anonymous said...

The problem with R. Oliver's view and any view that interprets Torah sources in such a way is as follows. The absolutely clear window through which light shines is not noticed at all. The Tzaddik truly nullified to G-d should open the “perceiver” to an Infinity no more confined to the Tzaddik than anywhere or in/as anything else, and the Tzaddik should not himself ever be perceived as It’s locus. If the Tzaddik is truly batel and thus “transparent”, then he should not be present to the mind or any of the senses, should not be noticed at all, in the context of the experience of G-d. So why think of the Tzaddik, why speak of him in the context of such an experience at all? The very fact that one does, that one credits any role to him at all – rather than thinking and speaking ONLY of G-d – demonstrates that the Tzaddik himself has become a locus of Deity, and that is idolatry.

Yehoishophot Oliver said...

Mr. Anon., suggesting someone is guilty of avoda zara is a very serious issue. Perhaps you want to research the matter more before you jump to such conclusions, and I might also suggest, for integrity's sake, going by your real name.

As for the point you make, the idea that Hashem's presence is more apparent in one place and person than another is not only not avoda zara, ch"v, but it's found all over. It's called kedusha.

Just a few examples: a Beis Midrash, a shul, the Beis Hamikdash, or nowadays the Kosel, kivrei Tzaddikim, a Sefer Torah, any Torah sefer, a Kohen, and so on.

Why speak of any of these limited entities if their purpose is to connect to the infinite Hashem?

So, for example, we go to a shul because a shul is a place where Hashem is more apparent--a holy place. At the same time, Hashem is not a shul, ch"v; rather, by going to the physical shul, one becomes more aware of and attuned to the reality of the infinite Hashem.

thanbo said...

R' Oliver, I note you didn't actually respond to Mr. Anon's points. "How like a Lubavitcher" to divert attention from the man behind the curtain.

Mr. Anon's point was that if the Rebbe was truly batel to the Eibeshter, a true memutza hamechaber, then you wouldn't be speaking of the Rebbe (or the Rebbe wouldn't be speaking of the father-in-law) as that which is the garment of Atzmus. He would be speaking of the Atzmus itself, without regard to the garment. Since the Rebbe, and following his example his followers, *do* speak of the guf in which the atzmus is clothed, in effect it makes the guf of the Rebbe into that which is worshipped, even if that guf is only an intermediary between us and the Eibeshter.

You then try to respond by talking about objects that have kedusha. No question but that objects have kedusha, but does that kedusha make the object a fit object for worship? Yet the memutza hamechaber concept, originally expressed by the Rebbe, is used (r"l) by some people to make the Rebbe, and his image, into foci for worship, into (necessary?) intermediaries in one's avodas haBorei, one's tefillos. And that's where it becomes avoda zara. Not that the concept itself is necessarily avoda zara, but what some people do with it.

Now, Agu"ch and other allied organizations have repeatedly repudiated those few who do make the leap to considering the Rebbe a god, but other instances of using the Rebbe as a focus of worship are tolerated, and widespread, such as focusing on the Rebbe's image on a Moshiach Card or on the wall, while davening.

So there is some problem of (avak?) A"Z, r"l. It's less of a problem than many detractors may want to think, but it's also more of a problem than many defenders would like to have us believe.

Yehoishophot Oliver said...

1. Please try to avoid condescending language. I am responding in good faith. If I had wanted to avoid the question, I wouldn't post.

2. I said this already, and I'll say it again. No one, neither the Rebbe nor any chossid (except for maybe one crackpot newcomer from whom it is unfair and disingenuous to extrapolate), ever said to make a Tzaddik an object of worship ch"v, or a part of one's tefillos. This is nothing but a libel.

3. My point was simply that we reach Hashem through the intermediary of physical things, places, and people. Of course we don't pray TO these things, G-d forbid; again, no one ever suggested anything of the sort. Rather, by connecting with them, our connection with Hashem becomes more real and felt. This is the idea of memutza hamechabeir (in contrast with memutza hamafsik).

Anon.'s question was thus like asking: Why go into a shul to davven, if Hashem is everywhere? Why keep Mitzvos, which involve physical objects, or learn Torah, which involve physical holy books, in order to connect with Him? The answer is that Hashem reveals Himself to us through these things, but they are not Him. This is the idea of Kedusha, and the same idea applies with the concept of Moshe Rabeinu/Tzaddik/Rebbe.

Just as when you want to davven to Hashem, you go to a physical place--shul--to enhance your davvenen eperience, so is it that through visiting a Tzaddik/Rebbe, or studying his teachings, one's bond with Hashem is (not only not detracted from, ch"v, but) enhanced.

4. The concept of "your eyes shall see your teacher" extending to seeing an image of a Tzaddik is well-established. See the sources for this concept mentioned here, among many other sources on the topic. There is no need to assume Avoda Zara is lying under every stone. It definitely contradicts the duty we have to be melamed zechus on every Jew, and Chabad chassidim are Jews “too”.

thanbo said...

1) If you thought my response was condescending, you are too sensitive to work constructively on the Web.

2) They may not have said to do so, but people do anyway. The few Elokisten, R' Marlow z"l was thought to be on the brink of doing so when the CHBD threatened to put him in cherem if he did. Nor did I say that the Rebbe said to make a person into an object of worship. Nevertheless, he did make that curious statement in 1951 or so, that a Rebbe is Divine essence that has enclothed itself in a body. By focussing on the body, which of course is all we can see (most of us), he left the gate open for people to make a mistake. It was a dangerous thing to say.

3) Actually, we don't reach Hashem through the intermediation of physical things places and people. At least not since the Churban. To suggest otherwise is to skirt idolatry, by attributing Godliness to objects such that they are the objects to which we pray, even if our goal is that the prayers should be carried up to Hashem.

So the guys who put a picture of the Rebbe next to the siddur, to help them focus, because the Rebbe is identical with God, after all he said so, are using an intermediary, which is avodah zarah. They may not be intending to, but when it comes to avodah zarah, intent is only part of the question. The Rebbe may have been a permissible intermediary, and I guarantee that most non-Chabad thinkers would disagree, but I think we can all agree that a laminated card or a painting is right out.

>you go to a shul

To join with a minyan. To have access to a sefer Torah for leining and tachanun. To pray where people have been praying, because use by people confers kedushah. I know that isn't the Chasidic concept, where kedusha is conferred from Above, rather more like the Catholic concept of holiness, but for most of us, based on the gemara in Megillah where it discusses tashmishei kedushah, kedushah is conferred by use.

Visiting a rebbe, or studying his teachings, certainly enhances one's connection to the Rebbe, but whether his connection to Hashem is enhanced depends, it seems to me, on his subjective experience of the study, how much he gets from it.

4) The sources you present at your link do not address using a representation of the teacher/rebbe. They talk about mental visualization, and about the living teacher. I'll have to look into R' Margoliyos at more leisure. The other source you mention talks about not looking at sculptures of evil men, which says nothing about the benefit of looking at pictures of good men.

