Pure Tipshus (stupidity)

[Hat tip BA]%d7%a9%d7%92%d7%a2%d7%95%d7%9f-%d7%9e%d7%a9%d7%99%d7%99%d7%97%d7%99%d7%a1%d7%98%d7%99-%d7%97%d7%93%d7%a9

I thought I’d seen just about everything, but this just goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. Oh, and if you are wondering whether I’d call out a Tallis that had a Magen Dovid or something woven in the same way on the back, I would do so, if the purpose wasn’t decorative.

In my opinion, and I know this is shared by others in the main Yeshivah Shule in Melbourne, the sign up the back has passed its use by date. Indeed, I heard Rabbi Telsner last week in a speech refer to the Lubavitcher Rebbe as Nishmoso Eden נ׳׳ע … given he is a Meshichist, my ears were sensitised. The final decision rests with Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Groner in my opinion, and it’s time the Shule was normalised to look like Shules always looked, without placards etc.

On my sole visit to 770, I didn’t go downstairs because that Minyan, the main minyan, is just surrounded by placards. Chabad agonise about putting a Tefilla on a wall as it’s not considered Minhag Chabad. Enough of this. If he turns out to be Moshiach, it doesn’t bother me. If it turns out that he’s not, then it doesn’t bother me. In the meanwhile can we give all this constant advertising and chanting a rest? If someone really feels that removing these things is tantamount to a cutting off of their Hiskashrus (connection) to the Rebbe and/or not recognising him as their Manhig, I’d suggest that they concentrate on being a proper Chassid and not being part of all this Chitzoniyus (external stuff) which you are more likely to find in the non-Jewish world, or on bill boards daily in Meah Shearim.

Move on. Bring Moshiach, but move on.

Rabbi Telsner resigns

He has made a few mistakes, and it makes interesting reading seeing the different reports from the Age Newspaper versus the Sun. They obviously have different sources whispering in their ears. The anti-Jewish News will have the story just in time to splash on the front page and triumphantly blow its horn as the harbinger of morality (sic).

The Yeshivah Centre is undergoing change, no doubt. However, I’m not going to say any thing on the Rabbi Telsner issue because if I do, some will certainly misunderstand my words and it will make no different how I state them.

I am sure Rabbi Telsner has learned from this, and will contribute in a way using the gifts God gave him.

Rabbi Telsner is a card carrying Meshichist, as is his brother in law, R’ Chaim Tzvi Groner. There is no place in a Shule for screaming signs that no longer belong. There is no Mesora for placards in Shules, and it’s also a failure of Maimonides 13 principles of faith which clearly imply that we believe in Mashiach coming. Mashiach is a term for someone God chooses, it is not a euphemism for one and only one holy person in the Garden of Eden. Denying God this choice is in my opinion Kefirah. Meshichisten will not, cannot, and do not believe it is remotely possible for God to decide whomsoever He chooses from the physically living. That is pretty close to Kefirah. It is also a pseudo Kefirah for them to even entertain that there may well be someone else chosen because they won’t appear as a loyal Lubavitcher.

As for me, as I have said many times I couldn’t care less who it is. Eliyahu HaNavi will tell us.

Yeshivah has lurched to the right. It needs to bounce back to the centre and concentrate on quality education. It cannot afford to be a front for a Mesivta. There is obviously a need for a Mesivta. Let them find premises and build themselves on certain backers finances. The School itself needs to stress the qualities unique in Chabad, and there are many. Let the students be known for being fine examples of the Midos that are imparted by this philosophy. By all means it needs to stay a Chabad school, but one grounded in the realities of Melbourne. Failing that it should stop marketing itself as a community school.

Ironically, the School failed dismally to effectively educate Russian immigrants, years ago, and no longer does it serve many who are not religious. That’s their raison detre!

Too many New Yorkers have infiltrated and married in and tried to turn it into a fancier version of Oholei Torah in Brooklyn. Bad mistake. This is not New York.

I think it’s also time to pull down the rather pointless Yechi sign at the back of the Shule. Those who feel the need to scream this message to the world can bounce on the corner of the street, or wear a yarmulka (which they can’t then wear in a bathroom) wave yellow flags, wear cheap badges and all manner of paraphernalia not mentioned in Shulchan Aruch.

It does turn people off, and I include people from outside the Yeshivah centre. Those who really want to experience that type of experience can just go down the road to Dudu Leider’s Israeli Chabad house. They will love it. I’m told they chant Yechi more times than Shma Yisroel, over there, by a factor of 100.


