Friday, August 8, 2008

Chabad - Atzmut in a body/R' Oliver & R' Berger II

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver said...

“Rather, you cite his proofs that the chiddush is not as big of a chiddush as it seems; that it has priority.”

What the Rebbe said wasn’t a chiddush altogether, as is evident from the traditional sources that he cites immediately. It’s just that people who don’t learn Chassidus don’t know about the earlier sources, so when they saw the phrase taken out of context discussing an idea they never heard of, without bothering to read the explanation that the Rebbe goes to the trouble to give in the sicha, they concluded (unfairly) that this idea is odd and new (to put it nicely).

“In none of the quote does your rebbe define Atzmus. Was he saying that the Zohar said that seeing Rashbi was a way of seeing godliness, or that the Zohar said that seeing him was actually seeing God?”

The term Atzmus needs no definition; it is understood (to the extent that it can be understood, considering that it is beyond our understanding). The Rebbe then EXPLAINED that seeing the Rashbi was a way of Hashem revealing himself through the Tzaddik, because of the Tzaddik’s tremendous bittul, NOT as the misnagdim twist it to say, that the Tzaddik IS .. chas v’shalom. Does anyone think that an angel is shem Havayeh? No, but because of the angel’s bittul, shem Havayeh was revealed THROUGH the angel to the extent that the angel is called b’shem Hashem. That was the point of the reference to the Ma’amar concerning the fact that the posuk identifies shem Havayeh with the melach. So too with Tzadikim.

As for ein od milvado, it’s of course a core concept in Chassidus Chabad, but it’s not the focus of that sicha, so I really don’t see the relevance. If you want to ask a further profound philosophical question concerning ein od milvado and Beriah yesh mei’ayin, that’s fine, but that’s a broader discussion. It simply unfair to say that “I disagree that the Rebbe explicitly and clearly explains himself as meaning one and not the other,” when as I have shown, that’s exactly what the Rebbe does, by quoting concerning angelim being identified with shem Hashem, and concerning Moshe’s saying “I will give the grass.”

“No one explicitly points out why by proving chibur, one proves true unity, identity, "Atzmus uMahus", not "merely" a vehicle for the Shechinah ("merely in quotes because being the merkavah is only a small thing by comparison).”

The Rebbe never said, as you put it, “true unity, identity” that the Tzaddik IS etc. chas v’shalom. The Rebbe spoke about Hashem being revealed THROUGH the Tzaddik because of the Tzaddik’s bittul, which is clear from the sources cited in explanation of the phrase.

“On the one hand, "the Shechinah is speaking from the throat of Moshe, and the spirit of Hashem [within him] was what spoke [the words] ‘I [Moshe] will give the grass,’ not that he himself was the giver, G-d forbid." On the other hand, the text concludes "and he [ie Moshe -micha] was not an independent entity [from Hashem] at all." It leaves us wanting. MRA"H is both not the Borei, and not a nivra distinct from the Borei. Moshe isn't the Giver of grass, however Moshe is so mevateil himself as to be a puppet that the Giver can speak through.”

If you read a full sentence instead of breaking it up, you’ll see that it’s very straightforward. The Alter Rebbe simply says that due to Moshe Rabeinu’s bittul, HE wasn’t an independent metzius from Hashem, so therefore Hashem could be revealed through him. I see nothing difficult here, and I’m tired of repeating myself. All I can say is that if you still do find difficulty with it (and see the need to share that with one and all), maybe you need to learn more Chassidus so you’ll be able to grasp such concepts better, and maybe it would be wiser to get more background study in a field of knowledge (you still didn’t answer my question concerning your degree of expertise in the particular area of Chassidus Chabad) before you publicise to the entire world your beginner’s criticisms. Chassidus Chabad is very different from chakirah, and expertise in one doesn’t translate to expertise in the other.