>There is no need to assum AZ is lying under every stone

Interesting choice of words, because the Vilna Gaon in his famous letter worried that Chassidus would lead people to worship "the twigs and stones", because of their overemphasis of the God-nature of all things.

So your prooftexts prove nothing, and your co-religionists' practice remains in the realm of A"Z.

Michael said...

R. Oliver, in the Rebbe’s own words we are talking “atzmus” here, not merely manifestation (i.e., “presence”), and certainly not merely the degree to which such manifestation is apparent to us. If the very “essence” – the Absolute Infinity – of Hashem is apparent to us through a Tzaddik, why would the Tzaddik in himself be present or relevant in the experience at all? If he is, if he is regarded as the locus of that experience, then either the Tzaddik is not completely batel, i.e., not a Tzaddik at all, or the perceiver is mistakenly seeing the finite as the Infinite, which is an idolatry no different from what the Xians typically believe.

Yehoishophot Oliver said...

1. Civility and sticking to the issue would seem to be a prerequisite for any productive dialogue.

2a. No people think what you are attributing to them. I've been acquainted with Lubavitchers in communities all over the world, and no one thinks this. It's nothing but a misnagdic canard repeated in big lie fashion that outsiders assume must therefore have validity. R' Marlow a"h never said anything of the sort; you must be confusing this issue with something else.

2b. It's a "curious statement" when taken totally out of context, especially by those with an agenda to discredit (I'm not saying that you're in this caregory, but I suspect that you may well have read writings of those who are) but when learnt in context, it says no such thing. And it doesn't say "enclothed itself"; you obviously haven't even learnt it in the original. The sicha was was said on Acharon shel Pesach of Tof shin yud, which is 1950.

3a. Did you read what I wrote?! I specifically said that we do NOT pray to these objects and the like, but they have holiness and therefore by connecting with them in the way that the Torah prescribes, our connection with Hashem is augmented.

3b. I don't know or know of any such people. No one said that a man is identical to Hashem; please stop repeating this lie.

3c. What is wrong with looking at a picture of a Tzaddik? Nothing, and this is done in almost all Chassidic groups and non-Chassidic groups; it is nothing exclusive to Chabad. I adduced proof that this is a totally legitimate practice in my last post.

3d. You go to a physical shul, and davven using your physical mouth from a physical siddur with a limited, defined nusach, and listen to a physical sefer Torah--all in order to connect to the infinite Hashem.

3e. I have no knowledge of the "catholic concept" of holiness. If you want to understand matters of Torah law, the place to look is gemoro and poskim. If you want to understand metaphysical realities, the place to look is in pnimiyus haTorah--Kabolo and Chassidus. One cannot understand these concepts with sole recourse to Gemoro. The Gemoro doesn't contradict Chassidus; it merely says what you need to do to enable that kedusho to come down. But when you do those actions, the kedusho comes from above.

3f. What the Rebbe teaches is part of Torah. So would you say that "studying Torah teachings certainly enhances one's connection to the Torah, but whether his connection to Hashem is enhanced depends, it seems to me, on his subjective experience of the study, how much he gets from it." There would be truth to the statement, for if one learns Torah not lishmoh, it can even have a negative effect on him ("naasis lo sam moves"). But that doesn't detract from its *inherent* kedusho.

4. I definitely DID cite a source specifically talking about a picture; it looks like you didn't read the page I linked to carefully: "... Rabbi Reuven Margoliyos, who in Toldos Adam, pp. 4, 5, 6, discusses at length the tremendous spiritual benefit of gazing at the face of one’s teacher. He quotes the above statement of the Chido, and based on it and many other sources, *Rabbi Margoliyos asserts that one can also fulfill this dictum through gazing at the picture of one’s teacher*." If you will look at the link provided there (here and on). It would be only fair and reasonable (and make it less likely that one would think that you have an agenda) to actually look at a reference provided before jumping to such conclusions, especially in this case when the link was provided as well. And, as written in the page I linked to, Rabbi Margoliyos writes that the concept of not looking at the face of an evil man is the converse of the principle that it is proper to gaze at the face of a righteous man.

And again, there is no such practice.

thanbo said...

1) Starting every post with an attack on the other's politesse is not ipso facto polite.

4) R' Margolios says nothing to support you. His article there is entirely about the frontispiece he printed in the book, a picture of the Maharsha. His article brings a lot of sources to permit possessing and hanging up a picture, but none about using it as a focus for prayer. He talks about how the picture reminds you of the person to inspire you to grow, or about the picture reminding you of the material you learned from the person.

I didn't answer last night because I was late leaving the office, and wanted to get home for dinner.

So it's of a piece with your other "prooftexts" - totally not supportive of using a picture as a focus for prayer.

2a) Thoughts don't matter in Judaism, intention is not necessary for mitzvot, neither is it necessary for aveirot. Very few mitzvos depend on one's intentions - piggul is about the only example I can think of, and maybe krias shma.

Can't find anything specifically on point, but some analogous cases may have bearing on this:

Rambam Hil AZ 3:3: "This makes one who bows liable, even if it was not the appropriate manner of worship". If you put a picture of the Rebbe in the front of the room, and bow towards it, is that not a problem?

Shut Yad Mordechai I:19, cites Hagahos Oshri, that it's assur to have figurative pictures with animals or plants, on the walls of a shul or as stained glass windows, where people might bow towards them, with or without intent, e.g. to bend down and put money in the pushka under the window. Clearly for him, bowing to a picture is right out, such that you can't make the picture in a place where people will bend down.

This recent teshuva from R' Pesach Feinhandler seems on point:

some of the sources there are strict on avoiding the appearance of bowing to a person. The lenient opinions are lenient because of course one would not bow to a person. But in this case, they would bow to the Rebbe, because the Rebbe himself says that he is to be considered a piece of visible God-stuff.

thanbo said...


2b) The Rebbe himself acknowledges that it's a strange statement. Did you read it in context? He says himself that this is not an idea he saw in any book, but that it's a feeling that a chossid may or may not have. So don't give me that "did you read it in context" garbage.

3a) Praying to objects may not be a matter of intent, but of appearances. See above.

3b) The Rebbe said that a Rebbe is identical to Hashem; it's a logical consequence of the yichuda ila'a concept that everything is identical to Hashem, just that in our lower world, it's a Rebbe that makes that identity perceptible.

3c) Nothing is wrong with LOOKING at a picture of a Tzaddik. Praying towards it, however, is a problem; see above. I don't think all Chassidic groups do it. I've never seen pictures of the Rebbe in, e.g., the Karliner shul, or in the local Viznitzer shtibl, etc.

"All Chasidim do/believe it" is a typical piece of Lubavitch misdirection anyway - since they don't consider any other group to be truly Chasidim, it becomes a tautology - we are the only Chasidim, therefore all Chasidim do/believe this.

3e) The metaphor of Ratzo vashov, then. Holiness comes from above. People yearn towards the Above for holiness, and holiness is conferred on them and their objects from Above. I've heard similar ideas from Breslovers.