An important contribution to Chabad after the Rebbe’s passing

[Hat tip to R’ Dovid]

This is an erudite and honest (in my opinion) analysis and critique of  “the Rebbe is Moshiach” within elements of Chabad by R’ Yechezkel Sofer. He was vilified for taking this position, and was rudely called “Yechezkel Kofer” by the lunatic fringe. Apparently, R’ Shalom Dov Ber Wolpe wrote a rejoinder entitled “Sefer, Sofer, Sippur” but I have not seen this.

R’ Yechezkel Sofer

R’ Sofer is a distinguished educator whose online Shiurim in Sefer Hatanya, are popular. I’m not sure, but I think he may also the same Rabbi cited here as controversially allowing polygamy?

At any rate, his viewpoint isn’t a solitary one by any stretch. Other well-known Chabad Rabbis who have similar views include:

  • Rabbi Berel Levin, the chief editor of the new edition of the Shulchan Aruch Harav
  • Rabbi Leibell Shapiro, Rosh Yeshiva in Miami & his son Rabbi Chaim Shapiro, Rosh Beis Medresh Lehora’a in Morristown
  • Rabbi Yosef Avrohom Heller, Rosh Kollel of Crown Heights and arguably the most prominent Posek in Chabad today
  • Rabbi Ezra Shochet, the brilliant rosh yeshiva of Ohr Elchanan of LA
  • Rabbi Chaim Rappaport, who needs no introduction

I particularly enjoyed his analysis of the Rambam’s position in Hilchos Melachim. It was common place and still is, to hear people misappropriate some phrases therein (viz Neherag).

I gave away a copy last night to a Meshichist Meshulach from India who recoiled upon seeing that it didn’t say שליט’א … but נשמתו בגן עדן מקדם or נשמתו בגנזי מרומים

Distasteful, Disrespecting and simply wrong

The following poster has begun to appear

I am on record as vigorously opposed to the antics, utterances and public displays of Meshichisten. I will also go on record here as vigorously opposed to posters, such as the one above. The last Lubavitcher Rebbe ז’ל was an undeniable Tzadik, Gaon and led a highly successful Chassidic movement that is still buzzing along. To equate the antics of a section of his Chassidim as “dangerous” or proposing an “existential threat” to Judaism is an insulting canard and materialistically false. I am most saddened when I see his visage plastered on billboards; it is demeaning.

One thing is clear: this is not the work of Chabadniks. It is the work of co-religionists who were and always have been opposed to Chabad, with or without Meshichism. This is the work of so-called Misnagdim. Like Meshichisten, they too should get a life and visit us on our planet.

A new attempt to evict Meshichisten

We have credible information that Rabbis Shem Tov et al, have initiated the serving of new writs to the Crown Heights 770 Meshichisten (including the Gabbai) with a view to having this group permanently removed from the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s ז’ל original headquarters.

The divide between the Meshichisten and regular Chabadniks is set to widen. Even if not successful, this new action is likely to cause many closet Meshichisten (who are outwardly silent for reasons of diplomacy and financial consideration) to become more public and outspoken.

Yeshivah College in Melbourne remains hopelessly contradictory and continues to allow the daily morning thrice recital of “Yechi” followed by “Ad Mosai” (now prior to T’kias Shofar) in the School’s Beis Medrash and Mesivtah Minyan and openly flouts the clear Psak of Rabbi Groner ז’ל.

Not to be outdone, Rabbi Moshe Kahn  of Melbourne’s Chabad Youth takes this two steps further by allowing the recital of Yechi thrice, three times a day at camps (at a minimum) although Rabbi Kahn is not a Meshichist himself.

It is hoped that Chabad, led by what I consider to be the more realistic types, returns to its roots as a once glorious movement that inspires the world-over with overflowing love and a commitment to reconnecting all Jews with Torah and Mitzvos (yes, they also want them to connect to Chassidus, and that doesn’t bother me in the slightest even though I know zero Chassidus).

Meanwhile in Melbourne two of the four individuals seem to no longer dance and prance like a ridiculous Bananas in Pyjamas parody, on the corner of Balaclava and Hotham. Only the “father and son” tag-team remains to be out of control and active. Not much can be done to rein them in, however.

Many members of the Vaad Ruchni in Melbourne are overt and covert Meshichisten. I wonder with whom they will side when the news of the new writ hits the airways?