“Check again what I wrote. I was careful to repeatedly say that I am trying to give a dispassionate assessment of a single idea, not of any people. (Never mind labeling them; even if I knew someone believed kefirah, that's insufficient to brand him a kofeir.)”

Huh? You said clearly and the beginning of the conversation that Lubavitchers are “apiqursim”! Have you forgotten already?

Rabbi Micha Berger comment to "Chabad - Faith or Text Based Hashkofa?":

R' Oliver, you write: "The term Atzmus needs no definition; it is understood (to the extent that it can be understood, considering that it is beyond our understanding). The Rebbe then EXPLAINED that seeing the Rashbi was a way of Hashem revealing himself through the Tzaddik..."

If you take Atzmus without a definition, then you are talking about G-d being placed in a body. That's the literal words. So clearly you are requiring a subtext.

Your rebbe does not say it's Hashem's way of revealing Himself. He compares it to earlier quotes. It could mean he is saying the Rashbi too had G-d inhabiting his body no less than any meaning you assign it. There is no explanation in the text, only proofs. Which means that your argument that the words shouldn't just be read literally and taken in context is difficult -- nothing in the context explicitly contradicts the literal.

What there is is a footnote pointing you to the Alter Rebbe in Liqutei Torah. Note this isn't in the body of the text. It's not quoted or paraphrased. Not quite the clear denial of the literal one would expect if a reiterated "Atzmus uMahus" didn't mean "Atzmus uMahus" are actually places in a body.

The citation to Liqutei Torah, in turn, actually says two contradictory things: 1- that Moshe isn't the one who gives the grass, he speaking on behalf of G-d; and 2- when Moshe opens his mouth, G-d is speaking. So, who is actually speaking -- Moshe as connected to G-d, or Moshe as G-d's vehicle? This too isn't even a clear disproof of the notion!

I disagree with you as to what the Liqutei Torah means, since you're taking one side of a paradoxical paragraph. I, OTOH, feel that placing it within the greater context of yeish meiAyin, every Jewish soul being cheileq E-loak mima'al *mammash* (as RMMS stresses), ein od Milvado, etc... shows that a memutza hamechabeir and Atzmus are identical. How? Everything is G-d, therefore something that doesn't hide that fact is *blatantly* G-d.

This is where I think RMMS wasn't saying what the Elohistim claim. He was saying the rebbe is G-d in a quantitatively different way than a rock is. Everything is G-d, and humans are more aware of that than rocks, Jews more than nachriim, and a rebbe most of all. They are claiming the rebbe is qualitatively different.

I said this at the open of this discussion, but with a bad and offensive choice of phrasing:

RMMS was deifying the rebbe in a Buddhist way, they're deifying the rebbe in a Xian one.

And there is a machloqes as to whether this quantitative difference assigned to the rebbe reaches the point of violating the ikkarim, or not. RMMS obviously was meiqil (if he said it was true, then obviously he held it was mutar to believe), but your rebbe may be a daas yachid on this.