This is closer to the Catholic concept of holiness, than is the Misnagdic/Gemara idea. In Catholicism, only the priest can channel holiness from above onto objects (churches, holy water), and people (new priests, married people, baptized people).

I prefer to stick with the Gemara's concept of holiness as I mentioned from Tr. Megillah - that kedusha is conferred by humans using an object for a godly purpose, rather than made-up ideas that sound suspiciously similar to Catholicism.

That you retroactively re-interpret the Gemara to fit your preconceived semi-goyish notions, doesn't make it so.

Conclusion: And again, if you look at some of the guys davening in the little minyanim in 770, you will see that there is such a practice. The Rebbe's picture next to the siddur. Bowing in the course of prayer, towards the rebbe's picture, with intent to worship *or not*.

thanbo said...

Bear in mind, I'm not talking about the theory of the way Chabad should be done. I'm talking about the way it *is* done. So there may be no practice (hanhaga) to do something, but if it's being done, and some can find a justification for it, it may be a problem.

It's like being metaher the sheretz. The chaver Sanhedrin has to be able to construct 50 plausible rationales for the sheretz to be considered kosher. They're all contradicted by the simple definition that a sheretz is tamei.

So too here: people may have all sorts of reasons for praying to a picture of the Rebbe, but there is strong halachic evidence that such a practice is assur, and the volume of your argument that "there is no such practice" implies that you agree that such a practice would be wrong; but people do things that look like praying to the Rebbe. And that's a problem.

Yehoishophot Oliver said...

4. We're really not communicating here. When did I ever advocate using a picture as a focus for prayer, or looking at a picture during prayer, or anything like that? In fact, I said that there is no such practice! I advocated looking at a picture of a Tzaddik in general because it has a positive effect. I definitely don't support putting a picture in front of the room and bowing to it (ch"v); when did anyone advocate that?!

2b. No, you've misread it totally. The Rebbe said the idea that Chassidim, the Rebbe, and Hashem are one. Then he says that this is his chiddush. Then the Rebbe says that this concept is comparable to another idea--the idea that Hashem reveals Himself to us via Tzaddikim, to which the Rebbe cites proofs immediately following in the text itself and further in the footnotes on that text. Please re-read it.

3b. He never said any such thing!

3c. Chabad chassidim don’t davven toward pictures, ch”v! Again, this is a libel. And I certainly DO respect chassidim of other groups, though that’s irrelevant to the discussion.

3e. I really have nothing to say regarding Catholicism, because I know next to nothing about it. It seems self-evident to me that the fact that one finds a parallel in another religion for something in Torah lehavdil does not inherently refute that idea being a legitimate Torah idea; after all, this other religion derives many of its main beliefs from Torah, as everyone knows. The question is what the source for any idea is in Torah. If you dismiss Kabbolo and Chassidus as authoritative Torah sources, then we have little basis for dialogue.

I have davvened many times in 770, and have never seen such a practice. Sure, some people have pictures of the Rebbe with them in order to derive inspiration from it (and with solid basis, as I’ve demonstrated), but it is simply untrue that people davven to the picture or bow to it, or anything of the sort, ch”v.

Michael said...

R. Oliver, I don't know if you are ignoring my points, but they are quite relevant here. You claim that what the Rebbe was dicussing was "the idea that Hashem reveals Himself to us via Tzaddikim". Again, it is "atzmus" here, not merely some activity of Hashem, some manifestation of Him, but His very "essence" that is supposed to be experienced here. And is that an experience "through" the Tzaddik, which I believe is the proper way to regard the Torah sources in question, or "in" the Tzaddik, as the Rebbe's own language suggests? This is not simply a semantic issue, but one of crucial import - since the term "in" implies the Tzaddik himself as locus of the experience of the "atzmus" and a continuing experience of the Tzaddik in himself with the experience of the "atzmus" of Hashem, while "through" implies that the Tzaddik is not experienced at all, but like through a perfectly clear window, only Hashem's "essence" is experienced. If we take the Rebbe at his word here, and "in" is what is meant, then what I have said before follows - either the Tzaddik is not a Tzaddik at all because not completely batel or the finite Tzaddik in himself is the Infinite. Which is it?

Yehoishophot Oliver said...

Michael: sorry, I noticed your comment and was intending to respond.

When we go to a shul, do we go there to bow to divine attributes and manifestations; of course not, ch"v--that would constitute worshipping something other than Hashem. (This concept is discussed in the Tzemech Tzedek's Shoresh Mitzvas Hatefila, printed in his Derech Mitzvosecho.) Rather, we go there to worship Hashem and Hashem alone.

However, Hashem's manifestation in this physical place makes the bond that we establish with Him--i.e., His Essence--deeper.

The same goes for learning Torah and keeping Mitzvos, which are finite actions that connect us with Hashem Himself.

So the concept that connecting with the Essence of Hashem must not in any way be associated with anything finite is mistaken.

Likewise with the concept of bonding Tzaddik: although he is a physical entity, by following his directives and studying his teachings (in addition to all the other things that Torah instructs), our connection with Hashem Himself is deepened.

Michael said...

R. Oliver, with all due respect, I do not think you are really addressing my points. I never said that "connecting with the Essence of Hashem must not in any way be associated with anything finite", what I said is that the finite in itself should not be present in our experience of Hashem's "essence". And that is really what we are talking about here, not "connecting with" Hashem, but experiencing Hashem, since in confronting the "atzmus", how could there still be an I and a Thou to be connected?

We don't say the shul or the siddur or the sefer Torah or laying tefillin, etc. is Hashem's "atzmus" put into a place, a book, a mitzvah; do we? Isn't that because these things are not themselves considered capable of becoming batel bi-metzius? But the Tzaddik is?

The main issue remains, as I have said, whether the Tzaddik himself is the locus of the "atzmus" or a clear window through which it is experienced. If the Tzaddik is experienced at all in the experience of the "atzmus", I still don't see how you can avoid the conclusion that either the Tzaddik is not a Tzaddik at all because not completely batel or the finite Tzaddik in himself is the Infinite, an idolatrous notion.

And the Rebbe's choice of words suggests that the Tzaddik is the locus by asserting that the Tzaddik is the "atzmus" "in" a body, rather saying that the "atzmus" is seen "through" the Tzaddik. For the Tzaddik to be the subject here, not the "atzmus" speaks volumes. Remember that the Ramak (in Sefer Elimah) is very careful to make a distinction between G-d being anything that exists (affirmed), and anything being G-d (rejected). This is not just semantics. Thus, I tend to agree with Thanbo that the Rebbe's own formulation here is an invitation to idolatry.

Yehoishophot Oliver said...

Hi Michael, I appreciate your respectful tone. I do assume that you've learnt the whole sicha inside in context; that would definitely be the intellectually honest thing to do before reaching such a conclusion.

I agree that we are not communicating clearly, and I hope we will be able to resolve it. I maintain that throughout Judaism, the finite IS present in our experience of Hashem's Essence, but that in no way detracts from that experience.