In that general context, I’ll sign off with the wise words of R’ Aharon Soloveichik ז’ל (HaRebbi Melech HaMoshiach, David Berger, Urim Publications, 2005. p.75, note 7)

To my great dismay. . . publications affiliated with the Lubavitch movement have persisted in stating that I validate their belief that a Jewish Messiah may be resurrected from the dead. I completely reject and vigorously deny any such claim. As I have already stated publicly. . . such a belief is repugnant to Judaism and is the antithesis of the truth. My intent in signing the original letter . . . was merely to express my opinion that we should not label subscribers to these beliefs as heretics. Any statements in that letter which imply an endorsement of their view were not shown to me at the time I signed and I once again repudiate any such ridiculous claim

On the road from Yerushalayim to Tel Aviv

We are all accustomed to the difference in feeling between the two cities. ירושלים is not just the holiest city in the world, but one feels the holiness. Holiness is often associated with difference—המבדיל בין קודש לחול—and this idea is consonant with either the Kabbalistic doctrine of recognising the spark of holiness within even inanimate objects and raising these to a higher appreciation, or the more ascetic misnagdic notion of dissociation with all things that are profane.

The highways between these two cities highlighted a transition that I was aware of from a earlier trip, but sensitised to on this trip. As one meanders through the challenging highways and approaches Tel Aviv, the visage of signs, mostly in yellow, on successive lamp posts, declaring the last Lubavitcher Rebbe as the משיח increases. In otherwise barren highways, sometimes punctuated by Arab Villages and cities on the side, the signs start to pop up in a seemingly ubiquitous fashion.

I felt sadness. It is so many years after the פטירה of the last Rebbe זי’ע and I wondered why his holy face needed to be plastered everywhere among the otherwise profane and colourless lamp posts. Would these signs encourage people to do more מצוות? It is a brave person who is able to make that conclusion. Would these signs encourage people to be inspired? I doubt it, given that they are everywhere as one approaches. להבדיל I work near the Trade Union at the top of the City near Carlton. There are always signs hanging from the building façade. They are provocative, and designed to be this way. Nevertheless, like the signs on the billboards across RMIT, one rarely gives them a second glance because they have become rote. Indeed, on this trip I noticed a series of poles which had signs of what looked like the רש”ב. R’ Shalom Dov Ber זי’ע, a previous Rebbe. The car was travelling too quickly for me to notice the wording below the picture. I noticeד these signs because they were different.

Have we reached a point where any semblance of usefulness of these signs has evaporated? Perhaps.

I interviewed a number of students in Ramat Efal, and when we spoke about University life in Melbourne at RMIT, I stressed the need to live relatively close to the Jewish community. After informing a very bright student that there was also Chabad on campus, I noticed the student resile. He went onto explain that he didn’t want anything to do with Chabad and their משיחיות. He wasn’t a visibly religious Jew, but I was still surprised nonetheless. After all, even the yellow flag waiving fringe of Chabad should still come across as warm and non-judgemental? Why would he be so turned off?

As I drove back from Ra’anana to Jerusalem that evening, I asked myself whether יצא שכרם בהפסידם. The Meshichist type, in my experience, are more pushy; they are more single-minded; they often do not display the type of understanding or social etiquette or intelligence required to influence the intellectual or materialistic élite that live in Tel Aviv. I couldn’t help but feel that the rarer old style, externally simple yet intrinsically sophisticated real McCoy Lubavitcher would be far more successful in increasing קדושה in this environment; especially in places like Tel Aviv.

I was left feeling quite sad. I felt sorry that such a great man was being promoted through posters and one liners. His legacy was surely much more significant and profound than that. The Israel-cum-Tel Aviv style approach to קירוב is very different to that outside of Israel. Does it need to be? I think not. Israelis need better than just “in your face” and shallow Meshichisten. Ironically, the Israeli who leaves Israel is more likely to be exposed to this type of Chabadnik and respond more positively. It need not be that way.

The Meshichist movement really needs to just go away and get back to first principles. I’m not sure the Breslovers even have first principles. That movement is almost as confounding.

The pleasurable chabadnik

Last night, there was a knock on the door. My daughter answered and called out “Aba”, as I was eating dinner. I know this means that there is a Tzedaka collector at the door. I don’t do things properly. I should sit down with them, offer them a L’chaim or cold drink and listen to their pitch and look at the pictures. It’s something I need to improve on. He noticed I was in the middle of dinner and apologised, which is always the sign of a mentch.

