Chabad: A lack of perspective

The Shule sends out a notice for the coming week. It lists important days. Eg the Tzemach Tzedek’s Yohr Tzeit; that’s fair enough. Whose Yohr Tzeit does it fail to mention? Yitzchok Avinu, Reuven ben Ya’akov  Avinu and Levi Ben Ya’akov Avinu. Okay, I guess we’ve forgotten about them and they weren’t Chassidic Rebbes.

Ah, but on the 18th of Nissan, we are told that it’s the birthday of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn ז’ל (often called a “kabbalist”  trying to gloss over the fact that he said Chassidus at the same time as the Rayyatz ז’ל was Rebbe, which is a big no-no); that’s not to diminish his stature and achievements, but his birthday gets a tick, and Yitzchok Avinu doesn’t rate a mention?

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

20 thoughts on “Chabad: A lack of perspective”

  1. Remind me not to give you a birthday present unless I also send one to all the gedolim who, kenaynahora, share a birthday with you.

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  2. Hey Isaac, about the Rebbe’s father, I know that you think you know the inside scoop. There may have been chassidim of the Frierdike Rebbe that did not have much respect for the Rebbe’s Father. But that has nothing to do with why we call him Mekubal. I mentioned in an earlier comment that we give the tittles that the Rebbe gave. About his Father, the Rebbe wrote Mekubal, besides for the fact that he wasn’t a (Lubavitcher) Rebbe. That is besides for the fact that if you read the Rebbe’s Fathers ספרים you will see that it is Kabbalah, something that is distinct from Chassidus.
    Anyway I know you love everyone and you don’t really mean any negativity.
    א כשר און פריילכן פסח

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    1. Mendy,
      So all those who say he said M’aamorim don’t know what a M’amar is. All those who claim that he thought he should have been Rebbe are mistaken. I guess all the different hanhagos he had from the Rayatz are not to be seen as independent. You’ll need to do better than that.

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  3. It is very possible that the people who say the he would say chassidus don’t know what they are talking about. Just look at his writings. But that is besides the point, it is not the reason why he is called “מקובל”.

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  4. I don’t get what your issue is, he was very different from other Chabad Rabonim. The point still remains that he is called מקובל because the דרושים he said were very קבלה oriented, very different from the Chassidus that the Rabbeim said.
    Did he want to be Rebbe? Possibly. Did shpitz chassidim show disrespect? Probably. Why was he called מקובל? Because he was one.

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    1. My original question was why he stood out for a birthday re-celebration on 18th of Nissan? It would seem that based on what you have written the primary reason is that he was one of the progenitors of the last Rebbe. His being a conveyor of Kabbalah would appear to have not earned him this grace. It seems to me to be “a lack of perspective” by Chabad that for this seeming genetically based disposition, one stands out above eg Yitzchak Avinu and others. Are groups too inward looking? Do you concede?

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  5. Issac You misunderstood me. I wasnt implying that really I was just asking how much importance they had been given traditionally over the years.
    Either way I don’t represent chabad and when I make a calender if I become a shliach or kayoitze, (highly unlikely for those who know the dynamics of shlichus today VAKML) I will (would) be much more inclusive than chabad often is.
    I agree one hundred percent with your main point although I’m not sure about reuven ben yaakov etc..
    Certainly Chabad should include dates of other Gedolim who influenced jewry although I would certainly understand reluctance to include someone like Rav Shach. But that should be one of the only (if not the only one) exceptions in my opinion.

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    1. Hi Yisroel, I understand you. I do think that with the prevalence of the net and caldev calendars that this type of thing has seen a renaissance. Believe it or not I had a photocopy of one of those Rebbe Yohrtzeit books because in the minyan I used to daven with, they didn’t say tachanun whenever there was a Yohrtzeit. You’d hear the clap on the bima and then run to the back of the Shule to see who had Yohr Tzeit and then it was obligatory after Dave ing to have some poor scotch and say zchisoi yoogeyn ooleyni 🙂

      Anyway, for the record, the 18th of Nissan is the Rav׳s Yohr Tzeit, and if I’d follow his hanhogos i’d fast and learn mishnayos all day. However, we can’t fast then. Indeed, I recently read pieces of how the Rav learned Pirkei Avos; amazing insights. I should perhaps have been born 40 years ago.
      חבל על דאבדין ולא משתכחין

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  6. Are groups too inward looking? Yes. The title of your article is “Chabad, lack of perspective” as if it a Chabad thing.
    And why is the Rebbe’s Father deserving of a birthday re-celebration? Because we love our Rebbe and what means something to him means something to us. Even though in the previous generations, as you said there were people that thought he was not deserving of such an honor. (Btw, I have relatives that took care of the Rebbe’s father in time of need and they were greatly honored by the Rebbe.)

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    1. I have no idea if the same is true of other groups. These days, it would not surprise me, although perhaps you could tell me of another chassidic group who celebrates the birthday of the father of one of their Rebbes where that father was not a Rebbe and where other prominent figures are simply ignored (eg Yitzchak Avinu)

      You can love all u like, but if you lose perspective …

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      1. Other chassidim don’t make a big deal of birthdays at all. I don’t think any other chassidim mark even their current rebbe’s birthday, let alone that of his non-rebbe father! And the same used to be true in Lubavitch; if you look at the previous Rebbe’s sicha about Chai Elul it’s clear that it was unknown outside Beis Horav, and even inside it. When his father told him “gut yomtov unz”, he was caught by surprise because he hadn’t known it was any kind of special day. And his father didn’t tell him about it until that year, when he decided he was ready to know. And so it remained, a private yomtov of the rabbeim, until he decided the time had come to make it public. After that it took a while for the concept of marking birthdays to penetrate and spread in Lubavitch. So if you’re looking for something elsewhere to match what you’re complaining about here, you need to look not at birthdays but yortzeits. Do the Bobover chasidim who follow R Ungar mark his father’s yortzeit?

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        1. Of course there are different practices, but חבד definitely stands out. Does any other group have these as a growing list of retrospective birthdays?
          Will they celebrate the birthday of R’ Menachem Mendel Horenstein הי’ד or his wife הי’ד? What about the birthday of R’ Mendel Horodoker? These things have taken on a new life beyond Beis HoRav, and I’ve noticed a creeping trend of commemorative dates, especially in the publications put out by צא’ח

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  7. Yes you are right, it is very easy to lose perspective and many extreme chassidim have. Although the examples you brought, regarding the Rebbe’s father and specifically the צ”צ do not represent the lack of perspective that people might have. The chabad calendar marks events in the history of chabad.

    p.s. in Lubavitch (I am not sure about elswhere), birthdays in general where not celebrated until the previous Rebbe wrote about his fathers birthday in lekutei diburim. The Rebbe made a bigger deal about birthdays in general.

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  8. For one thing, we’re not really sure when the אבות were born. Rashi holds Avrohom was born on 13 Nissan and Yitzchok on 15 Nissan, but then we’re told Tishri is called ירח האיתנים because all three Avos were born then. All else is speculation. That kind of puts a damper on any attempt to introduce birthday celebrations, although I’ve noticed a recent minhag of marking Rochel’s yortzeit, which I imagine is equally speculative.

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