It is true that if we would tangibly experience the absolute reality of Hashem’s Essence, we could not exist as sentient discrete entities from Hashem (as discussed in many places in Chassidus). Hashem has hidden His absolute reality (through the Tzimtzum) from our immediate experience so that we can experience a feeling of ourselves as independent from Him (as also discussed in many places in Chassidus).

But although His Essence is not revealed to us, or to put it anthropomorphically, we don’t "see" Hashem’s Essence, we still relate to it all the time. Every single berocho begins Boruch ATO—Blessed are YOU, Hashem. We don’t just bless Hashem’s attributes, we bless *Him*. When we davven, we davven to Him, not to His attributes (chas v’shalom). And yes, through Torah and Mitzvos, we deepen our bond not just with His attributes and manifestations (known in the parlance of Chassidus as “giluyim”), but with His Essence. This concept is discussed in many places in Chassidus. Off the cuff, see Tanya, perek mem-zayin:

“אבל אנחנו ירושה ומתנה היא לנו שנתן לנו את תורתו והלביש בה רצונו וחכמתו ית' המיוחדים במהותו ועצמותו ית' בתכלית היחוד והרי זה כאלו נתן לנו את עצמו כביכול. כמ"ש בזה"ק ע"פ ויקחו לי תרומה [דלי כלומר אותי והל"ל ותרומה אלא משום דכולא חד ע"ש היטב]”

I can find further sources for this idea, if you like.

Yehoishophot Oliver said...

In any case, the concept of the Tzaddik (as explained in Chassidus) is someone who is so completely boteil to Hashem that he is, as you put it, a clear window through which Hashem is experienced.

To quote one source where this is discussed, the sicha references Likkutei Torah, Vayikra 50a. There the Alter Rebbe writes:

With this we will understand that which appears surprising at first glance concerning the meaning of [the section] “And it will be if you will listen diligently” [Devarim 11:13], which Moshe said. How did he say, “I [Moshe] will give the grass” [as reward for observing the Mitzvos—ibid. 11:15] as if he is the one giving, G-d forbid, as the commentators ask. For since in Mishneh Torah [Devarim] Moshe is like one speaking for himself [as opposed to repeating the words dictated to him by G–d]—analyze the Ramban in his preface to his commentary on the Torah—if so it should have been written “And G–d will give the grass.”

Rather, the explanation is that the Shechinah is speaking from the throat of Moshe [Zohar 3:232a, ibid. 3:7a], and the spirit of G–d [within him] was what spoke [the words] “I [Moshe] will give the grass,” not that he himself was the giver, G-d forbid. The reason for this is along the lines of what was explained earlier that through the Giving of the Torah the [Jewish people] attained the level of marriage [with G–d], which is the inclusion and complete bittul [nullification] to Atzmus Ohr Ein Sof [the Essence of G–d’s infinite light], until their souls literally flew out from them. Moshe Rabeinu was constantly in a similar state, as it is said, “Go [Moshe] and tell them, return to your tents, and you stand here with Me” [Devarim 5:30]. For he took up no space, and he was not an independent entity [from G–d] at all. Therefore he was able to say “I will give,” for the word of G–d was speaking in him from within his throat.

I hope this explanation is helpful. Beyond that, in response to the conscious or unwitting distortions of the sicha perpetrated by certain hostile elements, an entire book was written to demonstrate that the idea that Hashem reveals Himself through Tzaddikim is rooted in solid sources in Gemoro, Midrash, Kabbolo, and so on. It is called Ve'al HaTzadikim, from Rabbi Avrohom Boruch Pevzner, and if you are serious about studying this topic, the sources cited there definitely warrant careful study.

Michael said...

R. Oliver, I am familiar with Chassidus, and study both Chabad sources and Likkutei Moharan. So, the ideas you are discussing are not foreign to me by any means. I am glad to see you assert an interpretation of the Tzaddik as a clear window, not, in himself, as an actual locus of Hashem’s “atzmus”.

However, your stated view that “the finite IS present in our experience of Hashem's Essence” is logically not supported by the explanation you then provide. “Relating to” Hashem’s “essence” is not in any way the same as experiencing It. Sure, when we “relate to” It, the finite is there – otherwise there could be no “relation”. But that it is precisely my point – we are not actually experiencing the “atzmus” in “relating” to It, for if we were, then there would be no relation, since the truly Infinite is free from any relationality. If the “atzmus” is Infinite, then an experience of It, while by no means exclusive of the existence of finitude, does not include an experience of finitude. Let me explain, as Absolutely Infinite in “essence”, G-d remains free from any difference even in the context of difference, and for G-d difference is this freedom from difference, although this freedom from difference is not a difference and hence does not exclude difference. This means that while difference – finitude – exists in the experience of G-d’s “essence”, there would be no experience of difference – finitude – at all in the experience of the “atzmus”.

So, the quandary remains – if it is really Hashem’s “atzmus” that is experienced, then the Tzaddik himself should not be experienced in that experience, should not be the subject of the Rebbe’s words, and should not be credited as a locus of that experience. But the Tzaddik is the subject and the use of “in” suggests that he, in himself, is the locus. Thus, while I am happy with your apparent acceptance of the “clear window” analogy, I remain concerned about how seriously you are committed to that idea, especially give your commitment to the view that the “finite IS present in our experience of Hashem's Essence” even in the absence of logical support within very your own explanation that follows that assertion. And I remain concerned that the Rebbe, himself, was not asserting the “clear window” analogy in the sicha in question at all, but rather asserting the Tzaddik in himself as the locus of the experience of the “atzmus”, thereby suggesting the finite as the Infinite, and, contrary to earlier sources in Kabbalah and Chassidus (such as the ones cited), opening the road to idolatry. And while you may contest it, there is ample evidence – from those who include “boreinu” in the “yechi” to the folks interviewed in this article (, not just the lone fellow who maintains the rebbegod blog, who say that one can “pray to the Rebbe” and assert an identity of the Rebbe with G-d – that there are those in Chabad today who are traveling that road.

Yehoishophot Oliver said...

The reason I say that the tzaddik is merely a window is that that’s exactly what the sicha says, to anyone who learns it properly and doesn’t unfairly take a line out of context.

I already agreed that we do not literally experience a revelation of Atzmus when we relate to it.

Believe it or not, I think I fully understand what you’re saying in your paragraph starting “however,” because it echoes explanations given in Chassidus on this topic. Hashem in His Essence includes all limitation but is simultaneously beyond all limitation. The term for this in Chassidus is “yecholes ho’Atzmus.”

My question to you returns: When we davven, learn Torah, or fulfill Mitzvos, and so on, are these not limited and defined actions that nevertheless establish a bond between the Yid and Hashem, and not just with His manifestation to us, but with His Essence? In other words, although they are limited actions, they act as “windows” for connecting us with Hashem.