I recognised immediately that he was a Lubavitcher. He told me that he had seen me at Shule and that I had wished him שבת שלום. I couldn’t recall. I used to have a policy of not asking them who they were collecting for and just gave each person a modest amount. Lately, there are two categories that I enquire about. The first is whether they consider the State of Israel as a hindrance towards the Geula born from the Satan who is misleading us with false promises. If they are one of these, I will tell them that I prefer to give to those who see the State of Israel as a manifestation of יד השם and those who look to improve the religious and economic situation therein and not carp on the outer. I wish these people well in their ventures but advise them that I would rather give my modest support to those whose views don’t upset me. I make a mental note to give double to the next collector (who is not one of these types) to compensate somewhat. I know the Rav ז’ל would have given to this type of collector. He used to collect for his Uncle, R’ Velvel ז’ל, even though the Rav and R’ Velvel had different views on what the State of Israel meant from a religious perspective.

The second type of individual with whom I am uncomfortable, is the Meshichist. This is not for the same reason, but again, I’m uncomfortable with their views. Perhaps it is precisely because I went to a Chabad School and was exposed to what I think is the real McCoy, that I am upset with this type of person. I recognise they are fully entitled to their beliefs, in the same way that I am entitled to reject them. Back to the story at hand.

This person came in, and modestly mentioned that he was a Rosh Yeshivah from Arad in the south of the State of Israel. I asked him whether he was a Meshichist. He smiled and said (in Ivrit)

“I am not one of those people who go around saying Yechi”

So far, so good. My next question was:

Is there even a remote possibility that the Mashiach may not be the last Rebbe ז’ל?

He smiled, genuinely, and with warmth said:

I will be happy with whoever Hashem chooses to be Mashiach, it is Hashem’s choice, and it is not important to me who that person is. That’s not the important thing.

He had that certain real old-fashioned Chabad warmth that I was accustomed to in my youth. I immediately took to him. He almost had a smile like R’ Zalman Serebryanski ז’ל and projected a certain Emesdikeit. I gave him 3 times what I normally give someone at the door, but in retrospect, I feel I should have given him more. If any of my readers encounters him in the next few days, please tell him to come back!

Chabad do great things. I don’t agree with elements of their Philosophy, but that’s not a big deal. If we are honest, and delve deeply, most of us can’t say that we agree 100% with any particular approach.

When I compare this, to the type of Chabad that my kids are/were exposed to, I feel they have missed out. One just returned from Camp. One of the first safety approaches that were enacted was the method to call out for help if a camper was lost or in trouble. Campers were told to yell “YECHI” and those who heard this and were in a position to help, were to yell back “HAMELECH”. Couple this with the saying of Yechi thrice after each of the three Davenings every day, I ask you, is this what Chabad is about? Don’t people realise this turns non dyed in the wool people off? It’s simply not what Yidden do!

Let’s have more of those genuine Chassidim whom I encountered at my door please? They lack absolutely nothing in their התקשרות. They perform Hashem’s will through the prism of the approach advocated by their Rebbe. They are comfortable in their own skin and don’t need to holler daily to prove their credentials. Their actions are their deeds.

Is the main Chabad Shule in Melbourne moving to the right?

Several months ago, I performed at a wedding in Melbourne, where the father of the חתן was Rabbi Chaim Rapoport. I originally met Rabbi Rapoport when he was a member of the Chabad Kollel. Subsequently, I have read a number of articles authored by him in a well-known learned blog. One is immediately impressed by both the quality of his writing and the material he presents. Rabbi Rapoport  is clearly a scholar and has tackled difficult issues, such as Homosexuality with both erudition and compassion. He is also an accomplished “defender” of Chabad having written a book in response to Rabbi Berger’s critique of Chabad Meshichism, and, more recently, a series of responses to the controversial book by Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman.

Rabbi Rapoport is also respected outside Chabad, as reflected by his status and place in Chief Rabbi Sacks’ cabinet, with responsibility for Jewish Ethics. This is a fairly unique position, as Chabad scholars tend, in my opinion, to be more respected inside Chabad and marketed to the outside world as opposed to being also respected outside Chabad with minimal Chabad marketing or “control”. Rabbi Rapoport is by no means at all comparable to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the latter having been effectively ostracised by Chabad over actions he took which went beyond those of even a left-leaning, card-carrying, member of Chabad.