  1. the first rul of such a discussion is to be as non-offensive as possible-why does berger write Rebb in small caps?
    urthermore if a point is
    said that can be interpreted 2 ways,oneway to be mechabel and one way to be meqarev-why does berger always choose the way to besmirch?
    what oliver is saying is exactly what the great chassidim said about this Sicha.Reb Nissan Nemenov OBM said it ti his talmidim. yes there have been people who erred on this, however none of them bowed down or Deified or davened to the Rebbe. no one in eretz yisroe-l in Chabad have i observed Davening to the West!
    so whatever tous they have is not germain to an y bitul hamitzvos.
    there are crazies just as there are crazies or oisvorfs elsewhere..
    my point with Berger is his consistent hateful writing with no remorse or reflection.he didn't know the Yerushalmy in Brochos regarding the identity of Moshiach- he wrote the opinion at first stating it was in Kabbalah somewhere-only later in a seamless change does he recognize the Yerushalmy and what does berger do to defend his position that lubavitchers are xians? he uses the Rebbe's innovative pshat in orde to besmirch his followers!
    the Pney Moshe says otherwise and you knew it but you could not say the Pney Moshe because you coulo not call them heretics if they hold like the Yerushalmy. so my question is why if there is a tzad Heter must you be machmir upon others?
    i also want to know who made you such a boky in Chassidus that you can say opinions. we talmidim knew that you had to hear the biurim from a mokor ne-emon. you are saying pshat in a sefer you have read for 20 minutes and based upon your understanding thousands of people and their Rebbe are Kofrim!??
    you have arrogance that does not befit a true Talmid Chochom.apparently you come with biases and try to justify them .
    if Reb Moshe could speak on a weekly basis to the Lubavitcher Rebbe and called him HaGaon HaKodosh over 30 years after that Sicha where do you come to besmirch? don't give me the i am only trying to save Klal Yisroel line-then go out and try to be mekarev the thousands of young people around you to Torah and Mitzvos the way you see it or the way your REbbeim saw it?
    your vendetta against Lubavitch is an illness a mania . rabbi oliver is reasonable - i don't see why one would take your peirush over his. i am not denying that your peirush could possibly be imputed i just want to know why your way sees only the negative without introspection?
    we are now at Tisha B'av we should focus on love not hate or rejection . i reject all expressions of what is against the Torah as do the vast majority of my colleagues. my chaverim are the main Mashpiim not the ones who write in english articles or get quoted by a publication that i receive unsubscribed.these matters should not be aired in public either as why must one say things that are liable to weaken people's beliefs. most people don't want to see Rabbis fight and call each other namesbut this is what your forum and Rabbi Berger are doing.i don't want to go now to the meat of berger's interpretatiopn - i believe him to be totally in error.
    however, i ask isn't oliver plausible? if so close this conversation. we need no new arguments. let us focus on bringing Jews back to Shmiras Shabbos etc...
    chaim moshe bergstein
    farmington hills , michigan

  2. When I refer to my rebbe or your rebbe, I am not using the word as a title, so I do not capitalize. "Alter Rebbe" which is used instead of a name of a particular person, I do capitalize.

    It is not plausible that R' Oliver's words were the original intent, for the reason given -- an author doesn't write "[Divine] Self and Essence contained in a body" and rely on someone chasing down a reference in a footnote to know he means something other than that G-d is in a rebbe's body. The text is quite clear, using doubled language to make sure you don't think he means something else, and nothing in any of RMMS's writings say otherwise.



  3. “Your rebbe does not say it's Hashem's way of revealing Himself. He compares it to earlier quotes...There is no explanation in the text, only proofs. Which means that your argument that the words shouldn't just be read literally and taken in context is difficult -- nothing in the context explicitly contradicts the literal.”

    Well, thanks for admitting that the Rebbe bases himself on earlier sources!

    There IS explanation in the text that contradicts what you call “the literal” (which is a concept that would never occur to those who’ve learnt Chassidus Chabad, whose whole focus is that Hashem is in His Essence completely one and beyond any limitation, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it could occur for those who’ve studied other religions and have not studied Chassidus Chabad): the Rebbe explains that it’s like the angel was CALLED by the Name of Hashem while he performed his Shlichus. In other words, the angel wasn’t Hashem chas v’shalom, but he revealed Hashem and therefore he was called by shem Hashem. But indeed, the Rebbe doesn’t discuss it at length there, and for a very simple reason: because the whole idea is only quoted in the sicha as an aside. The Rebbe’s purpose here is not to go into great depth in this inyan (which is discussed in numerous places in Chassidus Chabad) but to mention it briefly in context of the main discussion concerning how Hiskashrus to the Frierdiker Rebbe should continue even after the Frierdiker Rebbe’s passing.