Concerning your concern, if, by giving explanation and citing a number of explanatory references, the Rebbe immediately explained exactly what he meant by the phrase that he said that some find so contentious, then perhaps he can be believed that that is actually what he meant? Do you think it’s fair to take anyone’s words out of context and then judge and sentence him by them, never mind to do so with someone of such a great caliber?

As for the article you refer to, it was clearly written by a person with a very hostile agenda, and contains many extreme exaggerations and outright fabrications. It reminds me of the vicious libels that same rag writes about “settlers”. Having learnt in 770 for a number of years, I don’t believe he had the conversation that he reported. Indeed, the only one “poster boy” that writer could come up with was Sokolovsky. There might be one or two other unstable people out there like this. That’s it. There are unstable individuals who identify with other groups and say any number of things which that group would consider outrageous. Such people represent no one but themselves, as is clear to anyone who looks into it the matter honestly without a hostile agenda.

Again, don't you think that for the sake of fairness more study is necessary before coming to such a damning conclusion? Have you read the book that I referenced, Ve'al Hatzaddikim? I believe it is sold in Kehos in Crown Heights.

Michael said...

- "Hashem in His Essence includes all limitation but is simultaneously beyond all limitation."

This is true and is part of the point I was making, but only a part. The rest of my point, which follows logically from that part, is that when Hashem’s “essence”, when True Infinity, is experienced, although the existence of the finite is not extinguished, the finite as finite is not experienced at all. This is why I question any idea that proposes or appears to suggest that any finite in itself is experienced in the experience of the Infinite, which is what your language and that of the Rebbe imply to me. The Tzaddik himself should not be experienced in an experience of Hashem’s “essence”. To be able to identify the Tzaddik, think of the Tzaddik, speak of the Tzaddik at all (any of which represent an experience of the Tzaddik in himself) in the experience of the Infinite is evidence either that the experience is not of the Infinite or that one has credited the finite as Infinite. Perhaps that is not what you have meant by “the finite IS present in our experience of Hashem's Essence”, and perhaps not what the Rebbe meant, but the language could have been better considered, IMHO, in both cases, irrespective of source referencing.

- "When we davven, learn Torah, or fulfill Mitzvos, and so on, are these not limited and defined actions that nevertheless establish a bond between the Yid and Hashem, and not just with His manifestation to us, but with His Essence? In other words, although they are limited actions, they act as “windows” for connecting us with Hashem."

Yes, these actions help to connect us to Hashem or, worded differently and perhaps preferably, to open us to Hashem, to His “essence”. But they are hardly windows to Hashem’s “essence” in the sense that they don’t provide an experience of that “essence”, but rather merely help to prepare us for such an experience. So, they are not analogous to what is being asserted with regard to the Tzaddik, and do not appear to me, therefore, to be of relevance in the issue at hand.

I do agree that I should study Ve’al Hatzaddikim, but, based on Thanbo’s original blog post and what I have read of the work elsewhere – as in Avrum Ehrlich’s Messiah of Brooklyn, I am not so sure that the book could only be interpreted in the way you believe or that it wouldn’t end up reinforcing my concerns rather than allaying them. For example, if the book really claims that one can pray TO the Tzaddik nullified to Hashem’s “essence” that would be a big problem since, as I have explained already, one should not even experience the Tzaddik at all in such a case. These are subtle issues, and one must very careful in how one uses one’s words about such matters or risk interpretations, intended or not, that lead to idolatry. I’ll look into finding the book.

As to the article, journalistic ethics typically would preclude what you maintain. Obviously, every source has its biases, but there are direct quotes in the article from unnamed Lubavitchers in 770 and in Tzfat that speak of “praying to the Rebbe” and the identity of the Rebbe with G-d. Nor is this the only place that I have seen such expressions – see for ex., . Again, someone saying “pray TO” the Rebbe.

To fabricate quotes is a serious violation of journalistic ethics. To make such a charge is very serious, and perhaps more research on your part, rather than a seemingly “knee-jerk” reaction, would be in order. Is it not worth considering that there are those in Chabad – more than just a few – for whom the Rebbe’s wording, along with the traditional, IMHO, overemphasis on the person of the Tzaddik, rather than merely his teachings, in Chassidus, have paved the way to an idolatrous path?

Yehoishophot Oliver said...

I definitely see the comparison with Torah and Mitzvos in general as totally analogous. These finite actions connect us with Hashem’s Essence, albeit in an invisible way—we don’t SEE Hashem’s Essence—and the necessity for the usage of such finite actions does not detract from the fact that via them we connect with Hashem’s utterly infinite reality. The idea of Hiskashrus, bonding with a Tzaddik, is comparable to this. I am not sure exactly what you mean by your constant use of the word “experience”, but I believe that I have made myself clear, so unless you have some new information or comment to make, let’s drop this, as we seem to be going in circles.

IF the book says ... why don’t you read it first, and then decide? It’s a response to the vile canard that we’ve been hearing from certain elements, that explains what the sicha does and doesn’t mean for those who have been presented with it as “proof” of etc.

Journalists are known to hype up stories and create libels, especially in the left-wing, anti-religious press. As I said, they do this all the time with their ideological opponents in the “settler” camp. They have no chezkas kashrus. I know this also from personal experience with them. In any case, learned in that Yeshivah that he supposedly reported a conversation from, and I never heard any such thing.

As for the expression in the link referred to from, no one refers to going to the Ohel that way, ch"v, the reporter probably simply misheard.

Is it not worth considering ... “ But I am IN Chabad, this is not a matter of theory on my part; I speak with my co-religionists all the time—including many who are very passionate about the idea of declaring Yechi, and the like—and I have never heard such language used.

Deborah Shaya said...

•There should be NO MEDIATOR between a person’s tefillot and Hashem.

Hashem likes to hear the prayers, tefillot, from our OWN mouths. Even if all we know is how to recite the first 3 letters of the Aleph Bet: Aleph, Bet, Gimmel... Our very own tefillot TO HASHEM, are much more precious than anything else.

By going to the Bet HaChaim (cemetery - incorrectly referred to as “the Ohel” by Lubavitch), and lighting a candle, praying, making a request, and then going home – such a person is “leaving it all to the tzaddik” who is not physically alive. You can’t leave it all “to him!”. This is completely Assur and forbidden.

We too, can be tzaddikim – and be like the tzaddik. The tzaddik has already made all his tefillot to Hashem in his lifetime. And these are very precious to Hashem. The tzaddik has now passed on.

Hashem is now waiting for US – to make our OWN tefillot to Him.

We pray to Hashem – at all times.

If a person is insisting on praying to one of the creations of Hashem, instead of directly to the King Himself, Hashem will say to us, "You are meant to pray to ME!"

Remember that Hashem, our G-d, is a very "JEALOUS G-D" who demands "EXCLUSIVE WORSHIP." (2nd Commandment of the Asseret Hadibrot.)

What is your logic in going there?

The Ashkenazi tradition has encouraged people to do this, and it is very wrong.

Teshuvah to Hashem must be done quickly.

Deborah Shaya said...

The Jewish People is a “Holy People.” “Am Kadosh.”