It might be said, then, that Rabbi Rapoport’s personal status and place as a Chabad Chasid with a less fettered mind, results in him not being seen as a “pure” paragon of the official party line. Equally, there are those who strongly assert that he represents authentic Chabad, unfettered by a Meshichism born out of the passing of the last Rebbe. I am convinced that Rabbi Rapoport is a very committed Chabad Chasid. What perhaps sets him apart, and worries some quarters, is that he is not a propounder of the classic Meshichist line: the last Rebbe ז’ל is Moshiach waiting to be revealed. Rather, Rabbi Rapoport contends that the LR might be the Mashiach, and if he is, he’d be happy to see him in that role. Rabbi Rapoport perhaps controversially contends that most Chabadniks are not Meshichisten and that Chabad receives bad press as a result of a lunatic fringe, a minority of whom go further than identifying Mashiach.

With this background in mind, it would seem there should be no so-called control over what Rabbi Rapoport might speak about should he be invited to do so in the main Chabad Shule in Melbourne or indeed at any other official Chabad activities in Melbourne in private houses and elsewhere. My very firm advice is that this was not the case. Rabbi Rapoport was fettered. He was advised in clear language not to speak about certain controversial (read Mashiach) topics. Remarkably, a person of this stature didn’t feature prominently in the official activities of Melbourne Chabad despite him spending a week of Sheva Brachos in Melbourne.

Why was this the case? Is the main Chabad Shule and leadership at ease with a sign at the back of the shule stating the LR is Mashiach but uncomfortable with a Chabadnik who may well argue that the LR might be Mashiach?

Fast forward. Another prominent Chabadnik, Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber Wolpe  was in Melbourne last Shabbos. Rabbi Wolpe is a big Talmid Chacham but known for his very extreme Meshichist ideology and his uncompromising attitude to the return of any territories beyond the Green Line. There are many Chabad institutions who are wary of allowing him to occupy a pulpit because of the unpredictability of what he will say. In point of fact, Rabbi Wolpe roused the anger of the LR himself when he published a Meshichist treatise against the express wishes of his Rebbe.

I came across his writing, more recently, when researching the question of Indian Sheytels (wigs) for women, and whether they ought to be considered Avoda Zara (benefitting from Idol worship). I was struck by two things when I read Rabbi Wolpe’s response to this question.

  1. Rabbi Wolpe claimed in his introduction defending the use of Hindu Sheytels, that it is impossible that the Sheytels were from Avoda Zara because the LR would have detected this as women passed by the LR as he handed out “dollars”
  2. Rabbi Wolpe then justified his view on Halachic grounds

I came away with the view that point number 1, was his starting point, and point number 2, was the halachic-justification. I always thought that a Posek or Talmid Chacham should be involved in point number 2, first, and do so with a clear and uncluttered mind.

Rabbi Wolpe is a founder of SOS Israel. He published a radical responsa saying that it was forbidden for Israelis to study from text books which did not extend Israel beyond the green line! Rabbi Wolpe has also written polemics against Rav Schach and his views. The wikipedia article is a good summary.

Contrast the two speakers: Rabbi Wolpe is considered an extreme Meshichist, and nobody within Chabad or outside of Chabad would deny that. Rabbi Rapoport represents a more moderate Chabad. Rabbi Wolpe was apparently not fettered in any way. He could speak about any topic that he wished. The main Chabad shule did not issue him with any advice in this regard. Rabbi Rapoport, however, was muzzled somewhat.

Does this issue show that the new leadership of Chabad in Melbourne, have deftly transformed Chabad to be more Meshichist than when Rabbi Groner ז’ל was directing policy?

What on earth is going on in their heads?

I first saw this Video posted elsewhere.

Even though I have seen this type of thing before, I watched with incredulity and astonishment. The images of these young kids passing the table is an utter nonsense.  It is no less than cultic brainwash. Undoubtedly, there are some who will say

“if we protest they will get more press than they deserve”

I don’t buy that argument. After watching this video, I am flummoxed. How can people who are supposedly intelligent beings get involved in such a foolish, unavailing and ignominious enterprise? Don’t people understand that davening with a sign such as these at the back of a shule only conjures up images of absurd behaviour? Why would anyone want to be under a banner that conjures anything remotely like the video above?