    The general concept that Hashem doesn’t have a form, even a spiritual form, chas v’shalom (elov v’lo l’midosov), is one of the most basic concepts in Chassidus Chabad. On the contrary, Chassidus Chabad with its numerous explanations of Hashem’s absolute unity comes specifically to make one’s belief in Hashem far purer, so that there will be no attribution of form to Him whatsoever. One well-known source where elov v’lo l’midosov is discussed is in the beginning of Shoresh Mitzvas HaTefillah in Derech Mitzvosecha, which is a Ma’amar that it is stressed in Chabad yeshivos be studied with beginners.

    Again, the only people who can attribute such a belief to Chassidus Chabad or to chasidei Chabad ch"v, is those who don’t know either. Well, you haven’t yet admitted to knowing Chassidus Chabad, and you’ve admitted to not knowing about this concept directly from chasidei Chabad, so it makes a lot of sense that you could make this attribution!

    As for the citation to Likkutei Torah (did you look it up inside?), I don’t know what more you want. It says clearly: chas v’shalom to say that Moshe gave the rain himself, but rather due to his tremendous bittul to Hashem, Hashem spoke through him. No deification, chas v’shalom; on the contrary, the one who learns Chassidus is PROTECTED from false beliefs by knowing the true explanation of the maamorei Chazal and Ma’amar ha Zohar HaKodosh that could be read incorrectly.

    I’m tired of repeating myself, and bli neder I will not do so again.

    As for your philosophizing about “yeish meiAyin, every Jewish soul being cheileq E-loak mima'al *mammash* (as RMMS stresses), ein od Milvado”:
    For your information it’s not the Rebbe who stresses the word “mamash”, but the Alter Rebbe in Tanya Kaddisha ch. 2 (so little is your knowledge of even the most basic sources in Chassidus Chabad).)

    You want to discuss broader questions on what is the exact meaning of yeish meiayin and ein od milvado? Fine, but these are broader questions. The vast corpus of Chassidus Chabad is devoted to discussing these ideas in the most intricate manner. I see no direct relevance to the current discussion.

    And really, I’m surprised that someone who is apparently a scholar (and a secular one as well) presumes to express opinions and issue criticisms on matters out of his field. Expertise in chakirah (never mind other religions, lehavdil) doesn’t give one the right to criticize matters of Kabbalah or Chassidus. First study these fields in great depth, and then perhaps if you still have questions, ask them respectfully. Your dismissal (and in such harsh halachic terms!) after reading a handful of sources is like a junior high-school kid dismissing the words of a world-class professor.

    “bad and offensive choice of phrasing”

    You bet it was. Maybe you could apologise? And also for calling all Chabad Chasidim "Apiqursim", which you later claimed you never did? Some intellectual honesty here, please?

  4. "Self and Essence contained in a body"

    Yet again, flagrantly mistranslating and misquoting the sicha, which says "as He put himself"--NOT "enclothed" and not "contained", nor any other distortion bandied about here!!

    "nothing in any of RMMS's writings say otherwise"

    Indeed! Now you claim to be an expert in all of the Rebbe's writings?!

  5. There is nothing to respond to here, because you're reiterating the same two points:

    1- My presumed ignorance;
    2- that the sources RMMS provides from which to extrapolate his statement mean chibur, therefore they are clarifications that he means chibur. As I already wrote, there is no indication that RMMS took them to mean chibur.

    I have no desire to go 'round in circles, being insulted each time by someone who doesn't know me or my access to research facilities.

    So,I will return to my earlier resolution not to bother arguing you into realizing your rebbe wrote something that my rabbeim could consider heretical. I do find it odd, though, that your entire presentation and outrage presumes a misnagdish cosomogony.


  6. PS: I can not simply apologize, because then you might think I was saying the comparison is untrue.

    It was tactless. It's actually a defense of the normativeness of the sichah, from within a chassidic, or perhaps specifically Tanya-based context. Within chasidic cosmogony, everything is G-d, and therefore the statement is far less shocking.


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.