We are referred to as being Hashem’s special “Treasure.” We are a “Holy Nation,” and so holy, that we are to emulate the Cohanim, who are of a much higher stature than the rest of the Jewish People. One day, we will all be on the level of a “Kingdom of Priests.”

Hashem has told us, “.…Ve’atem tiheyu li Mamlechet Kohanim ve’goi kadosh…” (Yitro, 19:5-6)

“…And you shall be to Me, a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS, and a HOLY NATION….”

The Benei Yisrael must follow the example of the true Cohanim. We should emulate the Cohanim in our daily lives. The Cohanim are not allowed to go into any cemetery (Jewish or not Jewish), as they cannot come into contact with ANY meitim whatsoever. We too, should emulate the Kohanim in our daily lives, and be pure like them.

We too, should not be coming into contact with meitim where we can help it.

Hashem has told us, “.…Ve’atem tiheyu li Mamlechet Kohanim ve’goi kadosh…” (Yitro, 19:5-6)

“…And you shall be to Me, a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS, and a HOLY NATION….”

A person’t tefillot, prayers, from the Kotel, or from his or her own house are truly delightful to Hashem. A person can also go to the Kotel to pray, and make the journey there, to pray to Hashem. Hashem’s Presence is always there.

Michael said...

R. Oliver, your own words prove that the situation with Torah and Mitzvos is NOT analogous to that with the Tzaddik. You agreed that “the Tzaddik is someone who is so completely boteil to Hashem that he is, as you put it, a clear window through which Hashem is experienced”, but then you also said of Torah and Mitzvos that “these finite actions connect us with Hashem’s Essence, albeit in an invisible way”. A clear window is one through which visibility is completely unobstructed, whereas “invisible” is exactly the opposite. Thus, we are left with the Tzaddik situation as a distinct one, and that returns us to the original quandary I have raised – why should one experience the Tzaddik himself at all in the experience of Hashem’s “atzmus”? And I believe I have made myself quite clear from the very outset what I mean by “experience” – present to the mind or senses.

With all due respect, you may be in Chabad, but does that mean you know everyone in Chabad, or even everyone who goes to 770, to the Ohel, or to the Chabad institution in Tzfat? Such a statement seems like a fallacy of hasty generalization to me. Similarly, your assumptions about the credibility and motives of the journalists who have reported the quotes are an example of hasty generalization and border on ad hominem attack, both of which are logical fallacies that hardly strengthen your argument.

Yehoishophot Oliver said...

Hi Michael. We are finite beings and we cannot "see" spiritual realities (at least, not until Moshiach comes; see Tanya, ch. 46)—neither those accomplished through connecting to Hashem through learning from a Tzaddik, nor those spiritual realities accomplished when we connect with Hashem through Mitzvos.

The idea of memutza hamechaber is that, he doesn't "get in the way" of connecting one with Hashem. He only facilitates that connection, without detracting from it at all, despite the fact that it involves relating to a physical tzaddik. A comparable idea is found in performance of Mitzvos, by which Mitzvos, which are defined actions, connect us with an infinite Hashem, and the fact that they are limited does not detract from that bond in any way. This is the similarity that I wished to draw.

I don’t consider journalists’ reports objective (especially when I see a clear antireligious agenda), nor do many people. If you do, so be it.

Michael said...

- We are finite beings and we cannot "see" spiritual realities (at least, not until Moshiach comes; see Tanya, ch. 46)—neither those accomplished through connecting to Hashem through learning from a Tzaddik, nor those spiritual realities accomplished when we connect with Hashem through Mitzvos.

When alluding to spiritual matters, I would rather not use the term “see” with its physical implications, which is why I prefer “experience”. While as finite beings we cannot experience the “atzmus” of Hashem, there is a point at which our finitude is no longer experienced at all even while it still exists, and, at that point there can be an experience of the Truly Infinite. That is a logical extension of Hashem including all finitude even while remaining free from it, and, to my mind, is the significance of “chelek Eloka mima’al”. While I agree that the universality of such experience awaits the coming of Moshiach, I don’t agree with that view at the level of each individual, nor do I see anything in Tanya Chapt. 46 asserting such a thing.

- The idea of memutza hamechaber is that, he doesn't "get in the way" of connecting one with Hashem. He only facilitates that connection, without detracting from it at all, despite the fact that it involves relating to a physical tzaddik. A comparable idea is found in performance of Mitzvos, by which Mitzvos, which are defined actions, connect us with an infinite Hashem, and the fact that they are limited does not detract from that bond in any way. This is the similarity that I wished to draw.

But, still, there is a significant difference. As you said, the connection to Hashem’s “essence” through the Mitzvos is “invisible” – i.e., the connection is not available to our consciousness. But from the Rebbe’s words and from your own arguments such clearly is not the case with the same connection through the Tzaddik. For why else would it be so important to stress the utter bittul of the Tzaddik or invoke the Tzaddik as the “atzmus” of Hashem that has enclothed itself in a body? And, in fact, you have asserted in your postings on the Thanbook blog and in your own blog, that the idea here is Hashem “revealing Himeslf via Tzaddikim”. These ideas make it very explicit that the connection to Hashem’s “essence” through the Tzaddik includes our consciousness of that connection – otherwise to speak of “revelation” at all is totally meaningless.

BTW, if there is an awareness of a connection to Hashem’s “atzmus”, then there must also be an experience of Hashem’s “atzmus”, otherwise one is speaking of a connection that has no point of reference, no meaning.

And, when any consciousness of that connection is involved, if the Tzaddik really “doesn’t get in the way”, then he simply shouldn’t be present to our consciousness at all, shouldn’t be experienced in any way; all the more so, in the context of an experience of Hashem’s “atzmus”. I am not sure why this is such a difficult thing for you to acknowledge since otherwise there remains the unresolved problem that I have indicated since my very first post and reiterated numerous times.

- I don’t consider journalists’ reports objective (especially when I see a clear antireligious agenda), nor do many people. If you do, so be it.

It is not just a question of objectivity, but one of honesty. These are direct quotes. A journalist making up such things gets fired. And we aren’t just talking one news source here. Nor is all the evidence for not a few Chabad folks interpreting the Rebbe’s words as making the Tzaddik himself the locus of Hashem’s “essence” confined to news reports. There is R. Shlomo Cunin’s assertion that the “it’s the Rebbe who runs this world”, there is the meshischist woman who called into the R. Greenberg/R. Kalmanson 2008 radio debate and proclaimed that the “Rebbe is G-d in a physical body”, both of which are available to watch or listen to on-line, and on it goes.

Michael said...

Slight clarification of my first response paragraph:

When alluding to spiritual matters, I would rather not use the term “see” with its physical implications, which is why I prefer “experience”. While as consciously finite beings we cannot experience the “atzmus” of Hashem, there is a point at which our finitude (and any finitude) is no longer experienced at all even while it still exists, and, at that point there can be an experience of the Truly Infinite. That is a logical extension of Hashem including all finitude even while remaining free from it, and, to my mind, is the significance of “chelek Eloka mima’al”. While I agree that the universality of such experience awaits the coming of Moshiach, I don’t agree with that view at the level of each individual, nor do I see anything in Tanya Chapt. 46 asserting such a thing.