I know that at Yeshiva College in Melbourne, it is very much hip and trendy for boys to travel to 770 for Tishrei for inspiration; I sure hope the school also has a policy that no boy is permitted attend such circuses or derive “inspiration” therefrom. There is at least one teacher in the School who proudly wears a yarmulke with yechi emblazoned in vibrant living lettering.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe ז’ל did not deserve demeaning and vacuous chassidim besmirching his holy memory.

The courage of your convictions part 2

In a previous post, I bemoaned the fact that Haredi anti-zionists who declared that the State of Israel and those who supported it were responsible חס ושלום for the Holocaust, hid behind a proverbial rock and were seemingly afraid to assert their views publicly. This was later buttressed by the observation that the video of Melbourne’s R’ Beck was pulled from the youtube site (although I have retained a copy for download). Many of us are uncomfortable stating our views publicly and unambiguously (where possible). I understand perfectly well that it’s not always wise to do so. I also accept that we are not always wise 🙂

Most of us are cognisant of the fact that it is challenging for a Hasid to consistently exist as part of a Hasidic framework without a (physical) Rebbe. With the tragic departure of a Rebbe to עולם האמת, there is a dearth of live Torah. There are no private audiences. The room is barren and the seat is void. The atmosphere spasmodically mourns the electric ambience that was. Assuredly, the memory lives on. The mission carries on and may presume a new strength and, of course,  דוד מלך ישראל חי וקיים. Visits to a Kever

מצבה of the Lubavitcher Rebbe ז'ל

are harrowing and melancholic—some may even refuse the experience while others will be inveigled by proximity. Torah from a Rebbe is demoted to unpublished or hidden archives, new compilations, exercises in synthesis and newly organised anthologies of existing material. Those seeking essential counsel resort to second and third-best options, including the somewhat questionable practice of randomly opening volumes of old letters in order to seek the elusive advice to a new problem.

The sense of emptiness is not exclusively the domain of the Hasid, although one expects that reliance of a Hasid on their Rebbe is more amplified than the interdependence of the non-Hasid and their own רב המובהק. All Jews are distressed by a grim feeling of dislocation when a רב המובהק, a mentor, a guide and sage, travels to another world leaving an incontestable void

On several occasions, the Rav, a scion of Brisk, also gave testament to the importance of retaining an important Rabbinic figure as one’s guide, in keeping with the dictum of  עשה לך רב. This phenomena is, of course, not new. Poignantly, the Rav added that even after the פטירה of one’s רב המובהק, it is paramount to attempt to envision what the רב המובהק  might have advised. The Rav evinced the loneliness he succumbed to when his own guide(s) had passed on to another world. One of those apart from his father, was undoubtedly, the Gaon Rav Chaim Heller ז’ל.

מצבה of Rav Chaim Heller ז'ל

See this 2007 link from Mississippi Fred McDowell’s great blog for more about Rav Heller. Both the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Rav used to meet regularly at the home of Rav Chaim Heller in Berlin, but I digress.

When a Jew, Hasid or otherwise, has difficulty dealing with the loss of their mentor, there are perhaps three principal reactions:

  1. Deny that the נפטר  has passed onto another world; or
  2. Accept that the נפטר had passed onto another world, but consider this phenomenon a temporary dislocation in the sense that the  נפטר will return at the time of גאולה as part of the somewhat undefined process of redemption—תהליך הגאולה; or
  3. Accept that the נפטר has passed onto another world and aspire to meet again with the advent of תחיית המתים, the resurrection of the dead.

Amongst Hasidim, the two groups who have not replaced their Rebbe and continue to flourish are Breslav and Lubavitch. Breslav is not a new phenomenon. Habad Lubavitch is  comparatively new and its overt asssertion that the late and last Rebbe was the Mashiach to be, attracted much controversy.

We are led to believe that Habad is split between those who believe he is [still] Mashiach and those who do not. How many are in each camp? I feel that most Habadniks actively conceal their views. Why? Why do they not display the courage of their convictions? Why would they be ashamed to state their  opinion on such a matter? Is it because they are not sure, or is it because they do not want this to be a known opinion because it may turn others off?

People who accept approach 1, above, constitute a group that I do not even begin to comprehend. Some would suggest that this group would benefit from psychiatric therapy. Let’s put them to one side.

Approach 2, in my estimation, encapsulates some 95% of Habadniks whilst the remaining 5% associate with approach 3. These are just my feelings. They are not supported by statistics. They cannot be supported by statistics given that Hasidim are reluctant to state their views unambiguously and on the record.

Within approach 2, though, I assert there are 3 nuances:

  1. The Rebbe will come back as the Moshiach and it is impossible for anyone else to be Moshiach since the Rebbe is the Nosi HaDor and the Dor HaShvii (I don’t know the definition of Dor, but no matter).
  2. The Rebbe may come back as Moshiach. He is also likely to, but it is not certain. הקב’ה may decide that Moshiach is someone other than the last Rebbe.
  3. The Rebbe is not Moshiach, but he will greet Moshiach, resurrected, together with other great figures of Judaism.

I posit that most Habadniks subscribe to nuanced position number 1. Nuanced position number 1 is also most attuned and consistent with the chanting of  יחי אדונינו וכו

Let’s consider the difficulty in eliciting clear statements of conviction by looking at my own stomping ground, the Yeshivah Center in Melbourne. Where does the Yeshivah Center stand? It is a matter of interpretation. In my opinion, most in the Center do not have the courage to express their convictions publically. Instead, they camouflage behind the bold  יחי sign hanging at the back of the main shule and allow this to passively stand testament to their views. Why should this be an issue captured by a sign?

It has always been policy to never disenfranchise people by having the courage of one’s convictions to state one’s views on non halachic matters where those views may not be accepted. There are things that are only said in whispered tones amongst אנשי שלומינו (i.e. card carrying Hasidei Habad) and things which are concealed from עמך—the rest of us.

A good example is the tendency to add the following words to the bottom of a wedding invitation or other appropriate announcements:

ונזכה זען זיך מיט’ן רבי’ן דא למטה אין א גוף ולמטה מעשרה טפחים והוא יגאלינו

Have a close look next time you get a wedding invitation with these words on them. Do they appear in the English text as well? Why not?

Consider these anachronisms as support for my thesis that as long as nobody is looking they will express the courage of their convictions:

  1. The boys’ school casts a blind eye to the daily chanting of יחי, three time after the obligatory היום יום. This chanting would seem to me to be diametrically opposed to the psak of Rabbi Groner ז’ל. Transparent games are being  played when it is claimed that  “it’s not the main shule” or it’s “not an “official” minyan of the school“. Of course, both of these propositions are just fallacious deflections.
  2. The boys’ school has a יחי sign in the Mesivta room proper. Did Rabbi Groner allow two signs? When? I heard his psak with my own ears.
  3. At Chabad Youth Camps, יחי is chanted not once but three times a day, after שחרית מנחה and מעריב. When asked about this, the response is that “it’s not official policy“. Sure thing! Can we expect spontaneous tolerance for the singing of התקוה three times a day as well?
  4. Each שבת during the time of סעודה שלישית young budding chassidic boys sing traditional and haunting melodies which serve as a great source of inspiration. I used to experience this myself as a boy and fondly remember singing beautiful niggunim בצוותא.  And now? The words of יחי are cleverly overlaid onto various traditional niggunim. This is the new התקשרות
  5. On a Friday night, when the Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivah Gedola is not in attendance the בחורים, sing יחי. When he is there, they won’t. Does the Rosh Yeshivah not know what goes on? Is there an innate tension in the air?
  6. New reprints of older publications fail to remove שליט’א even when it’s obvious it’s not a simple reprint of a שיחה. Indeed, one recent publication for י שבט listed the period of each Rebbe’s “reign” or נשיאות. Unsurprisingly, the last Rebbe did not have an end date nor was the ubiquitous שליט’א elided.
  7. How many parents put יחי yarmulkas on their children, but don’t have the fortitude to wear them themselves.

I’m not one of those, like Professor David Berger, who allegedly contends that the יחי chanters are idolators or apikorsim and Chabad should be marginalised as a result. I’ve read Rabbi Berger’s book and I don’t find many of the arguments compelling. The chanting of יחי does bother me—it bothers me to a great extent. I know, though, there is nothing I can do about it except present my views. I know those views are largely ignored and inconsequential.

What I have difficulty with, though, is the pretence. Let’s call a spade a spade. The Yeshivah should come out openly and either say they support the saying of יחי as per nuance 1, or outlaw it across the organisation. If they wanted to outlaw it, they could. They hold the purse strings and salaries of many in the organisation.

Have the courage of your convictions. Pull out those yellow flags and wave them with gay abandon?

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