Deborah Shaya said...

Many people today have been misled into avodah zarah (idolatry), of one kind or another. Some people have been misled unknowingly. The sting of avodah zarah can cause terrible harm c"v.

Nevertheless, there is always great hope. And that is the great light of Teshuva (returning to Hashem, our G-d.) Hashem is calling out to us every day, to return to Him properly, with a pure heart:

“……shuvu Eilai ve’Ashuva aleichem amar Hashem Tzevakot…..” (Malachi 3:7)

“……return to Me and I will return to you, says Hashem, Master of Legions…..”

Teshuvah is very great and is regarded very highly in Shamayim. A person should seize the opportunity to do Teshuva to Hashem right now, while “the Gates of Teshuva are open”.

Teshuva is one of the greatest Gifts that Hashem, Our G-d, has given to us. So swallow your pride.

By doing a true and sincere Teshuva to Hashem, the brachot (blessings) from Hashem will come into a person’s life, and obstacles will begin to shift.

1. I will list below:
(a) what the sources of Tumah, and Avodah Zarah are. (‘Tumah’ is spiritual ‘uncleanliness’, which is extremely damaging to a person’s home and life). And

(b) what a person should do to remove the sources of tumah and Avodah Zara from her/his home/life.

2. I will then list a few mitzvot, and practical steps that a person can take, in order to do Teshuvah for any kind of involvement in avodah zara.

Deborah Shaya said...

What are the Sources of Tumah, and Avodah Zarah? (‘Tumah’ is spiritual ‘uncleanliness’, which is extremely damaging to a person’s home and life)

What should a person do to remove the sources of tumah and Avodah Zara from her/his home/life?


We are specifically commanded against idolatry, in the SECOND COMMANDMENT of the Asseret Hadibrot:

‘Do not have any other gods BEFORE ME.’

‘Lo yiheyeh lecha elokim acherim AL PANAI.’

And: ‘Do not represent (such gods) by any CARVED STATUE OR PICTURE of anything in the heaven above, or the earth below, or in the water below the land.
Do not bow down to (such gods) or worship them.

I am G-d your Lord, A JEALOUS G-D, who demands EXCLUSIVE WORSHIP.

Where My enemies are concerned, I keep in mind the sin of the fathers for (their) descendants, to the third and fourth (generation).
But for those who love Me and keep My Commandments, I show love for thousands (of generations.)’

‘Lo ta’aseh lecha PESEL, vechol temunah asher bashamayim, mima’al va’asher ba’aretz, mitachat va’asher ba’mayim, mitachat la’aretz. Lo tishtachaveh lahem, ve’lo ta’avdem, KI ANI HASHEM ELOKECHA, KEL KANAH, poked avon avot al banim, al shileshim, ve’al ribe’im, le’sonay.
Ve’osseh chessed la’alafim, le’ohavai, u’leshomrei mitzvotai.’

(Parsha of Yitro, Chapter 20, verses 3-6)

Hashem, our G-d, is a very “Jealous G-d” who demands “Exclusive worship.”

Deborah Shaya said...


Do not go into any of the following, as they are all places of idolatry, and AVODAH ZARAH (literally ‘strange worship’). They deny the Sovereignty of Hashem, the One G-d, and Creator of the World.

- Churches
- Buddhist temples
- Hindu temples
- Sikh temples
- Greek temples
- Temples/buildings of any other kind of foreign worship.
- Freemasonry

There is a lot of TUMAH in them (spiritual ‘uncleanliness’ which can affect a person has veshalom, physically and spiritually in different ways). Always walk to the opposite side of the road rather than walk directly past one of these buildings e.g. a church.
If any Jew is a “Freemason,” this too is based upon Avodah Zarah. He/she must stop going to such a place, and associating with “freemasons.”


These are graven images. They should IMMEDIATELY be removed from your home and discarded, no matter how much they might have cost, or the sentimental value attached to them. They are a strong source of Tumah.

3. Tefillah/Prayer – in the synagogue, and at home.

(a) There should be NO IMAGES whatsoever, inside any shul.

There should be NO IMAGES of
inside any synagogue.

Any images of a person, animal or object should be REMOVED immediately, and ENTIRELY out of the synagogue or shteibl. No matter how large or small they may be. This is against the Halachah.

(b) When praying at home, a person should endeavour to pray in a room which does not contain any images or paintings of a person, animal or object.

Deborah Shaya said...


These are a strong source of TUMAH, and bring in a lot of negativity into the home. These books and magazines negatively affect those who live in that home.

Go through every book in your home very carefully, and check for the following. If it falls into one of these categories, or you have doubt about it – sort them out into a pile, and then DISPOSE of these books as soon as possible, and take them out of your home. Or at least take them out of your home and put them in a shed if you can.

It is a very great MITZVAH to remove such sources of Tumah from your home. If some of these books were expensive – discard them anyway, and put aside how much they cost. They are a form of Avodah Zarah, and should be removed immediately.

• Instead, place your EMUNAH (faith) in Hashem, the King of the World, that He will bless all your endeavours, and new, good things, will now be able to come into your life. You might start to feel better in yourself.

The following are some examples:

(a) ‘New Age’ books – (e.g. Indian authors, ‘Shambhala’ publications)

(b) Philosophical books (e.g. by Indian writers such as Deepak Chopra etc)

(c) Yoga/Tai Chi/Reiki.

Yoga/Tai Chi (qigong)/Reiki books; yoga and reiki magazines &leaflets; tai chi (qi kung) magasines & leaflets; yoga/tai chi/reiki DVD’s & CD’s; yoga/tai chi special clothing:-

• These physical exercises and practices are all based upon AVODAH ZARAH (idolatry). They all come from a SOURCE OF TUMAH. (‘Tumah’ is spiritual ‘uncleanliness’, which is extremely damaging to a person’s home and life).

• The Torah cannot be mixed with Avodah Zarah. This is twisting the Torah, and the Torah must remain straight.

• Have Emunah (faith) in Hashem, the King of the World, that He will help you to find another alternative form of exercise.

Hashem, our G-d, and Creator of the World, is, “The Healer of all flesh, and performs wonders.” (From ‘Asher Yatzar’ prayer said every morning.)

(d) Meditation books - by non-Jewish or unorthodox Jewish writers.

Buddhism abounds with “meditation.”
Meditation is only for Prophets – it is not for the ordinary man or woman.

(e) Books that appear ok – but contain many idolatrous images and drawings e.g. mathematical or philosophical books interspersed with pictures of dragons; snakes; mandalas; crosses; ‘third eyes’; hindu gods; hindu goddesses; buddhas; tibetan gods; egyptian gods; greek gods; stone/gold idols etc etc – THESE SHOULD ALL BE REMOVED IMMEDIATELY FROM YOUR HOME.

Deborah Shaya said...

5. (a) Written “Requests” of the Igrot/Igros (letters of advice written to other people by Rabbi M. Schneerson tz”l during his lifetime);

(b) FAXES and LETTERS “SENT TO” Rabbi M. Schneersohn tz”l after he passed away in 1994 – at the Bet HaChaim (incorrectly referred to as the, “Ohel” by Lubavitch);

(c) Any other written “communications with” tzaddikim at the Bet HaChaim (cemetery), who are not physically alive.

These written requests should all be destroyed. However “nice” or “comforting” or “accurate” the “reply you received” was; or whatever “bracha you received;” or “whatever the date of the letter was;” – these writings should be destroyed. They are pure Avodah Zarah.

• There should be NO MEDIATOR between a person’s tefillot (prayers) and Hashem.
If a person chooses to use intercession instead of praying directly to Hashem, this is completely Assur, and forbidden.


If you have taken holiday photographs of e.g. Buddhist temples, whether on the outside or inside, these are a source of Tumah, and should be discarded. Similarly for buddhist celebrations. These places of AVODAH ZARAH completely DENY THE SOVREIGNTY OF HASHEM, the One and Only G-d, and Creator of the World. They should not be in your home.

The same applies to photographs of:
- Churches
- Hindu temples
- Sikh temples
- Greek temples
- Temples/buildings of any other kind of foreign worship.
- Freemasonry

Sort through your photographs, and discard those that relate to Avodah Zarah.

However attached you may feel to these photographs, they should be discarded, as they completely deny the Sovereignty of Hashem.

• Instead, place your EMUNAH (faith) in Hashem, the Creator, and King of the World, that He will bless all your endeavours, and new, good things, will now be able to come into your life. You might start to feel better in yourself.

7. Discard any other items related in any way to Avodah Zarah. No matter how small and insignificant, or however large e.g. bookmarks with pictures of churches; jewellery and accessories.


1. Do not go into any places of idolatry.

2. Discard and remove from your home all stone/wood sculptures e.g. sculptures of:
(a) the human form (“nudes.”)
(b) the human face
(c ) statues – of the human form in particular.

3. Books – discard and destroy all books relating to Avodah Zarah.

4. Photographs – discard and destroy all photographs of Avodah Zarah.

5. Discard any other items you have relating to Avodah Zarah e.g.jewellery.

Deborah Shaya said...

HOW TO DO TESHUVAH FOR AVODAH ZARAH – once you have removed all sources of Tumah, and Avodah Zarah from your home/life.

1. Say the KETORET twice a week at least (Tefillah, prayer).

The Ketoret has great Kedushah, (holiness) and power to transform all negatives into positives. Say the full text of the Ketoret in the full “Sefarad” version.

If you can say it every day, including Shabbat, this is even better. You can say it as many times as you like during the day.

The Ketoret is said formally 3 times a day in total: twice in the Shacharit, and once during the Minchah prayer.

2. Decide on an amount to give to TZEDAKAH, (charity) in Israel, so that it ‘hurts you’ a little bit. Give to a proper registered charity, such as a hospital or emergency services.

Deborah Shaya said...

3. MEZUZOT – (Positive Mitzvah, commandment in the Shema – affirming that G-d is ONE, and warning against idolatry.)

Check that:

(a) You have properly affixed a mezuzah on EVERY DOORWAY which needs a mezuzah. This includes archways, patio doors, folding doors, side doors to garden, garden doors.

(b) If any places in your home are lacking a mezuzah, purchase one as soon as possible from a qualilfied Sofer (Scribe), and put it up as soon as possible.

(c) Check that ALL your mezuzot are kosher, as soon as you can. These should be given to a qualified Sofer (scribe) for checking.

(d) Mezuzot should ideally be checked ONCE A YEAR.

4. Travel to the KOTEL in Israel. If you can travel with a group of people who are going for the purposes of Teshuvah, this is even better. The purpose will be to pray, (Tefila and Teshuva), and ask Hashem, Hakadosh Baruch Hu, for His forgiveness, for mechilah.

If a group can be arranged, this will be a greater mitzvah for everyone who joins. If you can go individually to the Kotel, in the meantime, before the group travel, this is also very good.

5. When you have done 1-3 and/or 4 above, (summarised below as well), you should obtain the special BERACHA, (bracha, blessing) of someone who is known to be a TRUE KOHEN/COHEN. This will bring Hashem’s brachot of the material and spiritual blessings directly into your life.


1. Say the Ketoret – at least twice a week.
Say the full text of the Ketoret in the full “Sefarad” version.

2. Give Tzedakah to recognised charity in Israel.

3. Mezuzot - Have you affixed a mezuzah on every doorway?
- Have you checked that all your mezuzot are kosher?

4. Kotel in Israel – in a group (and individually, if possible).

5. Bracha of a true Kohen/Cohen.

Yehoishophot Oliver said...

Thanks for your important halachic rulings, Mrs. Shaya. You must definitely be a scholar of monumental stature, greater than all the Chabad rabbis whose authority you challenge in your rulings and whose opinions you so audaciously equate with other religions (ch"v). But since when were women ordained to rule on halachic matters? Are you one of those people that believes that women have such authority?

thanbo said...

Rabbi Oliver:

Now, now, there's no need to get gratuitously nasty with Ms. Shaya. I don't see that she says anything specifically rejecting Chabad, or even anything actually inconsistent with Chabad. What she says is pretty much straightforward rejection of Avodah Zarah, for certain narrow (but reasonably popular) definitions of AZ.

While there may be problems with a woman issuing new psak, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a woman teaching known halacha - or else, the rebbetzins in Chabad Houses all over the world would have problems when they advise their female congregants on kashrut, shabbat or niddah questions.

I suppose we should feel honored that she has decided to spam this thread - she has selectively chosen a number of blog posts around the Web on which to post this sequence of comments, mostly having to do with Tai-Chi or entering churches, which she explicitly rejects.

Maybe she could explain the relevance of her sequence to this thread, which involves none of those topics? [he said disingenuously].

Anonymous said...

regarding davening to malachim, that would be avodah zara, as they are a memutza hamafsik. the rebbe is a memutza hamechaver and therefore connects us with hashem. and as the rebbe says: the fact that the rebbe connects us to god doesn't matter to us. we connect to the rebbe, and for us, theres nothing higher than that. as to saying that the rebbe created us- hashem himself told the yidden 'yakov borecha yakov yotzrecha' - yakov created you, yakov formed you. the rebbe is not limited by nature.

Yehoishophot Oliver said...

WADR, you err gravely. In context, when the Rebbe says "there is nothing higher than being connected to the (Previous) Rebbe, he means to negate that the thought that through the connection to the Previous Rebbe, we connect to the Rebbe Rashab. Chas v'shalom to say that it means that it doesn't matter to us that the Rebbe connects us to Hashem--that's the whole inyan of the Rebbe, to be a memutza hamechaber to Hashem.